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Fancy Lady & the Desperadoes
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Fancy Lady & the Desperadoes

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Well-bred and genteel, Valerie Johnson travels by train and stagecoach from Boston to join her husband three thousand miles away in Virginia City, Nevada, only to discover she is a widow. Low on money, unable to find respectable employment, she accepts a temporary position as a courtesan at Rosie's Parlor—an elegant Virginia City brothel.

When godlike Duke Dugan picks Valerie, they both wonder if it is lust or love at first sight.

Fascinated by the beautiful, flaming-haired prostitute he calls Red, Duke, wishing to learn more about her, takes her to dinner in Virginia City's finest restaurant. To her dismay, Valerie finds out that Duke is a rebel captain, who, along with his two brothers, is on a desperate mission for the despised Confederacy. She would tell the authorities, except there's one problem—she's fallen in love with him.


“Bartender,” he bellowed, “I need a bottle, a bath, and the fanciest lady you have.”

His gaze languidly circumnavigated the room, and she held her breath, her mind willing his selection. His fabulous azure eyes locked with hers, which caused her heart to race. When he yelled, “That one, she’s mine,” Valerie became light-headed.

The man grabbed the offered bottle and glass. “I need another one for the lady.”

Cliff, the bartender, produced the requested glass, and the man threw a silver dollar on the bar. “Thanks. Set my companions up, too, would you?”

Cliff nodded and slid over to wait on them.

The man directed a devilish grin at her. Valerie’s nipples swelled from the molten stare of his blue eyes and a perfect smile from faultless white teeth. After throwing the saddlebags back over his shoulder, he ambled, glasses and bottle in hand, toward her. She studied him. Unkempt, dark brown hair hung in mild, attractive curls from beneath his tan, weather-beaten hat. His jaw square, a narrow mustache rested between his hawkish nose and narrow lips set within an angular face. He was beautiful…and he’d picked her.

He stopped two feet from her. “What’s your name?”

For an instant, she couldn’t think of it. “Valerie.”

“Can I call you Red?”

Regaining a modicum of control, she casually shrugged and smiled. “Everyone else does.”

He smirked and dipped his head. “Good. I’m Duke, and I need a bath. Would you like to bathe with me, Red?”

Almost numb from his sensual aura, she nodded. “Sounds like fun.”

A twangy voice drew their attention. “Duke, I’m going to be busy for a while.”

For the first time, she got a good look at one of his companions.
Young and handsome, he stood with an arm around Maude and the new half-breed girl.

Duke chortled. A small grin appeared on his face. “Two, huh? You think you can handle two?”

“Don’t know yet. But I aim to try. Goin’ to make up for lost time.”

Laughing, Duke lavished her with an impish grin. “How about you? Could you handle two?”

Thinking he meant the other younger man, she looked him over.
Boyishly handsome, he had long, sandy-colored hair and almost identical blue eyes. He was a couple inches shorter than Duke and had a warm, engaging smile. He couldn’t have been much over twenty-one. She stared at Duke. “Him?”

Duke shook his head. “Nah, Cody don’t need the help.” He nodded toward the bar. “Cody’s brother, Cory. He’s shy, never been with a woman.”

She glanced in the direction of his head hitch and saw the duplicate of Cody leaning against the bar, nursing a draft.

Duke laughed again. “Only kidding. Wanted to see how game you are. Another time maybe. Tonight, you’re all mine.”

His gaze shifted to Cody. “All right, Cody, but we have to be going in a couple hours. We have to get rooms at the hotel.”

All of a sudden, Valerie felt emboldened. “You can stay in my room. No charge. And I’m sure Maude or…”

“Chana.” Cody offered her name, an effusive smile on his lips.
Maude and Chana nodded, both mumbling affirmation.

She could feel lightning clear down in her toes when Duke took her hand. “Good, one of them can take Cory, too. Will you see to it, Cody?”

Cody nodded, turned, and walked off with his flesh-and-blood booty.
With Cody gone, Duke’s smoldering eyes regained her attention.

“Why don’t we sit down and have a drink first, pretty lady.”

She flashed an effusive smile. “I’d like that.”

He led her to the closest empty table and pulled a chair out. She sat, and he pushed it in, then he took a seat himself. “Is bourbon all right, or would you prefer something milder?”

She would have preferred something else, but she didn’t want to trouble him. “Bourbon is fine.”

He poured them both a drink. “I can tell from your accent you’re a long way from home. Boston, isn’t it?”

She nodded, hoping he wouldn’t be too inquisitive.

“So how did you end up out here in wild and restless Virginia City?”
She scanned the ceiling as she pursed her lips in revulsion at the thought of what had brought her to this. “Benjamin, my husband of nine months, came out to make our fortune. He found what appeared to be a solid silver vein and filed a claim. He sent money back to Boston for me to join him, and when I arrived two months later, I was a widow.”

Duke’s brows rose above widening eyes. “What happened?”

Valerie shook her head at the waste of it all. “I was told Benjamin got in a fight over one of the girls right here and was shot right outside this parlor house. The girl involved described it to me but has since left. She said they brought him in here and laid him upon a table. Someone sent for a doctor, but by the time the he arrived, my husband had passed away.” Using the side of her forefinger, she brushed a solitary budding tear away. “They claimed it was a fair fight, but the shooter skedaddled out of town and hasn’t been seen since.”

Reciting the events of her husband’s death used to make her weep, but in the ensuing thirteen months, too much water had passed over the dam. Now, though she knew better, it almost seemed as if it had happened to someone else.

Was she becoming inured to this debauched life?

God, I hope not.

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