Jo Goodman This Gun for Hire

ISBN 13: 9780425277430

This Gun for Hire

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9780425277430: This Gun for Hire

"Perfectly crafted"—PW (starred review)
Jo Goodman, a premier writer of western romance and the author of In Want of a Wife, is back with a sensational new novel for fans of Linda Lael Miller and Joan Johnston. 
He’s got a job to do...

Former army cavalryman Quill McKenna takes pride in protecting the most powerful man in Stonechurch, Colorado: Mr. Ramsey Stonechurch himself. But the mine owner has enemies, and after several threats on his life, mines, and family, Quill decides to hire someone to help guard the boss’s daughter. Only problem is the uncontrollable attraction he feels toward the fiery-haired woman who takes the job. 
...but she’s a piece of work. 
Calico Nash has more knowledge of scouting and shooting than cross-stitching, but she agrees to pose as Ann’s private tutor while protecting her. But between her growing attraction to Quill and the escalating threats against the Stonechurches, Calico will soon have a choice to make—hang on to her hard-won independence or put her faith in Quill to create the kind of happy ending she never imagined...

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About the Author:

Jo Goodman is a USA Today bestselling author who has written multiple series, including the Hamilton Family series and the Thorne Brothers series. Jo lives in West Virginia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

August 1888

Falls Hollow, Colorado

He watched her pause at the head of the stairs and survey the room. Her eyes swept over him and did not return. If she noticed that she had his full attention, she gave no indication. Perhaps she considered it no more than her due. Experience must have taught her that it gave a man a savoring sort of pleasure to look at her. Her pause had been deliberate, had it not? She raised one hand in a graceful, measured arc and placed it on the banister. The gesture drew his gaze away from her face. He doubted that he was alone in following it, but he glanced neither right nor left to confirm his suspicion.

She wore no gloves, no rings. Her hands needed no adornment. Her fingers were long and slender, the nails short but buffed. There was a moment, no more than that, when he could have sworn her hand tightened on the railing, gripping it hard enough for her knuckles to appear in stark, bloodless relief. Curious, his eyes lifted to her face to search for corroborating evidence that she was not quite at her ease. Nothing in her expression gave her away, and when he regarded her hand again, her fingers were merely curved over the rail, pink and perfect, and featherlight in their touch.

Quill McKenna wondered at what price she could be bought.

He had money. He had not planned to spend any of it on a whore, true, but experience had taught him that plans could, and should, change when new facts presented themselves. She was a new fact, and her presentation damn near took his breath away.

He was not entirely sure why that was so. As a rule, he preferred curves. Round breasts. Rounder bottoms. Soft, warm flesh in the cup of his palms. Also, he was drawn to blondes. Strawberry. Gold. Corn silk. Honey. Ash. Wheat. He liked a woman he could tuck under his chin. There was a certain comfort there, her being just so high that she was tuckable. Blue eyes, of course, liquid, lambent, and promising. He appreciated a woman who made promises, whether or not she intended to honor them. It kept him hopeful.

The woman standing on the lip of the uppermost step had none of the physical features that he typically admired. From face to feet, he counted more angles than curves. High cheekbones and a small pointed chin that was softened by the shadowed hint of a center cleft defined her oval face. Heavily applied lip rouge the color of ripe cherries accented the wide lush line of her mouth. Her eyes were almond shaped. He could not make out their precise color, but he doubted they were blue. Her hair, hanging loose behind her back, evoked the colors of night, not noon. Nothing about this woman was as it should be, and yet he continued to stare, knowing himself to be oddly fascinated.

With the exception of the brothel’s madam, who wore an emerald green silk gown and matching green slippers, the whores who worked for her appeared in various states of dress—or undress, as it were. Sleeveless, loose-fitting, white cotton shifts that dipped low at the neckline seemed to be preferred, and fallen straps artfully arranged around plump arms exposed naked shoulders. The women wore the shifts under tightly laced corsets to accentuate hourglass figures. Most of the whores sported ruffled knickers that they tugged above their knees. A few wore black stockings and black ankle boots. Some wore no stockings at all and red or silver kid slippers.

