_Foreword: The first profitable mass literature in America arrived in 1860 when the dime novel (AKA Penny Dreadfuls in England) appeared.. With America's and indeed much of the world's attention focused on the Wild, Wild West, and the Civil War, these cheap books became a sensation very quickly. Popular authors were Buntline, Ellis, Ingraham and Wheeler. With authors trying to sell more books the stories were often wildly exaggerated. One has to wonder how many men or families decided to migrate westward based on what they'd read in one of these books. (Src Wikipedia)
Six hundred and forty acres located twenty miles out of town sounded just right, so with almost all our money tied up in land we headed for our new home. Like all the Wild West characters I'd read so much about, I just knew adventure and a pot of gold waited for us over the next hill.
Jake was sitting on the bench in front of the hotel, legs stretched out fanning himself with his hat in the hot sunshine. On the wooden boardwalk next to him the hotel dog snoozed, whimpering and jerking occasionally over some vivid doggy dream. Maybe he was chasing rabbits and Jake hoped he'd catch a nice fat juicy one.
The range war had sputtered and died without ever really taking off, but old man Smith still worried. He put Jake and the other two hired guns on half pay, giving them time off instead. By rotating them it meant there were always two of them on the ranch. There were always Indian raiding parties and outlaws to worry about and the ranch was a rich target. But that left Jake with more than double the pay of an ordinary cowpoke and almost two weeks off every month to do whatever he wanted. Personally he thought old man Smith was a fool, but he was rich and it was such an easy berth he'd be nuts to argue with him.
He had a reputation as a blazing fast draw. Other ranchers were always offering him large, almost obscene amounts of money to bring his guns to their festering hot spot. Truth was he hated killing and found himself declining the offers. He'd been forced into shooting bad people more times than he cared to think about, but that was the way of the West. With vast swaths of the country still lawless, there were varmints that would steal anything they could and kill anybody that got in their way. Then there were men like him. He liked to think of himself as a good guy. Someone that offered protection to the weak and vulnerable. For a price. A very profitable price he grinned to himself.
The increasingly hot sun was getting to him and feeling somewhat less stuffed after the huge breakfast he'd just eaten, he got to his feet. Maybe he'd mosey on over to Lincoln's office and make him an offer on the property. He could always sell it later if he decided to do something else.
"Ma'am," he swept his hat down respectfully, "I'm Jake and you are Miss...?"
"I'm Emily," she answered Jake offhandedly, her horrified eyes tracking her husband's attempts to recover before falling. She pushed a knuckle into her mouth in her distress over the young man's pratfall.
Jake realized he'd stepped in his own pile of shit. This was not a good way to introduce himself. Maybe he was her brother or a cousin, "let me help Ma'am. It's my fault, I shouldn't have pushed him when he bumped into me."
He looked across the street, there was Myrtle's Millinery, John's Bath House and a Molly's Restaurant all in a row. Could it have worked out any better?
"We can't afford that Jake," Emily piped up.
Jake grabbed one of the young boys walking by, tossing him a dollar.
"Sure Jake," his eyes wide with disbelief staring at a whole dollar. So much money, he'd never had that much in his life all at once.
With Michael taken care of, Emily wandered inside the store looking around at all the clothes, hats and shoes. Jake leaned into Myrtle and whispered a request for her to take her time altering the new clothes for Michael. He'd pay double if she would delay finishing. Myrtle gave him a strange look, but money was money. She was agreeable.
Jake caught her quiet whisper to herself, "it's beautiful."
"I couldn't possibly afford it," she admitted. Myrtle hustled up eager for more business and overheard her.
"But I can't..."
With Emily busy Jake hustled next door and quickly paid for the bath, paying extra if they could make it a really long bath. He went to Michael's private room and knocked.
The reply was slow in coming before Michael responded, "that'd be right nice of you Jake. Thank you for all this. Please take good care of my wife."
Jumping Jehoshaphat, she was married to that mouse? Well that made the whole game that much more interesting. Emily wouldn't be the first married woman he'd helped to become a fallen woman. Gun fighting men and their pistols were irresistible to some women.
"Is there a hat and boots to go with that dress?" Jake whispered to Myrtle. She nodded enthusiastically.
Myrtle was handing the boots and hat through the door lickety-split, then disappeared inside. Jake suspected she was helping Emily button the dress and lace the boots.
Emily walked out and Jake's heart stopped. She was gorgeous and the dress looked like it had been custom made for her. She was tiny, maybe five foot two. Large cornflower blue eyes with long lashes stared out at him from under the hat with shoulder length blond ringlets hanging down. Her breasts were just the right size, soft melons resting on her chest. Although he couldn't see her legs the tiny size of the boot told him they were perfect. Her ass looked perfect too, the barely-there bustle on the dress emphasizing the curvature of those globes.
