The Morgans of Rocky Ridge: Trey
When Trey Morgan wins half a saloon in a poker game, he heads back to Rocky Ridge, Colorado to sell his share and move on, back to the life he loves – no responsibilities, no ties. But he doesn’t expect his partner to be Claire O’Doyle, a beautiful Irish redhead who captivates him like no other woman ever has.
Claire O’Doyle has no use for men like Trey. They remind her too much of the father who abandoned her and her mother. She’d love nothing more than to pay Trey off and get him out of her life. But someone is trying to run her out of Rocky Ridge, and she doesn’t need the distraction of a man whose charm makes her forget her vow to stay away from gamblers.
As the threats escalate, so does Claire and Trey’s attraction to each other. But will Trey walk away? And if he does, will Claire let him go?
“I’ll see your five hundred, and raise you a thousand.”
Trey Morgan kept his expression blank as he lifted his gaze to the man sitting across the table from him. Shamus Garrity’s eyes were glassy, his face flushed. Even though the faint breeze coming through the open door cooled the saloon, sweat beaded on his forehead.
Counting out a thousand dollars to match Shamus’s bet, he slid the money to the center of the table, then added another five hundred dollars. “I think you’re bluffing, Shamus,” he said with a grin.
Shamus glared at Trey, then looked down at the pile of bills on the table in front of him. He counted them, then dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out a torn, dirty piece of paper.
“What’s that you’ve got there?” Trey asked.
“It’s me pride and joy,” he replied, opening the paper and smoothing it on the table. “It’s the paper that says I own half of The Lucky Shamrock.”
Trey leaned back in his chair. The only lucky shamrock Trey knew about was the saloon back in Rocky Ridge, and as far as he knew, Conor O’Doyle owned it. “What the blazes are you talking about, Shamus? What’s a lucky shamrock?”
Shamus’s rheumy eyes widened and his brows lifted. “What’s a lucky shamrock? It’s the saloon yer Da took ye to for yer first drink and yer first woman,” he said. “If I heard the story right, ye were so scared ye couldn’t hardly make it up the stairs with Angel.”
So he was talking about the saloon in Rocky Ridge. Strange, all the years he’d lived in Rocky Ridge and he’d never heard a word about Shamus owning part of it. Was it possible he’d won a share?
“Looks like ye got over being scared of the ladies,” Shamus went on. “From what I hear from yer brother and yer cousin, ye’ve got a new one on yer arm most every night.”
Not exactly, Trey thought, but he couldn’t say he was ever lonely for a woman’s company. But his reputation wasn’t the issue right now. “What are you doing with the deed to The Lucky Shamrock? Silly name for a saloon, if you ask me. Most people in these parts don’t even know what a shamrock is.”
“Ah,” A soft smile tilted Shamus’s lips, and his voice took on a melancholy tone. “The shamrock is me way to remember the fairest isle on this earth. And as me Ma used to tell us, if ye find a shamrock, good luck will follow ye all the days of yer life. And half of that saloon is mine.” He slapped the paper on top of the pile of bills in the center of the table.
Trey wasn’t sure if Shamus was telling the truth about owing part of the saloon, but if he was, that saloon was worth a lot of money. Money he was pretty sure Shamus couldn’t afford to gamble away. “Shamus, I’m not going to let you put up your share of the saloon.”
Shamus set his cards face down on the table and leaned forward. “Why not?”
Shamus’s voice grew shrill. “Ye’re bluffing, Morgan. I can tell by the look on yer face. So either match me bet or fold.”
Trey noticed the slight slurring of Shamus’s words that had nothing to do with his Irish accent.
The off-key tinkling of the piano in the corner stopped. Voices faded as the other customers began to stare. Trey and Shamus’s eyes locked. “I don’t want to take your saloon—”
Trey started to get up. A moment later, Shamus drew his Colt and aimed it at Trey’s chest. “I said call or fold.”
Trey glanced around the saloon, and then sank back into his seat. Chairs scraped across the wooden floor as other customers scattered to safety. Trey had been on the wrong end of a gun once before, and had lived to tell about it. He wasn’t sure he’d be that lucky a second time. “Take it easy, Shamus—”
Shamus pulled the hammer back. “Well?”
“You’re not leaving me any choice, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“What do you think half the saloon is worth?”
Shamus told him.
Voices floated through the open door from the street, but inside the saloon, there was silence as Trey counted out enough bills to match Shamus’s bet. “Call.”
Shamus began to turn his cards over. Four. Ten. Queen. Seven. Eight. All spades. He leaned back in his chair and took a long draw on the cigarillo dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Let’s see what ye’ve got.”
“You’re sure you want to do this? If you want to stop right now, we’ll call it even. You can take your deed and walk away.”
“What’s the matter, boyo? Trying to get some of yer money back?” Shamus shook his head. “Let’s see the cards.”
Trey spread his cards in front of him. “Full house. Sixes over kings.”
Time stood still. Trey’s heart pounded in his throat. It was quite possible Shamus was drunk enough – and angry enough – to pull the trigger anyway.
Trey forgot to breathe. Then, as if the wind had been knocked out of him, Shamus slumped back, the six-shooter dangling from his hand.
The piano started up again. Conversation resumed. Glasses clinked.
“I’m sorry, Shamus,” Trey said quietly.
Shamus didn’t speak, just pulled the piece of paper out from the heap of bills in the center of the table and dug a pencil out of his pocket. He scribbled something furiously, waved the bartender over to witness his signature, then slid the paper to Trey. Then he got up, holstered his gun and walked out.
Trey watched Shamus leave, relieved that he’d live long enough to play again. At the same time, guilt settled deep in his gut. Taking a man’s money was one thing when he could afford it. Taking a man’s money when it was obvious he was in over his head was another. If nothing else, Trey was smart when it came to playing poker. He gambled. Most of the time, he won. But he never gambled more than he was prepared to lose.
He picked up the piece of paper and read the note on the bottom, complete with Shamus’s signature beside that of the bartender.
Trey now owned half of a saloon. He’d never owned anything before, and if he was being honest with himself, he liked it that way. No responsibilities. No one relying on him. He answered only to himself.
Freedom. That was what mattered.
Still, he thought as he gathered up the bills and the deed to half the saloon, Rocky Ridge was little more than two days’ ride. It couldn’t hurt to go back for a while, catch up with the family, and find out if Conor O’Doyle still owned the other half of The Lucky Shamrock.
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