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Lucas's Convenient Bride

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«Lucas's Convenient Bride» - Сьюзен Мэллери

Return to 1800's Defiance, Colorado, in this beguiling story offinding love in the most unexpected places from #1 New York Times best-selling author Susan MalleryLucas and Jackson MacIntyre stand to inherit the saloon, gold mine andranch that define the town of Defiance, Colorado. There's just oneproblem: the uncle who has left them the properties created a clausein his will stipulating that both brothers must marry if they want toclaim their inheritance.Emily Smythe knew she'd likely never marry, and she's moved toColorado to prove her independence from her family. She has a shrewdbusiness sense, so when she approaches Lucas about turning thesaloon's vacant upper level into a hotel, he sees the logic in theidea. Lucas has a proposition for Emily, too: become his wife in nameonly so that he can claim his inheritance, and she can run her hotelin his saloon. But though the marriage may be a business arrangement,Lucas soon finds it difficult to resist his new wife…
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Return to 1800’s Defiance, Colorado, in this beguiling story of finding love in the most unexpected places from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery

Lucas and Jackson MacIntyre stand to inherit the saloon, gold mine and ranch that define the town of Defiance, Colorado. There’s just one problem: the uncle who has left them the properties created a clause in his will stipulating that both brothers must marry if they want to claim their inheritance.

Emily Smythe knew she’d likely never marry, and she’s moved to Colorado to prove her independence from her family. She has a shrewd business sense, so when she approaches Lucas about turning the saloon’s vacant upper level into a hotel, he sees the logic in the idea. Lucas has a proposition for Emily, too: become his wife in name only so that he can claim his inheritance, and she can run her hotel in his saloon. But though the marriage may be a business arrangement, Lucas soon finds it difficult to resist his new wife…

Previously Published Historical Novel.

“Susan Mallery is warmth and wit personified. Always a fabulous read.”

—New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd

“Ms. Mallery’s unique writing style shines via vivid characters, layered disharmony and plenty of spice.”

—Romantic Times Magazine

Lucas’s Convenient Bride

Susan Mallery



Back Cover Text

Title Page

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten



Chapter One

Defiance, Colorado, 1875

Emily Smythe was more than ready to dance with the devil—if only he weren’t so large. Still, walking away now would be nigh on to shirking and she’d never once shirked in her life. She squared her thin shoulders, raised her chin and told herself that she had righteousness on her side. Righteousness and a plan. With the right plan, a person could take on the devil himself and win.

Ignoring the trembling of her limbs and the way her stomach seemed to be jumping around inside her, she pushed through the swinging doors of the Silver Slipper saloon and stepped into a smoky world.

She had a brief impression of a much larger crowd than she’d expected for a midweek afternoon. There were at least two dozen tables spread out around the main part of the room, nearly all of them occupied. On the far side of the saloon, men sat playing cards. Gambling, she thought with both distaste and shock. Gambling in the middle of the day. Who could imagine such a thing?

Her gaze drifted right and she saw the long, wide bar that stretched the length of the room. It was polished wood, nearly chest high and crowded with men. Behind the bar she saw mirrors, dozens of bottles of liquor and a big bear of man. Lucas MacIntyre, the devil himself.

Emily pursed her lips together in disapproval as she took in the tall, muscular man dressed in black trousers, a white shirt and fancy red vest. Lucas MacIntyre didn’t wear a coat like a respectable man, but considering he operated a saloon, allowed gambling and sold spirits, she doubted the lack of formal attire would be noticed on his very long, very serious list of transgressions.

A voice in her head screamed at her to turn around and leave before anyone noticed her. She didn’t belong here—she couldn’t possibly do this. Yet she knew she didn’t have a choice. Lucas MacIntyre was her only hope for success and she didn’t allow herself to think of failure. She had right on her side. She was a hard worker and she had her plan. She would make him listen, then she would make him agree. All without giving in to the very real temptation to turn on her heel and run.

