Excerpt for The Sheriff & Camille by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




The Sheriff & Camille


By

L.K. Campbell


Copyright © 2017 by L.K. Campbell


All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in relevant and critical articles and reviews.


This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, businesses, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Cover Photos © Zastavkin © Prometeus | Dreamstime.com



Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Excerpt The Law & Annabelle

About The Author




For my late husband, Bryan Campbell.

1958-2017

You were the love of my life, and my best friend.

You will live in my heart forever.




Chapter 1



Red Gorge, Dakota Territory

1884


THE STAGECOACH STOPPED in what must have been a foot of red mud. Camille stuck her head out of the door and looked around. In her letters, Jane had called Red Gorge a town. Camille hadn’t envisioned a few wooden structures on either side of a wagon path. She lifted the skirts of her blue traveling dress and latched on to the stage driver’s proffered hand.

“Careful of your footing, ma’am,” he said.

He held onto her until she reached the wood plank sidewalk in front of the general store. He deposited two small pieces of luggage next to her. She hadn’t brought much in the way of clothing. She’d only intended to stay long enough to deliver some sad news and enjoy a short visit with her childhood friend.

“When will you come back through here?” she asked the driver.

“Three days,” he said. “Will I be picking you up?”

“Yes,” she said. “I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

He tipped his hat to her and climbed up to the driver’s seat.

Camille read the placard hanging from the awning of the storefront. Milton’s General Store, U.S. Post Office & Telegraph Office.

“Mr. Milton must be a jack-of-all-trades,” she said aloud.

“And a master of none,” a male voice sounded behind her.

She swung around to see a gray-haired gentleman wearing spectacles standing in the open doorway.

“Isn’t that how the saying is completed?” he asked. “Horace Milton at your service, ma’am.”

Her cheeks warmed. She hadn’t meant to insult Mr. Milton.

“I’m sure that the last part of the adage doesn’t apply to you,” she said.

He grinned from ear-to-ear.

“I hope you can help me find someone,” she said. “I’m looking for Jane Ford. Do you know her?”

Mr. Milton’s eye’s widened over the wire rim of his glasses. He pointed across the street.

You can find her over there,” he said.

Camille turned her head in the direction he’d indicated. A large sign above the double swinging doors read The Lucky Seven Saloon. Why would Jane be in a saloon? Jane’s family believed that she owned a dress shop, although a few minutes in Red Gorge had already cast doubt on that story.

“Does she work in the saloon?” Camille asked.

A cough preceded his answer. “She owns the place, ma’am.” He studied her face. “I take it from your expression that you weren’t aware of Jane’s occupation.”

She decided not to respond to Mr. Milton. Jane had been her friend since their first day of school, and she wouldn’t engage in idle talk about her with a stranger.

“Can you tell me if there’s a room available in the boarding house next door?”

“My wife doesn’t rent to ladies,” he said.

“I beg your pardon?”

Mr. Milton tucked his hands into his apron and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“Well, ma’am, I don’t know what you were expecting, but Red Gorge is a mining town. There aren’t many women here, and it wouldn’t be proper for you to stay in a rooming house full of men.”

Camille sighed. What had she been expecting? Mr. Milton’s observation was an understatement. Jane’s letters had painted an entirely different landscape from the reality of the location. She must have believed that none of her family or friends would ever venture this far out west.

“Perhaps, you’re right,” Camille said. “Where might I board for a few days?”

Mr. Milton cast a glance toward The Lucky Seven. “Jane has rooms above the saloon, but again, it’s not the place for a lady.”

“Are you insinuating that my friend isn’t a lady?” Of course, she hadn’t laid eyes on Jane in five years. Her character might not be what it once was.

Oh, no ma’am. I didn’t mean to insinuate anything,” he said. “But it’s a saloon.”

“I understand, Mr. Milton,” she said. “But if there’s no other alternative.”

“Rapid City has a real nice hotel—a brand new brick building,” he said. “You could hire a buggy and driver at the livery to take you there.”

