by Cassandra Dean
Today, my very first historical Western comes out with Decadent Publishing’s Western Escape. Huzzah! However, it all started for me back at the beginning of the year, with the beginnings of an idea and a trip to Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill is a living, open air museum in Ballarat, Victoria. Earlier this year, I visited to undertake some much needed research on what would become my brand new release, ROUGH DIAMOND Frozen during Victoria's Gold Rush during the 1850s, Sovereign Hill gave me a great insight into what life might have been like in 1876 Wyoming. The wooden buildings and boardwalks, the hard packed dirt streets, the narrow laneways - all of this was fantastic for the flavour of a frontier town. The museum even employs people to dress up in period costume and wander the streets as townfolk! Because a saloon and theatre feature predominatnely, I spent a lot of time in the Victoria Theatre. It was fantastic seeing the various performances, including the elusive Lola Montez and her World Famous Spider Dance ;p. I took home a lot of great info I could and did use in ROUGH DIAMOND. The Saloon/bar is right next to the theatre in Sovereign Hill, just as it is in ROUGH DIAMOND. The narrow laneways zigzagging between buildings became the site of Rupert and Alice's first kiss. The world of Freewill, Wyoming in ROUGH DIAMOND owes a lot to a small town half a world away, and 150 years in the future!
Owner of the Diamond Saloon and Theater, Alice Reynolds is astounded when a fancy Englishman offers to buy her saloon. She won’t be selling her saloon to anyone, let alone a man with a pretty, empty-headed grin…but then, she reckons that grin just might be a lie, and a man of intelligence and cunning resides beneath. Rupert Llewellyn has another purpose for offering to buy the pretty widow’s saloon—the coal buried deep in land she owns. However, he never banked on her knowing eyes making him weak at the knees, or how his deception would burn upon his soul. Each determined to outwit the other, they tantalize and tease until passion explodes. But can their desire bridge the lies told and trust broken?
~ Excerpt ~Lifting the glass, Alice studied its contents. “There is nothing quite like the enjoyment you get from a good whiskey. There’s the look and color of it, and the way it burns in the light.”
“It’s the same color as your eyes,” Llewellyn breathed, his own wide and empty of thought.
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. That’s right. Fool me into thinking there’s not an ounce of calculation to your words.
“Is it? Mighty kind of you to notice.” A happy grin was her response. Well now, she was surely going to enjoy this. Setting her own half-smile, she tilted her glass, watching as the whiskey caught the light of the candle. “Have you ever noticed the feel of glass? It’s smooth against your fingers, and though the whiskey burns you, the glass is cool. It seems strange, doesn’t it? That such fire could come from something so cool.”
Intensely aware of his gaze upon her, she brought the glass to rest on her bottom lip. “You lift the glass to your lips, and all that coolness rests upon your flesh. The scent of the whiskey hits you, sweet and fiery. Your mouth waters, and you can’t wait to have it inside you. Slowly, so slowly, you tip the glass, teasing yourself as long moments in want of its taste stretch unbearably.”
He no longer wore a smile. Dark eyes watched her as strong fingers dug into the glass before him. A prickle washed over her skin, her heart a steady beat in her chest. With hushed voice, she continued.
“Liquid slides down your throat. The flavor explodes inside you, a glorious rush of sensation that overwhelms and consumes. You curl your tongue, enjoying the lingering sensation in every part of your mouth. Then, you look at the bottle.” Finally, she met his gaze direct. No subterfuge. No tease. “And you know you can do it again.”