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Authors: Stacey Coverstone

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BOOK: A Haunted Twist of Fate
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Colt ate a strip of bacon. “I like a woman who isn’t
afraid to eat in front of a man. So many ladies eat like little birds, picking
and nibbling and only ordering lettuce.” He shook his head, as if he didn’t
understand it.

“I don’t have that problem. Life is too short to
nibble and pick.”

“That’s a philosophy more ladies should adopt.”

It didn’t take either of them long to devour the
food, after which they requested refills on their coffees.

“You’re not from South Dakota,” Colt said. It was a
statement, not a question. He sipped his coffee, obviously waiting for her to
share something about herself.

Comfortable enough with him and finding no reason not
to chat, Shay decided to give the abbreviated version of her life so far. “No,
I’m not. I grew up in the Midwest. My father was very wealthy—a self-made
millionaire a couple of times over. He died about fourteen months ago. My
mother passed away six months before him. I have no brothers or sisters, so
everything—his entire fortune was left to me.”

She gauged his reaction while silently speculating as
to why the inheritance had been the first thing she’d mentioned. Since her
father’s death, she hadn’t told anyone about that. It was weird, since being
the daughter of affluent parents had caused her so many problems with men. Why
had she opened up about that to this man? It seemed her mouth had a mind of its

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Not that your father left you
a fortune, but that he’s passed on. And your mother, too.”

She understood his meaning and was relieved to note that
he hadn’t even flinched when she’d mentioned the money. Had she unconsciously
been testing him? If so, it was with good reason.

“Thank you. Anyway, after Dad died, I decided to
quit my job, pack a couple of suitcases, and travel out west. I needed to get
out of Illinois, and I’ve been fascinated with the west since I was a child. I
was hoping the wide open skies, rugged mountains, and sun-soaked deserts would
somehow help me come to terms with being an orphan.”  Her gaze dropped to her
lap for a moment. “That’s how it felt at the time.  With both my parents gone
and no siblings or extended family to lean on, I felt so alone. Being on the
road this past year has given me time to grieve.  But more importantly, I’ve
also realized just how precious life is. I’ve learned not to take one moment of
it for granted.”

When her gaze reconnected with his, she saw
compassion behind his eyes, as well as concurrence. Still, she internally
questioned why she’d spilled so much to him so early. After what she’d been
through with her last two relationships, where both men got close to her
because they were in love with wealth, it was not like her to trust so easily. But
something about Colt Morgan set her at ease. She decided not to worry about it,
since this was nothing more than a business breakfast anyway.

“How did you end up here?” he wanted to know.

“A gift store clerk in one of the towns I was
passing through told me I had to visit Deadwood and check out the casinos. But
I’m not into gambling. I prefer history and getting off the beaten path—taking
the road less traveled, you might say. I passed on Deadwood and ended up here instead.
I don’t regret the decision.”

“Me either.”  He appeared more interested as they
conversed. “Then you saw the
For Sale
sign in the window of the Buckhorn

“The rest you know.” She finished the last of her
coffee. “It was a good deal. I had the money, and I was drawn to the saloon. It
might sound strange, but from the moment I saw it, I felt like I belonged
there. Besides, this seems like a good town in which to put down some roots. I
don’t plan on returning to Illinois. There’s nothing back there for me

“What are you going to do with the place?”

“It’s a historical landmark, so it must remain what
it is, an old west saloon. I wouldn’t want to change that about it, but I might
redecorate the upstairs bedrooms and eventually open as a bed and breakfast. Or
I might just live there. There’s a bathroom at the end of the hall on the
second floor, and someone, at some time, turned a small room downstairs into a
kitchen with the basic necessities, so it’s perfectly livable the way it is.” 
She chuckled.  “Of course you know all that since you listed the house. This
has all happened so fast, I haven’t had time to make plans, to be honest.”

When the waitress brought the check, Colt snatched
it and pulled out his wallet to leave a tip on the table. He rose and pulled
out Shay’s chair. His lips nearly grazed her neck when he leaned in and
whispered, “I hope you don’t change the Buckhorn too much. The spirits might
not like it.”

Shay’s jaw went slack. She felt the pulse in her
neck begin to throb. “What made you say—?”

“The sun’s shining,” he broke in. “Wait for me
outside. I’ll pay the bill and then we can take a walk. I have something to
tell you that you may find interesting.”





When Colt stepped outside the restaurant, Shay
whirled. “What did you mean when you said the spirits might not like it?”

He’d meant to capture her attention. Mission
accomplished. “Let’s walk,” he said, moving in the direction of the saloon.  Standing
so near to her got his heart racing like a thoroughbred horse. Though not
intentionally, the moment his eyes had opened this morning, she’d been on his

Last night when he’d gone to check on her, Shay had
been just another client he was helping, albeit a beautiful and interesting client.
But this morning, when he was putting his boots on, he’d realized something had
changed. Odd as it seemed, he’d felt a strong connection to her, as if an
invisible string tied them together.  He’d been anxious to see her again.

He was a sensible man, and love had not been in his
vocabulary or on his radar for many years. But this feeling nagged at him—the
feeling that they’d been destined to meet. He’d never experienced anything like
it before, not even when he’d met Denise. The sensation made him feel more
alive than he’d felt in years. But then, wasn’t sexual attraction supposed to
make a man feel alive? Maybe that’s all it was. Either way, he’d wanted to see
her and find out.

“What do you have to tell me?” she asked, keeping up
with his long-legged strides. They passed by a few of the gift shops and
tourist traps that comprised the historic Main Street.

Not wanting to frighten her off so soon by thinking
he was a nut, he carefully considered how to frame his words. Clearly, he
hadn’t thought this through before opening his big mouth.