Emily raised her chin one more notch, sucked in a breath and made her way to the bar. She knew the exact moment that the men in the saloon noticed her presence. There was a heartbeat of excruciating silence followed by an explosion of voices. The crowd in front of the bar parted to allow her access. She marched directly forward, looking neither left nor right, until she could press her hands against the arm rail, then cleared her throat.

“Mr. MacIntyre, may I have a word with you?”

At the sound of her voice, the crowd grew quiet again. Lucas MacIntyre stood with his back to the room, polishing a freshly washed glass. In the time it took him to turn to look at her, she was able to surreptitiously glance about, noticing that while the smell of liquor and cigars was most unpleasant, the saloon was much tidier than she had imagined. The floor appeared to be freshly swept and the glasses were clean. Perhaps Mr. MacIntyre was a man with whom she could reason.

He turned slowly, first putting down the glass then taking the two steps to the bar. It was only when he reached the polished wood that he settled his gaze on her.

She knew the man by reputation but wasn’t sure she’d ever actually seen him around town. Or if she had, she’d never really looked at him. He was tall and broad shouldered, which she already knew, but he was also handsome. Sinfully so. He had strong features with large, dark blue eyes and a full-lipped mouth topped by a silky brown moustache.

He looked her up and down, as if she was some kind of horse for sale, then he smiled.

“I’m going to guess you’re lost, ma’am. Because you don’t look like you’re from Miss Cherry’s and no other female would dare set foot in a saloon. Maybe you’re looking for the Ladies Social Club. They meet on the first and third Wednesday of the month, over at the church.”

Emily heard the sounds of male laughter. She felt her face grow hot and her limbs begin to tremble more. But she couldn’t speak, nor could she move from her spot on the wood floor. It wasn’t his words that kept her firmly in place; it was his smile.

Lucas MacIntyre’s smile had transformed his face from just handsome to impossibly attractive. Tiny lines fanned out from the corners of his eyes and there was a hint of a dimple in both his cheeks. He looked teasing and irreverent at the same time. Emily knew she should be outraged and insulted, but all she could think was that she’d never seen a man smile quite like Mr. MacIntyre.

“I…” Her voice trailed off as she struggled to remember what she’d wanted to say. In all her twenty-six years she’d never been as affected by a man. Her heart was pounding so hard she was afraid it was going to jump right out of her chest.

“Mr. MacIntyre, I assure you I am not lost. I wish to speak with you for a moment.”

Lucas gave her another smile, this one not quite so bright. “No offense, ma’am, but you don’t look like the type to be bringing a man good news, so I’d rather say good-afternoon and suggest you go on your way.” Then he turned and walked to the far end of the bar.

Emily practically sputtered. How rude! How ungentlemanly of him, although she shouldn’t be surprised. Manners were a rare commodity in the West, as she’d learned in the nearly two years she’d been in Colorado. She was also used to being dismissed and ignored by men, although that unpleasant activity had begun long before she’d left Ohio. Emily was a realist. She knew she wasn’t a pretty woman, nor was her appearance the kind to command attention or respect. She’d had to struggle to make herself heard more times than she liked to remember. Most of the time she no longer even bothered. But this was different. This was her future and her dream and she wasn’t about to let this bear of a saloon owner upset her perfect plan.

“Mr. MacIntyre,” she said in as loud a voice as she could manage, then headed for the far end of the bar.

The crowd was thicker there, and the men less likely to let her through. She found herself in the uncomfortable position of having to push between people when her polite “Excuse me” was ignored.

Conversation spilled over her. She ignored the swear-words, the calls of the gamblers on the far side of the room and the odor of too many unwashed bodies. Fortunately Mr. MacIntyre was tall enough that she could easily see him over the heads of his patrons. She moved steadily toward him, only to have him suddenly move back the way she’d come. She was forced to stop and turn herself.

“Excuse me,” she said, trying to squeeze past two miners drinking beer.

Before she knew what was happening, they’d trapped her neatly between them, their heavy bodies pressing against hers. One of them put down his drink and grabbed both her arms.

“Not so fast, little lady,” he said, his voice slurred from the alcohol. “Seems to me if you want to keep brushing against a man the way you are, you have to be ready to accept the consequences.” The last word broke on a hiccup.

