Intrepid lady gambler, Catharine 'Cat' Bennington's lucky streak has run out. Otis Harlow, the man who murdered her husband, has caught up with her.
Rancher Jake Turner, is a widower, and has finally acknowledged that he needs to find a wife to be a mother his two young daughters.
Needing a place to hide, Cat travels to Loving, Texas, pretending to be Jake's mail-order-bride. Otis, their common enemy, is hot on her heels.
Jake insists they marry, so he can give her the protection of his name, but she refuses. She believes he couldn't satisfy her particular needs.
He strikes a bargain with her, if he can fulfill all of her demands.
She agrees, thinking he is too unsophisticated to suit her, besides as soon as the danger has passed she was leaving Loving.
Little does she know Jake has a surprise or two in store for her.
The enameled chamber pot rang hollowly when Cat crashed it down on Otis Harlow's hard head. He hung over her for what seemed like an eternity. She tried to scramble back, but he was kneeling on her skirts. His eyes rolled up, and he collapsed between her splayed thighs, trapping her.
Cat Bennington stared at her attacker, drawing ragged breaths into her air-starved lungs. A shudder racked her body as a sob escaped her trembling lips.
If she hadn't been so low on funds, she wouldn't have sat in on the poker game to replenish her meager savings.
A forceful push from behind sent her crashing to the floor of her hotel room when she unlocked the door to enter it. She'd barely turned over onto her back when he'd fallen on top of her. The memory of his fetid breath and his cruel grasping hands on her body made her shiver with revulsion.
He'd stated his intentions in graphic detail. Taunting her. His lascivious leer and the weight of his arousal had galvanized her into action.
She supposed she should be thankful for small mercies that her weapon of opportunity had been empty of urine.
The coppery odor of blood and the acrid scent of Otis's excited sweat was more than enough to make her nauseous.
Hysterical laughter bubbled up only to be cut off by a sob. Cat levered herself up and pushed back with her palms but she didn't budge.
Her would-be rapist's corpulent body held her pinned to the floor by her full skirts.
It seemed like Lady Luck had deserted her. Sweet Jesus, if he came to, he would make her pay.
A shove to move him was as useful as a flush against a full house. His skin was clammy under her hands, and she didn't hear him breathing.
She hadn't meant to hit him that hard. Well maybe she did. Desperation had given her the strength.
Oh God, what had she done? She'd killed him. She'd swing for sure.
Gingerly she pressed her fingers to the side of his neck.
Her grandmother had told her she'd come to a bad end when she'd chosen to marry Charlie Bennington and follow him on his grand adventure to the Wild West. With his valet and her maid, who refused to be left behind, they took off to make their fortune.
Aurelia Grafton-Smythe had raised her granddaughter to make an advantageous marriage within one of Philadelphia's premier families. Cat's rebellion had earned her an icy dismissal from her life.
So she'd be damned if Otis Harlow would be the instrument of her ruin and prove her grandmother right.
It would be a sacrifice, but she had no choice. Her gown was soaked with blood anyway. This was another reason to despise Otis. He'd cost her so much.
Using her weight as leverage, she pushed back. The seam at her waist came apart with what sounded to her like a scream of protest. The delicate material of the bodice separated from the full satin skirts. The sound of ripping cloth echoed through the silent room.
She wiggled of out of the skirts and rose on shaky legs to look down at him. The dull ache in her breast became a painful throb where he had squeezed it while he had her pinned to the floor. The skin was darkening into purple blotches.
Otis Harlow had finally gotten her alone in a room clad only in her unmentionables. Thankfully, he was in no condition to take advantage of her dishabille. So maybe her luck was holding after all.