After a vicious outlaw murders her father, Laura Rutherford sees no future beyond running the family brothel and kowtowing to the local gang. Not even marriage offers escape. No man can compete with the beautiful women who dance the cancan for her each night...at least not until a gentle stranger sweeps in and opens her eyes to desires too long denied. Joe Bascum stumbles into Bitterroot Flats looking for a place to hide from a gunman out for blood. When the innocent Madam from the local brothel offers a bed and bath, Joe accepts hoping to show the buttoned-up beauty just how right forbidden desire can feel. When danger escalates, can Laura help Joe defeat the famous Fletcher gang, or is she destined to live a lonely life as the virgin Madam?
Time for the can-can show. My heart palpitated in anticipation. Shamelessly I watched the four women file on stage in their long matching red skirts and black stockings. A red feather in their hair.
Mr. Woodson finished the intro music. I gave him a small smile and nod before returning my attention to the women. I let out a quiet sigh. They were all beauties. When I was younger I cried myself to sleep wishing I had their figure; now full grown, I had given up on that dream. I wasn’t tall and leggy like Lulu. I wasn’t as curvy as Rose. I didn’t have Amanda’s fiery red hair or Delilah’s flawless complexion. I was just average.
The black silk chokers around their necks helped draw attention to their faces and lower to their breasts. The ladies grabbed their skirts and walked to the edge of the stage, swishing their skirts suggestively and showing off their white bloomers. Many men let out cheers or said lewd comments. Ash rushed in and grabbed a seat. He leaned back in his chair put two fingers to his lips and let out a shrill whistle. Like me, he caught as many performances as he could. The bastard had become a regular fixture in Bitterroot Flats, easily partaking in the entitlements. Including murder. He must have had a past with Fletcher. Done jobs together, maybe even served time together.
I had to put up with him. But I didn’t have to pretend to like him. I seared his back with a fiery stare, hoping he could feel my anger.
I wish I never had to see Ash again. I wish I had the power to ban him from the Honey Ranch. The power to keep him from Amanda would be some satisfaction, but the Fletcher Gang owned the town. Ash could do whatever he damn pleased and I was powerless to stop him.
Ash wasn’t going to spoil the show for me. I focused on the women, their every seductive move. The dancers turned around in place before prancing around the stage in a small circle, flashing the gentlemen big smiles. Their faces, heavily painted with rouge and lip paint, glowed under the stage’s lighting. A thrill zipped through me when they formed a line again and started their high kicks. Some of the men clapped, keeping time with the music. Others tapped their empty beer glasses on the tables. The rowdy atmosphere didn’t bother me anymore. The scent of beer and whiskey wafted through the air, mixing with the smell of sweat, horses, and the honeysuckle perfume the ladies wore. I easily tuned out the men, my attention narrowing to the women working the stage as if their lives depended on it. How they managed to dance so well in those high-heeled black boots I’d never know. They helped show off their legs, though. And I could drool over all those legs. Heat and desire burning in my belly, I hoped no one could read my dirty thoughts.