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Brassy Belle's Breakout! Texas Shady Ladies Trilogy #1
by Dana Filler Rust
Coming veiled from buying feathers at Yellow Rose, Texas's millinery shop, Brassy Belle Bonner ran smack into Virgil Villayne locking eyes with Idie Claire --, the banker's daughter - or trying to. It's hard to lock eyes with a girl who keeps fluttering her lashes.
Belle grimaced. "Idie, you goose!" Belle could not pass without getting tobacco juice on the shoes reserved for trips outside Fancy's bordello, so she waited and watched from behind her veil. Idie Claire was holding up a strip of pink dimity. "That will be on my basket's handle!"
Virgil stopped trying to lock eyes long enough to study the fabric. "Pink. Sugar-sweet, just like you, Miss Idie Claire. I'll bid on that at the picnic." This drew a titter from Idie Claire that disgusted Belle. Meanwhile Virgil continued, "I do hope that half-breed, Creed Clayborn, won't sully the occasion, even if he can afford to contribute to the school-building fund."
"Oh, yes, I agree, Mr. Villayne! How distasteful!" Idie Claire trembled and gave a tremulous titter. "And don't let those fallen women taint the picnic auction either!"
"Oh, Miss Idie Claire, those unwomanly women wouldn't dream of coming!"
"Really? Well, we'll just see if none of the doves gives to the school fund or spoils your precious picnic!"
Virgil bade Idie Claire farewell and crossed the street. Belle meant to walk away too. But a breeze lifted her veil, and she found herself staring into Idie Claire's bluebonnet eyes. Idie Claire grimaced, but she threw the dimity strip at Belle. "Here. You take this rag. Don't you dare tell Virgie, but I'm going to catch Creed for a fling at the picnic with a scarlet bow."
"A fling? Virgie? Ugh! I never see him anymore. Miss Fancy thinks he's too lowdown for her establishment. He visits Maggie's Men's Readin' Parlor - to 'read'."
Idie Claire declared, "A bachelor must see to his needs, but he'll stop the minute we're married."
"If you want Virgil so bad, why'd you tell him you was putting that dimity on your basket, if you ain't going to? He won't know to bid on yours."
"None of your business."
"But-" How'd she know about my and Creed's plans for the picnic? Already, though, the spoiled girl had swirled away so quick her pink-flowered skirt's bustle trembled as she hurried away up Rose Hill.
"Well, if that don't beat all - and little chance to warn Creed, with him off sellin' horses 'til Saturday! Drat that spoiled girl for upsetting my plans!" Creed was Belle's one hope for getting out of what she had always hoped would be a temporary refuge from marrying Virgil, who would trap his wife at home and expect her to be his private harlot while visiting the one of Yellow Rose's two brothels that would take him. Miss Fancy's had kept her safe from harassment by her parents, who had urged her to marry Virgil for his money, gained through land speculation, "to keep your poor parents that you owe so much to out o' the poorhouse." Ma and Pa had done nothing to keep themselves out of the poorhouse, so Belle felt no obligation to them. Nor had she thought her chances of catching clap or syphilis any worse in a brothel than in Virgil's home, so when her folks had screeched a whole evening at her for turning him down for the third time - never asking themselves why he sought a poor bride - Belle had run off to Miss Fancy's. Rumors around town had told even the youngest residents that Virgil was unwelcome there.
After standing on the sidewalk fuming for a few minutes, Belle caught a kind, pitying look from the Baptist minister. She disliked pity, even from a man like Reverend Real. As she hurried away, she hatched a big-fat-hen-of-a-plan. She'd send Creed a note.
* * *
What a stir shook Yellow Rose's townspeople when both the newest soiled dove and Creed Clayborn, son of a Scotch-Irishman and a Comanche woman, arrived at the picnic. The town's surprise was equaled, however, by that of Virgil Villayne when the pink-bowed basket he won was Belle's, and Creed Clayborn carried off Idie Claire's. Fury left him tremulous, but then his face melted into a smile. He declared, "I cannot believe Miss Idie Claire misled me, but let's eat!"
