Impending Love Series
The scruffy-looking passenger turns out to be more trouble than Colleen “Cole” Beecher bargained for, especially when Blake becomes her patient. After a suitor spurns her to marry a rich socialite, she travels to Washington City and throws herself into work to help the Union cause. When Blake offers her a job at his hotel, she takes it for the money, but her heart desires more.
When hotel owner Blake Ellsworth boards a canal boat to escape the Cassell brothers, he meets a headstrong beauty who saves his life when he is shot. Despite his attraction to her, Blake is determined to join the Union army once his shoulder heals. Fearing he may make Cole a widow, Blake won’t propose marriage, but eight weeks is a long time to spend with a woman who stirs more than his imagination.
“Do you have to leave?”
“I have work to do.”
Blake’s father had believed in hard work and a strong moral character. Employees and guests of the hotel were not romantic partners. Nothing was more embarrassing than a pregnant maid or a female guest who expected her bill to be dismissed because her favors had been bestowed upon the owner. Older women trying to recapture their youth with brazen suggestions had never interested him, and the giggling girls with finishing school manners reminded him too much of his annoying stepsister.
Cole was different. She had captured his imagination. She was seductive with every confident movement, but her reaction to his brazen invitation to share the bed had been outrage. He couldn’t be the first to make a proposition to spare her a life of drudgery. “A beautiful woman like you shouldn’t have to work.”
Her hand remained on the rung, but she turned to face him. Her breasts rose with a tired sigh, straining the seams of her bodice. “Are you going to whisk me away to your castle, decorate me with jewels, and dress me in silk gowns? I’ve had my fill of romantic lies.” Cole’s voice cracked in a husky tremor of pain, and her eyes glistened. “You’re missing a button from your coat, your sleeve needs mended, and your trousers have been patched. When I marry, and I said marry, it will be a man of wealth and prestige not a beggar who can’t afford the fare for the train.”
Blake stared as the fortune hunter escaped, her frayed hem swaying above her bare feet. She had high ambitions for a canal brat. She couldn’t write her name, but she could count the coins in a man’s purse. Beneath the disguise of his beggar’s garb, she might have seen the heavy money bag thickening his middle.
She had scoffed at his ability to clothe her in silk and decorate her lovely skin with jewels. Did he dare show her the gold in his pouch and buy her affection? Would she be impressed if he told her he owned the Dutchman Hotel, a favorite lodging for the rich elite heading to New York City? What would the wealthy patrons think of his bonny Irish brat?
The men would wish they were bedding her, and the women would be envious of her beauty. He would spoil her with gifts, and they would have a fine time, enjoying the sights, lavish dinners, and exotic entertainment. She would be none the worse from the experience and would gain a bit of refinement to tempt the next man.
He removed his coat and examined the missing button and torn sleeve. She couldn’t see the bruised ribs and shallow blade cut from the attack by the Cassell brothers he’d barely escaped the previous day. He had risked life and limb to keep his gold, but the sad smile of an Irish lass had tempted him to see what his money could buy besides a lakeside inn.
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