Synopsis:In 1869, San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy offers redemption to any woman looking for honest work. At Cera's Place, men can get a decent hot meal with a whiskey, but if they want anything more, they have to take their desires elsewhere. One summer night, a distraught Chinese girl bursts through the swinging doors with a shocking tale of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. Outraged, Cera vows to set things right. Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by the horrors of the Civil War, is on a mission to fulfill a friend's dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera's door. Captivated by her Irish beauty, he wants to join her fight - but will she let him?Elizabeth McKenna's debut novel is a fast-paced adventure filled with memorable characters that will leave you wanting more. Get lost in a time gone by and fall in love today!
Cera’s Place – Excerpt
Across the room, Ginger gestured at Jake several times, while the saloon owner kept her eyes locked on him. Finally, shotgun in hand, Cera came out from behind the bar and approached his table. The room went quiet as everyone waited to see if there was going to be a brawl or an execution.
“You need to leave—or else.” Facing him squarely, she threw the last word out as if it was her leather glove and the challenge to a duel.
Jake’s jaw clenched at her threatening tone. What in blazes did he do to deserve this? “Do you treat all of your customers this way or have I done something to offend you? I’m just looking for my friend’s daughter. I was told she worked here.”
Her green and gold eyes flashed fire the more she looked—no, glared—at him. Earlier, Jake thought she sparkled. Up close, though, he realized his mistake. It was more than that. She radiated.
Cera laid the shotgun across one arm, letting it casually point in Jake’s general direction. “Are you not understanding my words, soldier? I told you to take a walk.”
Unwilling to leave until he knew where Daniel’s daughter had gone next, Jake decided to take a risk. “How about if we start over? Let’s sit down, I’ll buy you a drink, and you’ll listen to my story.”
“I own the place. I drink for free,” Cera replied, pointing out the obvious.
“Well, then, you can buy me a drink.” Before she could say no, he pushed her into Ginger’s chair and called the redhead over.
“Miss Ginger, would you bring us two shots of whiskey, please?”
Ginger glanced sideways at her boss. After a few moments of consideration, Cera lifted her hand slightly. With a bob of her head, Ginger went to fetch the drinks. Seeing that a gunfight was no longer imminent, the other patrons lost interest and the room’s noise level returned to its usual boisterous level.
While they waited for Ginger’s return, Jake sized up the saloon owner. Besides the flaming auburn hair, Cera’s Irish heritage had given her porcelain-colored skin. A splash of freckles dotted her cheeks and nose, softening her sharp jaw. He couldn’t tell how full her lips were, as she kept them pressed into a hard line. Though the bodice of her dress was modestly cut compared to Ginger’s, the exposed flesh looked able to please any warm-blooded man.
Cera thumped the butt of the shotgun against the floor. Startled, he raised his eyes to find the fire in hers had turned to ice. Jake quickly looked away, pretending to study the décor of the room.
Breaking the awkward silence, he motioned with his hand. “You seem to have a very successful business here.”
“We do all right,” Cera conceded in a clipped voice.
Picking up Ginger’s wine glass, he asked, “Do you sell much of this?”
“Not as much as whiskey and beer, of course, but it comes cheap so I don’t fret about it. My partner’s friend is trying to introduce sparkling wine to the region. We offered to help.” Perhaps realizing she was being friendly, she clamped her mouth shut and resumed glaring at him.
Unperturbed, Jake tried again. “I’m surprised by the sophistication of your place considering the neighborhood. It’s quite a dichotomy. ”
“Well, now, there’s some 50 cent words. Looks like the soldier has some education under his gun belt. You mean you’re wondering why I don’t sell whores, don’t you?”
Jake shrugged in response.
“I won’t make money off of someone else’s misery, and whoring is a miserable business. Now you’re wasting my time, Captain. What’s your story? I have a saloon to run and no time for lies.”
Jake shook his head. “What I told Big Red is the God’s honest truth. I’m looking for a girl named Sadie. Before her daddy died, he asked me to give her a locket. I’ve been trying to find her for several years now. I was told she worked here—or used to. If you can tell me where she was headed, I would be much obliged.”
Cera’s fingers wrapped and unwrapped around the shotgun’s barrel a few times. “Ginger said you have proof. Show me.”
Jake pointed to his pocket and Cera nodded her consent. He carefully brought out a faded photograph and an oval-shaped, gold locket on a thin chain. As he passed the objects to her, their hands touched and his heart skipped a beat. Surprised at his body’s reaction, he thought back to the last time he had truly desired a woman. For the briefest moment, he allowed himself to see his late wife’s gentle smile before pushing away the melancholy memory.
Motioning to the photograph, he explained, “That was our company. I’m in the top row, second from the left. Daniel—Sadie’s daddy—is in the bottom row, right in the middle. And that obviously is the locket I’m supposed to give her.”
Cera examined the photograph, her eyes flicking back and forth between it and Jake.
“Yes, it was taken before I got this.” Jake ran a finger down the side of his face. Cera’s cheeks flushed and he felt a twinge of remorse for embarrassing her. He had long ago accepted the unwanted souvenir from his war days, but he knew the sight of his scar upset some people.
Cera handed the photograph back to him but kept the locket in her hand. “And you’ve been looking for Sadie for years? Why would you do that? The man’s dead, right? He’s none the wiser.”
“Because I would know,” Jake replied a bit gruffer than he intended.
Cera let out a long breath. “Wait here.”
When she stood up, Jake reached over and grabbed her wrist. “The locket stays with me.”
Cera’s eyebrows rose at his demand. “You’re asking me to trust you. Now you have to trust me.”
As he debated inwardly, Ginger interrupted the stalemate. Clearing her throat, she put the shots of whiskey on the table. “Let go of her, Captain. You don’t want this trouble.”
Elizabeth McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. She never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).
She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, Elizabeth felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her debut novel, Cera's Place.
Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin (Packers, Brewers, and Badgers - oh my!) with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.
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