Quill had spent enough time in uniform to recognize one when he saw it. The woman at the top of the stairs wore a variation of the theme. The straps of her shift rested on her shoulders; perhaps because she had not yet resigned herself to the languid, lounging posture of her sisters who occupied overstuffed sofas, wide armchairs, and the laps of contented cowboys and miners.

She apparently had no use for a corset, and the shift hung straight to the middle of her calves. There was no flash of ruffle to indicate that she wore knickers. It was an intriguing notion that she might be naked under the shift, and the notion was supported by the fact that not only was she without stockings, she was also without shoes. Quill had no memory that he had ever found a barefooted woman immediately desirable, and yet . . .

Judging by the stirring in the room as the woman began her descent, he was not alone in his notions.

Quill’s gaze returned to her face, and he saw that her eyes—whatever the color—were no longer surveying the room but had found their target. He tracked the direction to the source and discovered a man of considerable height and heft standing in the brothel’s open doorway. It occurred to Quill that he might have mistaken the reason for the earlier stir in the room. It was certainly possible the madam, her girls, and her patrons had more interest in the man crossing the threshold than they had in the barefoot whore.

Out of the corner of his eye, Quill saw the madam step away from her place beside the upright piano, where she had been turning pages for one of the girls. She came into his line of vision as she approached her new guest. Quill recalled that he had been greeted warmly when he entered the house, but not by the madam. She had smiled and nodded at him, acknowledging his presence, but she had not left her post. Instead, one of the girls—whose name he never caught—relieved him of his hat and gun belt and escorted him to his present chair. Except to fetch him a whiskey, she had not left his side.

Clearly the madam had decided this customer deserved her special attention, although whether it was because he was a favorite or because of his considerable size and the potential threat it posed, Quill had no way of knowing. It occurred to him to put the question to the girl at his side, but then he became aware that her fingers were curled like talons around his forearm where they had only been resting lightly moments before. Posing the question seemed unnecessary. This man represented someone worth fearing.

The madam smiled brightly if a shade stiffly. She held out her hand for his hat and gun belt, neither of which he gave her. Her extended arm hung awkwardly before she withdrew it. She took a visible breath and then spoke. “We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Whitfield. I suppose this means you heard about our new girl, the one I found especially for you.” She tilted her head ever so slightly toward the stairs.

Quill thought the gesture was unnecessary. Mr. Whitfield’s gaze had been riveted on the woman on the staircase since he entered the brothel. Quill was not convinced that Whitfield had even seen the madam’s outstretched arm or been aware that she wanted to relieve him of his gun.

“By God, you did, Mrs. Fry,” he said under his breath. “I’ll be damned.”

“You will get no argument from me.”

Quill suppressed a grin at the madam’s cheek. Mrs. Fry had spoken softly, but she was in no danger of being heard even if she had shouted the retort. Whitfield was paying her no mind.

Whitfield lifted his hat, slicked back his hair with the palm of his hand, and then replaced the black Stetson. He sucked in his lips as he took a deep breath. He had the manner of a man calming himself, a man who did not want to appear too eager or at risk for losing control.

Quill’s gaze swiveled back to the stairs. The woman was standing on the lip of the bottom step. He could see that she was not as young as she appeared from a distance. He had taken her for eighteen and no more than twenty when she appeared on the landing. He revised that notion now, adding four, maybe five years to his estimate. There was a certain maturity in her level stare, a composure that would not have been carried so easily by someone younger, or someone inexperienced. If the madam had hoped to present a virgin to Mr. Whitfield, she had very much mistaken the matter. It did not seem Mrs. Fry would have made such an obvious error. That could only mean that something else was afoot.

Quill wished he had resisted giving over his Colt. It would have been a comfort just then to have it at his side.

Whitfield’s gaze did not shift to the madam when he asked, “What’s her name?”

“Katie. Katie Nash.”