As Belle - and likely Idie Claire - expected, Virgil chose a shade tree within plain view of where Creed threw down Idie Claire's pink tablecloth. Sitting down, Virgil took the sandwich that Belle passed him, as he stared at Idie Claire listening to Creed saying something. Rather, Virgil stared at Idie Claire's Texas-sized bustle, shaking now with the rest of the angry woman. Virgil thought of Idie Claire's backside. buried . somewhere . under at least two dozen tremulous, starched, pink ruffles. Was it as shapely as the bustle promised, or. "Yow-!"
"Now what ever's the matter, Mr. Villayne?" Belle cooed.
"What's in this sandwich, you hussy?"
"Why - your favorites. Deviled ham, pickled peppers, Arbuckle's Best coffee beans, Greenleaf cigars-"
For answer she replaced the offending sandwich with a fried chicken breast, which she had too often heard him declare was his favorite piece. Virgil looked and smelled so thoroughly before tasting that he was in danger of smudging the lenses of the tiny, silver-rimmed spectacles that he wore only to make himself look educated in more than foreclosures and the fair but frail. Finally he took a Texas-sized bite and chewed with the gusto of a steam engine, dripping chicken fat down his jutting chin. only to shout again when his teeth decimated the haviñeros that the bordello's cook had inserted.
Virgil grabbed the jug of iced lemonade from the picnic basket, heedless that Belle hadn't drunk any. Virgil gulped down a dipperful and gained a Texas-sized pucker. He spat, "This isn't lemonade."
Virgil hissed, "It's my opinion this is straight lemon juice."
"Well, I knew tart was your style. You spend enough time with tarts."
"Why are you poisoning me?"
"Oh, none of that's poison - just new, excitin' flavors."
"Exciting, my foot! Are you trying to get even with me for something?"
"That's it to a T," Belle replied, her voice tremulous with chuckling.
"For what? I didn't make you go work in a brothel. You could've married me and lived in style in my mansion on Yellow Rose Hill - and had your folks there for Sunday dinners and your ma in to tea and-"
"And been no better than most any girl on Shady Row, just your own private lady of the evenin' is all, but dressed as starched as Idie Claire's bustle. Meantime you'd be a bigger slut than I am even working at Fancy's. I'm getting even with you for dazzlin' my folks with money they'd never see."
"But how could you know I'd get your basket and not that lowdown half-breed? This pink dimity bow's Idie Claire's!"
"A little bird told me she'd put scarlet on hers." A big, pink-tailed bird more like. "Don't let Creed hear you called him lowdown. Here he comes now."
There seemed no danger of Creed's hearing anything as he swept down on them, trailing the still tremulous pinkness of Idie Claire. "Will somebody tell Miss Idie Claire here that it's hoops right now, not bustles; they don't come into fashion 'til after the big war over slavery we haven't had yet?"
Creed swept Belle from under the tree and off to his hitched stallion. Fleetingly they heard Idie Claire and Virgil scolding each other, but the shrill voices died amid the pounding of Belle's heart, the pounding of Creed's through his chest against her neck as she sat the saddle in front of him, and the pounding of his stallion's hoofs as they left the picnic grounds.
"Now tell me how all this happened," Creed ordered. Belle explained that to Idie Claire, eating beside Creed would be a fling, and they shrieked with laughter. "Jehosephat! But why?"
* * *
Lingering later on her bordello's porch, Fancy mused about her connection with Belle: Virgil Villayne. Fancy had been the first rancher's daughter Virgil had tried to force into marriage to keep her family's ranch. Others had chosen scandalous occupations over being Virgil's private harlot. Miss Ima Goodie dealt cards in the strip faro parlor in Crooked Gulch. more scandalous in East Texas, Miss May-Bee Knot rode the abolitionist lecture circuit! Fancy wondered if any of them would ever elope with anyone as handsome as Creed and in-love enough to overlook her past. Fancy shook her head to clear it . but a story as unlikely as Brassy Belle's lurked just over the hill. The premonition left Fancy tremulous.
