KATE BRIDGES’S MOUNTIES BUNDLE

Kate Bridges's Mounties BundleBundle includes: THE LONG JOURNEY HOME (a novella in the anthology FRONTIER CHRISTMAS), THE SURGEON, THE ENGAGEMENT, THE PROPOSITION, THE BACHELOR, THE COMMANDER, and WILD WEST KISS (a short story)

For more information on the novels and novella included in the KATE BRIDGES’S MOUNTIES BUNDLE, visit the links above. To find out more and read an excerpt from WILD WEST KISS, scroll down.

WILD WEST KISS: How could one little kiss land a man into such big trouble? An ex-officer of the North-West Mounted Police, forced into retirement due to a knee injury, Tom Quigley has just opened an Irish pub in the busy prairie town of Calgary. It hasn’t been open for more than an hour when in walks Shawna Reid, a woman he left behind on a wagon trail nearly a year ago – a woman who claims he deserted her without a word after one incredible kiss! And now it looks as though Shawna may never forgive him. There’s only one thing Tom can do. Kiss her again.

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Excerpt from WILD WEST KISS

Copyright © Kate Bridges. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Summer of 1890, Calgary, Alberta NWT

Tom Quigley couldn’t believe there was a woman inside. The last thing he expected to hear while he and his new bartender bolted his new stained glass door to the outside of Quigley’s Irish Pub was the sound of warm, female laughter coming from within. And it seemed slightly familiar.

He couldn’t see her from the boardwalk where he stood, but she sounded pretty.

And he sounded like an idiot for coming to such a quick conclusion. But as a former officer of the North-West Mounted Police, and now a pub owner, Tom knew that women were few and far between on the prairies. So, they were amply appreciated.

Tom listened to the seductive charm of her muted voice. His muscles tugged in response. He rubbed his jaw with the back of his bulky hand, then turned his looming shoulders toward Pete.

“Who on earth is in there?”

Pete, as slender as a pitchfork and wearing a Stetson, gripped the dangling door against the wall with his knees. He held it while Tom hammered bolts into hinges. The banging echoed off surrounding pine buildings.

Pete huffed beneath the weight. “It’s some woman.”

Tom laughed in the warm prairie sunshine. With one hand, he easily hoisted the door. The wood felt smooth beneath his fingers. “Well, I figured that much.”

“She came in twenty minutes ago while you were in the shed gettin’ hinges, Mr. Quigley.” Pete groaned and tugged. “A sister of one of the officers inside, she said. Wanted to say hello to her brother.”

“I’ve been open for less than an hour and there’s already a woman inside.” Hello to her brother, thought Tom. And then hello to me.

“All right, you can let go of the door.” Tom stood back and admired their handiwork. Ruby, blue and yellow glass shimmered in the dry heat. Still good with a hammer and nails, as his father had proudly taught him in Ireland. “It’s my good luck charm,” Tom said, amusement rippling through his throat. “My beautiful new door from Ireland brought in a woman.”

Maybe what had started from his disastrous injury—being forced out of police duty months ago due to his injured knee, only to start this pub—might end with some hope, after all.

“Hello, Tom.” The banker’s daughters brushed by on the boardwalk, floating past him in swirls of rich fabric. They flashed their eyes and smiled.

Tom knew they were both spoken for and he’d never cross the line of decency, but he nodded and smiled back, enjoying the lovely view. “Afternoon, ladies. May I invite you to come back next week when we’ve got the restaurant in operation? I hired a mighty fine cook. He’s French, direct from Montreal.”

They waved and promised they would. Tom spun around to enter his pub and meet the woman inside.

He limped into the large space. Damn his knee. It had stiffened more since the hammering and bending. He was told he’d never have complete use of it again.

Two tables full of Mounties, off-duty constables in off-duty clothes, stumbled up to greet him. “Sir,” some simply said while others declared, “Staff Sergeant Quigley.”

He grumbled. “At ease. Please, sit down. There’s no need to address me so formally. I’m no longer…” He could barely say it. “I’m no longer your commanding officer. Call me Quigley, or simply Tom.”

“Yes, sir, Quigley, sir.” They sat. One asked, “How’s the knee?”

