Sexy Mountie Dylan Wayburn is having a bad day. Disguised as a drifter, he fetches up in the same stagecoach as Lily Cromwell, a beautiful redhead who was once a family servant. She could blow his cover sky-high. Then their stagecoach is held up at gunpoint--because everyone knows that Lily has struck gold.
Pretending to be married to search for the gang who've stolen Klondike Lily's fortune leaves Dylan very, very close to the woman he should protect. He'll try and fight the flames of his desire...but how can he ignore the full lips begging to be kissed?
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March 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Klondike Fever by Kate Bridges
Dylan Wayburn recognized her before she recognized him.
She dressed differently, he thought. An odd mix of blatant beauty and hidden treasure. And after five years, instead of recognition in her eyes, there was dismissal. Dylan lowered the brim of his Stetson and hoped it would stay that way.
He studied her through half-closed eyes.
Miss Lilybeth Cromwell had always been self-conscious of a man's attention. Yet the top button of her square neckline, scooped low like many high-society dresses, was half undone. It riveted the faces of all four men in the stagecoach. They waited for the button to slip completely and grace them with more of her bosom. Even the old lady seated beside Dylan was sniffing into a handkerchief and staring. Funny thing was, Lilybeth wore a black silk shawl around her shoulders, covering up the brilliant blue dress beneath.
Dylan never could understand that about women. She put that revealing dress on this morning and now she was trying to hide it.
Lilybeth was as far from demure as her flowing red hair and full lips would allow. But then again, Miss Lilybeth Cromwell was not the shy, nameless adolescent he'd once known. She was Klondike Lily, the wealthiest woman in the Yukon.
Rumor had it, the gold nuggets on her claim were the size of grizzly claws.
Dylan tried to ignore her. He shoved a shoulder against the hard boards and peered out the window.
No sound of anything unusual. Still nothing to look at for the hundreds of miles between Dawson City and the tent town of Whitehorse except acres of spruce and aspen and the occasional cottonwood. A ridge of mountains engulfed the river valley. The turquoise waters of the Yukon River gushed on the other side of their coach.
They hit another rut. The six passengers swayed in unison and Dylan's gaze bobbed back to Lily.
Her button inched closer to release. He swallowed mighty hard, turned away again and stared at the outside shadows--two men driving a team of twelve horses. A strongbox locked in between them. A stack of luggage.
No one else had voiced it, but Dylan was well aware they were carrying a cache of gold. He knew it the instant he'd seen the number of horses on the team this morning. He'd been following the gold but he hadn't been looking forward to meeting up with Lily again. Sooner or later, he knew they would, seeing how much gold she owned and how attractive that made her to thieves. And that, of course, was the reason he was here.
Beneath his boots, he felt the weight of the gold shift, tucked somewhere into a secret iron trap beneath the floorplanks. The stash was fairly well balanced, but on the odd turn, it slid an inch or two to the right, making the iron wheels on his side of the coach creak.
Mud wagon was a more appropriate term for the contraption they were riding in. A far cry from a civilized stagecoach in a civilized part of the world.
Twenty-eight days and nights he'd been traveling alone. Hiding behind scrub bush, eating berries when he couldn't light a fire to attract attention, letting the scratch grow on his jaw, ensuring his holster and Colt revolvers were visible to all.
He'd be damned if he'd allow one inconsequential woman to blow his cover. If necessary, he could take down the two men sitting on either side of her.
Still, Dylan bristled with caution. He hoped she wouldn't do anything reckless that might jeopardize the coming ambush and what he had to do to protect everyone inside the coach.
Lily adjusted her skirts and turned away from the bodyguard sitting on her right. His breath smelled of breakfast sausages. Heat glued their shoulders together. She usually preferred a window seat when she traveled, whether by train or wagon or ship, but her two secret bodyguards, provided by the stage depot three hours ago, insisted on flanking her.
She wiggled, panting for a pocket of air that wasn't scented with either man's breath. Envy gripped her as she stared at the formidable stranger slumped across from them. He sat beside the curtain and its rustling breeze. Why, with his dark Stetson perched low over his face, the mysterious man who seemed impressed with his own sense of danger hardly needed all the fresh air blowing his way. He was sleeping, for Lord's sake, not even able to fully appreciate the gust!
And here she was, gasping.
There were some things money still couldn't buy.
In fact, a lot of things.
Oh, here it came...a pinch of pine. Summer cedar.
She inhaled. Perhaps she'd get to the town of Whitehorse in one sane piece, after all. Then on to Skagway, Alaska, where her sister had last been sighted.
She smelled whisky again, hailing from the sleeping stranger. How could a person take to drink so early in the morning?
Lily slid her hanky beneath her heavy wall of hair. She dabbed the moisture. If she hadn't been in such a hurry to leave, she would have pinned her hair into a bun. Despite the heat, it wasn't proper to go anywhere without a shawl.