And Hers to Captivate, a finalist in the Romance Through the Ages Contest, tells of Amalie, a saloon singer and the family troublemaker who wins the heart of Declan Grainger, a hotelier with a heart of gold who just happens to have a secret identity.
Amalie brushed past him. A gasp escaped her lips, then a smile. Patrick’s place wasn’t as abysmal as she anticipated. Dusty bearded men in miner’s boots and faded shirts mingled with gamblers in fancy vests and frock coats. The room reeked of smoke. The familiarity of being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a saloon again tugged at her heart.
A fast-clipped tune resounding from a piano tucked in the back corner drew her attention. A woman standing next to the upright burst into song. Amalie stopped cold. Declan hadn’t exaggerated. The painted hussy stood on a box!
Amalie scanned the expanse of card players for Patrick. She should have known better than to deal with that lying scoundrel. She wasn’t going to put up with his tom-foolery. Patrick needed to be taught a thing or two – the first lesson being not to tangle with Lily Fox!
Eyeing the long wooden bar, she decided that’s where she’d start her evening.
Amalie slipped off her cape and handed it to Declan. His appreciative gasp brought a smile to her lips. She was used to men ogling her. She learned early to use her looks to her advantage. The way Declan’s eyes, the same grayish-green as wild sage, heated with appreciation when he scanned the deep cut of her décolletage reminded her how good it felt to be a woman.
“Now you’re going to see who I really am.”
Declan grabbed her arm. “Remember, you’re a lady.”
She cast him a wicked smile. “The name’s Lily Fox. And, believe me, Lily’s no lady.”
She approached a couple of gamblers and leaned over slightly to give them full effect of her daring dress. “Would you mind helping me, gents? I have need of your table for a moment.”
Gaping, the men jumped to their feet in unison, their cards forgotten. Amalie took the nearest man’s out-stretched palm, stepped onto a chair, over their cards and up onto the long wooden plank.
“Evening, boys.” She strutted the length of wood, stepping over glasses and kicking away grasping hands.
The saloon girl stopped caterwauling. The room went still. She had everyone’s attention, just the way Lily liked it.
“Get down, young woman. This ain’t no place for you to prance about,” the barkeep barked.
She looked at the scowling face with the handle-bar mustache and turned on her brightest smile. Ignoring the order, she kicked up her heels, adding a dance step as she continued to move back and forth the length of the make-shift stage. Lily reveled in the whistles and disregarded the uncouth remarks.
“My name’s Lily Fox and I’m here to entertain you tonight.” She glanced at the stunned piano player. “Play something quick and lively, will you, honey?”
Disgusted by her brazenness, Declan headed for the exit. A heartbeat from the door, her voice froze him to the spot.