Thursday, September 28, 2017

Center Stage: Divine Gamble by Charlene Raddon


Excerpt:

The air shifted, and a breeze fanned the back of her neck. Someone had entered the saloon. Seeing Marshal Jake Harker look behind her and frown, she stuffed the bank draft into her pocket. The hair on her neck rose. She turned slowly, expecting to see death staring her in the eye.
A new stranger, built like a freight wagon, stood just inside. Small eyes squinted out from under bushy brows. Dirt and grime smeared his square, pugnacious jaw. He reminded her of Quasimodo, minus the hunchback, but with an ugly scar angled from the corner of his nose, and down across a fat-lipped, down-turned mouth, exposing a jagged tooth. Her father had played Quasimodo once on a beer-soaked stage in Wichita, frightening a five-year-old Maisy near to death. Did he seem familiar to her because he reminded her of that unnerving experience? The newcomer gave her a bold once-over. He took what looked like a photograph out of his pocket, glanced at it, at Maisy, and, wearing a grisly smile, started toward her. Something behind Maisy caught his attention, and he stopped. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Harker staring at the stranger. The Quasimodo look alike cursed under his breath, spun about and left. Maisy laid one hand over her heart and pressed the other to her lips as if that would keep her from falling apart. The man had gone but might be waiting for her when she left at quitting time. He must have seen Harker's badge and figured now wasn't the time to grab her. Maisy's heart raced. She closed her eyes and reminded herself of the other times she'd survived Gold's henchmen. She would survive this time, too. A sudden urge to leave town assailed her. But the stage had left. The ore train from Telluride wouldn't arrive until morning. Why had she ever thought she'd be safe in a dead-end canyon like Pandora occupied? Yes, she had friends here, but she couldn't risk endangering them. She discreetly closed her bag to hide the card box inside. "Snake eyes! I forgot my card box. Would you keep an eye on things, Jake, while I go back to the boarding house for it?" "Let Delilah do it. I'd better go with you. You never know what gun-happy drunk might—" She forced a laugh. "I'm a big girl, Marshal. I've been walking dark streets, storm or no storm, all by myself for a long time now, and I have my Deringer in my reticule. I don't need anyone holding my hand. Besides, Delilah's busy." "Still, I think..." "Don't be silly. I'll take Hock. He won't let anything happen to me." As if comprehending her words, the dog rose and swiped a wet tongue over the back of her clenched hand. "All right." Harker bent to pet the dog. "I think he'll make you a good guard dog. He knows you saved him. Get back here soon, though." "I only need ten minutes, I promise. I'll take the back way, and no one will even see me." Slinging her cloak around her shoulders, she took up the bag and headed for the rear door of the saloon, the dog at her heels. The rest of her faro gear would have to remain here. Replacing it all would be expensive, but, if she took it, Harker would know she didn't plan to return and demand to know why. Every instinct screamed for her to leave Pandora now. But she had to hang onto her wits, had to make plans. One choice would mean a steep and dangerous trek over a trail that zigzagged up the cliff and over the mountain. No, the train remained her best bet. She could only hope she'd be safe in her room until departure time. At least she had her reticule, the bank draft Harker had given her, and her Derringer. She'd managed before; she could do it again.  
She had to.

*** steam rating (3 out of 5)

Book Description:

As a girl, Maisy Macoubrie witnessed the murder of her beloved father. She's been running from the killer for fourteen years. If only she could provide a safe home for her and her son… but she'll never get rich dealing faro in saloons, with a cold-blooded killer on her trail.
The Preacher never meant to become a gunman. Sometimes life deals a man a hard hand. Always alone, always hunted, he dreams of all he’s been denied—peace, family, love. The moment Maisy and The Preacher meet, their lives change once more. United in battle against a powerful enemy, they fight side by side, but can they beat the odds they face? Is love worth the biggest gamble man has ever known?


About the author:


An avid reader, Charlene Raddon never planned to be a writer. A vivid dream changed that. She dragged out a portable typewriter and began to put her dream on paper. Originally published by Kensington Books, Charlene is now an Indie author. All her books have received high accolades, contest wins, and awards. When not writing, she designs historical book covers at her site, http://silversagebookcovers.com where she specializes in westerns.

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