** If you liked this story, try Dana Filler Rusts's Ima Goodie's Gamble! Texas Shady Ladies 2!
Application for Employment as Romance Novel Heroine by Karen Franks
Instructions: Fill out to the best of your ability; if a question is not applicable, leave blank or write “N/A” in the appropriate place
1. Title (please circle one) [Highness] [Lady] [Miss] [Unknown]
2. Name (or “Unknown”)__________________________________________________________________
3. Address (please circle one): [Mayfair] [Cheapside] [A Sweet Little Cottage] [A Country Estate] [Unknown]
4. Your father is/was a (please circle one): [Royalty] [Nobleman] [Vicar] [Unknown]
5. a. If you circled “Royalty” or “Nobleman” as to your father, please place a check next to the most appropriate statement (otherwise, skip to “5b”):
- ___My father was cold and distant and died when I was young; my guardian controls my every move;
- ___My father is cold and distant; he controls my every move;
- ___My father was kind and loving, but died when I was young; my guardian controls my every move;
- ___My father is kind and loving, and just wants to make sure I’m taken care of, even if he does try to control my every move;
- ___I never knew my father as he died tragically before I was born;
5.b. f you circled “Unknown” as to your father, please circle the reason: [Orphaned] [Bastard] [Amnesia]
i. If you circled “orphaned” please place a check by those responsible for raising you:
- ___Kindly relations
- ___Unkindly relations
- ___I grew up on the streets and lived by my wits
ii. If you circled “bastard” please place a check by appropriate statement:
- ___My mother engaged in a liaison with a nobleman and brought great shame on our family when she got with child so we had to move away and pretend that she was a widow;
- ___My mother was raped and brought great shame on our family when she got with child so we had to move away and pretend that she was a widow;
- ___My mother was the town prostitute and before she died she made me promise to move
- away and pretend that she was a widow;
- ___My mother was a member of the demimonde and her protector refused to acknowledge me;
iii If you circled “amnesia” please place a check by type:
- ___My amnesia is total; I don’t remember ANYTHING;
- ___My amnesia is partial. I can remember bits and pieces, but am unable to remember my name or where I’m from;
- ___My amnesia appears to be limited to a specific traumatic event, but my future happiness and, indeed, my freedom depend upon discovery of the details of that event;
- ___My amnesia is a ruse; I have a terrible secret that must be protected with my very life;
6. What is your marital status (please circle one): [Marriageable] [Widowed] [Spinster] [Abandoned]
7. a. If you circled “Widowed” please place a check by the appropriate statement:
- ___My father married me off to an old roué to increase my family’s fortune/estates/influence;
- ___My husband died a hero, in India/France/Spain/Other (please circle), whilst defending the Crown;
- ___My husband was a Cyprian of the first water, and died under mysterious circumstances;
- ___My husband was a rake and a scoundrel who was killed in a duel;
7.b. If you circled “Spinster” please place a check by the appropriate statement:
- ___I secretly love a man I can never have and can’t bear to marry anyone else;
- ___I was compromised, which ruined any chance I had to make a suitable match;
- ___My betrothed cried off, which ruined any chance I had to make a suitable match;
- ___After four Seasons, I simply gave up and went on the shelf. I guess I just didn’t take;
- ___My family was too poor to give me a Season; now I’m too long in the tooth;
7.c. If you circled “Abandoned” please place a check by the appropriate statement:
- ___My marriage was arranged; as my husband and I cannot abide each other’s company, we live apart;
- ___My husband is a beastly man who prefers to live in Town where he can game and debauch to his heart’s content, while I live on a lonely country estate;
- ___My husband and I had a terrible argument on our wedding night and he fled to the Continent; I know not where he is;
8.a. If you are a Widow, Spinster, or are Abandoned, how do you support yourself?