She chewed the inside of her bottom lip but stopped herself. Her ex-husband had always chastised her for that nervous habit.

“How far away is Rapid City?”

“An hour’s ride by the Rapid Creek Road,” he said. “Logan Malloy owns the livery. You can tell him I sent you.”

Camille opened her reticule and found the length of chain attached to her silver watch. With the longer days of summer, there would be plenty of time to attend to lodging. She needed to deal with more important matters first.

“I think I’d better call on Jane now and decide on my accommodations later. May I leave my luggage here?”

“You may,” Horace said. “I’ll set these inside the store for you.”

She clutched her skirt and held it up high enough to slog across the street. Before entering the building, she stood on tiptoes to peek over the top of the saloon doors. A few men played cards at one of the rickety tables. A young man, who didn’t appear to be out of his teen years, swept the worn wooden floor. When she pushed through the doors and crossed the threshold, the men’s heads swiveled in her direction. However, her attention was drawn to a woman with curly red hair falling down over the black lace shawl draped around her shoulders. The woman busily removed liquor bottles from a crate. She set them on a shelf attached to the wall behind the makeshift bar—a pine plank laid flat across three large barrels.

“Jane?”

She blurted out her friend’s name almost as a question, but she would have known that fiery mane anywhere.

Jane’s posture straightened, and she spun toward the door. She stared at Camille for a moment before running from behind the bar with outstretched arms.

“Camille Canfield, as I live and breathe,” Jane said. “What are you doing in Red Gorge?”

“I came to see you, Jane.” She paused and nodded toward the men who were still gaping at them. “May we speak in private?”

Some of the color drained from Jane’s cheeks as if she sensed and expected bad news. She called to the young man who had been sweeping the floor. “Leroy, mind the bar for me. I’ll be in the kitchen with my friend.”

Jane led her through the rear door of the saloon onto a porch that formed a breezeway between the main building and the kitchen. The room contained a large wood-fed stove with a round flue pipe going out the top of the ceiling near the far wall. Jane used the hand pump next to the porcelain sink to draw a glass of water for Camille. She drank it down and let the fresh, cool liquid coat her parched throat. Jane poured herself a shot of whiskey from the bottle on the table in the middle of the room.

“You look wonderful Camille,” Jane said. “I would swear you weren’t a day over twenty.”

We both know that I’m closer to thirty,” she said. “And I look terrible. The trip out here isn’t an easy one. I’m covered in about five layers of soot and dust.”

After she removed her hat and laid it aside on the table, she tucked the lose strands of her light brown hair behind her ears. There was no sense putting off what she had to say.

“I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news,” she said.

Jane's face blanched. “Is it Ma?”

Camille swallowed the lump in her throat.

No, your mother is doing well—considering all things.” She paused and took another sip of water. “I’ve come about your sister.” Don’t beat around the bush, Camille. Say what you need to say. “She died in childbirth.”

It took Jane a moment to speak. Her voice trembled. “And the baby?”

“Dead, too. It was a girl.”

Jane sank into the chair next to Camille. Tears streamed down her cheeks, cutting a path through her heavy rouge like the parting of the Red Sea. Camille moved closer and put her arm around Jane’s shoulders. She didn’t try to placate her friend with all the usual comforting phrases people impart at such times. She allowed Jane her pain and tears.

“One night I woke up from a fitful sleep,” Jane said when she was able to speak. “I’d had a bad dream about Maggie. I’ve heard it said about twins that one feels what the other one feels. It made me think that something terrible had happened to her.”

Jane’s shoulder trembled in Camille’s grip.

“That’s why I had to come in person. I couldn’t let you read news like this in a telegram or a letter.”

“Ma must be beside herself with grief,” Jane said. “Maggie was her favorite.”

Camille settled against the chair and sipped from her water glass. She almost wished for a taste of the whiskey Jane gulped down.

“Your Ma is a strong woman. I remember how she kept going when she lost your pa and none of you were grown yet. I’ve always admired her for that.”

“She still has Josiah,” Jane said.

