Read Lips That Touch Mine Online

Authors: Wendy Lindstrom

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Lips That Touch Mine

BOOK: Lips That Touch Mine
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"The third Grayson Post Civil War historical
romance (see THE LONGING and SHADES OF HONOR) is an absorbing late
nineteenth century tale..."
—Harriet Klausner

 

 

 

LIPS THAT TOUCH MINE

Recipient of Romance Writers of America’s RITA
Award

by Wendy Lindstrom

Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2005 Wendy Lindstrom. All rights
reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book
may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means
whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Originally published by Leisure Books 2005

Note: This novel is entirely a work of fiction.
Though it contains incidental references to actual people and
places, these references are merely to lend the fiction a realistic
setting. All other names, places, and incidents are the products of
the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Preview Kissing in the Dark

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Author’s Note

Chapter One

Fredonia, New York
December 13, 1873

 

Boyd Grayson glanced over his shoulder at his
part-time bartender and local distiller. "Karlton! Pour me an ale
and charge it to Mr. Lyons. He's going to owe me a drink in about
ten seconds."

"The hell I will." Pat Lyons gritted his
teeth as he arm wrestled Boyd. He tried to force Boyd's knuckles
the last few inches to the bar, but Boyd didn't budge. "Damn you,
Grayson. You've got an arm like a lumberjack."

Boyd laughed. The description was more
accurate for his older brothers, Duke and Kyle. Both topped six
feet and were thick in the arms and chest. Boyd was their height
but lean like their eldest brother Radford. It wasn't bulky muscle
that was keeping his knuckles off the bar—it was stubborn pride. At
twenty-three, Boyd refused to be bested by anyone, especially in
his own saloon.

The regular patrons gathered around the bar,
cheering and placing bets, crowding in as the intensity of Boyd's
nightly arm wrestling match escalated. The noise roused his dog,
Sailor, out from under the billiard table. The long-legged,
mixed-breed mutt paced between the men, searching for the cause of
the excitement.

Duke leaned his elbows on the bar to watch
the match. "You're losing your touch, little brother. The life of a
saloon owner is making you soft."

Boyd snorted. "Don't worry, Duke. I'll still
be able to whip your ass when I finish here."

Jovial laughter filled the tavern, and Boyd's
arm slipped back a couple of inches. Pat took advantage of Boyd's
lack of concentration and gained another inch.

"Pay attention," Karlton said, nudging Boyd's
shoulder. "I wagered a week's earnings on you winning this
match."

Boyd grimaced at Karlton's frightening
penchant for gambling, but leaned into the fight. "You're sweating,
Mr. Lyons."

"And you're talking too damned much," Pat
said.

Boyd grinned and tightened his biceps. Shouts
filled the smoky room as he lifted his fist upward, away from the
bar. Pat's arm trembled as their clenched hands arched toward the
ceiling.

"Ah, hell," Pat said.

Slowly, Boyd dragged his opponent's hand over
and down to the bar. A roar of male voices cheered as he
successfully ended the match.

"Thank God," Karlton said, his relief so
obvious that Boyd suspected he was trying to work his way out of
another bad gambling debt.

Duke lifted his mug in a toast, but Boyd felt
a deep pang of regret. He wasn't worthy of the pride in his
brother's eyes.

"Bring him a drink," Pat called to
Karlton.

The short, stocky bartender placed a full mug
of ale between them and Boyd reached across the mahogany bar and
squeezed Pat's shoulder. "I earned this one," he said,
complimenting his best friend's strength.

Two years ago, Boyd had bought the Pemberton
Inn from Pat, who had turned the inn into a busy saloon. Pat hadn't
been at home anywhere else, so like many of Boyd's customers, he
now spent nearly every evening at the bar, often as the
bartender.

Boyd raised his mug and toasted his friend,
then saluted his patrons who were earning him, and ultimately his
distiller Karlton Kane, a small fortune. Karlton was in the
business of distributing liquor, but he worked as Boyd's second
bartender three nights a week. Boyd earned a good living from the
family sawmill, which he owned with his three brothers. He didn't
need the income, but he did need the nightly entertainment that his
saloon provided.

Each night except Sunday the regulars would
fill Boyd's homey tavern and line up along the bar to arm wrestle.
Later, they would sprawl in chairs around the cast-iron stove to
thaw the winter chill from their bones while they bragged with
their friends and taught Boyd's dog ridiculous tricks.

The Pemberton Inn was more than a place to
drink ale. It was a meeting place to discuss town business and
commiserate with friends, a second home for many hardworking men
who didn't have anywhere more welcoming to spend their
evenings.

And it was Boyd's sanctuary. In the midst of
the men and noise he could pretend he was happy.

He circled the bar and sat beside Duke,
careful to avoid the revolver holstered at his brother's hip. Boyd
himself kept a gun behind the bar, but weapons were forbidden in
his tavern. Duke was the local sheriff, though, and not about to
drop his piece at the door.

