Friday, May 08, 2009

Down and Dirty: Ante Up by Moira Rogers

Down & Dirty: Ante Up
by Moira Rogers

Cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN: 978-1-60521-078-0
Genre(s): Futuristic, Paranormal
Theme(s): Werewolves
Series: Down & Dirty
Length: Novella

Thomas Crawford is Lonely River's beta, and it's high time he settled down. He's had his eye on Charlotte Daniel, the owner of the Full Moon Saloon -- and independent cuss of a woman -- for months, but she either hasn't noticed his gentle courting... or she's ignoring him. But when some local wolves lodge a complaint about her questionable business practices it's Thomas's job to investigate, even if it means the woman he wants will hate him forever.
Lottie has noticed Thomas's courting, all right, but it's a little too polite for her tastes. She wants a man with fire and sensuality, not daisies and poetry. Then he kisses her. Once she gets a glimpse of the passion burning in him, Lottie decides a slow, careful seduction isn't a bad idea at all. But she'll do it her way.


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"Here we go." Lottie set the silver tea service on the table with a clink and beamed at her guests. "Oh, I forgot to ask if you'd prefer coffee, Jack."
The alpha smiled and rubbed a hand through his tousled hair. "Coffee would be great, Lottie."
Ginny eyed the tray with a delicately arched brow. "Booze is perfectly appropriate to serve after dinner too, you know."
Lottie tried not to snort as she straightened and headed back for the kitchen. "Coffee and whiskey, coming up."
She rattled the percolator on the stove, deliberately making more noise than necessary. The house was too quiet, had been since Hazel had moved out, and Lottie found herself trying to fill the silence. She called out into the parlor, "Have either of you seen Hazel and Oliver yet?"
The sound of Jack's snort drifted into the kitchen. "I stopped by for about five minutes. Longest five minutes of my life."
Ginny just laughed. "Turns out, my fiancé only likes overt displays of affection when they involve his hands and my ass."
Lottie drifted back to the open doorway as the coffee began to brew. "She's young and in love."
"Mm-hmm. Oliver's got the love part down, but he's no spring chicken." Ginny grinned. "If Hazel's not careful, she's going to kill him."
"He seems in fine shape to me." Lottie wove her hands together and watched as Ginny reached for Jack's hand and twined their fingers together. She didn't even seem to be aware she'd done it. "I'll wait a week or so longer before I go calling, though. Just to be on the safe side."
Her friend flashed her a pointed look. "And what about you? I noticed Thomas has been stopping by a lot lately, and he asks me about you all the time."
"Ginny." Jack sounded exasperated. "I told you to keep your nose out of it."
She wrinkled her nose at him. "I just want to know when she's going to put the poor man out of his misery, that's all. It isn't right."
Lottie's back stiffened, and her easy smile almost faltered. She knew from experience that neither of them would notice her small slip of control. "Thomas Crawford is a very nice man," she said carefully.
"Nice." Ginny blew out a breath. "Most people consider that a plus, Lottie."
"It is, I'm sure."
"So how come, when you say it, you make it sound like he has the plague?"
Lottie stifled a disgusted noise and turned back to the kitchen. The image of Thomas's face, smiling and thoughtful, rose in her mind. She pushed it away as she checked the coffee. Thomas might have been carefully, persistently courting her, but he had yet to indicate anything beyond a polite interest. And she'd rather be alone than married to a man only politely interested in her.
Ginny had followed her and was standing in the doorway, so Lottie lied. "I'm not looking to marry right now, that's all." She'd never planned on coming to Greenbriar to open a business, much less a brothel, but there'd been a need and it had seemed smart to fill it… and make a bundle of money in the process. So what if that had left her no time to fulfill her original goal -- to find someone to love?
Ginny wore a dark look on her face. "You're lying. You'd be happier than a frog in a puddle, and you know it."
Lottie accidentally brushed her hand against the hot metal of the percolator and drew it back with a hiss. She watched as the reddened patch of skin slowly disappeared. "Doesn't mean I'm going to marry the first man to ask me. Which Thomas hasn't done, by the way."
"He's far from the first man to ask," Ginny countered. "And he'd probably get around to asking if you seemed the slightest bit inclined to accept."
"Virginia." She paused and took a deep breath. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"You're lonely."
"I'm --" Lottie's voice broke, and she cleared her throat. "I'm fine, Ginny, but thank you for your concern." She pulled another china pot from a cabinet and filled it with the fragrant, steaming coffee. "You know where the whiskey decanter is. Help yourself, and let's visit and talk about something else."
The scuff of boots across the floor was the only warning before Jack appeared at Ginny's shoulder. "I wasn't trying to listen, Lottie, but you know I could hear everything. Can I just say one thing? And then we'll both keep out of it."
As if he could make that promise for stubborn-ass Ginny Howard. She kept her voice steady as she replied. "Of course, Jack. You're always welcome to be frank with me, you know that."
Jack smiled. "Thomas has to act nice and restrained, because the humans have to feel safe dealing with him. That's his job as my second. But there's a lot more to him than most people see, and he's got it bad for you. You don't have to give him a chance, but at least let him know he doesn't have one."
His words kindled a thread of hope in Lottie. She and Thomas got on well enough, and she'd enjoyed the scant amount of time she'd spent alone with him. The only thing that had been missing between them was the fire. The passion. "I'll bear that in mind, Jack."
"Good." Jack's hand curled around the back of Ginny's shoulder in a possessive gesture. "And we're going to stay out of it, aren't we, sweetheart?"
Ginny's mouth twisted into a dissatisfied pout, but she nodded. "You're right, Lottie. Let's talk about something else."
Lottie used a quilted potholder to lift the coffee pot. "Thank you, Ginny. I'm dying to know if you've made any of your own wedding arrangements yet."
The taller woman blushed, and Lottie knew Ginny had been adequately distracted from meddling in affairs between herself and Thomas. She stifled a sigh of relief and followed the couple back into the parlor. The less she had to think about what she'd do or say when Thomas did get around to proposing, the better.

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