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. More
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.
EXCERPT Before you leave, I want you to go into Carson City and get provisions.
Cody looked surprised. "Isn't that dangerous?"
"Yes, that's why I want you to take Valerie with you. You'll look less suspicious if a woman's with you."
"As you wish, Cap'tin." Cody turned to Valerie. "Are you ready?"
Valerie was taken totally off guard, but she understood the reason Duke wanted her to go with Cody. It made sense. They would appear as a farmer or a rancher and his wife, buying provisions for the fortnight. "I didn't bring a dress?"
"Doesn't matter. Half the women hereabouts wear men's clothing. It's more functional."
She shrugged her shoulders. "I'm ready when you are."
He grabbed her hand. "Let's go."
She accompanied Cody, riding the same sorrel mare on which she rode to Carson City. They hadn't ridden a hundred yards when Cody exclaimed, "Whoowee, look who's playing married with the pretty lady. Too bad I don't get to try out the side benefits of being married."
Valerie bit her tongue to keep from smiling. "You are incorrigible."
"Does that mean, can't act normal?"
She did laugh. "Something like that. You are acting much too joyful for a morose farmer."
"Let me tell you. Even a morose farmer would be joyful around you. You're like a ray of sunshine."
Time to change the subject. "Cody, what do you want to do after the war?"
"I want to start a ranch. Then, I'd like to find a classy woman as pretty as you and make her my wife. I would never treat her like some men treat their wives—beating them, going to saloons or even brothels. I would treat my wife like a queen."
Valerie couldn't think of what to say after that, so she rode on in silence.
Cody laughed. Then he leaned across the space between the horses and kissed Valerie's cheek.
Wide-eyed and mouth open in shock, she turned to Cody. "What—"
His lips formed that bad boy smile that made her think of sex. "Sorry. I just felt like kissing my future sister-in-law. If'n I can't have you, the next best thing is you being my sister-in-law."
"I know, incorrigible. Watch this." Cody whipped his dark brown stallion with the rein until it galloped. When he was a hundred yards ahead, he pulled the horse to a stop and started galloping back.
Valerie began to worry when, under a full gallop, he stood up on the saddle. Holding the reins in one hand, he waved his wide-brimmed western hat in the other. Then, as he passed, Valerie's mouth dropped open when he jumped up and spun in the air, landing in the saddle sitting backward and waving to her as he rode away from her.
She laughed. Crazy kid sure is lovable
She watched as he swung his legs around and once more faced forward. He pulled his horse up, turned around again, and raced back to Valerie. "Well, did you like it?"
"I loved it, but you shouldn't risk your neck showing off for your future sister-in-law."
"You're right. We're getting too close to town. I better put on my morose look."
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