"You found a new deputy yet?" Boyd asked,
signaling the bartender to refill his brother's mug.

"No." Duke accepted the ale from Karlton,
gave a nod of thanks, then glanced at Boyd. "Want the job?"

"Hell, no."

Duke's laughter was buried in an uproar of
voices and pounding, scuffling feet.

Boyd jerked his attention to the middle of
the tavern where Gordie and Louie Carson were tearing into each
other. He and Duke shot to their feet. Karlton came out from behind
the bar and Pat Lyons leapt off his barstool, but before anyone
could get a hand on the Carson brothers, they careened toward the
front wall. Their four hundred pounds of flesh and muscle slammed
into Boyd's front door. The casing shattered and the door blew
open, sending the Carsons tumbling outside and sprawling onto Main
Street.

With a curse, Boyd bolted outside after them.
His patrons and his brother ran out of the bar behind him, with
Sailor yelping at their heels. The neighbors were going to raise
holy hell over this.

Gordie and Louie Carson pummeled each other,
grunting and huffing and kicking snow everywhere, while the patrons
hollered and wagered on the outcome. Boyd exchanged an exasperated
glance with Duke as they reached the fracas and pulled the men away
from each other. They yanked the brothers to their feet and turned
them toward Chestnut Street.

"Time to go home, boys," Duke said.

Gordie opened his mouth to argue, but Boyd
nudged him in the shoulder. "Go, before I ask Duke to give you boys
a room for the night."

The sudden quieting of the patrons drew
Boyd's attention. The men were all gawking across the street at the
widow's house. A slender young woman stood on the porch pointing a
revolver at them. She clutched the gun with both hands, anger and
fear marring her beautiful face.

"Where is the owner of this saloon?" she
demanded, her voice shrill and trembling, the gun wobbling in her
hands.

Boyd stepped forward, cringing as she
carelessly swung the gun in his direction. From the way she
nervously clenched the revolver, he suspected she was scared to
death and had never touched a gun before in her life. "May I
presume you are Mrs. Ashier?"

"Yes, and you may also presume that I am
furious and fed up with the noise coming from that rum hole." She
jerked the nose of the gun toward his saloon. "I haven't slept a
night through since moving here. My boardinghouse is empty because
of you, and I have no other means to support myself, Mr.
Grayson."

So she knew his name. Good. That would make
this little exchange much easier. He nodded toward the gun. "Is
that loaded?"

"It most certainly is. I want these men to go
home. Now," she said, sweeping the barrel of the pistol across the
crowd.

"It's too early to send the boys home, but
we'll head back inside for the evening. Sorry to disturb you."

Her jaw clenched and she glared at him. "Do
you think an apology excuses your total disregard for your
neighbors? I don't want your apology. I want these men gone and
that rum hole closed!"

"It's Saturday night, Mrs. Ashier. I can't
close this early. Now, be reasonable and put the gun down before
you hurt somebody."

"Not until you and your inebriated friends go
home."

"This is my home." He jerked his chin toward
the saloon.

"You live there?"

He nodded and took a step forward, intending
to remove the revolver from her shaking hands.

"Don't come any closer," she warned.

He stopped and lifted his palms. "No need to
get jumpy, Mrs. Ashier." He worked up his most charming smile. "I'd
just like to finish this conversation in private," he suggested,
starting toward her again.

"Stay away!" She tensed and pulled the gun to
her chest like a child protecting a coveted toy. An earsplitting
crack ripped through the night. A window above his bar shattered.
The men below ducked flying shards of glass and swung incredulous
looks in her direction.

Boyd stared in outrage. "Are you crazy?"

Claire gasped and shoved her gun out in front
of her. She didn't know what else to do with it; she hadn't meant
to pull the trigger. Her heart pounded so hard she could only draw
in half-breaths. But for the sake of her own survival, she gripped
the revolver and stood her ground. She had to end the noise coming
from the saloon before it put her out of business.

The Pemberton Inn was an attractive two-story
structure on the corner of Chestnut and Main Street at the top of
West Hill. But to Claire it was nothing more than a rum hole owned
by an inconsiderate man. She wasn't sorry at all that she'd taken
out a window.

A man stepped from the crowd, but Boyd
signaled him to stop. "Give me a minute, Duke." The man nodded, and
Boyd turned to face her.

Boyd was taller than most of the men in the
street, and at least five inches taller than she was. His hair was
dark, probably black, but when she saw his face bathed in the light
from her window, her stomach dipped. Not even the play of shadow
and light could ruin the perfection of Boyd Grayson's face. If
anything, it made him more dangerous.

"I understand that you're upset, Mrs. Ashier,
but that doesn't give you cause to shoot at my patrons."

"I hadn't intended—I wasn't shooting at
anybody."

He nodded toward her house. "Why don't we go
inside and discuss this on more friendly terms?"

BOOK: Lips That Touch Mine
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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