BLURB Well-bred Valerie Johnson travels 3,000 miles by train and stagecoach to join her husband in Virginia City, Nev. only to discover when she gets there, she's a widow. Low on money, unable to find respectable employment, she takes a temporary position as a courtesan at Rosie's Parlor—an elegant brothel. When godlike Duke Dugan picks Valerie, they both wonder if it's lust or love at first sight.
Duke takes the lovely, red haired woman to dinner where she discovers Duke is a rebel captain, on a desperate mission for the Confederacy. She'd tell the authorities except, she's fallen in love with him.
EXCERPT “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.
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.
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