“But the old rhyme starts out, ‘Your son is your son ‘til he takes a wife’. Your ma don’t get along too well with Josiah’s wife.”

“That one thought she was better than us,” Jane said. “As if we were from the wrong side of Memphis, and she grew up in Buckingham Palace.” Jane tossed back another shot of whiskey. “Well, judging by the way my life has turned out, maybe she was right.”

“Oh, Jane, don’t say…”

Jane grasped one of Camille’s arms to interrupt her.

“Camille, you’re too kind, but I know what you’re thinking. Looking in those pretty blue eyes is like gazing into a crystal ball. You’re wondering why I lied in the letters I wrote, because this sure as heck isn't a dress shop.”

Camille took a moment to think before she spoke.

“I suppose that after you and Zeb parted ways, you were too proud to go home,” she said.

“You’d be right,” Jane said. “I didn’t want to listen to Ma say, ‘I told you he was no good’.”

“What exactly happened between the two of you?” Camille asked.

Jane picked up the glass and went to the sink to draw more water.

“Zeb always had a burr in his saddle. I’m sure that people say the same thing about me,” she said.

Camille held her tongue and didn’t utter what she was thinking.

“After we got to where we couldn’t stand one another’s company anymore, he took off for Colorado with another prospector. The truth is I had stashed away some money that Zeb didn’t know about, so he didn’t leave me penniless.”

“You always were smart,” Camille said.

Jane’s shoulders hitched up a notch, and she shook her head.

I wish that were true. I was working in a dress shop in Rapid City when Zeb left me, and I met a woman named Molly Douglas. She convinced me that we could earn a lot of money off of the miners here in Red Gorge. She proposed we put our money together and open The Lucky Seven. She and I agreed that I’d run the saloon, and she’d…well, she’d provide other services upstairs.”

Camille choked on the mouthful of water she’d been about to swallow. Jane returned to the table and sat facing her.

“I know it’s a shock,” she said. “That’s why I couldn’t tell you the truth. It’s not like it was something I could write in a letter.”

Jane, your ma would…she would die.”

Reaching across the table, Jane clasped one of Camille’s hands.

“But all that’s over with now. Molly got mixed up in some real bad doings—extortion and murder. She’s in prison serving a life sentence.”

Camille’s cheeks burned and her heart raced. “Sakes alive, Jane. If I had known any of this I wouldn’t have been able to sleep a wink at night for worrying about you.”

Jane met her gaze with those dark eyes that always resembled a sad, puppy dog.

I swear to you that I didn’t have anything to do with Molly’s part of the business. All I did was run the saloon. Drinks are the only thing being sold here since Molly was sent to prison.”

Camille’s sigh of relief sounded like air being released from a balloon. At once, she felt lightheaded. She’d envisioned her childhood playmate being hauled away to prison in chains.

“I believe you,” Camille said. “And I don’t think there’s any need right now to tell your family about this, so my lips are sealed.”

“Thank you, Camille.”

They were quiet for a moment while the dust of Jane’s revelations settled around them.

“With your former partner in prison, does that mean you own the whole business?” Camille asked.

A dark cloud passed over Jane’s features.

Not exactly,” she said. “Molly’s lawyer, Samuel Barnes, got her to assign her share in The Lucky Seven to him.”

“Does he bother you much?”

“Only when he comes by to collect his profits,” Jane said. She looked away and shook her head as if there was something else that she’d rather not say. “At least, he hasn’t tried to take the place from me. He cheated some of his other business partners out of real estate they owned over in Rapid City. Then, he sold it for a handsome profit.”

“He doesn’t sound like a very nice man,” Camille said.

Jane smirked. “Let’s just say that he has more enemies than friends in these parts.” She paused and rubbed her forehead. “So, you haven’t said a word about Matthew. Did he come with you?”

Camille smiled to herself. Jane hadn’t been the only one keeping secrets.

“No,” she said.

Jane’s eyes widened.

“Did he allow you to travel all the way from Tennessee by yourself?”

She searched for the right words to answer her friend, but there weren’t any right words. “As a matter of fact, Matthew and I are divorced,” she blurted out.