Emily turned her head from the horrible stench of his breath. “Unhand me, sir,” she demanded, not exactly afraid but not comfortable, either. She didn’t like the way the man’s fingers seemed to be squeezing her arm, or his nearness, not to mention the closeness of his friend behind her.

“Don’t you sound real uppity,” the man said, his narrow eyes squinting at her. “What’d you think, Bill? She’s got a mouth on her, which I ain’t fond of with any woman. And she’s skinny and ugly.”

Emily gasped as a hand settled on that part of her she didn’t even like to think the name of. That place where she sat. She tried to speak, but all that came out of her mouth was a high-pitched squeal.

“You know,” the one named Bill said, “if we wait until dark, we won’t have to see her face anymore, and if we’re drunk enough, we won’t care that she’s as bony as an old mule.”

Emily didn’t have time to think or react. Suddenly a large hand settled on the shoulder of the man in front of her. The man looked startled, then he was flying through the air, landing on a table and crashing into the ground. She caught a glimpse of Mr. MacIntyre turning toward the one called Bill. That miner went sailing across the room, as well.

Emily couldn’t catch her breath. She wasn’t sure what to say as she started to thank her rescuer. But before she could speak, a different man threw a punch toward Mr. MacIntyre and the fight was on.

Fists flew, bodies tumbled, men grunted, yelled and cursed. And Emily was trapped in the middle of the fray. She told herself she needed to get out of the saloon as quickly as possible, but the swinging doors seemed so far away. She huddled close to the bar, trying to stay out of the way. But when a strange man reached for her, she reacted instinctively. She grabbed a bottle from the bar and crashed it over the man’s head.

At that same instant, she saw a flash of movement. Something hard and horribly painful connected with her eye. She yelped in pain. Stars appeared in her head. She felt her lower limbs starting to give way when she suddenly recognized the man she’d assaulted with the bottle. Her last thought before the blackness reached up to grab her was that she’d accidentally cracked a bottle over the head of the local deputy.

* * *

Lucas didn’t remember ever visiting a woman in jail. He wasn’t sure why he was bothering now. Miss Emily Smythe—former schoolteacher and spinster—had gotten herself in plenty of trouble without any help from him. It wasn’t his fault she’d hit Deputy Wilson over the head with a bottle of Lucas’s most expensive Scotch. Hell, he wasn’t even going to make her pay for the liquor. And he was sure that Wilson would get over his temper soon enough and release the woman from jail. So Lucas should just mind his own business and head back to the Silver Slipper.

Except he couldn’t. He paced outside the sheriff’s office that also housed Defiance’s small jail and swore under his breath. So what if that skinny, pinched-mouth miss had wanted to speak with him? He didn’t owe her his time. He doubted she could have looked more disapproving of him or his place of business. Like he’d thought before—he didn’t owe her anything.

Lucas walked back and forth on the wooden plank sidewalk, hating himself for being curious about what she wanted and wishing he wasn’t thinking what he was thinking. That she might just be the answer to his problem. Yes, he needed an answer and fast, but Emily Smythe? He couldn’t really be considering her could he? He shuddered.

But time was passing quickly and he’d run out of options with last week’s post. Grumbling under his breath, he pushed into the sheriff’s office and asked to see the pinched-faced spinster.

Emily Smythe sat on the edge of the thin mattress in her jail cell. Her back was straight, her expression haughty. Even her black eye looked almost regal. She was the kind of woman who made a man feel he hadn’t washed good enough and that he was going to put every foot wrong. She was cold enough to freeze off a man’s privates. He shuddered again, wishing he could bring himself to ask one of Miss Cherry’s lovelies to help him out. There he’d find a warm, willing woman with plenty of curves and the skill to keep a man purring long into the night.

At least the sheriff kept a clean jail, and it was nearly warm in the spring late afternoon. No doubt Wilson would see reason within an hour or so and let the lady go free, despite her unfortunate aim.

“Miss Smythe,” he said, nodding his head.