___I’m a governess;
___I’m a paid companion;
___I am currently a governess/paid companion, but I’ve saved some money and would like to go into trade;
___I have a secret avocation that no one knows about but which will be the ruination of me if I am ever discovered;
___Don’t be a nodcock--I’m an heiress;
9. Why do you want to be a Heroine in a romance novel?
- ___I want to experience true love at least once in my life before I cock up my toes;
- ___I made a cake of myself as a paid companion, and now none of the Ton will employ me;
- ___being a governess to high-born but ill-behaved children makes me want to cosh their little heads with my reticule;
- ___I am rather a bluestocking and I fear it’s the only way I will ever find a handsome, virile, and rich nobleman who will be enchanted with my hoydenish ways and willing to put up with my cheekiness;
10. What is your idea of the perfect Hero’s physical appearance?
- ___Tall, broad shoulders and narrow hips; thick, lustrous blonde hair, with one lock falling rakishly across his forehead; mesmerizing green eyes and perfect lips which curve into a seductive smile; breathtakingly handsome in his waistcoat and breeches, but still alarmingly attractive even if I happen upon him while he is mucking out the stables;
- ___Tall, broad shoulders and narrow hips; thick, lustrous black hair, with one lock falling rakishly across his forehead; startlingly blue eyes--blue like the sky in summer, and perfect lips which curve into a seductive smile; breathtakingly handsome in his uniform, and devastatingly attractiveeven if I happen upon him while he is swimming in the pond on his/my estate;
11. What about his personality?
- ___I dearly desire a man who is brooding and passionate; one who is used to giving orders and having people obey them; one who fights his attraction to me because of his noble intentions, but finally succumbs in the end, as he realizes that I am his only one true love and that we belong together; I care not a whit if he is of noble blood or if he has a secret past, as long as he is of strong moral character; so that even if we anticipate our vows, he will protect my reputation and obtain a Special License so that we may marry with all due haste;
- ___I adore a man who is outgoing and good natured; one who never takes anything seriously, but who hides a passionate nature; one who is entranced by me and sets out to win my heart, finally convincing me at the end that he is my only one true love and that we belong together; it matters not to me if he has a reputation as a rake, or even if he has a mistress; for he will have noble intentions and will find another protector for his doxy, and everyone knows that reformed rakes make the best husbands;
12. What do you think is your strongest attribute?
- ___My dainty feet and delicate hands
- ___My tumble of long, auburn tresses
- ___My tumble of long, blonde tresses
- ___My tumble of long, jet black tresses
- ___My very kissable, heart-shaped lips
- ___My soft, rosy cheeks
- ___My mesmerizing, violet-colored eyes
- ___My over-generous bosom
- ___My cheekiness
- ___My bravery under the most dire of circumstances
- ___My secretly passionate nature
- ___My fashion sense
- ___My common sense
- ___My innocence
- ___My bluestocking ways
- ___My hoydenish ways
- ___My fortune/title
- ___Other (please elaborate)___________________________________________________________
Due to the overwhelming number of responses we get, we are unable to contact you unless and until we have a position available. Should you be lucky enough to be selected to be a Heroine, a missive will be sent immediately by Bow Street runner.
A Tumble in the Hay (In Homage to Animal Farm) by Emilie J. Conroy
In the barn the air hung thick in tremulous anticipation. The haystack stood in salute to forbidden love. Then, Mollie's nervous eating habit seized her violently, and she began to take tiny nibbles from that golden love tribute.
Surely Napoleon's black piggy eyes had witnessed the mad carmine haze of passionate wanting. Not even that pig could mistake Mollie's bug-eyed longing glances at Benjamin. Maybe the others on Animal Farm thought Benjamin was nothing but an ass, but to Mollie, he was a stallion of manliness.
"Mollie!" Fred brayed, the noise floating on the slop-scented air.
"Benjamin!" Mollie neighed, tapping out the number of kisses she planned to give him with her left hoof. "Were you seen?"
"The pigs have spies everywhere," Benjamin said, daring to curl her tail in his. "That simpkin Snowball asked me just today at the water trough why I appear to be fond of the two-leggeds."
Mollie thought of the emerald, turquoise, and ivory ribbons in her mane. Without the two-leggeds to pamper her, what would she be? Why, she'd be no better than a workhorse! Mollie whinnied in disgust. "The two-leggeds have such beautiful things. And they have love!"
"Indeed, my little equine Venus. But Napoleon is ruthless. He will not cease until all things two-legged are broken and scrambled like yesterday's eggs in the farmer's skillet."
