Will (The Morgans of Rocky Ridge)
Will Morgan has one plan – repair his cousin’s saloon, then head out of town and never look back. His need for adventure makes it impossible to settle down in one place, with one woman.
Widow Virginia Cole has one plan – get her boarding house back into shape so she can support herself and her son.
When Will’s foot falls through the rotting boards on Virginia’s porch and he offers to fix the damage, he finds himself also falling for the widow and her grieving son in spite of his best efforts to stay detached.
Virginia, determined to never love again, is attracted to Will, even though he’s made it clear he’s leaving as soon as possible.
Can a woman who’s afraid to love and man who’s afraid of commitment overcome their fears to build a new family together?
Chapter 1Colorado, 1865
“Sorry, Will. We’re already full up, what with the Independence Day celebration this weekend. Seems like folks are coming in earlier and earlier every year.”
Will Morgan’s dark eyes rested on Milton Avery, the wiry, balding man who owned the Silver Spur Hotel, the only hotel in Rocky Ridge. “Any suggestions where I might find a room for a few days?”
Furrows appeared between Milton’s brows. “You can’t stay at the saloon? Or with your cousin or your brother?”
“The ladies take up the rooms at the saloon, and both Zane and Brett are in Colorado Springs at a trial. They won’t be back until Saturday. There’s nowhere else that has any rooms?”
Milton ran his hand through the few strands of graying hair he had left and shook his head. “Can’t think of anywhere, except maybe Virginia Cole’s boarding house. She hasn’t taken in boarders for a while now, and the house is pretty shabby, but she’s the only one in town that might have a spare room.”
Will wasn’t familiar with Virginia Cole’s boarding house, which wasn’t surprising since he’d been staying at his family’s ranch outside Rocky Ridge for the past few months. “As long as it has a roof and I can get a hot meal, that’s all I care about.”
“Not sure if she’ll even let you stay there, but it’s worth a try.”
“Doesn’t look like I have much choice but to ask,” Will muttered, setting his Stetson back on his head and slinging his saddlebags over his shoulder. “Where’s her place?”
After getting directions to the boarding house, he thanked Milton and crossed the small lobby to the door. Heat assaulted him as he stepped outside into the blinding sunshine. He paused for a few seconds, watching the bustling activity that had taken over the town.
Two men were stringing a red, white and blue banner across the street from the balcony railings above the surveyor’s office to the window of the room above the café. Other men were busy building a platform where the mayor would make his annual speech. Children waving flags raced down the wooden sidewalks, their laughter blending with the voices, hammers and saws.
Will mounted Cheyenne, his grey stallion and led him past the livery stable and around the bend to where he’d been told he’d find Virginia Cole’s boarding house.
More like a shack, he couldn’t help thinking as he reined Cheyenne in and dismounted, eyeing the two-story house with the peeling paint and the sagging roof. He looped the reins around one of the fence posts and opened the latch on the gate. The gate dropped, hanging by one hinge. He grabbed it before it fell off completely and adjusted it to close properly before he walked up the weed-covered path and climbed the steps to the front porch. Just as he was about to knock at the door, he heard a crack. A second later, his foot dropped through a rotted floor plank. Splintered wood scraped against his boot and his pants, but the heavy material prevented it from piercing his leg. He swore – loudly -and a second or two later, he heard a woman’s voice utter the same curse.
Even though his position was awkward, to say the least, he couldn’t help grinning. For some reason, it always amused him to hear a female swear like a cowhand.
He was still smiling when the door swung open and a woman stood in the entrance.
Her cheeks were flushed, and a mass of mahogany curls framed a heart-shaped face with bright blue eyes and a generous mouth. A brown skirt hung smoothly to her ankles, and she was wearing a long-sleeved cream-colored embroidered blouse. A cameo brooch sat at her throat.
And she was wielding a hammer.
She stared at him, her dark blue gaze boring into him. “What the devil–?”
Will held up his arms in surrender. “No need for violence, ma’am.”
Her eyes widened as she looked down and saw the hole in the floor, and how far his leg had fallen through. “Oh, my …”
Will pointed to the hammer she was wielding like a weapon. Heat rose in her cheeks. “Oh, Heavens, I’m so sorry … I was trying to fix a chair … oh, never mind.” She held out her hand. “Can I help …?”
“No!” His voice came out sharper than he intended, but since a jagged shard of wood had settled a bit too close to his groin to be comfortable, he was more concerned with saving his manhood than being polite.
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