Whitfield’s lips moved as he repeated the name but there was no accompanying sound. He nodded slightly, as though satisfied it suited her, and it struck Quill that there was something inherently reverent in the small gesture.

Mrs. Fry crooked a finger in Katie’s direction. “Over here, girl, and make Mr. Whitfield’s acquaintance.”

Katie took a step forward, smiled.

Whitfield put out his hand, stopping her approach. “You don’t have to listen to her,” he said. “I’m paying for your time now. You listen to me, Miss Katie Nash, and you and I will do proper acquaintance making upstairs.”

Katie Nash stayed precisely where she was.

The madam boldly cocked a painted eyebrow at Whitfield and turned over her hand, showing her empty palm. Quill thought Mrs. Fry demonstrated considerable temerity to demand payment up front from this customer, especially when it appeared she had made some effort to please him by recruiting Katie Nash for her house. Again, he was not alone in his thinking; he was aware that the girl at his side was holding her breath.

Whitfield stared at the madam’s hand for several long moments. He had the broad shoulders and barrel chest befitting a man of his height. His chest jumped slightly as quiet laughter rumbled through him. Abruptly, it was over. He laid his large palm over Mrs. Fry’s, covering hers completely. “You must be very certain of my satisfaction.” When she did not respond, he said, “In good time, Mrs. Fry. Allow me to be the judge of how well you’ve done.” He waited for the madam to withdraw her hand before he lowered his. He smiled, but it did not reach his eyes, and no one in the parlor was comforted by it.

It was Katie Nash who eased the tension. She ignored Whitfield’s earlier edict and crossed the room to stand directly in front of him. With no hesitation, she laid her palms against his chest and raised her face. Her smile held all the warmth that his had not. “About that acquaintance making . . .”

As though mesmerized, he blinked slowly.

Katie Nash’s dark, unbound hair swung softly as she tilted her head in the direction of the stairs. “I have whiskey in my room. Mrs. Fry told me what you most particularly like.”

Quill did not doubt that Miss Nash was speaking to something more than Whitfield’s taste in liquor. Whitfield seemed to know it, too. Quill almost laughed as the man nodded dumbly.

Katie’s palms slid across Whitfield’s chest to his upper arms, and after a moment’s pause, glided down to his shirt cuffs. Her long fingers were still not long enough to completely circle his wrists. She held them loosely, lifted them a fraction, and then dropped the left one in favor of taking him by the right hand. “Come with me,” she said. And when he did not move, she tugged and turned, and led him, docile as a lamb, toward the staircase.

Quill tracked them as they climbed. They were just more than three-quarters of the way up when he was seized by a sudden impulse to follow. He did not realize that he had in some way communicated that urge until he felt his companion’s outstretched arm across his chest. He glanced sideways at her, saw the small shake of her head, and released the breath he had not known he was holding. He leaned back the smallest fraction necessary to encourage her to withdraw her restraining arm. When she did, he settled more deeply in his chair, the picture of self-control and containment while every one of his senses was alert to a danger he could not quite identify.

At the top of the stairs Katie Nash and Whitfield turned left and disappeared from view. The moment they were out of sight, there was a subtle, but unmistakable, shift in the mood of the girls, their patrons, and the madam herself. The whore at the piano began playing again, softly at first, and then more loudly as her confidence grew. Someone tittered. A giggle, pitched nervously north of high C, followed. That elicited a chuckle from one of the cowboys, then some deep-throated laughter from another.

Quill did not join in, although the woman beside him did. Without asking if he wanted another drink, she plucked the empty glass from his hand and went to the sideboard to refill it. She returned quickly, a little swing in her nicely rounded hips as she approached. Standing in front of him, she held out the glass. When he took it, she eased herself onto his lap.

“So what about you?” she asked, sliding one arm around Quill’s neck as she fit her warm bottom comfortably against his thighs. “What is it I can do for you, Mr.—” She stopped and made a pouty face. “I do not believe you told me your name. I would remember.” She leaned in so her lips were close to his ear. Her warm breath tickled. “I remember names. I am very good at it.”

