This is my work in progress and book four in the historical series. I wrote this book first, and then went back and wrote the other three.
Setup: Kitty is a young woman living in Reconstruction time with her embittered aunt. Her parents died crossing a flooded stream returning from assisting a sick congregation member. The aunt is a controlling individual who not only wants Kitty to be at her beck and call, but also prevents any possible romances.
Kitty's best friend, Harriet is off to be a mail order bride. Accusations of attempted murder has Kitty disguising herself as a man and traveling west with her friend. She enjoys playing the role of the brother until she meets flirty gambler, Nick Kennedy.
Excerpt:Kitty, disguised as a man, finds work as a piano player in a saloon. Nick Kennedy walks into the saloon, not knowing Kitty will be there.
The melancholy drunk leaned against the piano blowing whiskey fumes onto Kitty as he warbled the lyrics to I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair. It was the fifth time she played it, but the man kept putting money in her cup to hear the song, not paper money, but gold pieces. Kitty sure could use more money, but she wasn’t too sure if the denizens of the saloon would tolerate one more rendition of Jeannie, especially with a drunken miner murdering the verses.
Kitty bet none of the lyrics included references to long toes and a broad behind. If so, Jeannie must have finished off the composer with a rolling pin. The drunk continued to list Jeannie’s attributes as he belted out the last line. Money passed hands behind her, probably a wager on the life expectancy of the piano player. The drunk, a large man, would do some damage on impact. Muscles tensed, she made ready to leap out of the way if he fell.
The atmosphere changed suddenly. Formerly contentious card players called out a warm greeting to a newcomer. Iris’s sultry greeting let her know someone special had arrived. A sneaking suspicion crept up behind her and whispered in her ear. It might be someone she didn’t want to see, especially in her ridiculous piano player outfit. Oh, he wouldn’t say anything, but he’d probably grin—his own superior, amused smirk, the last thing she needed. Liquored up, he might blabber how they’d bathed together. No chance of it happening, and even if it did, who would care? Men bathed together all the time in public bathhouses. It was a rare man who had the privacy of his own bathroom. Before she could mentally debate anymore, the drunken man made a sudden move, causing Kitty to flinch.
The man swept the hat off his head and placed it over his heart. “Nick Kennedy,” he called out, “as I liva and breathe. Nevah thought to see you, again.”
The man ambled away from her to greet Nick with much backslapping and noise. Kitty started picking out another tune with one hand while trying to follow the low rumble of Nick’s voice. A few miners grumbled about her piss-poor playing, forcing her to use both hands. It made it difficult to hear. It seemed like everyone knew him and liked him. Which to her way of thinking ought not to be if he took the miners’ money. His evocative laughter washed over her reminding her of steam-filled bath they shared.
The night lasted forever. Thirty-two songs ago, not that she was counting, Nick Kennedy walked through the saloon doors. Men, both young and old, gathered around him asking for news of the outside world. He talked of floods and political scandals. He had the whole group howling as he acted out two wealthy matrons fighting over him at the San Francisco Opera House. The story ended with him slipping out before either matron noticed. Kit wrinkled her nose at the idea of two women fighting over Nick. It could have happened, or he could be making it all up to be entertaining. No matter the results were alike, the same taciturn men who trod the weathered boards only hours before were guffawing and slapping each other on the back. Nick was a breath of fresh air in the sweat soaked room.
Iris’s invitations for Nick to accompany her upstairs became peevish and strained as the night wore on. Nick turned away each invitation by pretending not to hear and moving on to the next person or a softly murmured “Not now, sweetheart.”
Stella grabbed the pouting Iris and hissed loud enough for most people to hear. “You better leave Nick Kennedy alone and get your sorry butt in gear. I’m not paying you to moon over some man who could have any decent woman with a snap of his fingers.”
Iris grabbed the nearest man and hauled the half-drunk merchant toward the stairs much to his surprise. Her killing gaze directed at Stella fell short since Stella’s back was to the stairs while she conversed with the celebrated gambler.
Escaping West should be out in March. Look for it on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Secret Cravings.