Mollie sighed, the thick full curtain of her eyelashes veiling her eyes. "We would be better off as two leggeds, my love."
"Rubbish!" Benjamin moved closer, heating her broadside with his own lust-powered furnace. "We shall love, Mollie, and we shall be the envy of Animal Farm. Now dispense with the foolishness and kiss me, seductress mare!"
Swept into the moment, a dust devil of aching need, Mollie surrendered and allowed Benjamin to become the horse's ass.
The Blue Line To Love (In Homage to Huckleberry Finn) by LinnieGayl
Jim shoved through the throngs crowding onto the Blue Line at O'Hare. As if his day wasn't bad enough. First, his chauffeur didn't show up. Then, when he got to the front of the taxi line, he learned cab drivers weren't taking credit cards. The L was his only way back to his gleaming Lake Shore penthouse.
As he pushed through the crowd, he noticed an elderly woman struggling to balance her bags. Jim stepped out of line to offer assistance. His mother may have been a prostitute, but she raised him to be a gentleman.
Jim reached out to take some of the woman's bags. "Here Ma'm let me help."
"Ma'm! I'll show you Ma'm!" In a flash, she dropped her bags, and speared him with a four-inch Manalo heel, dropping him like a raw recruit to the ground. As he struggled to get up, the woman, walked off, muttering, "Do I have a stamp on my head announcing today's my 30th birthday?"
Moments later, Jim snagged the last seat on the train. He glanced quickly at his seatmate and grimaced. Great, a dirty boy bundled up in an ugly brown blanket, with a baseball cap shoved low over his face - and a Cardinal's cap at that. Jim moved as far from the boy as possible.
Suddenly, the great hulking beast shuddered to life, engines snorting like a huge bull, sending them hurtling toward the City, and sending Jim flying into the boy. In a flash, his throbbing manhood was as stiff as the seat on which he was perched.
What the hell? He'd been surrounded by men in the Seals. He wasn't gay - not that there was anything wrong with being gay - but he liked women, short women, tall women, thin women, curvy women. He glared. "Boy, move over and give me some room."
"Boy, I ain't no boy!" The boy jumped up, threw his blanket into the aisle, and whipped off his Cardinal's cap, sending flame red tresses cascading down to softly rounded nether cheeks. Violet orbs shot sparks of anger straight to Jim's heart.
Jim reeled with shock. This wasn't a boy, this was a woman, although there was nothing womanly about the words spouting from her bee-kissed lips. She was a little thing, over a foot shorter than he was, with womanly curves bursting from her tight red halter-top and low-rise jeans. "You're a girl!"
"Of course I'm a girl. I'm Huckleberria Finnley."
"Huckleberria Finnely." She flashed a cheeky grin. "But you can call me Huck, everybody does."
"What's a sweet thing like you doing all by yourself?"
Huck stared into the windows to his soul, and realized she could trust him with her life. "I've run away," she said sorrowfully.
Huck shrunk before his eyes. Jim wanted to protect her from whatever had caused her to run. All it would take was a call to Bullone, Cubone, and Soxone, and his former Seals team would spring into action. "From your parents?" Anger flashed in his jet black eyes.
Huck reached out and soothed his warrior face. "No, my Pap ran away long before I did. I'm running from the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson."
Now that was a problem. A gentleman didn't hit a lady, no matter what she'd done. But for his sweet Huck, he might make an exception. "What did they do to you?"
"They want to civilize me," Huck said scornfully.
"Civilize you?" Maybe he didn't understand her accent, clearly she came from somewhere far from Chicago.
Anger flashed in her violet orbs. "Yes! They want me to wear slacks!"
Jim looked at her long, long legs, legs that didn't seem to stop, legs that probably came up to his waist or higher, legs that he wanted to have wrapped around his waist. "Slacks?"
Huck shook her head sorrowfully. "No jeans, no pants, just slacks."
"Huh?" Maybe it was that foreign St. Louis accent.
"Don't worry, it's a girl thing. They even wanted me to wear twin sets and pearls."
"That does sound tough." Jim made a mental note to be careful about the clothes he bought for Huck. They could have years of arguments over clothes. Years meant for loving, not fighting. He'd have to save his mother's pearls, his only keepsake, for their first daughter.
