Second Chance Bride (Montana Born Brides)

 

 

Second Chance Bride

a
montana born brides novel

 

 

Trish Morey

 

 

 

 

Second Chance Bride

© Copyright 2014
Trish Morey

 

The Tule Publishing Group, LLC

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

ISBN
978-1-940296-32-6

Dedication

 

 

To Jane Porter

and
all at Montana Born Books,

w
ho offered this writer a ray of sunshine

during
one of the toughest years of her life.

Thank you for helping me rediscover

the sheer joy of writing.

xxx

Dear Reader

 

Who doesn’t love a wedding? The gowns, the flowers, the color and the sheer glamor of it all–what’s not to love? And that’s all besides the romance and hopes and wishes for the happy couple, who’ve found their perfect partner and their happy ever after.

I was totally chuffed to be invited be part of the Spring Brides series, to write a story that links with novellas by some of my favorite writing colleagues and friends. It was pure romance, pure escapism, all dressed up in
a gorgeous frothy wedding gown.

That’s not to say I didn’t give my heroine, Scarlett, plenty of grief along the way. Scarlett is a twin and she’s the flaky sister. Her older sister by five minutes, Tara, is the sensible one (and yes, their mother is a dyed in the wool
Gone with the Wind
fan). With Scarlett’s own wedding plans gone askew, she gets to help out hero Mitch at another wedding, that turns out to be the kind of nightmare we all hope won’t be our own. Oh, I had so much fun writing this story!

It was so lovely to be able to bring Scarlett and Mitch together at the end. These characters so deserved one other. I really hope you enjoy reading their journey into married life together as much as I enjo
yed writing it.

And then watch out, because Tara’s story,
Almost a Bride
by the incomparable Sarah Mayberry, is up next!

Much love and romance to you!

 

Trish

x

Chapter One

 

 

Mitch Bannister needed a cold beer and a hot woman, preferably in that order. The cold beer would go down fast, he knew, but the hot woman—well, it had been a while, and so he’d rather linger over that particular pleasure.

He strode down
Hannan Street, feeling the beat of the summer sunshine through the shirt on his back, knowing he’d made the right decision to spend the first of his seven days R&R here in the outback town of Kalgoorlie.

He could have headed straight to Broome, where his
best mate, Robbo, was to be married later in the week, and where the pre-wedding party was already underway. But then, as much as he liked his mate, this was one wedding he wasn’t particularly looking forward to.

Alternatively, he could have headed to
the city, to Perth. Plenty of his workmates went back to the big smoke when they’d finished their rostered fourteen days straight at the mine. But Mitch wasn’t a fan of the big smoke. He preferred his country wide open, with a sky that went forever and then some.

Besides, it wasn’t like he had anyone waiting for him back in the city.

He almost snorted aloud at that thought. Kristelle had made damn sure she wouldn’t be waiting for him barely ten minutes after his suggestion that they needed a break. Ten whole minutes before she was warming someone else’s bed. Ten minutes more and she was marrying the dumb arse.

And that was fine. Really it was.

Right now he was still so relieved at having escaped her clutches that he wasn’t interested in diving back into that particular shark pool again.

Right now he preferred his life without complications, even if th
is meant turning up at the wedding alone. Not that he was about to arrive looking like he’d gone without, mind. Because it had been a while.

Which was why a temporary woman for the next hour or so suited him just fine.

He checked the street sign at the next corner. Perfect. Just a mere block or so back from here he’d find Hay Street and the place someone had told him about that promised exactly what he needed.

A cold beer, a hot woman and no complications.

The concept had a hell of a lot going for it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Aunt Margot had used those exact words when, as a ninth grader, Scarlett had dumped an entire box of platinum hair color on her head and turned her honey blonde hair green, sending her mom into hysterics. Aunt Margot had calmly uttered the phrase as she’d reached for a bottle of ketchup and shoved Scarlett’s head over the kitchen sink.

She’d remembered that saying while she’d been in Perth.
“Go to Kalgoorlie,” a girl she’d worked tables with in a cafe there had told her when Scarlett had looked at her pay slip, despairing that it would take forever to save the fare home. “That’s the place you can make the fare home in a couple of weeks and it’s legal.”

She’d balked at the suggestion then.

Legal or not, she wasn’t
that
desperate to go home.

Until her twin sister had emailed with the news of their
mom’s diagnosis and a plea to get back to Marietta as quickly as possible.

She’d
added up the numbers that night and worked out it would take more than half a year of saving at her current rate in the cafe. Aunt Margot’s words had played over and over in her mind as she’d tossed and turned in her backpacker hostel single bed. And she’d figured it might be a desperate measure, but these were desperate times indeed.

She could bury her pride for a couple of weeks, surely? And then she’d go home to Marietta and forget this whole sorry saga ever happened.

And the best thing? Nobody else need ever know.

Which
was why she was right at this moment sitting nervously in an office in Kalgoorlie being interviewed by an unexpectedly bookish-looking fifty-something woman named Bella. And right now, desperate times were the only thing keeping her from bolting for the door.

“So, have you ever done this kind of work before?” the woman asked, and Scarlett was tempted to answer,
well, I’ve had sex, how different can it be?

“Sure,” she said instead, feigning a confidence she didn’t feel as she brushed a flake of nothingness from her arm. Because she was twenty
-six and of course she’d had sex, though probably not half as much as what her up-tight sister no doubt imagined. And then she added, “Back home, in the States,” just in case the school librarian posing as a madam asked for references or something.

