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A Promise in Defiance Act 1, Scene 1
“I don’t know, Matthew.” Delilah rose from her desk and carefully swished her large, enticing bustle over to the bar. She felt the man watching, no doubt with avarice. His eyes glittered with the hunger men never seem to conquer. “Defiance is done, I suspect. Once Diamond Lil left,” she turned two shot glasses up and uncapped a bottle of whiskey, “and McIntyre closed the Iron Horse, that sealed it for me.”
Matthew leaned the chair back on two legs. He was a big man, about the biggest she’d ever been acquainted with, and the wood protested under his weight. She handed him his drink, ignoring that handsome, square jaw and broad chest, and strolled to the window to look out over the streets of Salt Lake City.
“You know, you are a fine figure of a woman,” Matthew observed. “That curly auburn hair of yours shimmers like honey. You could pass for a respectable woman if you’d dress right.”
Annoyed by the assumption that she wanted to be respectable, she turned sideways so he could get a better view of at least half her curves, and the low neckline on the verge of overflowing. Slowly, she swept a sultry glance over to him. Such were her weapons and she was well-trained in the art of war. “Save the flattery. Defiance is dead and I’m comfortable here.”
Salt Lake City was going to keep her well-heeled for quite some time, but she didn’t smile at the traffic below. This town turned her stomach. She couldn’t run this brothel like she wanted. It had to be quiet, almost respectable. No shows. Nothing raunchy, nothing that might draw attention to the house. A bunch of pious hypocrites, they couldn’t hand over their money fast enough, but it all had to be hush-hush. Which proved the old adage, no matter how many wives a man had, he still wanted a little forbidden fruit.
She did smile at that, a dark, bitter reflection of her revulsion. Saints, my eye …
But at least a simple brothel might not get her run out of town. Her last place had pushed the boundaries … and a moral citizenry had risen up against her.
Behind her, Matthew gulped down the shot and sighed with satisfaction. “Delilah, any woman who can run a cat house in the middle of Salt Lake City ought to be able to restore a two-bit mining town to its former glory.”
Her shoulders jiggled slightly at the joke and she shook her head. “It hasn’t exactly been hard. A little sex or money and you can get by with a lot in this town.”
“And that’s my point. Nobody stops you. Once upon a time, McIntyre owned the finest brothel west of the Mississippi. Men will talk about the Iron Horse for generations.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Unless you give ‘em somethin’ else to talk about. Come on, I know you want to open another Fox Den. And you can. Bigger. More … entertaining.”
That brought her head up slightly. She swallowed her own drink, tapped pretty, painted nails on the rim. “Oh, no, I don’t doubt I could rival him. But fancy furniture, pretty gals,” she looked over her shoulder at Matthew, “girls with no boundaries. All that takes money.”
“You sell this place. I’ll fund the rest.”
Delilah narrowed her eyes at him. “That is suspiciously generous.” She wandered back to her desk, settled in the chair, all but burying it beneath her huge bustle, and rested her elbows on the blotter. “What do you want out of this? And don’t lie to me. Men are worse gossips than women. I know McIntyre ran you out of Defiance.”
His puckered up like she’d shoved a lemon in his mouth. “True, he did. Because I wasn’t prepared to stay.” He laced hands the size of bear paws over a flat stomach, and shook wavy, blond hair off his forehead. “I’m gonna settle in Defiance.” Suddenly, he leaned forward and pressed a hand down on her desk. “I want it wilder and woolier than it was before. ‘Cause that’s the kind of town that suits me … and he’ll hate it.”