Clementine McKay finds out she's more than a demure little school teacher from the foothills of the Appalachians when her father gets Gold Fever. The dangerous trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains notwithstanding, she soon learns that despite her small stature and youth, she's a force to be reckoned with. When tragedy strikes she becomes smarter, stronger and more determined than ever to find her father's murderer.
As Crystal, the most sought after whore at The Red Petticoat Saloon, she parlays her skills in a way no one else could have. Now, if Jasper Montgomery would only stop snooping around and interfering in her plans she might just get what she wants most... revenge.
Jasper Montgomery lives and gambles in Culpepper Cove for one reason only. It's his home. Great wealth allows him to do exactly as he pleases and when the dirty little miner's daughter arrives at The Red Petticoat he takes pity on her. He'll be her first paying customer, educating the poor virgin on the skills necessary to please a man. In his mind, there was no sense letting a rough miner ruin her. Yes, he would spin a web of passion and pleasure for her that would endear him to her forever.
Never in a million years did he imagine he was the fly and not the spider.
Jasper Montgomery was in a foul mood. He was tired, had spent the majority of the afternoon in deep discussion with his lawyer and wanted nothing more than to relax in the warm glow of his massive fireplace with a glass of brandy. Crossing his long legs, he stared into the flames as he swirled the amber liquid in his glass.
Why he should give a damn about the disreputable looking young woman he'd overheard talking to Jewel this afternoon, he had no idea. She was unkempt, a half-pint with very few of the curves he so loved and had a smart mouth to boot. If she was eighteen, he'd kiss her ass, he thought, shooting back the rest of his drink. Occasionally grown women still had freckles, but hers looked… well, young.
What bothered him most was the gun he'd spotted tucked into the back of her pants when he'd swatted her ass. It was a big, awkward weapon and nothing she should be handling at any rate. If she fired it, it would knock her on her ass so fast she wouldn't know what hit her.
Hell, he didn't care, he decided going upstairs to change his shirt. It was nothing to him if she shot herself accidentally, or fell and cracked her damn fool head open. Tying a black tie around his throat he glared at himself in the mirror.
If she wanted to take some heavy-handed miner upstairs and hand over her virginity on a silver platter for a few coins, it was nothing to him, he insisted out loud as brushed his hair into order, shocked at how messy it was. Had he been running his hands through it?
Jasper stomped downstairs, took his Stetson from the hall tree and slapped it on his head. Ten minutes later he was tying his horse to the rail and walking through the bat wing doors of The Red Petticoat Saloon.
At first he didn't see her. There were men congregated at the bar in a large group and he had a suspicion that somewhere in that throng was a sassy little ragamuffin with ideas too big for her britches. Every now and then, he caught a glimpse of golden hair and a flash of gray satin skirts, but that was all. It was loud; Charlie the piano player was pounding out a merry tune and dozens of voices blended into a cacophony of indistinguishable tones.
Suddenly the crowd parted and she emerged from the group towering over her carrying a tray loaded with drinks. Jasper almost spit. Damn it all to hell, now why did she have to look like that? He fumed as his chest tightened and his palms began to sweat.
Why did she have to look so fresh, like she'd just stepped out of a meadow in the early morning hours when the dew was still clinging to the petals of each flower? Her hair shone in the lights from the chandeliers, catching the same rays as her dress each time she moved.
Her eyes found his immediately, as though she'd been searching for him and he studied her. Instantly he noticed the bright smile on her painted lips was not reflected in her eyes. No, they held something else, fear, hopelessness, anger? He couldn't be sure but he felt her sigh of relief as surely as if she'd breathed it against his neck.
Long strides took him to her side.
"Ready to go upstairs?" he asked gently, taking the tray from her shaking hands and passing it to Citrine.
Crystal nodded and allowed him to take her arm.
About The Red Petticoat series:
The Red Petticoat Saloon series is a collection of books written by #1 and USA Today bestselling authors. Each book tells the unique story of a different woman, 'a gem', who comes to the saloon to find a safe haven and discovers they become part of a family. Recurring characters appear in each book to allow readers continuity as they learn about the women who have learned to bend but have not broken under the harshness that life has to offer. It is a series where strong, loving men find not only entertainment at the saloon but the special women who reside under its roof.
I'm proud to have been asked to participate in this extraordinary series and hope you enjoy my contribution of Crystal's Calamity.