Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Welcome Jannine Corti Petska

Love’s Sweet Wager
By Jannine Corti Petska


Her gambler father murdered, Rachel Garrett joins a wagon train west to be with her aunt and the fiancé she's never met.  Her dream is to forget the life she led performing on stage to earn the money her father gambled away and settle down in one place.  But along the trail, she is helplessly drawn to a priest--forbidden fruit--and her hopes are shattered.

Professional gambler Reno Hunter is wanted for the murder of  James Garrett.  His disguise as a priest on a wagon train is foolproof, until he discovers the woman the old gambler wagered in that fatal card game and Rachel Garrett are one and the same.  Can he protect his identity and his heart, or will he surrender to his desire for Rachel and risk being apprehended by the law?


In this scene near the river, Rachel discovers that Father Caldwell is really Reno Hunter, the man accused of killing her father. 
    Rachel’s open palm cracked across his face, snapping his head to the side. His ear rang but his reflexes were quick and he caught both her wrists, experience warning him that a woman didn’t stop at one slap. She struggled, fighting with all her strength. When he began to lose his grip, he clamped his fingers tighter around her small bones, forcing    her arms behind her back.
    “You know who I am, don’t you?” Reno demanded an answer.
    Tears glistened in her eyes, but rage contorted her mouth. “Reno Hunter is supposed to be locked up in St. Jo.”
    “The sheriff’s deputy was persuaded to release me.”
    “I don’t believe you. You broke out with the help of your brothers.”
    “They helped me escape because they know my freedom is the only way I can prove I didn’t kill James Garrett.” He released her and she stumbled back against the tree. He noticed the sudden change in her eyes, and he turned his anger on himself for making her suffer. “You’re afraid of me now, aren’t you? Just a few minutes ago you offered to confess your terrible sins to me. Now you’re looking at me as if I’m a heathen.”
    Reno’s cynical smile caused her to shudder. Compassion fled when he thought about how she deceived him with her chore girl pretense. His own disguise flirted with his mind. He wasn’t happy that he deceived her as well, but she wasn’t in possession of a marker claiming to own another human being.
    “I never thought I’d find Garrett’s daughter on a wagon train.”
    “If you hadn’t killed my father, I would have traveled more comfortably by stage.” Bitterness seeped into her accusation.
    “I didn’t kill him.”
    “It was your gun, wasn’t it?” Her gaze dropped to the gleaming weapon visible beneath his parted frock coat.
    “It wasn’t me who shot him,” he insisted, wishing she’d believe him. “You can rest assured I will find the man who killed Garrett and left me to take the blame.” He purposely softened the severity in his stance and his voice. “Can I trust you not to interfere?”
    “I should turn you in to Mr. Kane.” Her strident threat plucked a raw nerve.
    “You won’t because you know damn well I didn’t kill your father. If I had, I wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to disguise myself.” He pointed out his uncomfortable clothing. “I would have run off and hid until the murder of your two-bit gambler father is dust in the wind.”
    “How dare you speak of my father—”
    “It’s the truth,” Reno barked, startling her into silence. Her bottom lip quivered. “Oh, for Christ’s sake. Don’t start bawling.”

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Note from Ginger:
I just finished this book and could hardly put it down.  It's one of the best westerns I've read in a long time.  Well done, Jannine.


Clover Autrey said...

Sounds like a great read.

Jannine said...

Hi, Clover. Thanks for stopping by.

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