He’d remembered to slip on a jacket before leaving the saloon, but he hadn’t grabbed a hat. So when he reached up to tip it, he found his fingers gasping for air. He had to think quick and instead smoothed back his hair, as if he’d planned that gesture all along.

Emily regarded him with as much pleasure as she would an infestation in her flour. “Mr. MacIntyre. What are you doing here?”

Lucas cleared his throat. “Yes, well, ma’am, you mentioned wanting to talk to me.”

“You weren’t interested before.”

He wasn’t now, either, but he felt guilty. Why the hell couldn’t he have lost his conscience when he’d lost his soul? He’d had more use for the former than the latter these past years.

“I was trying to be polite,” he said. “I can see my effort is not welcome. Good day, Miss Smythe.”

But before he could leave, she sprang to her feet and approached the bars. “No, wait.” She grasped the metal with both hands and squared her shoulders. “I would very much like to speak with you, sir. I have a business proposition.”

He was too startled to give her any reaction. In the space of time it took him to absorb her words and wonder if she really meant what she said, he noticed that she’d seemed to brace herself. As if she was expecting him to be angry…or perhaps laugh. There was pride in the haughty angle of her chin, but there was something else in her blue eyes. Apprehension? Fear? Embarrassment?

“What sort of business proposition?” he asked warily, thinking of only one way a woman could have business with a saloon. He doubted that was what someone as proper as Miss Smythe would have in mind.

She glanced left and then right, obviously aware of the men in the other cells unabashedly listening to their conversation. She leaned a little closer to the cell door and lowered her voice.

“I wish to speak with you about your saloon, Mr. MacIntyre. Or more precisely, the rooms upstairs.”

“What about them?”

“I understand they are empty. I wish to change that.” She cleared her throat. “I wish to use them to open a hotel.”

Lucas didn’t know what to say. There were plenty of empty rooms upstairs. In fact the Silver Slipper had been built to have a saloon on the ground floor and rooms to rent above, but he’d never wanted the trouble of running two businesses. The saloon was enough.

“Why?” he asked.

She sighed. “I believe a hotel will be successful. I’m a competent businesswoman—”

“You weren’t much of a schoolteacher,” he said.

She caught her breath and glared at him. She was a little thing, coming to his shoulder. But then he was tall, so most women were little things to him. She was as scrawny as a plucked chicken and she wore the ugliest gray dresses he’d ever seen. Her blond hair was a decent color and he’d noticed it turned nearly gold in the lamplight of the saloon, but she wore it all scraped back, with not a single curl to soften the effect.

“I was an excellent schoolteacher,” she informed him in a voice sharp with that cold he’d been worried about before. “I taught those children more in the nearly eighteen months they were my students than they learned in the previous three years with the other teacher.”

“But they left.”

“The families returned to their homes in Maryland. That decision had nothing to do with my teaching skills.” She removed her hands from the bars and pressed her fingertips together. “Unfortunately, those eight children were the only ones in town at the time, which left me without a position. I cannot wait for another family with school-age children to appear, which means I have to find other means of employment. A hotel is the perfect solution.”


Lucas eyed her doubtfully. He didn’t know anything about Emily Smythe save that she’d once been the schoolteacher in town and that she hadn’t been born out West. He would bet that her trip to Defiance had been her first journey west of the Mississippi. So why didn’t she just go home?

“You don’t have any family?” he asked.

“They have nothing to do with this.”

So she did have relatives somewhere. Then why wouldn’t she return to them? He doubted anyone as straitlaced as she could have done something to disgrace herself. Emily Smythe wasn’t the type to cause a scandal.

“You’re a teacher,” he said. “What makes you think you know anything about keeping a bunch of miners, ranchers and who knows what kind of riffraff happy in bed?”

Color flared on her cheeks, but she didn’t otherwise respond to his gibe.

“Mr. MacIntyre, I have traveled extensively along the Eastern Seaboard and abroad. I have stayed in exquisite hotels in dozens of cities. In addition, I have a head for figures and I’m not afraid of hard work. I know I can make the hotel a success. I also understand your reticence in allowing me to open my business above your saloon. Let me assure you that in addition to a modest rent, I would be willing to pay you a percentage of the profits.”

