Dance with Destiny
When Elise Lafontaine spies her father’s missing saddlebag with its all-important papers slung over the shoulder of a man boarding a riverboat, she follows him, hoping to retrieve the contents. Her plans come to an abrupt halt when she is declined entry to the boat, since she is an unaccompanied female.
From his perch on the top deck, handsome riverboat gambler James Garnett witnesses her denied entry. When she shoots him a look of desperation, how can he resist those deep blue eyes and beautiful face? Of course, he comes to her rescue, pretending she is his fiancée—and she is allowed aboard.
Begrudgingly, Elise accepts James’s offer of help to win back the saddlebag and the papers by having him play poker on her behalf, certain the thieving Confederate brothers who stole the bag will lose everything to James. But can Elise be happy with only the saddlebag and its contents? Or has she already lost her heart to the dangerous gambler?
After a sultry kiss, Elise steals his money and the papers and jumps overboard. Then the games truly begin. Now, Elise stands at the biggest crossroads of her life—will she go her own way, fiercely independent and alone? Or will she wager everything on the man who holds her heart--GAMBLING ON FOREVER?
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“Delta Queen, here I come,” she whispered, hoping she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life. She could handle wide-open spaces, and campfires under the stars while rounding up wild horses, but on a big, beautiful large riverboat, a floating palace? This would definitely be a challenge for her, since she’d have to act as a refined lady. She touched her whip again and hoped she wouldn’t need to unfurl it. The nerves tightening in her stomach told her she had just entered uncharted territory and the hairs on her neck prickled again. Never a good sign.
She followed the two men up the gangplank, her fingers itching to yank her father’s saddlebag from the shoulder of the one man. She’d need to be patient and choose the best time to steal it back, and the moment of boarding would not be the best time. Better to wait until they were underway, floating down the Mississippi. Then, those two couldn’t get away. She’d nab it when they weren’t looking, just as they’d taken it from her father. Then, she’d jump overboard and be gone before morning. She took a deep breath and fisted her hands to prevent them from reaching for the bag.
The pair paid the steward for passage on the freight deck, which meant they were saving most of her father’s money for the gaming tables if they were willing to give up a bed in favor of sleeping on top of cotton and tobacco bales. She hoped she had enough money for an actual stateroom.
“Are you with the gentlemen?” The steward asked, raking his gaze over her before glancing at the men.
“Those two?” Elise pointed to the men still standing close by. “No, sir. I’m traveling alone and I’d like a stateroom, please, if the fare isn’t too much.”
The steward seemed confused. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. Our policy is to allow women aboard only if they are accompanied by a gentleman.”
“That’s preposterous!” Elise tried for a smile, hoping to charm the steward. “My money’s as good as any gentleman’s.”
“Your money is not the issue, ma’am. We don’t allow unaccompanied ladies on board. It’s company policy.” The steward clutched his papers to his chest, unaffected by her smile.
One clean-shaven, well-dressed man stood on the top deck, calmly smoking a cheroot and stroking the black string tie around his neck as he surveyed the crowd coming aboard. Elise pleaded with her eyes for the man to take action. She might be going from the frying pan into the fire but at least he’d taken a bath in the past year. She’d take her chances. She only hoped he would.