“I can’t say the same right now,” he said. “I don’t recall yours.”

She sat up, the pout still defining the shape of her mouth. “Honey. They call me Honey on account of my hair.” With this, she tilted her head to one side so a fall of curls cascaded over her shoulder. She fingered the tips. “See? You can touch. It feels like honey. Soft, you know. But thick, too.”

“Viscous.”

“What? Did you say vicious?”

“Viscous. Thick and sticky.”

“Oh.” Her pout disappeared in place of an uncertain smile. “I suppose.” She withdrew her fingers from her hair. A few strands clung stubbornly until she brushed them away. “I don’t figure I would mind having your fingers caught in my hair.”

“Hmm.” Quill’s eyes darted toward the top of the stairs.

Honey touched his chin with her fingertip and turned his attention back to her. “Forget about her. You have no cause to worry. Do you see anyone else here showing a lick of concern?”

He did not. There had been interest when she appeared, but it was Whitfield’s arrival that aroused apprehension. What he felt in the room now that Whitfield was gone was collective relief.

“Quill McKenna.”

“How’s that again?”

“My name. Quill McKenna.”

She smiled, tapped him on the mouth with the tip of her index finger. “I see. Finally.” She removed her finger. “Quill. It’s unusual, isn’t it? What sort of name is it?”

“Mine.” He remained expressionless as Honey regarded him steadily.

“Not much for words, are you?”

“Not much.”

His response gave rise to Honey’s husky chuckle. “That’s all right by me,” she said. “I’m thinking there’s other things we could be doing. You want to finish that drink, maybe go upstairs, have a poke at me?”

He should have wanted her, he thought. When she first approached him, he was glad of it. Honey hair, in color and texture. An abundance of curves. Lambent, cornflower blue eyes. A nicely rounded bottom that fit snugly in his lap and breasts that looked as if they would overflow the cup of his palms to the perfect degree. Spillage, but no waste. Before he saw Katie Nash, this woman would have satisfied him.

Quill finished his drink, knocking it back in a single gulp, and placed the glass on the side table. He held Honey’s eyes and jerked his chin toward the stairs. She grinned, took him by the hand as she wigg...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. -Perfectly crafted---PW (starred review) Jo Goodman, a premier writer of western romance and the author of In Want of a Wife, is back with a sensational new novel for fans of Linda Lael Miller and Joan Johnston. He s got a job to do. Former army cavalryman Quill McKenna takes pride in protecting the most powerful man in Stonechurch, Colorado: Mr. Ramsey Stonechurch himself. But the mine owner has enemies, and after several threats on his life, mines, and family, Quill decides to hire someone to help guard the boss s daughter. Only problem is the uncontrollable attraction he feels toward the fiery-haired woman who takes the job. .but she s a piece of work. Calico Nash has more knowledge of scouting and shooting than cross-stitching, but she agrees to pose as Ann s private tutor while protecting her. But between her growing attraction to Quill and the escalating threats against the Stonechurches, Calico will soon have a choice to make--hang on to her hard-won independence or put her faith in Quill to create the kind of happy ending she never imagined. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780425277430

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. -Perfectly crafted---PW (starred review) Jo Goodman, a premier writer of western romance and the author of In Want of a Wife, is back with a sensational new novel for fans of Linda Lael Miller and Joan Johnston. He s got a job to do. Former army cavalryman Quill McKenna takes pride in protecting the most powerful man in Stonechurch, Colorado: Mr. Ramsey Stonechurch himself. But the mine owner has enemies, and after several threats on his life, mines, and family, Quill decides to hire someone to help guard the boss s daughter. Only problem is the uncontrollable attraction he feels toward the fiery-haired woman who takes the job. .but she s a piece of work. Calico Nash has more knowledge of scouting and shooting than cross-stitching, but she agrees to pose as Ann s private tutor while protecting her. But between her growing attraction to Quill and the escalating threats against the Stonechurches, Calico will soon have a choice to make--hang on to her hard-won independence or put her faith in Quill to create the kind of happy ending she never imagined. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780425277430

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