AND bigger news! I'm almost finished with the sequel to My Precious Jewel:
MY WILD VIOLET
During the writing of My Precious Jewel, I found myself growing attached to the characters and didn’t want to leave them behind quite yet, especially Duncan. I felt he really needed a story of his own. But who would be a worthy love match for my dark, handsome Duncan? Who better than the broken-hearted Violet whose affections he spurned in favor of Jewel? Only what if this time the tables were turned? What if Violet isn’t so mousy anymore? What if in her time away from Pike Springs, she has transformed herself into the woman of Duncan’s fantasies and he finds himself ass over teakettle in lust? Perfect match, right? Well, it wouldn’t be much of a story if it were that easy…
St. Louis, Missouri, 1885
“Got a friend back east who says she’s been warmin’ the bed of a couple of senators,” the man’s voice lowered to a loud whisper, “and even Cleveland himself.”
Loud guffaws erupted from the rest of the men in the group. “I’m gonna hafta call bullshit on that one, Frank. The president of these United States ain’t gonna risk that kinda scandal, ‘specially one who’s only been in office a few months.”
“Why? He ain’t married, an’ she is sure somethin’ to look at.”
“Ha! That’d be rich. Somehow, I can’t see people goin’ for a First Lady who used to display her goods in a Burlesque show, no matter how pretty them goods may be.”
Duncan Kilpatrick slowed his step along the sidewalk in front of the King’s Crown Theatre, intrigued by the conversation taking place among the line of men waiting outside.
“I seen her in Chicago six months back. Threw her underdrawers into the audience and caused a riot.”
“Sweet sassy molassy! I hope she throws ‘em my way tonight.”
Duncan chuckled at the animated exchange and glanced up at the poster in the theatre window to see what all the fuss was about. ‘Madame Millicent’s Traveling Extravaganza, featuring the incomparable Miss Lily White.’ He shook his head and started to walk away, then paused.
Hell, why not? He didn’t have anything else to do tonight except sit alone in a hotel room and twiddle his thumbs. Besides, Kane had insisted he needed to get out and have some fun while he was in St. Louis. Blow off some steam. Duncan had been putting in a lot of extra hours in the saddle and at the jail so Kane could spend more time with his wife and small children. Not that he minded. The job of sheriff was a demanding one, and his best friend had a family to attend to now; Duncan didn’t. With the prisoner he’d extradited safely ensconced in the county jail, he had a few days to kill before the long train ride back to Pike Springs.
Duncan grinned and ambled to the end of the line. Watching some pretty little filly flinging her unmentionables might make for an entertaining hour or so.
The theatre was packed when Duncan finally made it inside. Standing room only, so he maneuvered until he found a spot where he could see the stage, then removed his hat and planted his feet against the jostling crowd of men around him. The fellow next to him bumped up hard against his shoulder, then turned to offer an apology. Duncan hardened himself to the double-take that preceded the man’s mumbled, “Sorry, fella.” Though he tried to blend in, there was no disguising his black hair and dark skin. He glanced around, quickly assessing whether any in the crowd might take exception to the presence of a half-breed in their midst. Seeing no one eyeing him with open hostility, he turned his focus back to the stage. A three piece band had struck up the introductory music. The show was about to begin.
The green velvet curtains parted to reveal a lively trio singing and dancing to “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” At the end of the opening number, a pair of comedians called “Mr. Bones” and “Mr. Tambo” traded corny jokes that drew both laughter and groans from the crowd. Then there was a skit that poked fun at the current crop of politicians who populated the nation’s capital, a miniature chorus line that wowed the audience with their synchronized kicks and sassy winks, followed by another comedian whose jokes were definitely of the racy variety. Duncan alternately winced and chuckled at the risqué fare. Toward the end of that act, the crowd became noticeably restless and a few hecklers started to shout at the stage.
“Hurry up, fella! We came to see Miz Lily’s bloomers!”
“Pee-yew! Your jokes stink, buddy! We want Lily White!”
Finally, the flustered comedian took his bows and cleared the stage for the last act. The band started playing as a woman sashayed into view. A scandalous amount of her shapely legs was displayed beneath a thigh-high skirt of white ruffles, but her upper body was concealed by the parasol she twirled. Whistles and catcalls emanated from the audience. Duncan grinned. He wasn’t going to join in the whistling, but so far, from the waist down, Miss White didn’t disappoint.
When she reached center stage, she paused and lowered the parasol. The crowd erupted.
“Mm-mm.” Duncan couldn’t help the soft murmur that escaped him as he got his first glimpse of Miss Lily White. She was the epitome of a man’s desire in her skimpy dress of white lace—temptress and virgin combined. Her thick mane of shiny sable hair was piled high atop her head, white flowers tucked artfully among the curls. Her face was porcelain pale, except for her rosy cheeks, red-tinted lips and heavily outlined dark eyes. And her figure… Well, the woman had the kind of curves that made a man’s hands twitch. Made other parts twitch as well. Hot damn.