Jane slapped the table with open palms. “What did he do?”

A few months ago, she would’ve cried when she told the story. With the passage of time, it had become easier to talk about it.

“Matthew was in love with someone else,” she said. “After his boss at the bank passed away, I found out that he’d been carrying on an affair with the man’s widow.”

“For how long?”

Even before Matthew married me, they were having relations. He only went through with our wedding, because she’d refused to divorce her husband. Of course, that all changed when the man died, and she received a sizeable inheritance. Matthew left me without so much as a by-your-leave, and someone told me that they went to San Francisco.”

Jane scowled. “What a horse’s ass. At least you didn’t have any children with him.”

She might’ve been taken aback by her friend’s colorful language, but Camille let it pass. She’d thought of worse words to call Matthew, even if she hadn’t said them aloud.

“I’m glad of that, too. At least, it wasn’t difficult to obtain a divorce since he abandoned our marriage.”

“How are you supporting yourself?”

“The headmistress at my old school offered me a position in the music department, so I taught up until the summer recess. I’m mulling over whether to continue, though. I never saw myself as a teacher.”

“What do you want to do?”

At this point, what I want doesn’t matter. I have to do what’s necessary.” She stood up and stretched her taut muscles. “Speaking of that, I need to go make arrangements for overnight lodgings.”

“No, you don’t,” Jane said. “You’ll stay here with me. I have empty rooms upstairs. Sally Judson is my only boarder right now. She plays the piano and sings for my customers in the evenings.”

Camille studied the notion. She didn’t relish the thought of rooming above a saloon. She imagined that it would be difficult to sleep with the noise from below if she decided to turn in early. Still, it sounded like a better idea than traveling an hour by buggy to another town.

“I accept your kind offer,” she said. “I’ll go collect my baggage. I left it in the care of Mr. Milton at the general store.”

Jane wrapped her arm around Camille’s.

“I’ll walk with you.”

As they made their way across the street, Camille caught sight of a man exiting the general store. A silver badge on his dark vest glistened in the afternoon sun. He removed his hat to reveal thick, brown hair. He nodded and continued down sidewalk without speaking.

“That’s our new sheriff, Jack Findley,” Jane said. “He could’ve introduced himself if he was a gentleman.”

“You don’t care for him,” Camille said.

“Oh, he’s high and mighty now.” She leaned closer to Camille’s ear and whispered, “But I remember when he used to keep a regular appointment with one of Molly’s girls.”

Camille glanced over her shoulder at Sheriff Findley’s back as he sauntered away. All men are hound dogs at heart no matter how dressed up they get. It will be a long time before I become involved with another one.


Rowdy conversation and piano music permeated the floorboards beneath Camille’s bed causing sleep to elude her. She turned onto her side and folded the other half of the pillow over her ear to drown out the cacophony. Perhaps it would have been better if she’d hired a driver to take her to the hotel in Rapid City. She closed her eyes and tried not to think about what goings on had taken place in the bed she now occupied. Jane’s family should never be told any of that, she thought. They worried enough about her without learning the truth of her circumstances in Red Gorge.

At least, Jane was no longer involved with bad company. How had she let herself get tangled up with a murderess? Jane had always been wily when it came to character—with the exception of Zeb, a hardheaded cuss who could aggravate the devil himself. Combined with Jane’s red-haired temper, they’d been a volatile couple. No one could fathom what had kept the two of them together since they were young teenagers.

Along with those thoughts, lingering regrets about her failed marriage entered her mind. Would she ever stop feeling like the biggest fool in the world? I should have been able to see that he didn’t love me. Why was it easier to pick up the clues in hindsight? She rolled over onto her other side and became aware that the noise beneath her room had died down. She took deep breaths, closed her eyes, and counted imaginary sheep. One, two, three, four…


A door slammed. Camille shot up in bed. There was only silence. Maybe I was dreaming. She settled back onto the bed. Her head had barely touched the pillow when she heard Jane’s voice saying, “No, you’re drunk.” She swung her feet over the side of the bed and sat up. Some kind of commotion had broken out downstairs. Again, Jane yelled, “No…Don’t…Please.” Is someone trying to hurt Jane?