A sideways glance showed him she was getting antsy. Shay’s
mouth was pursed, and her pretty hazel eyes were enlarged.

“Are you going to tell me what you meant back

“Yep.” He kept walking.

Sighing, she bunched her shoulders and spread her
hands out, palms up. “When? At the turn of the century?”

It didn’t take long to walk the block to the
Buckhorn. They stopped in front. “Can we go inside?” he asked, facing her.

“Okay. Sure.” Shay dug the key out of her purse,
stuck it in the lock, and pushed the door open.  She stepped in first. As soon
as Colt entered, an icy chill slithered across his neck and crept down his
back.  It was the same feeling he’d had the first and last times he’d been in

Laying her purse on a game table, Shay pulled out
two chairs and offered him a seat. “Now that we’re here, will you please tell
me what’s going on, Colt?”

They sat, and he peered around the large room that
he’d been told had barely changed since it was built in 1885. A large gilded
mirror hung on one wall. An upright piano sat against a back wall. Brass foot
rails ran the length of the bar with a row of spittoons spaced along the floor.
No doubt the gambling tables, like the one they were sitting at, had seen many
hands of poker dealt out through the years.

“Let me ask you a question,” he began. “Didn’t you
wonder why you were able to close on this deal so quickly and at such a good
price? Everything in here is original. No rodent or insect infestations. It’s a
good, solid building. And it’s a piece of history. The asking price should have
been much higher.”

She considered the question. “It did cross my mind
to ask.  But in the end, the answer wouldn’t have mattered. The saloon spoke to
me. I knew I had to own it. I was glad it happened so fast, and I was pleased
with the price.” When he remained mute, she said, “How did you come to be the
listing agent for it? Do you know the former owner?” He nodded, and she prodded
further. “I did wonder why I hadn’t met the owner and why he didn’t attend the
closing.  I figured there was a reason.”

Colt met her inquisitive gaze. “He’s an old man of
eighty-five. His name is Frank Averill, and he’s sick. He and my grandfather
were best friends. That’s how I got the listing. Frank’s grandfather, Dean
Averill, built the Buckhorn in 1885 at a time when tin mining dominated the
area. This town flourished, as did the saloon.”

Shay’s shoulders relaxed.  She seemed glad for the

“That’s interesting. I’d planned on looking into the
history of the building. So, it’s been in Mr. Averill’s family all these

“Yep. Frank’s father kept it up as a saloon while
Frank was growing up. When the elder Averill died, Frank took over for a few
years before going into the hardware business.”

A question formed between Shay’s perfectly manicured
eyebrows. “That’s well and fine, but you still haven’t told me what you meant
back at the diner. You mentioned something about spirits.”

Their gazes latched. Colt folded his hands in front
of him. “It’s been rumored, ever since anyone can remember, that this saloon is
haunted. In fact, I think that’s the real reason Frank closed down the place. I
can remember my granddaddy telling me that Frank thought there were several
entities hanging around here.”

She didn’t say anything, but her pupils grew large,
and he knew he’d struck a nerve.

“I’ve known Frank Averill my entire life,” he went
on. “He was always a tough guy, not easily intimidated and certainly not afraid
of anything or anyone. In fact, he and Granddaddy told me plenty of stories
about the fistfights they would get into and the trouble they caused. But Frank
must have believed there is something here.  I get the impression he had some
bad experiences when he ran the place.”

“Go on.”

“I didn’t mention it last night when I came over,
but I’d been having a dream when that guy called and woke me up. I dreamt that
someone was being strangled upstairs in your bedroom.”

Shay’s hand flew to her mouth, and she gasped.

“I don’t mean to scare you. When that anonymous
caller told me water was running under your front door, it was such an odd
coincidence. I knew you were alone in here. I’m not the kind of man who scares
easily either, but that dream was so real. I wanted to make sure you were

“You said upstairs in my bedroom.”

His gaze shifted to the staircase. “Yes. I saw the
bedroom clearly in my dream. I recognized it from when I toured the building
before I listed it. Iron bed. Green and pink floral wallpaper. An antique
bureau in the corner. A brick fireplace on one wall with an oak mantel. Tall
windows overlooking the street.”

“Yes,” she exclaimed. “That’s my room. I was
sleeping there last night. But how did you know?”

“It was just a feeling.”  He didn’t want to tell her
she’d been sleeping in that particular room. How he’d known,
he had no clue. Just that somehow, in his soul, he’d
her there. “Do
you think I’m as crazy as a bedbug?” He chuckled nervously.

“No. Not at all.”

He saw her bottom lip quiver. Seemed her mind was
working. He sensed she was holding back some news of her own. “Do you have something
you want to share with me?”

She nodded and blurted, “Yes. I think I saw one of
those spirits last night, right before you stopped by.”

He leaned forward, propped on his elbows. “Tell me.”

Inhaling deeply, Shay explained what she thought
she’d seen, including black and blue bruising around the woman’s neck. “What’s
happening, Colt? Do you believe it’s a coincidence?”

“No. I don’t know how to explain it, but there has
to be something more to this than chance. I’m a practical man, and a South
Dakotan cowboy born and bred. I heard the stories about ghosts haunting this
town as I was growing up. To be honest, I’ve never believed in ghosts and I
still don’t. But I’ve never had that kind of dream before either.”

Shay’s hypnotic eyes delved into his, causing him to
grow hard and weak at the same time.

“So, you’re saying you do believe I saw a ghost?” She
seemed unsure.

He didn’t know her from Adam.  She could be as nutty
as a fruitcake, but he didn’t think so. Something hinted she told the truth, at
least about what she
she’d seen.  Although he knew ghosts did
not exist, what reason would she have for lying?

BOOK: A Haunted Twist of Fate
5.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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