When she smiled and batted her eyes at the audience, Duncan was struck by a sudden sense of familiarity. There was something about that smile… Almost before he knew what he was doing, he was maneuvering through the crowd, trying to get closer to the stage.
When she began to sing, a tall blonde fellow glided onto the stage to join her. They performed a smoothly choreographed dance while she sang suggestive lyrics about ‘her man, Dan, who always comes home for tea.’ As the man pursued her around the prop sofa set at center stage, it was obvious that ‘Dan’ wasn’t coming home for just tea. When Dan caught her from behind and rubbed provocatively against her backside, Lily’s dark eyes widened and her red lips opened in a pretty ‘O’.
Duncan squinted, trying to get a better look. Did he know her? He wove his way a few feet closer through the dense crowd that was gathered at the front of the stage.
The audience cheered on ‘Dan’ as his hands travelled the curves of Miss White’s delectable figure while she swayed in his arms. At one point, he was down on one knee while she stood with her dainty booted foot resting on his thigh, his hands gliding up the length of her leg to her garter. When he removed it and tossed it to the crowd, the excited men pushed and lunged like naughty schoolboys to catch it, almost knocking Duncan over.
Duncan finally made it to within a few yards of the stage when Lily’s musical seduction and Dan’s choreographed pursuit intensified and came to a climax. The song ended, Dan caught her, and they dropped onto the sofa with her legs in the air and him lying between them. The audience burst into loud hoots and thunderous applause.
The curtains closed for a moment, then swept open again to reveal Miss White and her partner taking their bows. She produced a lacy scrap of material from behind her back and held it up--a pair of skimpy underdrawers. With a flourish, she wound up and flung it into the crowd. The garment made a high arch above the sea of grasping hands, then landed with a soft ‘plop’ in Duncan’s face.
Someone snatched the panties away before Duncan could even raise his hands, but the delicate scent of perfume lingered in his nostrils. Mmm, pretty. Wonder if she tastes as good as she smells? There was a definite twitch below his belt--more of a throb, really. His face heated and he shifted uncomfortably, clamping down on his embarrassing reaction. It had been way too long since he’d had a woman and his damned dick seemed to have developed a mind of its own.
Suddenly, there was a commotion in the crowd. Several law officers pushed their way through, climbed onto the stage and surrounded Miss White and her partner. Holy hell, they were being arrested! Miss White didn’t appear to be upset in the least by the turn of events. She smiled, waved, and blew kisses to the crowd. Needing to get a closer look at her before she was whisked away, Duncan pushed his way toward the side of the stage as the officers escorted the duo down the steps and through the throng of shocked onlookers. He was only a couple of feet away from them as they filed past.
She turned her face toward him and their gazes met. Her smile faded and her kohl rimmed eyes widened with surprise.
“Jesus Christ and General Jackson!” Duncan’s curse of amazement was lost amid the din of the crowd. “Violet!”
“Duncan?” He couldn’t really hear her, but her crimson lips were easy to read.
In the next instant, she was gone, hustled out the door, and Duncan was left standing among the raucous crowd trying to gather his wits.
Violet Simmons! How in blazes did a mousy gal from Pike Springs, Wyoming, go from working in her father’s mercantile and attending church every Sunday to prancing around in her skivvies in front of a theatre full of men? Good God, how long had it been since he’d seen her? It must be close to five years.
Five years since he’d watched her walk away across the dance floor, her head down to hide the tears in her brown eyes. She’d flinched at his words, like each one was a physical blow, and he’d felt damn bad about it. He hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings, but he couldn’t let her go on with the false hope that he harbored feelings for her. Oh, she was a nice enough girl—soft spoken and polite—but he just wasn’t drawn to her in ‘that way’. He’d been sweet on Jewel Hastings at the time, before she’d ended up marrying Kane. He heard Violet left town shortly after that night of the Founder’s Day dance, and that she’d taken a job as a seamstress with her aunt’s theatre troupe.
Evidently, she’d given up on the sewing.
Duncan settled his hat back on his head, still stunned. Somehow, Violet had transformed herself from drab seamstress to infamous temptress in the past five years. The change was amazing, and he had to admit, intriguing. There was no way he’d be able to leave St. Louis until his curiosity was satisfied. He had to talk to Violet, and given how she’d left the stage, he knew just where to find her.
“Two hundred dollars! That’s ridiculous!” Violet Simmons threw her hands up and paced in her jail cell. She aimed a look of desperation at Charlie Owens, the troupe’s stagehand. “I don’t have that kind of money with me. Did you wire Aunt Millie?”
Charlie shook his head apologetically. “I tried, but she already left Chicago this afternoon and is on the train headed here. She should arrive the day after tomorrow.”
Violet released a growl of frustration. “Cripes on a cracker! That means we’ll be stuck in this rat hole for two days!”
She was worried for her partner Ross. He had an aversion to small, confined spaces, so much so that sometimes he panicked and had trouble breathing. She went to the bars and pressed her face against the cold metal, trying to see over to the next cell. “Ross? Did you hear that? Are you going to be all right?”