Camille felt around for the matches on her nightstand and lit the lamp. Another cry from Jane pierced the quiet as Camille got into her dressing gown. She struck a second match to the light the candle on her dresser and opened her reticule. She’d purchased a Remington derringer for protection during the long trip out west. She loaded the gun and held it in her right hand while carrying the candlestick in her left.

The candle cast a sliver of light in the darkened hallway. She crept forward. A crash, like the sound of breaking glass, came from the bottom of the stairs. Camille raced down, brandishing her weapon. A man had Jane pinned against the bar. He held her wrists on either side of her body. Her gown had been torn off of one shoulder. Camille took aim.

“Let her go,” she said.

The man twisted his head in her direction and leered at her. He had well-groomed dark hair streaked with gray at his temples and was dressed in the type of suit worn by men of substance. She stared him in the eyes and cocked the hammer.

Let her go, or I will shoot,” she said.

He released his grip on Jane’s wrists and backed away. Jane pulled up her gown to cover herself.

“Camille, please put the gun down,” Jane begged. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

I know that when a man tries to take liberties with a lady, and she says ‘no’, a gentleman should respect her wishes.”

The man snickered in a way that turned Camille’s stomach.

I’d hardly call Jane a lady,” he said.

And I only called you a gentleman as a figure of speech,” Camille said.

When he picked up his hat from the table near the door, Camille noticed a gold band on the third finger of his left hand. He’s married. All of her ill feelings toward Matthew and his mistress surfaced. If her better judgment hadn’t taken over, she might have been tempted to wound him in a delicate part of his body.

“Listen to Jane and put the gun away, ma’am,” he said. “Matters between me and Jane are none of your concern.”

“I was awakened by what sounded like my friend being attacked,” Camille said. “I hardly believe that it isn’t my concern.”

Jane picked up her discarded shawl from the floor and tied it around her shoulders.

“You misunderstood what was going on,” Jane said.

Camille eased the gun’s hammer into place and lowered the weapon to her side.

“I’ll forget this happened,” the man said. “And won’t press attempted murder charges with the sheriff.”

Attempted murder? I thought you were attempting to rape my friend.”

He chuckled as if it were all a joke. “Well, that would be your word against mine…and Jane’s, of course.”

Nausea gripped the pit of her stomach. She had no acquaintance with this man, and yet, she hated him. Yes, hate was a strong word, and an emotion that a well-brought-up lady should suppress. Still…his cold eyes and cocky self-assurance repulsed her. He presented himself as the kind of man who took whatever he wanted by any means necessary.

“I’ll deal with you later,” he said to Jane. “Tell your friend here that she should be more careful about who she threatens with a gun.”

I can assure you that I’m not frightened of you—whoever you are,” Camille said.

He strutted past her, and she watched him until he had closed the door firmly behind him.

“Attempted murder, he said. I’m surprised someone hasn’t murdered him already.”

Jane shuddered as if she’d been frightened. “Oh, Camille, I wish you hadn’t done that.”

Hadn’t done what? Stopped you from being molested by that cad?”

That cad was my business partner. You remember me telling you about Samuel Barnes. You don’t know that man and what he’s capable of doing.”

Camille swallowed the bile rising in her throat. “Jane? What happened here? Are you…?” She paused and studied her friend’s face. Jane could never fool her. “Is there something untoward going on between the two of you?”

Jane closed her eyes and shook her head. “Untoward,” she said echoing her friend. “Camille, go home to Memphis. You don’t belong out here.”

“Then, you are…”

“Doing what I have to do to survive,” Jane said.

For a moment, silence hung between them as thick as morning fog on the Mississippi River back home.

You can go home with me, Jane. When the stage comes through day after tomorrow, close this place up and leave with me.”

“No.” Her answer came back sharp and clear. “I can’t…I won’t go home.”

“Jane, please, your Ma loves you. Your family loves you. If they knew…”

“They wouldn’t know me now, and neither do you.”

