Sleight of Heart by Jacquie Rogers
Sleight of hand? or Sleight of Heart?
A Straight-Laced Spinster
Lexie Campbell, more comfortable with neat and tidy numbers than messy emotions, is determined find the sharper who ruined her little sister and make him marry her. When his lookalike brother Burke appears, she greets him with a rifle and forces him to help her. Can she resist his magic charm?
A Gambler With Magic Hands
To claim the family fortune, smooth-dealing Burke O’Shaughnessy has to find his brother Patrick, despite being saddled with an angry spinster. But when Lexie shows an astounding talent for counting cards and calculating odds, he figures she might be useful after all. Can he draw the queen of hearts?
“… a fun and fast paced read with a charming and sexy hero!” ~Jennifer Haddad
Sleight of Heart
by Jacquie Rogers
June 13, 1883
“You will, too, marry my sister!”
The second bullet whistled by his ear. Burke O’Shaughnessy hit the dirt and scrambled behind a boulder. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he hollered, hoping she’d listen to reason. He brushed the dust off his new maroon-striped vest. “I just want to talk to you.”
He peeked around the boulder. The woman was pretty as a royal flush, but her cheeks showed high color and fire sparked from her eyes. He could tell she was a might perturbed.
“And I want my money back, Patrick O’Shaughnessy!” She raised the rifle to her shoulder and added, “You’ve done enough harm to Helen and me, you thieving rat.”
Burke ducked behind the rock. That answered one question—his brother had been there, all right. He took off his hat and waved it. “Ma’am, I’m not Patrick.”
She shot a hole through his Stetson. “You sure enough look like him!”
“Well, I’m not,” he yelled. He leaned back on the boulder and inspected the hole in his brand new three-dollar hat, thankful the bullet missed his lucky hundred-dollar bill tucked in the liner. At least she’d finally said something that made sense. “He’s my brother. I’m trying to find him.”
“He’s obviously not here.”
Smart man, Burke thought. He hunkered down when another bullet ricocheted off the top of the rock. “Come on, ma’am, just talk to me. He might be hurt.”
“Tell you what. Invite me in for a glass of lemonade, and I’ll straighten everything out. Deal?”
“Water is all you get. I’ll talk to you under one condition.”
“Anything. Just tell me what you want.”
“Bring Patrick back here to marry my sister.”
Burke gulped. He broke out in a cold sweat and he prayed to the Great Card Shark in the Sky. He wouldn’t force his brother to be leg-shackled unless he chose to—and Burke knew damned good and well that Patrick had more sense than that. Besides, this crazy woman would probably kill him.
“Well?” she yelled.
He cleared his throat. “All right.” He’d talk her out of her silly notion later, but first, he needed more information. “I’ll bring him back. Will you let me stand up without perforating me?”
He peeked around the boulder. She stood stiff as a new poker deck while she aimed the damned rifle square at his head. Her dark hair was pulled back into a prim bun and she wore a somber gray frock. A pity—such beauty as hers deserved a gown of the latest fashion. He envisioned her belle of a fancy ball, her eyes sparkling as she smiled flirtatiously at the numerous gentlemen begging her to dance. He shook off his reverie.
“I’ll give you one glass of water and five minutes.” Her gray skirts flared as she pivoted, lowered her weapon, and marched into the house. At least he didn’t have to look down the end of a rifle barrel anymore.
He whistled low, enjoying her hip action, then he stood, stretched, and dusted himself off before following her. After he clambered the rest of the way up the loose rock of talus slope to the mining shack, he took off his hat and knocked on the door. She swung it open, a scowl marring her loveliness. He followed obediently, enjoying the view.
“Sit down,” she ordered, using her rifle to point at a chair on the other side of the table. After he sat, she set the bead on him once again. “Velma, give the man some water.”
The housekeeper, or so he presumed from her garb, appeared from nowhere and set a glass in front of him. He winked at her. She scowled at him, and stepped away without saying a word.
The pretty lady with the gun steadied herself against the wall and leveled that damned rifle between his eyes, her jaw locked and her back stiff. “Why are you bothering us?”
He drank half of the water in two gulps, then offered the riled woman his most charming smile. When it didn’t seem to do much good, he said, “I think we’d better start over.” Lifting the glass in salute, he said, “Howdy, ma’am. Nice day isn’t it?”
“Four minutes and twenty-five seconds.”
“My name’s Burke, and would you be Alexandra or Helen?” He knew their names and their situation, thanks to a Pinkerton friend of his who’d given him the low-down. The she-devil who wanted to blast him out of his chair had to be Alexandra, the older sister, age twenty-six and still a maid. She looked after Helen, only eighteen. But maybe if Alexandra thought he took her for being only eighteen, he’d score some points.
“Miss Campbell to you. Where’s that no-good thieving brother of yours?”
“Oh, Patrick!” A younger woman, just as pretty as her older sister but a lot less scary, bounded into the kitchen and hugged him tightly around the neck, then sprang back, her eyes wide. “You’re not Patrick!”
With Alexandra’s gun pointed at his forehead, he couldn’t say he enjoyed the identity confusion. “Howdy, Miss Helen. I’m Burke O’Shaughnessy—Patrick’s big brother.”
Helen lifted her chin. “My Patrick will come back, just like he said he would. Don’t listen to Lexie—she doesn’t even believe in love.”
Her singsong voice told Burke that he was dealing with the worst sort of woman. A romantic.
“He’s not the marrying kind,” the elder Miss Campbell said to her sister, her rifle still aimed at Burke.
Second worst, he amended. A wild woman armed with a high-powered rifle was definitely the worst.
“Even so,” she told her younger sister, “I intend to bring him back to marry you, although I doubt he has a penny of our savings he stole. But at least he can give you his name. Mr. O’Shaughnessy, here, is going to help me find him.”
Burke held his palm out. “No…”
“I’m going, too,” Helen stated flatly.
“No, you’re not—not in your condition. Velma will take care of you while I’m gone.” She nodded at the housekeeper. “Tie him up, then take care of him.”
Burke took a deep breath, afraid to ask just exactly what condition Miss Helen was in.
While Lexie Campbell acted meaner than Doc Holliday with one card short of a flush, he wouldn’t take her with him. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I’m going alone.”
Jacquie Rogers is a former software designer, campaign manager, deli clerk, and cow milker, but has always been a bookworm. She grew up on a dairy farm outside of Homedale, Idaho, in Owyhee Countyand rode horseback all over the hills where her Hearts of Owyhee series is set, encountering adventures both real and imagined. She also writes for the Wolf Creek series under the house name of Ford Fargo, and pens short stories for both Prairie Rose Publications and Western Fictioneers.
She currently lives in suburbia with her IT Guy (and has a license to sleep with him), daughter, and four grandsons. Their home is ruled by The Cat Annie, a feral rescue, who enjoys tromping on the keyboard in the midst of action or love scenes. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and Western Fictioneers.
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