Each week a guest author shares a first meeting excerpt. Today I welcome Jackie Leigh Allen with her historical romance, Silver Sweethearts. Jackie enjoys traveling, and is always planning her next trip.
Smoothing her blue traveling dress, Susan Marie Van Pelt picked up her carpetbag and stepped off the stage. Soon she’d see her beloved Papa. After ten years of reading letters, she’d hear him tell his wonderful stories.
Boldly, she met the gaze of the man with the watch, the most reputable looking man in the lot facing her. “Could you tell me the whereabouts of Joachim Van Pelt? He has a big mine here, the Silver Skates.”
Timer rubbed his jaw. “You’d better talk to Jed. He’s over to Lily’s. I’ll take ya.” He held his arm out stiffly in a parody of a city gentleman.
Timer walked her down the boardwalk lining the single block of the town, past the office of Henry Fox, Attorney at Law, and the tiny general store. At a break in the hitching rail that lined the street, he stepped off the walk and proceeded across the dirt street. Little puffs of dust rose with every footstep. He opened a door in a two-story building under a sign reading, LILY’S.
Papa had written about the hotel started by a woman named Lily. Susan admired a woman who took charge of her own life. She planned to do the same.
“In you go.” Timer waited politely for her to enter.
A redheaded boy and a gangly brown-haired youth appeared. “Ma’s out back with Jed,” said the older boy. He pointed toward the rear of the building.
“Adam, you and Johnny fetch the young lady’s bag from the saloon.” Timer’s request eased one of Susan’s worries.
Susan started toward the kitchen.
“Better wait for Lily and Jed to come in here,” Timer said as he followed the two boys out the door.
Wait? Not one second longer.
She stepped out the back door and directly in front of her, a big red-haired woman enveloped in a white apron leaned over a tub.
“Lily?” Susan queried.
The woman turned toward her with a wet sponge in her hand that threatened to drip onto Susan’s skirt until she stepped back into the kitchen.
“I’m Lily Maguire,” the woman said. She looked at Susan with wide blue eyes. “Who’re you?”
“Susan Van Pelt. I understand you knew my papa.”
Lily dropped the sponge behind her. “I surely did know your papa. He was a wonderful man.”
“I’d like to speak with you about Papa and also with his partner. Could you direct me to Mr. Jedediah Miller?”
Lily’s body shook. Her face got red. A laugh emerged. “Sorry to appear unfeelin’, but Digger would have liked the humor.” She stepped to one side revealing the broad back of a large man with golden-brown, shoulder-length hair.
The very large, very naked man sat in a tin tub with water up to his waist.
Frozen in place, Susan didn’t know any manners for this situation.
“Meet Jed Miller.” Lily whacked the man on the back. “Turn around and say hello to the lady.”
The man turned, the muscles in his shoulders and arms tense. Water dripped from his mustache and beard to run in rivulets through the curly hair plastered against his chest.
Susan jerked her gaze to his. His golden eyes blazed at her, thawing her chill. With his long tawny hair and topaz eyes, he looked like a wet lion. She’d seen one in the circus behind bars, but this one was free. She quivered inside.
Determined not to let the man see her trepidation, Susan stepped forward and extended her gloved hand. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Miller.”
Lily laughed. “I see you can take care of yourself. I’ll put the kettle on.” She went into the kitchen.
# # #
Jed watched the little lady step forward stiff as a cactus and about as friendly. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to join Papa. To take care of him.” She stared at him with eyes as blue as the clear Nevada sky. Her pale blonde hair gleamed like silver in the afternoon sun.
Shaking his head to rid it of the fanciful idea, he sprayed her with his bath water.
Her gaze went down his chest, and her cheeks flushed pink as dawn.
“If you’d turn your back, I’ll get some clothes on.”
After she did, Jed stood, grabbed a length of toweling from a stool by the tub and wrapped it around him. Digger was dead. How could she take care of him?
“I took care of your pa.” Jed had done his best, but hadn’t been able to save Digger.
“I wish I’d gotten to see him before he died.” She sounded ready to cry. Digger would have soothed her with flowery words, but Jed didn’t know how.
Pulling on his drawers, he puzzled over her presence. His wire had told her to stay in the East and he’d send her share of the silver at summer’s end.
“Are you decently covered?” Her voice quavered.
“Almost.” He stepped into his denim pants. “There.” He attacked his hair and beard with the toweling as she turned.
Her blue eyes widened as her gaze fastened on his chest. “You aren’t covered,” she accused.
“Hell, I’m decent.”
“There is no need to swear at me.” She tilted that Van Pelt chin at him just like Digger used to when he dug in his stubborn heels.
Damn. She was a complication he didn’t need.
END OF EXCERPT
I love the description of the hero as a lion, and the heroine finding her lion at his bath.
We welcome comments and questions. I hope you’ll come back each Saturday for a new first meeting excerpt on First Sight Saturday.