“How can you say that?”

Jane extinguished the lamp behind the bar leaving only Camille’s candle to light the stairs.

“It was nice of you to come here to tell me about Maggie,” Jane said. “But I think you should go home.”

Camille noticed Jane’s tear-stained cheeks as she hurried past her and made her way upstairs. She had the urge to run after her. However, an overwhelming sense of disbelief kept her glued to the spot where she stood. She had to get Jane out of her current situation before she left Red Gorge.




Chapter 2



WHEN CAMILLE OPENED her eyes, only a small amount of daylight shown through the lace curtains covering her window. A rooster crowed somewhere nearby. She’d been restless all night and hadn’t slept much. The rooster let loose with another chorus as the sun grew brighter and cast its rays across her bed. She hoisted herself into an upright position. What am I going to do? What should I do? First things first. She stood up and grabbed her green, silk dressing gown from the bedpost. Her grandmother had made the garment for her as part of her trousseau. Even though the marriage had gone by the wayside, she still treasured her grandma’s handiwork.

She retrieved her toiletry case from her luggage and stepped out into the hallway. Jane’s bedroom door stood ajar. She knocked first; then peeked inside. She saw Jane’s empty brass bed. She must have risen before dawn, but I didn’t hear her stirring. Camille trotted downstairs to the saloon.

“Jane,” she called out.

She received no answer. She went to the door behind the bar. The previous day, she’d seen Jane tote a crate of whiskey from the room and marveled at her friend’s strength. She jiggled the handle but the door didn’t give. It’s locked, so she’s not in there. She went out to the kitchen and saw a strange woman standing at the stove. Her long blonde hair was tied back at the nape of her neck with a satin ribbon.

“Is Jane about the place?” Camille asked.

“Yes, she’s in the bath house,” the woman answered. “Would you like some breakfast?”

“Thank you that would be nice. My name is Camille, by the way.”

The woman turned from the stove and smiled. She had a sweet cherubic face, but her eyes seemed sad and far away.

“And I’m Sally,” she said.

“Oh, you were playing the piano and singing last night,” Camille said. “You have a lovely voice.”

“Thank you. It’s work and a roof over my head,” she said.

“What brought you to Red Gorge?” Camille asked.

My husband caught what they call gold fever,” she said.

“I’ve heard people speak of it. So you’re married?”

“No, I’m afraid that the gold fever killed my husband,” Sally said. “A mine shaft collapsed, and I’d rather not talk about it. It’s too painful.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Camille said.

“Jane was kind enough to give me a job,” she said. “I was glad because the saloons in Deadwood and Rapid City expected me to perform in a way that wasn’t proper for a widow. Jane is a good person no matter what some people might say about her.”

Camille nodded. “I can attest to that. She’s been my friend since we were small children. Did she happen to say anything about me this morning?” Camille asked—not that she expected Jane to talk freely about the altercation with Mr. Barnes.

“No,” Sally said. “She scarcely said good morning. She went straight out to the bathhouse.”

“Did you hear anything unusual last night after you went to bed?” Camille asked.

Sally hesitated before answering. “No, nothing unusual.”

Camille didn’t care for the emphasis Sally put on the word unusual. So Mr. Barnes’ late night visits are a regular occurrence. She didn’t get the chance to question Sally further. Jane strolled in the back door.

“Good morning, Camille,” she said.

An icy chill ran down Camille’s spine. She didn’t need a circus fortuneteller to ascertain Jane’s thoughts. Jane went to the stove and poured a cup of coffee from the pot Sally had brewed.

“Would you like some coffee, Camille?”

“I’ll get coffee and breakfast after I’ve washed up,” she said. “Please don’t go anywhere until I come back. I’d like to speak with you.”

Jane didn’t look at her. “Don’t take too long,” she said. “I have a shipment of whiskey coming in this morning, so I’ll be busy.”

