Bound and Tied, Book 3
What do a madame and a bounty hunter have in common? They want the same man.
When Rosalyn Smythe, aka Madame Rosie, steps aboard the Marie-Dearie, she hopes it’s the end of a year-long search for her runaway fiancé, Dalton Black. Her cabin holds a surprise: James McKendrick. Notorious bounty hunter, old lover…a man only too happy to help her clear the air—and her heart—of her murdering, thieving bastard fiancé once and for all.
In disguise as a riverboat gambler, Dalton is determined to find who framed him for killing two U.S. Army soldiers and who stole the gold they were carrying. He wants his life back—and his woman, who just happens to be on board and on the arm of his former best friend.
Convincing James he’s innocent is easier than winning back Rosalyn’s heart. Especially since Rosalyn seems to be enjoying their competition for her affections a little too much. There’s only one place to work out his dilemma. In bed.
As the sheets become unbearably hot, threads of evidence leading to the real killer are unraveling, leading toward one fateful card game—and one man who’s hell-bent on making sure Dalton has nothing left to lose.
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EXCERPT (COPYRIGHT 2011, MYLA JACKSON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED):
Rosalyn Smythe stood at the dock in West Helena, Arkansas, trunks stacked two-deep beside her. She wore her best gown and hat as she waited to board the Marie-Dearie riverboat bound for Memphis, just a few hours upstream.
“Ma’am.” A riverboat porter in his crisp uniform stepped up beside her. “If you’d like to go to your room, I’ll bring your trunks to you.”
“Thank you.” Rosalyn walked the gangplank, the gentle sway of the riverboat bringing back so many memories she had to remind herself to breathe. The last time she’d seen Dalton Black had been on the Marie-Dearie nearly a year ago when he dove into the Mississippi and swam away to avoid the marshal and his deputies.
Rosalyn remembered that night as though it was yesterday. That was the same night Dalton had proposed. Two shocks in one fateful night.
As she stepped onto the deck, Rosalyn fingered the engagement ring she kept on a chain around her neck. She told herself it was a reminder not to let herself fall for a card sharp, cheat and thief ever again. Deep down, she knew it was a lie. In the darkest corner of her mind her body trembled at the prospect of being with such a bad, dangerous man. But then, she knew Dalton hadn’t been the thief the marshal claimed he was. That he hadn’t stolen the U.S. Army payroll and run. Her heart skipped a beat. That he hadn’t used her as a front to get to the soldiers in charge of transferring the money.
The gambler had blinded her to a lot of things. His way with words had made her think he cared. The wicked things he had done with his hands made her blood flow like liquid fire throughout her body, spurring desires so combustible she had burst into flaming passion every time she was alone with him. She hadn’t been a naive miss, prone to believing every sweet-talking man, yet she’d fallen for him completely.
Aboard the Marie-Dearie, memories flooded over her, reminding her of the temptation that was Dalton Black, from his glossy black hair and rakish good looks, to his body of a god, strong and beautiful.
Rosalyn hurried to her room, the sunshine suddenly too bright, too revealing. Damn it.
As the owner of a very successful bordello, she’d seen it all, done it all and knew the odds of gambling with a gambler. Yet she’d fallen for Dalton Black harder than a teenage girl in love for the first time. And not because he was all that nice to her, but because he had the air of a rake, someone who would use her deliciously and walk away. Only he hadn’t walked away, he swam away.
She’d been so in love that she’d turned over her business to a manager, left her home and followed the man onto the river to live the life of a gypsy. Hell, she’d given up everything, and what did she have to show for it? When the marshal had come for Dalton, the lawman had tried to implicate Rosalyn as the gambler’s accomplice. It took some fancy talking and a slick escape plan to elude the law and escape to the wilds of Colorado gold rush country.
But she knew she couldn’t run forever. Rosalyn wanted closure on this particularly dark chapter of her life. And if it meant finding Dalton Black, so be it. She trembled, her core heating, the warmth spreading throughout her body at the thought of seeing the gambler again.
She stepped through the door of her stateroom, tugging the gloves from her fingers, anxious to touch herself, to relieve the ache building deep inside. She didn’t need a man, she didn’t need Dalton. Hell, she knew how to pleasure herself.
The door swung closed behind her, closing with a click.