"You wouldn't believe the music they made me listen to." Huck's flame red tresses bounced with animation.
"Yes! The Rolling Stones and the Beatles. What self-respecting 25-year old listens to stuff like that?" Her violet orbs flashed with indignation.
Jim gazed deeply into Huck's violet orbs. Could it get any better than this? Here he was, with the hot, beautiful love of his life, and she was an older woman to boot. "Don't worry sweet-thing, when we get to my penthouse, you can listen to anything you want."
"Your penthouse?" Huck asked shyly.
Between Rosemont and Cumberland, they shared their life stories, agreeing to disagree about the best style of pizza, and the proper role of catsup on hotdogs.
The train lurched to a stop at Cumberland and emptied quickly, leaving them alone. Jim's hooded eyes narrowed into slits - alone that was, except for two unsavory punks walking towards them. Jim began to whisper a warning to Huck, but it was too late.
"Hi, my name is Huckleberria Finnley," she said with a jaunty grin. "But you can call me Huck, everybody does."
"Greetings and salutations, Ms. Huck," said the older man. "My nom de plume is Duke, and my sidekick's name is King," he said, pointing to his younger companion.
"Well hi Duke and King, my friend here is Jim, and we're heading off to his penthouse. Where are you going?"
"Penthouse did you say, my lady?" Duke asked slyly.
"Yeah, penthouse, what's it to you?" Jim jumped in.
Duke gave Jim a cautious glance, and turned back to Huck. "Well, my lady, we're heading to Navy Pier to do the Bard's work, and could use some assistance getting there."
Jim leapt to his feet and had King on the floor, and Duke's arms behind his back before Huck could answer. "Look here you punks-"
Just in time, he caught Huck's look of horror. Clearly, Seal ways weren't for her. Jim eased his grip on Duke, took his foot off King's back, and gave the punks his business card. "Go to the address on this card. My assistant Becky will find work for you." The look of adoration Huck gave him would be worth adding two punks to his payroll.
As the men left the train at Montrose, with Duke muttering "sublime, sublime," Huck yelled, "If you see my Pap, steer clear of him, he's bad news!"
Huck turned back to Jim, in time to see pain mar his finely chiseled face. "What is it Jim?"
"You know how I told you about the Seals?"
"Right, you were a Seal before you became a multi-billionaire."
"Well, on our last mission, to free TonWest-"
Huck's violet orbs popped wide open. "I've heard of TonWest. Ain't that the place way far from here where those crazy old ladies make everyone drink lemonade."
Pain flashed across Jim's face. "That's the place."
"What happened?" Concern shone from her heart-shaped face.
Jim shook his head and gently brushed one of her flame red tresses back from her face, lingering over her alabaster skin. "It's too grim for a sweet thing like you. Let's leave it that along with taking care of some evil rakes, the Seals took care of your Pap once and for all."
Huck nodded knowingly. From what she'd read about the Seals, she knew Pap had suffered excruciating pain. That was good enough for her, and Jim had done it. "You're the one, Jim."
"The One - how did you know my code name?"
"I meant," Huck began, and then smiled gently. Jim might be a bit of a dim bulb, but he was all hers. Jim would let her wear pants, would die for her, and would even let her listen to Panic! At the Disco. Plus, the killer body and face poetry could be written about didn't hurt. To say nothing about his billions. "Never mind soldier, let's get to your sparkling penthouse in the sky."
"My friend, Judge Thatcher, will marry us this evening," Jim said, as the train rumbled to a stop at Logan Square.
"But who'll stand up for me?" Huck asked mournfully. "I don't know anyone here in the big city."
Jim smiled. "Don't worry sweet-thing, my friend Tom and his Aunt Polly will stand up for us."
Huck smiled hesitantly, "Do you think they'll like me?"
"They'll love you sweet-thing, as soon as we take care of this." With one smooth, panther-like move, Jim snatched the Cardinal's cap from her head, and sent it shooting like a bullet to the front of the train. "You can wear anything in Chicago, as long as it's not a Cardinal's cap."
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