“Fine for walking. Still can’t ride.” It was the awful truth. A man who could no longer ride a horse was useless as a Mountie. He couldn’t bend his knee fully due to the scarring and partially missing kneecap. And there was nothing the fort’s surgeon could do to help.

At least by opening this pub, Tom was providing a watering hole for his Mountie friends and a fine, adjoining restaurant where he could keep his ears open to police activity, or give advice to fellow officers if any of ‘em should want it.

Retired in his early thirties. Retired. Tom didn’t even like the sound of the word, let alone its meaning.

He spotted her across the room and his thoughts turned more congenial. Sunshine poured through the front windows and around the back of her curvy outline. Tom lowered his hammer behind the walnut bar top and watched her.

He could only see her from behind, but she enthralled him. She stood near the corner table, the men sitting on tall stools around her, talking and laughing. Her wavy black hair touched her waist. A long gray skirt swirled about her high-heeled boots, and a polka dot blouse rippled like silk from the back of straight, feminine shoulders.

It was nice, watching a woman move.

She lifted a tray of ale, which Tom found curious. Did the customers have to get their own drinks? Where was the other bartender? The man suddenly appeared from the back hallway, adding another dark ale to her tray.

“I think I’d enjoy being a barmaid,” she said to the officers, making Tom realize she was simply joking with them. “Wouldn’t I make a good one, Travis?”

Mitchell Reid and his brother, Travis, both Mounties, shook their heads. “No sister of ours is going to serve ale in a pub. You’d better stick to the library you intend on opening.”

Oh, no, thought Tom. She wasn’t here to say hello to one brother, but to two.

That made her Miss Shawna Reid.

He straightened to attention. His pulse quickened.

Shawna Reid and that incredible kiss.

Guilt tightened his muscles. Maybe he was a hound to have left her as he had, but he’d done it for good reason. From her point of view, though, she likely wouldn’t see it as clearly as he had.

But it had happened late last summer, and surely she wouldn’t hold a grudge.

She’d been out of town all these months, first on the cattle drive to the southern fort with her father, then Tom had heard she stayed in the south to visit friends. But her family owned one of the massive cattle ranches here in Calgary and Tom had suspected—dreaded—that sooner or later, he and Shawna would meet again.

With more laughter and still with her back to Tom, Shawna slid the drinks off the tray and set them on her brothers’ table. The two other men seated with them toasted her for organizing and starting the town’s first library, set to open in two weeks. So she’d done it, thought Tom. She’d talked his ear off about her books even last summer.

“We’ve got one too many ale.” Shawna finally turned, so Tom could see her face. As clear and full of life as he remembered. She returned the tray and extra drink to the bartender at the other end of the bar, fifteen feet away from Tom.

Tom braced himself, wondering how she’d react when she spotted him.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d like one, too, Miss Reid,” the bartender replied.

“Ack. This lady doesn’t drink. I’ve come in for lunch with my brothers, but it’s unfortunate your restaurant isn’t open yet.”

She looked up and saw Tom standing there.

“Well, if it isn’t Miss Shawna Reid.”

She froze. Her hand slipped from the tray resting on the bar. Her dark eyes sparked and her ruby lips tightened.

He inhaled the air between them. His square, rough body towered over her hourglass shape. He enjoyed looking at her pretty, oval face, despite the temper in her gaze. “Don’t you remember me, Shawna?”

“I remember you well.” Fury laced her words. “Thomas Quigley.”

He moaned. She was holding a grudge. But then he wasn’t surprised. He wouldn’t be surprised if she reached out and slapped him. One, because maybe he deserved it. Two, because she couldn’t help it. She’d always been a physical woman, quick to display her sentiments with her body.

“Staff Sergeant Quigley,” said a man respectfully in passing. “Hello, sir.”

Tom groaned and nodded. Turning back to Shawna, he added softly, “Please let me explain. I know how it must have looked to you.”

Shawna’s gaze flickered over Tom’s soft denim clothes. “You were a constable when I knew you. You weren’t an officer then. Hardly a man held in such high regard.”

Before he could stop her, Shawna snatched the cold mug of ale off the bar, marched toward him and poured the ale down the front of his pants.

(…continued…)

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