Camille excused herself and walked the short distance to the bathhouse. She hurried through her morning necessities in order to have time to speak with Jane. Despite Jane’s wishes, she couldn’t let what had happened with Samuel Barnes go. As she gathered her toiletries into the case, she saw Jane’s ring on the shelf. She’d noticed it the previous day but hadn’t mentioned it. She picked it up and studied the unusual design. The setting had been created to resemble a blooming rose. Rubies had always been Jane’s favorite gemstone.

When she returned to the kitchen, Sally had gone, but she’d left the biscuits and gravy warming on the stove. Camille poured a cup of coffee and placed small portions of food on her plate. Jane didn’t make eye contact with her when she sat down across from her at the table. They ate in silence for a few minutes, while Camille thought of the best way to express what was on her mind.

“I understand that you’re angry with me, Jane,” Camille said. “But you might as well know that I’m not going to apologize for what happened last night.”

Jane glared at her. “You charged downstairs, waving a gun around, and threatened to shoot my business partner. I think you should apologize.”

Camille lifted her eyes from her plate. “I woke up in the middle of the night and heard you screaming. I thought that man was raping you,” Camille said. “Did you think I would just lie in my bed and do nothing?”

“I wasn’t screaming, and I wasn’t being raped,” Jane said.

“That’s not the way I saw it.”

Jane stood and took her empty plate to the sink. How can she be so nonchalant about this?

“Sam gets a little rough when he’s been drinking,” Jane said. “That’s all it was.”

Camille laid down her fork and pushed her plate away as the realization of what Jane was trying to tell her took hold.

“I noticed that he was wearing the kind of ring married men wear,” Camille said.

Jane spun around. “Yes, he’s married.”

The pit of Camille’s stomach burned. She couldn’t suppress the memories that Jane’s admission brought to the surface of her conscious mind. When she’d finally discovered the truth about Matthew, it had been as if the floor had fallen out from underneath her. At first, she’d tried to keep it to herself—to go on as if she knew nothing; then he’d disappeared. He’d gone to work one morning and never came home. For days, she’d walked around with no idea of what to say or do. What if people thought she’d been a bad wife, and she’d driven him away? She needn’t have worried, because everyone, it seemed, had known what was going on long before she had. That realization had caused her a different sense of shame—shame that she’d been such an idiot.

“I can tell you want to say something,” Jane said. “Go ahead and say it.”

She sipped her coffee to wash down the bad taste in her throat.

“Does his wife know about his visits with you?”

“She doesn’t care,” Jane said. “They’re only together for financial reasons.”

Really, Jane? Gullible was never a word I would have used to describe you.”

“It may sound that way,” she said. “But what I told you is true. They don’t even sleep in the same bedroom.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because, he…”

Camille finished Jane’s sentence. “Because he told you.”

“It’s not a secret to anyone,” Jane said. “She owns a gold mine near Deadwood and some buildings in Rapid City. She owns the dress shop where I used to work.”

“So he married her for her money,” Camille said.

“Not exactly. Sam has plenty of money, too,” Jane said. “There’s a lot more to it.”

Is it something illegal? Are they in cahoots? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

Jane slammed her fist against the table. Camille jumped.

Alright,” Jane said. “There was some legal trouble, and they got married to get around it.”

Camille buried her face in her hands. “Oh, Lord have mercy. I knew he was a bad man from what you said yesterday, and I got the impression that you thought he was bad, too.”

“I never said he was bad,” Jane said. “I just said he had some enemies because of his shrewd business dealings.”

You said that he cheated his partners. I wouldn’t call that shrewd. I’d call it underhanded.”

It didn’t have anything to do with me,” Jane said. “Or my business dealings with Samuel. It’s not as if I’m in love with him or hope to be his wife someday.”

It took Camille a moment to find her voice.

“I guess you were right last night when you said that I don’t know you anymore,” she said. “Because the friend who left Memphis five years ago would never have allowed a man—not even Zeb—to treat her so disrespectfully.”

Jane turned to the sink and poured hot water from the stove into the dishpan.

Camille, I love you, but you need to go home. Tell everyone I’m fine. I’m doing just fine.”

