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The Lawman By Lily Graison
Romance: western

Category: Romance Books, eBooks & Novels
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The Lawman By Lily Graison
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Synopsis

Reader age rating 17+

On the run from her ex-lover, jilted by a no-show husband and now mistaken for a whore in the Diamond Back saloon, Abigail Thornton doesn’t think things can get any worse. That is until a single slap to a man’s face starts a barroom brawl that lands her in the last place she expected to be.

Town Marshal Morgan Avery wants nothing more than to wash away the trail-dust and sleep for a week, preferably with a soft, willing woman by his side. Instead, he gets Abigail Thornton – all one hundred pounds of her thrust at him seconds before a fist connects with his face. Breaking up the fight takes more effort than he wants to admit and when the last man falls he finds Abigail still standing and not looking the least bit contrite.

Throwing her into the town jail for the night would salve his wounded pride and then he will let her go. Or that was the plan. When morning comes he finds himself oddly reluctant to do so. Miss Thornton is hiding something and he aims to find out what, even if he has to bed her to do so. But will one night in her bed be enough?

Excerpt:

Walking into a saloon in broad daylight wasn’t the smartest thing she’d ever done, but what choice did she have?

Bold red letters scrawled onto a piece of wood hung by the saloon door. No Ladies Allowed, it read, the rope holding it in place so frayed the entire thing hung at an odd angle. Abigail ignored the warning and approached the building, glancing down the wooden boardwalk in both directions to see if anyone was watching her. No one was. The residents of Willow Creek were hustling about, minding their own business, and she preferred it that way. The less attention she drew to herself, the better off she was. Placing a hand on the swinging door of the saloon she leaned up on her toes and peeked over the top, taking a look inside.

Tables were scattered around the room, most of them covered in green baize. Men sprawled around the gaming tables while a few more stood leaning against the ornate bar that spanned the entire left hand wall. The largest mirror she’d ever seen hung behind it, giving her a glimpse of the back of the room. A piano stood along the far right wall, a man sitting behind it pinging out tinny notes in a lively tune.

A staircase was situated near the piano and a glance up showed a balcony surrounding the main room. A number of doors were seen at the top, all closed. The sign by her left shoulder wasn’t entirely correct, she realized, as she saw the women who lingered at the top of the stairs. There were women inside the Diamond Back Saloon but calling them ladies would have been a stretch. Their bright sateen dresses were more revealing than Abigail’s underclothes and that, along with the faded feathers in their hair, gave her the impression of colorful birds. The term “Soiled Dove” came to mind and Abigail knew now where the phrase had surely originated.

The men inside the establishment ranged from dusty cowpokes to those of a more upscale lifestyle. They all shared one common attribute, with their hard liquor in hand and the attention they showed the women lingering around the room. The men inside the Diamond Back hadn’t a care in the world, it seemed. Unlike herself. Would she make things worse by venturing inside?

Abigail turned and walked back to the edge of the wooden walkway, looking at what the residents of Willow Creek considered a town. A rickety row of buildings ran on both sides of the muddy road. The Imperial Hotel caught her attention. From the whitewashed walls and colorful curtains, it stood out amongst the other buildings. In a place as small and out of the way as Willow Creek, the hotel was indeed the fanciest thing around. The name suited it. She longed to walk inside the door and find out just how grand it was. Maybe get a room and spend the rest of the evening doing nothing but relaxing in a tub of hot, clean water and eating until her belly wouldn’t hold anymore. The remaining funds resting in the bottom of her reticule gave a small “ting” when she bounced it against her leg. She’d be lucky to have enough coins to buy her supper. Glancing at the Stagecoach station, she wondered if the food offered there was cheaper than she knew the hotel’s fare would be.

It made little difference. One meal wouldn’t solve her problems. The only thing she could do was walk into the saloon and find the only man who could help her, assuming he would.

She turned and straightened her spine, giving the wide saloon doors a brief glance before marching forward. A small push on the swinging doors was all it took to grant her entrance and once she stepped inside to the tobacco juice strewn sawdust floor, she regretted her decision. Every person in the room turned to look at her. The piano music stopped, the clatter of glasses and chitchat came to an abrupt halt. Abigail sucked in a breath, raised her chin and turned to the bar, making her way toward it and ignoring the stares the patrons were giving her.

“You shouldn’t be in here.” The deep baritone of the bartender slashed at her composure but she ignored him as the music and laughter once again started.

“I’m in need of assistance,” she said, adding a smile to try and gain his favor.

“Unless you’re looking for a job I can’t help ya.” He sat the glass in his hand down and draped the towel he’d used to try and clean it with over his shoulder. The ungentlemanly leer he threw at her would have earned any other man a slap across his daring face. She wasn’t about to try it with this one. Besides, the last man she’d slapped was still chasing her.

The bartender grinned and gave her another assessing glance. Abigail could tell by the look on his face he’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. “We can always use new girls around here.” He grinned, his thick mustache curling up as his mouth moved. “I’m sure the boys would make you a rich woman in no time.”

