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A Winning Hand

By: Maria Lake
Published By: Redingote Reads
Copyright: Published by Redingote Reads
35,790 words / 31 chapters
Heat Level:
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$2.99

When Sam Everett took on the job as foreman at Lanshaw Ranch, he knew he'd have his work cut out for him. Old Man Lanshaw couldn't manage things the way he once had, and he sure as heck couldn't handle his beautiful, feisty, headstrong daughter Josie.

Josie Lanshaw is naughty, sassy, and trying her darnedest not to remain innocent. Josie's got eyes for the stern and handsome Sam, but she sure isn't the good, demure kind of wife Sam pictured for himself. It's going to take a strong man with a firm hand to keep her on the right path.

With the Lanshaw Ranch falling on hard times, Josie's got a scheme for making money fast. Josie knows that if Sam catches her gambling at the Saloon, he'd make good on his promise to haul her over his lap. But with the lure of a high stakes poker game calling her to the Saloon, Josie's willing to risk the feel of Sam's firm hand if it means a chance to get a winning hand.

Will entering the big game ruin Josie's chances with Sam? Or will this gambling gal get more than she bargained for when it comes to her tall, dark and handsome foreman?

This is a safe standalone Western historical romance novella with a guaranteed HEA.

Chapter 1

 

Carefully, Josie Lanshaw worked at her knots. It was a lot easier at home than here in the ladies' powder room at Burke's Hotel. But there had been no avoiding it-- she'd needed something to keep her bosom from hurting while riding her Palomino, and her jerry-rigged use of strips of old bedsheets was the only thing she had been able to come up with. But still, the knots. The longer it took, the more nervous Josie felt.

Daddy'd gone out for an all-day business meeting, and their foreman Sam Everett was supposed to be riding over to Grove. She'd told their cook Mrs. Martin that she'd be gone most of the day visiting over at the Appleton Ranch. She wasn't allowed to ride much on her own, but Daddy was okay with her visits to Annie Appleton and her family- they were only a few miles off, and Mrs. Martin could watch her through the kitchen window for most of the ride. The only part where Josie was briefly out of sight from her home lasted for a few minutes, and then she was easily within sight from Appleton Ranch.

What Josie most definitely wasn't allowed to do was ride to the town of Waring Springs by herself, but she was nearly nineteen now and she had some early birthday money from family back east that she was eager to spend. The idea of buying herself some fancy fripperies with the money was exciting-- her friend Annie Appleton always had such pretty things, and she had to admit that she was a bit jealous. Josie was pretty sure that her Daddy had more in the bank than Mr. Appleton, but he sure didn't use it to buy her fancy things. Notwithstanding his limits on where she could go on her own, her Daddy'd basically been raising her like a boy, teaching her to ride, and fish and shoot. The Appleton girls got ponies, dance lessons, singing lessons and silk dresses, but it was only the Appleton boys who did the things she did.

Almost nineteen. Josie felt she was certainly looking like a woman, and it was time she got to dress more like one. Annie Appleton had plenty of gentlemen come courting her, but no one dared come to the Lanshaw Ranch to woo Josie. Not only did she have a reputation as a tomboy, her Daddy had a reputation as a crack shot. And their foreman Sam was supposed to be even better. So even if someone did somehow find her pretty, there'd still be Daddy and Sam to contend with. Not that she really needed as many suitors as Annie, one would be perfectly fine, as long as he was the right gentleman.

But how could she find the right gentleman if she was wearing old trousers or buckskins? Sure, she had some dresses, but Daddy always insisted that Mrs. Martin supervise how she cut them, and Mrs. Martin was far too old fashioned for Josie's tastes. They had often argued over whether the pattern that Josie was tracing would be too snug or too revealing of her growing bust.

Josie had shuddered at the thought of shopping in a plain conservatively cut dress-- she wanted to look like she belonged in town, that's why she had carefully planned her trip in advance-- putting in quite a bit of work to secretly make over one of her dresses on her own. Her yellow cotton summer dress sure didn't look anything like the chambrays and calicoes that she usually wore at home. It was now a town dress, pure and simple, and it was the one she had brought to change into.

She knew she was doing wrong by sneaking off to go shopping, but surely she had a good excuse for it. Poor old Daddy just didn't understand what it meant to be female.

Josie breathed a sigh of relief as she undid the last knot. Her bosom invention would have looked all wrong under her yellow dress. It was a thin cotton, and would have shown every lump of every knot. Quickly she stripped off the trousers she had worn for riding, and just as rapidly pulled her dress over her head. Fortunately, it was the kind with buttons down the front, or she would have been out of luck dressing herself. It was only after she was clothed that she realized she had forgotten to pack a chemise to wear underneath, but it was such a warm day, perhaps that wasn't needed after all.

Josie tied her old clothes into a bundle and shoved them into her carpet bag. It would be inconvenient to carry them around town, but she didn't know what else she could do. If she left her bundled clothes in the powder room, they might be thrown away. If she left them  with her horse, they might get taken.

Carefully, Josie worked her hands through her hair, trying to tidy herself as best as possible. She washed her face and gave her cheeks a little pinch, although she knew she had probably gotten a bit of color on her ride. She looked with some dismay at her reflection, noting the front of her dress. Certainly this style was meant to be worn with a corset, but all that she had holding herself in place was a wide ribbon and good, tight stitching. Well, there was nothing she could do about that-- unless she were to purchase a corset while she was in town.

  1. Daddy, but Daddy had been aghast at the idea. A widower of fifteen years, he couldn't recollect what undergarments his late wife had worn, but as best as Josie could tell from listening at doors, Daddy claimed that corsets were something worn by dance hall girls and worse, and that no daughter of his was going to go about wearing something garish that presented herself up to the eyes of some dirty men. Mrs. Martin had said some strong words to him about how he'd gotten such notions about dance halls girls and the like, but all he'd said in response was that he was a widower and whatever he did in town was his own business.

Still, Josie couldn't help but think Mrs. Martin had the right of it-- it had been some years now since she'd gone from a bean pole to something far more fleshed out, and she felt she ought to do her best to try to keep herself more contained. Yes, she would have to add a corset to her shopping list.

Josie looked down at the money in her purse-- she hoped she had enough to buy everything she wanted today, for surely she might not have such an opportunity again for a long time. It was unusual for Daddy and Sam to both be away from the ranch for the day, and neither one of them would ever have let her get away with this unchaperoned trip.

She felt a slight flutter at the thought of Sam. Tall, dark and rugged, he'd been helping Daddy run the ranch for the past year, ever since Daddy'd had that bad fall. From the moment she set eyes on him she was smitten, but he treated her more as a burden than a woman. What she had seen as her brazen attempts at flirting, he seemed to view as annoying attempts to distract him from his work. Nothing in his attitude toward her indicated any interest in reciprocating her interest in him. Nothing in his attitude toward her indicated that he had any awareness of how womanly she had become.

As much as she usually went out of her way to get Sam's attention, she was quite glad that  she wasn't going to see him in town. She knew very well that his ideas about female behavior and modesty were even stricter than Daddy's, and she didn't need his stern look of disapproval at finding that she had deliberately broken the rules by going to town on her own. And in a dress that he surely would not approve of, as it did little to hide the fleshy swell of her bosom.

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