“I can’t go home yet. The stage won’t be through here again until tomorrow.”

“Then you can stay one more day, but I forbid any more talk of this.” She finished washing her dishes and sauntered toward the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go upstairs and get dressed before the delivery wagon arrives.”

“Yes, I think I’ll do the same,” Camille said. “I might hire a driver to take me over to Rapid City. Mr. Milton said that I could hire a buggy driver at the livery.”

Jane’s shoulders slumped, and she let out a loud sigh.

Camille, don’t go to Rapid City and poke around in Samuel Barnes’ business. He wasn’t making idle threats last night. He can make your life difficult.”

I’m not going to poke around in anything. I simply wanted to get out and explore the area today, and I need a new petticoat. I tore my good one getting off the stage at one of the way stations between here and Yankton. Since Red Gorge doesn’t have a dress shop…” She stopped. From the expression on Jane’s face, she’d touched a sore spot.

“I apologize for jumping to conclusions,” Jane said. “Go and have a good time.”

“Jane, please, we’ve been friends for too long. I don’t want to go home with this bad business between us. Why don’t you go with me to Rapid City? I’ll even treat you to a nice mid-day meal.”

Jane shook her head. “I can’t. I told you that I have work here that needs to be done.”

It was on the tip of Camille’s tongue to ask if work had anything to do with Samuel Barnes, but she kept quiet.

“Very well,” Camille said. “I’ll be back later this afternoon, and I hope that we’ll be able to spend some time this evening in more cordial conversation.” Camille reached into the pocket of her robe and took out Jane’s ring. “I almost forgot. You left your ring in the bathhouse.”

“Oh, I’m glad you found it,” Jane said. She took it from Camille and slid it onto her finger. “That ring must have cost him a fortune. He’d kill me if I lost it.”

“A gift from Samuel?”

Jane didn’t answer her. She left Camille alone to finish her breakfast. She picked up the fork and attempted to swallow the last few bites of biscuits and gravy. She knew that her lack of appetite had less to do with Jane’s involvement with Samuel Barnes and more to do with her unresolved anger toward Matthew. She hadn’t forgiven or forgotten what he’d done to her and perhaps she never would. Now, she’d learned that her childhood friend, who was practically a sister to her, had become involved with a married man and felt no shame about it.

She had taken her plate and cup to the sink when Sally returned to the kitchen to get her breakfast.

“Jane had asked me to give you two a few minutes alone,” Sally said. “But I overheard part of what you said. You’re right. Samuel Barnes is a very bad man, and I hope that Jane doesn’t come to any harm because of him.”

“Are you acquainted with Mr. Barnes, Sally?”

Sally’s chin dropped. “Not acquainted, but I’ve heard of him. People say he’ll do anything to get his way.”

Well, that doesn’t make me feel any better. Camille dried her dishes and placed them on the shelf.

“I’ll leave you to your breakfast then,” Camille said.

As she climbed the stairs to go to her room, Sally’s words had her more worried than ever. However, Jane had made it clear that her interference wasn’t needed or welcomed.


Camille left through the front door of The Lucky Seven to walk the short distance to the livery. Across the street, she saw Mr. Milton in front of his store engaged in conversation with another man she remembered from the previous day—Sheriff Findley. His hands rested on his hips pushing his dark suit jacket open across his broad chest. He cut a fine figure of a man, to be sure. When he gazed in her direction, she averted her attention to the path in front of her. For some reason, the man unnerved her a little bit.

The odor of horse manure assaulted Camille’s nostrils when she entered the livery. Looking around, she saw a few horses in stalls. But where is Mr. Malloy?

“Mr. Malloy,” she called out.

A tall, lanky man poked his head up above a horse’s back.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

She lifted her burgundy skirt and stepped gingerly over the hay-covered floor toward the voice that had called out to her.

“Mr. Milton said that I might hire a buggy from you and a driver to take me to Rapid City,” she said.

He came around the side of the stall partition and approached her. “Yes, ma’am, I could take you any day but today. My liveryman is away, and I’m here by myself.”


Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-23 show above.)