"I can't affor..."
"I've seen a couple of women try it on, but you young lady, that dress is you."
Jake held up his hand, "no arguments. We'll take it. I'll gladly pay to make up for my bad behaviour today."
Jake put his finger to her lip watching her eyes open in shock at a stranger taking the liberty of touching her, "no, just no. You're stunning in it and Michael is going to love it. Speaking of which he suggested I escort you to Molly's Restaurant next door and buy lunch. It's going to be a considerable wait before Myrtle finishes his clothes and the town needs to see this lovely vision in her new dress. This old cowpoke will be swelling up with pride to be able to escort such a pretty lady to lunch."
"Better give me two hours Jake, that's a lot of work," she said winking at him.
Emily was conflicted and confused. He was doing nothing terribly improper and yet...
Emily couldn't help strutting a bit in her new finery, arms linked with this handsome cowboy. He was good looking, at least six feet tall, dark hair and a muscular looking body. So different from her Michael. Jake looked tanned and fit, Michael looked sickly, sunken chest and white as a corpse, or at least what she imagined a corpse would be. She'd never seen one!
Unexpectedly, she had a brief taboo vision of Jake making love to her. Something told her that he wouldn't simper like Michael, no, he would lustily take her and make her body sing with desire and need, just like those wicked dime romance novels talked about. The ones the ladies passed around quietly so their husbands never saw them. She felt her lady bits moisten at the thought and blushed slightly at her impure thoughts.
He was so gallant and polite, taking more than full responsibility for putting Michael in that pile of horseshit. Out of nowhere came a small snicker, her thinking of the shocked look on Michael's face sitting in that pile of crap.
For the first time in his life Jake found himself looking around the town and not liking what he saw. A haze of dust hung in the hot air over the street churned up by all the wagons and horses trotting back and forth until the soil was like the finest flour. The slightest wind sent it flying. The pungent stench of horse crap lying in the street assaulted his nose despite the fact he'd been around horses and cows all his life.
He'd had women before, but for the first time things were different, he felt different. This was a gorgeous lady in her finery and she deserved better.
Charlie stared at Jake as if he'd grown horns, but went and fetched some clean menus for them. She started to ask Jake why he was back again so soon after breakfast, but a shake of his head quieted her.
Jake could see she was hungry and wondered when was the last time she'd eaten. He knew that look, he'd been there himself over the years. His circumstances hadn't all been as good as things were now.
"Yes, we bought a ranch twenty miles south of here."
"Yes, how did you know?"
She got excited, "I'd like that," then realizing she'd left out her husband added, "Michael would too."
"That's so much food."
They ordered and Jake whispered something into Charlie's ear.
"Oh no, I couldn..."
Caught flatfooted she couldn't refuse that toast lifting her glass and taking it in one shot like Jake did. With her stomach empty it almost came right back up, but finally found a home settling in and warming her belly. She'd never had alcohol before.
All characters are legal age._
Me and Emily got hitched before we headed west. I'd been reading my dime novels since I was eight years old and I knew the west like the back of my hand. My parents died of flu one winter so we married, sold Ma and Pa's farm and purchased a ranch in Colorado, sight unseen. The seller's letters assured me it was fertile and profitable.
Watching the townspeople go about their business he was feeling good about life. He'd spent the last three years hiring his guns out at the Smith ranch. Range wars had been brewing all over Colorado and old man Smith wanted protection. He had been paying an unbelievable one hundred fifty a month plus found for the last three years. With little to spend it on, Jake had banked almost all of it.
During his time off he'd sashay into town, play a little poker, hump a saloon gal or two and relax. Maybe head out fishing or hunting once in a while. The wanderlust that plagued him in his early years seemed to be dying and he was starting to think in terms of settling down. He just needed the right woman. A little spread somewhere, a few cattle and children. Someone to carry his name.
With close to $6000 in the bank he had enough money to retire. Maybe he'd spring for that little homestead and run a few cattle and horses to make money. Ranches were going for between $200 - $500 depending on the amount of land, water and fertility. He'd recently looked at a fairly nice place about twenty miles out of town, but someone back east had scooped it up before he got a chance. Still the place beside it was for sale. It was good land with water and lumber, perfect for building a ranch. Better yet, the two original homesteading parties had built their cabins right on the property line within a hundred feet of each other. He liked that idea. Just enough separation to be private, but close enough for company or common defence if they got attacked.
The hotel door beside him pushed open and the most breathtaking woman he'd ever seen stepped right into his path on the boardwalk, almost bumping into him. He automatically reached for his hat. Thank God he'd paid for a bath last night and put on fresh clothes this morning.
