Hot and steamy erotica set in Deadwood, South Dakota during the Old West. Battered and bruised, Felicity Beckstead flees her abusive rancher husband and finds refuge in the only place she knows he won’t look, the local brothel. There, the incomparable Opal shows her a world she never knew existed. And a handsome Marshall shows her a love she’s never known. Can Felicity escape from a life of hell on earth? Or will her husband reclaim her? The key to it all is a red silken scarf.
By Dove Dixon
1846, Deadwood, South Dakota
Felicity pushed through the half-doors of the saloon and the smell of stale beer and cigar smoke caused her nose to wrinkle. Two men had their heads down, snoring, at a round table. One gripped a whiskey bottle in his right hand; the other mumbled in his liquor-induced sleep. Emmett, the town drunk, had fallen asleep propped over his broom in the corner. It was only a matter of time until he fell on his face. Probably wouldn’t even wake up once he bounced on the floor. Thank God it was only minutes past sunrise and no customers were conscious to notice how far she had fallen.
Keeping her head bent low underneath the dusty, wide-brimmed hat, she approached the only other person moving in the morning’s dim light. The barkeep.
“I’m fixing to close up, so order, drink and leave,” he growled, the tiredness in his voice apparent in his slurred words. Good. Maybe he wouldn’t remember a slight, young “man” with stained pants and a buckskin jacket that was three sizes too big.
“Need to see Opal,” Felicity said pitching her voice into the lowest possible register. It still sounded squeaky to her ears.
He jerked his head towards the stairs to the second floor rooms and returned to drying glasses with his rag.
“Much obliged,” she muttered.
“Room six,” he said, but she could hear that he’d already turned away and was moving to roust the patrons and help them on their way—with a boot to the buttocks if need be. She had to hurry.
The stairs creaked as she ascended and the knee Gunther had kicked ached something fierce, but she kept moving. If she couldn’t finish even this first step she had no hope of escaping her abusive husband’s clutches. Ever.
So she climbed, holding onto the railing with such force she was sure she’d leave impressions in the polished oak.
Her weak effort knocking on door number six sounded like a chicken scratching in the yard, but she didn’t want to risk waking anyone in an adjoining room. She waited an eternity and then tried again, a bit bolder. More of a patting this time. Still no answer. Opal just had to be inside. And she had to be alone.
Knock, knock, knock. She cringed as it echoed in the silence. But with her ear to the wood she thought she heard stirring inside. That is until the door was jerked open and she fell at the feet of the most beautiful woman in Deadwood, South Dakota. Opal. No last name. Just Opal. A whore whose reputation for beauty and carnal skill brought her customers from every state west of the Mississippi. And she wasn’t even French!
Opal raised the back of her hand to her mouth to stifle a jaw-popping yawn, and shook her head back to thrust the tangled black mane away from her face.
“You’ll have to come again later, sweet cheeks. I don’t take customers ‘til after sunset. My dream’s too good to be interrupted right now,” she cooed, gracious even in the face of such clod-headed stupidity. Everyone knew that working girls slept during the day and worked all night. Felicity knew that. She was just too desperate to care at this point.
She pushed Opal back into the room and shut the door behind them. Sooner than she could blink a knifeblade snicked to her throat and she stopped all motion, afraid to even gulp the lump that had just formed in her throat for fear of being sliced.
“I said not now, chickenpants. Never, ever disregard the word ‘no’ when it is issued from a lady’s lips.” Opal’s voice had taken on a sharp edge to match her blade, but Felicity waited until she eased up a bit before she nodded her head to indicate she understood Opal’s point.
“I’m going to let you go this time, but don’t ever darken my doorway again, you mongrel. Understand?” Opal said, pushing her towards the door. But before Felicity had even taken one step the prostitute caught at her arm and spun her around.
“What the hell?” she mused. In the darkness Opal opened Felicity’s jacket and placed two hands on her chest. Through the well-worn cotton of Felicity’s shirt she gently circled the small breasts until the nipples swelled to tight points. Then rubbed her thumb pads over the buds until Felicity felt a lightning bolt of sensation run down her belly to the hot core between her legs. A wetness Felicity hadn’t felt in a long time started to pool there, and her womanly parts began to throb.
“Well I’ll be double-damned,” Opal said and chuckled. “No wonder you came to me at this hour, chickadee. I might make an exception to my rule just this once and give you a tumble. We’ll have to clean you up a bit, though. Shoot. It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a naked woman’s company.”
Felicity wasted no time setting Opal straight. Stepping back and yanking her jacket closed she said, “It’s not like that a’tall, Miss Opal.” She whipped Gunther’s beaver-felt open brim hat from her head and shook her fawn-brown hair so it fell around her shoulders. “I’m running away from my husband for once and for all. And I need your help.”
Opal’s shocked expression told Felicity all she needed to know. The soiled dove might be seen by some women in town as a sinner and evildoer, but Felicity had always greeted her when she saw her on the street and shared a pew with her at church if she was alone. Opal would help her now in exchange for such kindness. She had to.
“What did that mangy cur do to your lovely face, Mrs. Beckstead?” Opal sighed. She took her hand and led Felicity to a small mahogany table with two matching Windsor chairs. When she had her “patron” seated, she lit the wick on her oil lamp and warm light suffused the room. She grabbed Felicity lightly by the chin and turned her face from one side to the other, clucking and shaking her head.
“I believe that qualifies as a shiner, my dear. And while your puffy lips look sweetly kissable, I’ll bet they hurt like the dickens.” Opal moved towards the door. “I’ll just fetch a steak from the kitchen and apply it to your eye…”
“Wait,” Felicity said, her voice conveying her urgency. “I don’t want anyone to know that I’m here.”
Opal considered this request, staring at Felicity with the keen intellect the battered woman had always admired, finally taking the chair opposite her uninvited guest.
“Best start at the beginning then and tell me the whole tale,” she said, covering her mouth with her hand again, stifling another yawn.
Felicity slumped in her chair, absently rubbing the stiffness from her knee.
“It was suppertime,” she began. “Gunther had been having trouble with a couple of the new Chinamen he’d acquired to pound spikes into the railroad track, so I knew he was going to be in a fierce mood. Sure enough. He said the beef I’d roasted was tougher than boot leather and he kicked me in the knee to prove his point. I went down hard. I thought if I just lay there on the dining room floor he might leave me alone. But not tonight. He pulled me up, ripping the sleeve right off my brand new calico. Two days old, that dress. Then he socked me in the eye.”
Felicity’s hand seemed to rise of its own free will, gingerly exploring the bruised area around her left eye. “Does it look truly terrible?” she asked.
“Oh, Mrs. Beckstead,” Opal said with a hitch in her voice. “You’d be beautiful with a bag over your head. Your heart is so kind. You’re the last person who deserves such a vicious mule for a husband. Even if he does have more money than the governor.”
“That’s only the beginning,” Felicity said, refusing to break down and cry in reaction to Opal’s understanding ways. It was tough. She wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and spend the rest of her life unconscious. But she was too strong for that. She would need Opal’s help until the stage came in three days. Then she’d be gone for good.
“After he punched me, he dragged me to the settee and threw me down. He ripped the rest of my tattered dress from the neckline to the hem and despite my protestations and struggling, my calls for him to remember his station, he unbuttoned his pants and proceeded to be rough with his own dear wife.” One solitary tear traveled down Felicity’s cheek and she brushed it away with impatience.