Famous home-keeping expert Daisy Walsh is overwhelmed by the warm welcome she receives in Morrow Creek, and then she realizes she's the star prize in the town raffle! She can bet the lucky winner's not expecting a pregnant woman who needs a place to stay.
Single father Owen Cooper suspects he's been set up because his daughter is thrilled to have a woman around the house. He could get used to the smell of home baking tempting his taste buds, but the sight of Daisy's stockings is one temptation too far!
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March 31, 2011
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Excerpt from The Bride Raffle by Lisa Plumley
Morrow Creek, northern Arizona Territory June 1883
On an otherwise unremarkable day in Morrow Creek, Owen Cooper stood in the modest quarters where he lived atop his livery stable and made himself a solemn promise: he was going to learn to braid his daughter's hair, even if it killed him.
It looked as though it might. Already, Owen had made more than one attempt. He'd been defeated every time. Still, ten-year-old Elodie appeared to believe he could finish the task.
With every appearance of certainty in a braiding prowess Owen strongly doubted he possessed, Elodie stood with her back to him. With pint-size eagerness, she wiggled on her tiptoes. Then she craned her neck, trying to glimpse one of her pigtails.
"Are you done yet, Papa? Can I look?"
"Not yet. Keep holding still."
"I am! I'm pretending my feet are glued to the floor!"
Hmm. For an instant, Owen contemplated the potential merits of actually gluing Elodie's high-buttoned shoes to the floor, then allowing her to step into them like a pony in a stall. Such a tactic would doubtless make mornings like this one easier. As it was, Elodie had been fidgeting nonstop, even before she'd begged Owen, over breakfast, to take on this delicate maneuver. He squinted, newly determined to master this task.
"Remember, both braids are supposed to be exactly the same!" Elodie reminded him earnestly. "Nice and neat, too."
Nice and neat. Frowning at the twin fistfuls of coppery hair he'd been bundling and twisting in his hands for the past fifteen minutes, Owen shifted his feet. He felt his frown deepen. What he'd accomplished so far was poor, he realized. And raggedy. The horses he boarded at his stable sometimes boasted fancier plaits than the ones he'd created for his daughter.
He'd have to try harder. He could do it. After all, he'd already learned to do so many fatherly tasks that had fallen to him in the years since he'd lost Renee. Owen was proud of the progress he'd made, too. So when Elodie had begged him to braid her hair in a new fashion today, he'd thought the undertaking would be simple enough to accomplish, especially for a man like him--a man who was reasonably intelligent, occasionally clever and always skilled with his hands.
Years ago, Owen had earned a good living with those hands. Not good in the sense of untarnished and pure, of course; those were concepts Owen had had only a passing acquaintance with until he'd met Renee, and she'd begun to reform him. What he'd earned with his hands and mind all those years ago had been a profitable living. A frivolous, fun-loving, profitable living.
The truth was, Owen had always enjoyed a talent for the disreputable. Minor thievery had come easily to him; so had running a swindle or delivering a punch or seducing a woman. These days, Owen regretted his rapscallion's past--but he saw it for what it was, too: a cockeyed blessing. If he'd been a better man, he knew, he might never have met Renee outside his favorite gambling house in Baltimore. As it was, he and Renee had taken instantly and wholeheartedly to one another...never mind that the woman had been crusading to shut down the place.
Renee, scarcely nineteen and staunchly naive, hadn't known then that the sizable nest egg Owen had brought to their marriage had been the result of gambling, conning and generally charming the world at large. Owen, already a hell-raising bachelor at twenty-two, had been too smitten to risk enlightening her. She'd discovered his faults quickly enough, though--and had set out to reform him of them straightaway. Two years later, Owen and Renee had taken those savings with them from Baltimore,...