“Generous,” he muttered, taking a step back from her.

She wasn’t ugly, he told himself, despite what the miners at his saloon had said earlier. She was a bit on the plain side, but she had big blue eyes he kind of liked. Her skin was pretty—all soft looking and smooth, with a hint of color at her cheeks. Her mouth was a tad pinched, but maybe if she didn’t stand so stiff all the time, the rest of her would relax.

His gaze moved to her body, and what he saw there made him shake his head. She was skinny and didn’t have even one decent curve. No breasts, no hips and he would bet a ten-dollar gold piece that she had bony knees. Lucas was more enamored with plump knees. He liked to kiss the crease in the back, then nibble around to the front, all the while listening to the lady giggle and feeling her squirm. Emily Smythe didn’t strike him as the giggling, squirming type.

But she was a single woman, and that was what he needed right now.

“Stay right there,” he said, then realized it was a stupid thing to say. Where was she going to go?

Ten minutes later he’d talked Wilson into springing her. He led the proper Miss Smythe onto the sidewalk in front of the jail.

“Let’s go talk in my office,” he said. “It’s around back of the saloon. We won’t be disturbed there.”

Excitement glinted in her blue eyes. “So you’ll consider my proposition? How wonderful, Mr. MacIntyre. I’m sure you won’t regret it for a minute. I’ve done the calculations and I expect the hotel to be turning a profit within the month.”

He held up a hand to stop the flow of words, then led the way onto the muddy street.

It was spring in Defiance, which meant plenty of rain, flash floods and mud. Fortunately the Silver Slipper was only a couple of blocks away. The single horse and wagon in the street in the late afternoon was on the far side of the river of mud and they barely got splashed at all.

When they arrived at his saloon, he walked around to the rear of the building. The small door to his office was set under the stairs leading to the second floor that so interested her. Lucas wondered how crazy she was going to make him and how much he would regret what he was about to say. He thought about his current carefree existence and wished it could be different. But it couldn’t. Damn Uncle Simon and his meddling.

He unlocked the door to his office and motioned for her to precede him. She did so, moving with a regal grace completely out of place in this mining town. Despite the fight and her time in jail, she looked as crisp and fresh as she had first thing that morning. Of course the black eye added a rakish touch to her otherwise perfect appearance. If only her gray dress weren’t so ugly.

She paused in the center of the small room until he pulled out a chair for her. Then she settled stiffly on the wooden surface, her back as straight as it had been on that cot in jail. He wondered if she ever bent or relaxed. He had a feeling that if a man tried to have his way with her, she would snap in two, like a fragile twig.

“About the hotel,” she said, as he came around to his chair behind the desk.

“Yeah, well, it’s not that simple.”

Despite owning a saloon, Lucas wasn’t much of a drinking man. Still, he pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his bottom drawer and poured two fingers’ worth into a glass on his desk. He ignored Miss Smythe’s start of disapproval and downed the whole thing in one swallow. Heat burned to his belly, giving him a false sense of warmth and courage. He was an idiot. But he didn’t have a choice. Uncle Simon had trapped him good and tight.

“I can show you my figures,” she said, leaning toward him. “I have them in my room.”

“I’m sure you’re prepared to do things real proper like.”

He leaned back in his chair and glanced around the small office, at the crates of liquor stacked in the corner and the barrels of ale. The bare wood walls weren’t much, but they were his. He’d taken the Silver Slipper from a run-down place with a reputation for watered drinks and trouble to a successful, honest saloon. He ran clean tables, served decent liquor and never cheated anyone. If he lost the saloon, he lost the ranch. Without the ranch, he lost everything.

He returned his attention to Emily. She wasn’t who he would have picked, but then he hadn’t planned on this at all.

“I’ll let you open your hotel,” he began.

“Oh, Mr. MacIntyre, you won’t be sorry,” she assured him.

“You might be,” he said dryly. “Because there are a couple of complications. You can open your hotel, if you cut me in for fifty percent of the profit. And if you agree to marry me, I won’t even charge you rent.”


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