“Yes, darlin’, I did.” Ross’s smooth southern drawl was strained. “Damnation! There’s no window in here. If there was a window, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
“Just try to relax. Close your eyes and practice our dance steps in your head.” Violet turned back to Charlie. “Maybe you could take up a collection among the rest of the troupe, just enough to bail Ross out. I’ll be fine until Aunt Millie gets here.” Violet shivered and rubbed her bare arms. “And have Sally send over some clothes for me, please. I’m freezing.” Charlie nodded and hurried away.
Violet looked around her small cell and considered the moth-eaten blanket covering the bunk, then dismissed the notion of ever putting the nasty thing on her body. God only knew what kind of creepy crawlers were lurking beneath it. She shivered again, this time in revulsion. This wasn’t her first time inside a jail cell. Her act was considered controversial, and sometimes people took offense and made a fuss. Violet had been arrested before, several times, but always had Aunt Millie there ready to bail her out and pay the fine. She’d never had to actually spend the night in one of these hell holes. Now it looked like she’d be spending not just one night, but two.
She was contemplating whether or not she could sleep sitting on the small wooden chair in the corner when the door to the cell block opened.
“You got a visitor, Miss White.” The sheriff stepped in and held the door open for the man behind him.
Violet looked up and felt the blood drain from her face.
With all the commotion of the past hour, she hadn’t had time to think about the man who’d been gaping at her as she was being arrested. The man she’d mooned over back when she was a silly twit with a head full of naïve romantic fantasies. Now, here he was, standing outside her cell with his hands shoved in the pockets of his denim pants, his open buckskin jacket framing his lean hips. He looked just as darkly handsome as she remembered. She swallowed convulsively as her heart did a flip-flop in her chest.
“Violet,” Duncan greeted her and removed his hat. His thick, coal black hair was cropped shorter than it was when she’d last seen him.
“Duncan.” His name left her lips more softly than she’d intended, and she almost winced.
The sheriff gave a curt nod and left. Duncan arched an eyebrow at her.
Violet drew herself up, straightening her shoulders to project a confidence she didn’t feel. “This is a surprise. What are you doing here?”
“Thought I’d stop by to see if you needed any help.”
Her first instinct was to claim she was fine and send him on his way. Seeing him again brought back disturbing remnants of feelings she thought she’d put behind her long ago. But then she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye—a cockroach skittering along the wall by the bunk—and she had to suppress the urge to fling herself at the bars and beg him to help.
“As a matter of fact, I am in a bit of a pickle. I can’t make bail until my aunt arrives from Chicago in two days.”
“Two hundred dollars.”
Duncan whistled through his teeth. “That seems a bit steep for tossing your drawers. Speaking of which, do you, uh…need someone to bring you another pair to put on? These cells can get drafty.”
Violet couldn’t hold in the nervous bubble of laughter. “For goodness sake, those weren’t my real knickers. I have a whole trunk full that I spritz with perfume and throw out as souvenirs at the shows.”
He gave her an uncomfortable smile and shrugged off his jacket. “Here, you’d better take this and cover up.” His gaze flicked lower to her chest and Violet realized her nipples were as hard as pebbles and quite noticeable under her lacy bodice.
She quickly reached for the jacket he poked through the bars then drew it on, pulling it around her like a blanket. It was warm from his body and smelled like him: soap, leather and man. No fancy colognes, just Duncan.
When she looked up to thank him, the flare of heat in the depths of his eyes caught her by surprise. The look was unmistakable. Desire.
Warmth bloomed between her legs and her cheeks flushed.
He wanted her—Duncan Kilpatrick, of all people.
Violet felt a surge of satisfaction and feminine power at the unexpected revelation. She fluttered her eyelashes, just slightly, and sweetened her voice. “Duncan, you’re an officer of the law, do you think you could talk to the sheriff? I shudder at the thought of spending two days in here.”
Duncan cleared his throat. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you.” Violet gave him a sultry smile and noted with relish that his focus went straight to her mouth. He wet his lips. “Oh, and could you speak to him about my partner Ross as well?” Duncan gave her a half-smile and a nod.
As she watched him walk out to the sheriff’s office, his words from long ago echoed in her mind. Violet, you’re a nice girl, but I just don’t have those kind of feelings for you. She grinned like a cat. Evidently, now that she wasn’t such a nice girl anymore, his feelings had changed a bit. Oh, it was sweet, and would be even sweeter when she gave Duncan a small taste of his own medicine. Nothing too cruel, but she did want him to feel just a bit of the sting he’d inflicted upon her.
“Ross,” she called to her partner, “would you do me a favor?”
“That man who was just here, I’d like to give him the impression that you and I are the coziest pair of lovebirds this side of the Mississippi. You think you can pull it off?”
Ross heaved an exaggerated sigh. “You’re asking quite a lot of me, Vi…”
“Very funny. I may not be your preferred gender, but I’m not exactly chopped liver. Can’t you fake it, for me? Nothing extreme, just a little cuddling and maybe some kissing…”
Violet huffed a sigh. “No tongues. Will you do it?”
Ross chuckled. “All right, but you’ll owe me one.”