Ribald laughter from the men standing at the bar followed his comment and caused Abigail’s face to burn hot. She knew her skin had turned blotchy without even looking. It always did when she blushed and his remark caused her entire body to flush hot. “No,” she said, the sound coming out a mere squeak. “I’m not looking for work.” She swallowed the lump forming in her throat and took another steadying breath. “The Stagecoach driver walked in here a few minutes ago. If you could just direct me to him, I’ll be on my way.”

The bartender was young. Or he appeared to be. The usual signs of a full life hadn’t lined his face. His skin was only slightly tanned from the sun, his black hair had very little gray in it, and the sloping mustache hiding all but his bottom lip curved ever so slightly as he grinned down at her. She smiled back, hoping the friendly gesture would help. The way his gaze slid down to her breast let her know otherwise.

“Pete is a might busy at the moment,” the bartender told her, leaning down and bracing his arms on the top of the bar. “He’s up with Miss Chloe.” He nodded to the second floor balcony and Abigail knew what the stagecoach driver, Pete, was doing. “Now, unless you’re willing to work upstairs, you best hightail it out of here. Sign says no ladies allowed.”

“I see.” Taking a glance over her shoulder, Abigail looked around the room again. The piano was tinkling out another tune and the chatter of those inside the saloon returned as the patrons went back to their previous card games. The activity going on upstairs was obvious and the stagecoach driver would be hours in coming back down. Unless she could get someone to go speak with him. She turned back to face the bartender. “Could you send him a message for me, then?”

A ruckus erupted near the door and a group of men ambled in from the street. Abigail knew by the looks of them she shouldn’t be inside the saloon. Saddle bums, by all appearances. The dirt and grime on their clothes would be hard to wash out, if ever. Their stench clouded the air from halfway across the room and their vulgar language was enough to cause her cheeks to burn hot again.

The bartender gave a gruff order to, “Git on out of here missy and don’t come back,” before dismissing her. Abigail had no choice but to do as he said. Raising a fuss would only draw more attention to herself and she couldn’t afford to make that mistake.

Holding her reticule close to her stomach, she gave him a soft, “Thank you,” and made her way to the door as the men came closer. She’d nearly reached her destination when one of the men grabbed her, his arm wrapping around her waist and pulling her feet right off the floor, before he hugged her to him.

“What do we got here?” His foul breath caused Abigail’s stomach to heave. He gave her a squeeze, his fingers biting into her ribs.

“Let me go, please.” She gasped when his hold on her tightened. He laughed, the men who came in with him doing the same as they looked up toward the balcony. She followed their gaze and saw the women who lingered along the railing.

The arm around her waist pulled her tighter and Abigail’s eyes widened when his free hand came to rest on her left breast. She gave a shriek and his laughter echoed inside her head before she stiffened and kicked back with both heels. “Let me go!”

“Woo-wee, I got me a live one, boys!” The men inside the saloon laughed and their hoops and holler’s grew as she struggled to get loose. The hand on her breast didn’t relent but another kick to his shins was enough to get him to let go. She dropped to her feet, her face flushed, and her heart racing inside her chest.

He grinned at her. What teeth he did possess were so discolored she grimaced. “There’s been a terrible mistake.” She darted a glance up the stairs again when the man’s friends started toward the second floor.

“Aint no mistake.” His gaze ran the length of her body and even though her dress was a modest cut, she felt violated when his leer lingered on her breasts. “I got money and lots of it. I’ll take ya til morning. You’ll be lucky to walk by the time I’m through with ya.”

“I don’t think so,” she mumbled. She forced a smile onto her face and straightened her spine. “I was just leaving. I’m sure one of the—ladies upstairs will be more than happy to take your money.”

The man turned his head and looked up toward the balcony. Abigail eased toward the door while he did. She’d nearly made it when he turned back to her. “They’re mighty purdy but I think I’ll keep ya just the same.”

Abigail was mortified. Less than an hour in town and she’d been abandoned by a would-be-husband, left homeless and destitute, and now she was being mistaken for a whore. Could her day get any worse? “I’m afraid you don’t understand. I’m not—” She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence. The man grabbed her, tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and started for the stairs. She vaguely heard the bartender yell something as the man’s booted feet hit the stairs. “Put me down this instance!” She smacked a fist against his back, kicking her feet as the saloon patrons erupted into ear-splitting laughter. Abigail struck his stomach with a knee and he stumbled, smacking her into the stair railing. A few more wild struggles and he dropped her. Hard.

The impact with the stairs left her dazed but shaking her head cleared her vision. When she glanced at the man, the look on his face wasn’t the jovial one she’d seen moments ago. Jumping to her feet, Abigail ran past him and back down the stairs. She was halfway across the room before he caught her.

“Let her go,” the bartender said, coming around the side of the bar. “There’s girls upstairs more than willing to take your money.”

“Don’t want them,” the man said. “I want this one and I’m gonna have her.”