Rosalyn spun, her heart hammering against her rib cage, hope burgeoning. “Sweet Jesus!”
“No, not Jesus.” The man chuckled. “Has it been that long that you’ve forgotten me?”
Rosalyn’s pulse slowed only slightly as she got a good look at the man dressed in brown trousers, matching jacket, crisp white shirt and a dark cowboy hat slung low over his eyes. The mustache had been trimmed and a few lines had appeared next to his eyes, but there was no mistaking James McKendrick the bounty hunter.
“Oh, it’s you, James.” She turned her back on him and tossed her hat and gloves onto the quilt-covered bed, her heartbeat still galloping. Ah, dear, sweet James. She should have married James when he’d asked three years ago. But besides great sex, he didn’t bring quite the spark Dalton did. “What brings you to the river?”
“Same thing that brought you.”
Rosalyn faced the man, her brows rising. “A little gambling? I thought you’d given up gambling.”
“I have. I didn’t come to gamble and neither did you. I got word a man fitting Dalton Black’s description boarded the Marie-Dearie down in New Orleans. I suspect you heard the same.” His mouth tightened. “Like you, I came for Dalton.”
The look was new to her and gave her a jolt. He appeared almost dangerous when his face drew into a frown. With her body already on fire at the thought of seeing Dalton, Rosalyn pressed a hand to her belly, her pu**y pulsing. “You think that’s why I came?”
“I don’t think it, I know it.”
“Well, you’re wrong.” Rosalyn turned her back on him. She’d never been able to lie to James. The three of them, James, Rosalyn and Dalton, had been so close, sharing everything from their dinner wine to their beds.
The sound of boots crossing the wooden floor made Rosalyn tense. Would he touch her like he had so many times before? Would he kiss her throat and run his hands over her body, pushing aside the clothing as he went? Her breathing quickened.
James’s cowboy hat flew across the room, landing on the washstand. His hands slipped around her waist, and he pulled her against his hard body.
Rosalyn sighed and leaned against him. How long had it been since she’d been able to lean on anyone? For six months, she’d lived on a mountain with two couples, sharing their lives and their beds, but not their hearts. All the while her own heart had been back east, aching for a man who may or may not have ever loved her. And another who’d shown her in every way that he did.
He turned her in his arms and bent to take her lips in a gentle, soul-searching kiss.
Rosalyn twined her fingers around his neck, pulling him closer, needing his embrace, needing the strength he represented when she faced Dalton. James was everything a woman should want. Only it hadn’t been enough for this woman.
The kiss deepened, James’s tongue pushing past her teeth to claim hers, sliding along its length. One hand slipped down to her derriere, cupping her through the folds of her traveling gown and dragging her against him.
The ridge behind the buttons on his trousers pressed into her belly. The deep ache surged in her core. She couldn’t forget the nights she’d spent lying with James and Dalton on either side of her, snuggled safely between the two men she’d come to love. Men who accepted her in spite of her ties to the Rose Palace bordello.
When her lips left his, Rosalyn leaned her forehead against James’s chest. “What happened to us, James?”
“You made a choice.”
“I did, didn’t I? For this past year, I’ve asked myself over and over if I made the wrong choice.”
“Did you come up with an answer?”
She sighed. “No.”
“No, you didn’t make the wrong choice, or no answer?”
“No answer. I came up with no answers to all the questions I asked myself.” Rosalyn rested her hands against James’s chest and stared up into his gray-green eyes. “You are perfect in every way. Why didn’t I choose you?”
“Because you loved Dalton more.”
She stood in James’s embrace, unable to look away. “Right now I want to hold you, to be in your arms.” Her fingers went to the buttons on his shirt. “To feel your skin against mine. Make me feel alive again.”
He caught her fingers, and he held them away from his half-unbuttoned shirt. “Are you sure that’s what you want? I’m not anxious to get hurt again.”
“I’m sorry I hurt you. Let me make it up to you. Let me make love to you.”
“And when Dalton shows up?”
“I’ll cross that river when I get to it.”
Rosalyn looked into James’s eyes. “Don’t you want to make love to me? For old time’s sake?”
His grip tightened until the pain made her wince.
He let go and stepped away. “More than you’ll ever know.”
He let go and stepped away. “More than you’ll ever know.”
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