The door flew open again and a slight young man stumbled out, lost his balance and smacked into Jake. Being used to drunks bumping into him in the saloon Jake simply pushed him away without looking. With his attention on the lady he failed to notice the young man hit the edge of the boardwalk. His arms wildly windmilled trying to catch his balance before falling backwards on the street, straight into a pile of fresh horseshit.
"Oh Michael, your only clothes," she moaned, moving to help him.
Lifting a stunned Michael up it was apparent there was no way to brush him off. The backside of his pants and shirt were smeared with shit. Inspiration hit Jake like a ton of bricks.
"There's a Millinery Store over there. Let's get you in and get you some clothes while these get cleaned."
"It's my fault Ma'am, I wouldn't dream of letting you pay."
"Can you go to the bathhouse and tell them to start preparing a bath. As soon as we get this young man fitted for new clothes he'll be over there. Then come back I'll have these clothes for you to take to the Chinaman for laundering."
Myrtle's made Michael undress out back, took his measurements, then sent him over to the bathhouse in his drawers. The boy showed back up again, his grin almost reaching his ears when Jake flipped him another dollar to take the dirty clothes for laundering.
Emily was staring at a gorgeous looking dress hanging on a rack her fingers fondling the soft cotton twill fabric.
"Why don't you try it on?" Jake encouraged her.
"It's only $3.50," Myrtle grabbed the dress and Emily's hand, tugging her over to a fitting room.
"Just try it on," Myrtle was on fire. This was going to be a profitable day. Get the customer into the dress and it was sold. She'd seen the expression on Emily's face.
"Michael, if it wouldn't offend you it's going to take a while before your bath is finished and your clothes are ready. May I offer to escort Emily to Molly's Restaurant next door and buy her lunch to help make up for my rudeness?"
Back over in the Millinery Emily was still in the dressing room.
"Just tell her they come with the dress and I'll pay," watching Myrtle take off like a rattlesnake scared stallion eager to please. She loved the smell of dollars.
Millie emerged again and swept her arms toward the dressing room as if saying, get ready, here she comes!
Emily wasn't stupid, she'd seen enough men stare at her to know what they were thinking. She could see the gaping expression on Jake's face and realized she must look stunning in the dress. That secretly pleased her, but they couldn't possibly afford the purchase.
"Nonsense," Jake announced. "That dress was made for her wasn't it Myrtle?"
He took her arm and wrapped it through his, "we'll be back in an hour or so Myrtle."
He picked up a pair of white gloves on their way out waving them at Myrtle who almost had an orgasm thinking of the money Jake was spending. Jake took Emily's unresisting hand and put the gloves on. Even when he pulled off her wedding ring so the glove wouldn't tear and opened her purse to drop them in, Emily said not a word. Those gorgeous cornflower blue eyes stared up at him in awe.
Her mind couldn't quite seem to go there!
She hoped that living out here would help Michael to mature into a manly man like this dangerous looking cowpoke escorting her. She couldn't get over the feeling of that gun rubbing against her hip. She heard stories of men armed like this, but that seemed like a fantasy. Yet she couldn't deny there was one as big as life, walking right beside her! Did he ever use that gun she wondered? Had he killed with it? A delicate little shudder ran through her at that thought.
Men tipped their hats to Jake and women looked at her with envy, admiring her new clothes. Obviously he was an important man here and treated with respect. Her chin lifted perceptibly, proud to be seen with him.
Jake looked down at her smiling as if he knew what she was thinking and she felt herself blushing again.
He found himself not liking walking there. Everything had a coat of dust lying on it and the thought of her new white gloves touching anything made him want to protect her. It must play havoc for women to dress nicely like Emily. Perhaps make it impossible to stay clean for long.
Despite Molly's being busy Jake got immediate service. Charlene, known to all as Charlie, put menus in front of them. Jake took one look at the fly speckled paper and demanded new ones. Clean ones.
Taking her new gloves off Emily chose, "perhaps a child's portion of the stew."
"Are you and Michael going to live here?" he asked.
"The Wilson place?"
"I was looking to buy it, but the land agent told me some Easterners put up the money and bought it first."
"Don't be, the land adjoining you is for sale and I was planning on buying that this afternoon. We'll be neighbours, I'd like that."
"Well if you're going to be living here try the steak. Cook does a wonderful job of that. The stew is good, but the steak is so much better"
He shrugged, "eat what you can."
She came back with some good quality whiskey, filling two shot glasses before setting the bottle down.
Jake ignored her protestations lifting his glass, "to new friends and neighbours."
While they waited for the food the alcohol worked it's way into her body making her giggly.