“Okay, that all sounds fine,” said Bella, “and now I need you to fill out this form. But I will need your real name, sweetie, for the records.”

“Um, Scarlett Buck is my real name.”

The woman blinked and looked doubtful. “Scarlett Buck
is
your real name?”

“Seriously.”

Bella’s eyes glittered like she’d hit pay dirt. “So welcome to Bella’s Belles, Scarlett Buck. I can see we’re going to get along just famously. Now you finish off the paperwork and I’ll grab you something to wear. I’ve got just the perfect outfit in mind.”

Bella didn’t believe in wasting time. Barely an hour later Scarlett was dressed as a cowgirl, and that was kind of funny, because she kind of was, but still this cowgirl felt out of place here in the Australian outback town of
Kalgoorlie.

In fact, wearing a pink cowgirl hat teamed with her own pink
spangly boots and nothing more than a black corset with pink bows and tiny panties in between, she could almost imagine she was back circa eighteen-seventy, preparing to strut her wares along the balustraded balcony of Marietta’s Grey’s Saloon. Which is exactly where she wished she was right now—in Marietta, at least.

But it wasn’t eighteen-seventy and Marietta was
more than fifteen hundred dollars and an entire half world away from the down-under escort agency she’d just signed on with.

Except it wasn’t exactly an escort agency either...

It was a house of ill repute.

A bordello.

A brothel.

And maybe it was a legal brothel courtesy of the mining town’s rich historic past and a bending of the State laws.

But it was still a brothel.

She swallowed, despairing of both desperate times and desperate measures and of being forced to make such a choice.

Not your proudest moment, Scarlett Buck.

Maybe not, but she’d done some crazy stuff in her time and she could do this if she had to.

After all, she rationalized, it was just sex.

All she had to
do, she figured, was to take her mind off it. Think about something else. Something boring. Something dull to take her mind off what was happening.

She could do that.

After all, she’d jumped out of an airplane once. Climbed out onto the wing of a tiny plane in spite of a lifelong fear of heights, and calmly waited for the instruction to jump, all thanks to her six times tables. She’d got all the way to
eleven-times-six-is-sixty-six
before her chute had cracked open above her head and she’d realized her arithmetic had given her fear of heights a run for its money.

And if she could do that?

She could do anything!

Empowered, she swept aside the bead curtain to the Ruby Room. The
glow from fringed lampshades bounced red light between richly textured wallpaper and red velvet sofas, soft music playing in a place that hummed with the promise of sin.

This was where the clients would be introduced to the girls.

This was where they would make their choice.

And if they chose her?

Her palms grew damp, her stomach wobbled, her boldness wavering. It was what she wanted—needed—and yet...

She perched down on the edge of the nearest sofa, crossed her legs and fiddled with the bows on her corset before uncrossing her legs again. Because if they chose her, then she’d soon have the money to get home to her
mom. To her sister.

Oh hell.

Of course she could do this.

“I heard there was a new girl.”

Scarlett jumped. She’d thought she was alone, but now her eyes were beginning to adjust to the low light, she could see the woman sitting on a sofa across the room, a magazine in her lap, her skin fair, her lips red and her long black hair gleaming under the lights like a silken curtain.

“I
s it that obvious?” Scarlett said, trying to sound light but painfully aware of the nerves in her voice. Any minute someone was going to figure her for the impostor she was and throw her out.

But then the woman smiled. “First day in a new place is always the hardest. I’m Jasmine,” she said, her name as exotic as her looks.

“Scarlett.”

“You’re American?”

“Yeah. From Montana. You?”

“Thailand,” she said, shifting the magazine to smooth down the fluffy hem of the red baby doll that floated just above her slim thighs. “Bella’s is a good place to work. You’ll like it.”

Scarlett very much doubted it but she smiled and nodded her thanks anyway. There was no point explaining she’d only be here until she made enough money for her fare home.

And then Bella walked in with her gr
ey bob and pearls and looking so much more like a school librarian than any madam she could possibly have imagined.

She clapped her hands, “Look lively girls, Rule number one, let’s not keep the customer waiting.”

Uh-oh.

Scarlett was so not ready for this.
Oh, she might be Scarlett Buck, the flaky twin, the girl with the anti-Midas touch who could turn golden opportunities into dust and managed to do so with infuriating regularity. She might have driven her sister to despair and her mother to drink on too many occasions to count, but to be forced to this?

Jasmine rose from the sofa and flicked back her hair, no trace of hesitation. Whereas she

Barely-contained nerves got the better of her.

Time.

She needed more time
—just a few more minutes to get used to the idea. ‘I’ll sit this one out,’ she offered.

Jasmine was here first, after all.”

“Nonsense!” boomed Bella as she took her hand and hauled her off the sofa in a very un-school librarian kind of way. Before Scarlett knew it she was lined up alongside the other girl and Bella was reminding them to smile. “Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end, I always say.”

Great. So much for getting used to the idea. Any moment now a middle aged man with grey hair and a paunch would come sauntering through that door and size her up to be his sexual plaything for the next however long and still she would have to smile and make him feel like she wanted nothing more than to hop into the sack with him.

Just sex?

Oh, Scarlett Buck, you have really have done it this time.

She raised her eyes to the ceiling and sent one last silent prayer to the heavens and her family and anyone else who might possibly be listening up there and could help:
I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But it won’t be for long, I promise, and after this I’ll never, ever, disappoint you, ever again.

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