by Shari Dare
Raised on a ranch run by whores, Black Conley has come full circle. As a US Marshall he's been sent to find out who is rustling steers from Belle Barton otherwise known as Ball Buster Belle. As soon as he meets the beautiful blonde boss, he knows he doesn't want any of the other girls in his bed.
Belle has returned to Montana to run her father's ranch only to find out no man will work for her. Instead she's turned to the local whores and although they ply their trade at night, during the day they work hard for the Double Bar B. Not wanting a man in her bed, she offers Black the choice of her 'girls' but forbids him access to her bed.
Release Date: October 10, 2013
Genre: Western Romance
~ A Red Satin Romance ~
Laramie, Wyoming 1886
Laramie, Wyoming 1886
“There’s a lone rider comin’ in,” Kate said, as she returned to the kitchen after checking the stock.
Belle nodded. “Don’t know who it could be, but be ready just in case you don’t get the night off after all.”
“It’s not like I couldn’t use the money, Belle, you know that, but I sure do hope he ain’t wantin’ a roll. I’m dog-tired.”
“You go on up to bed then. If he’s from town, I’ll try to steer him away. I just heard Janna go up as well as Lacy. With luck Cara will join them, and I won’t have to do any explaining about why the women are entertaining men in the parlor.”
The words no more than passed her lips than she heard Cara’s light step on the stairs followed closely by those of a man’s heavy boots.
Outside, the sound of a horse’s hooves signaled the arrival of the stranger. Rather than wait for him to come to the door, Belle grabbed her shawl and shotgun before going out to the porch to greet her visitor, giving Kate time enough to get upstairs.
“Something I can help you with, Mister?” she said, once the door closed behind her and she pointed her gun directly at his chest.
“Heard you were lookin’ for ranch hands for the winter,” the man replied, as he carefully dismounted, holding his hands in the air.
She assessed him as he walked the short distance that separated them. He was dressed in black and wore a pair of six-shooters on his hips. They were hung low, as though he needed them at just the right height for a fast draw. Once he mounted the steps of the porch, he put his hand on the barrel of the shotgun, pushing it harmlessly down toward the board floor.
“Seein’ that gun pointed at my heart makes me a mite uneasy. What do you say we talk about that job I heard about?”
His manner and the fact he disarmed her so easily made her want to raise the gun and fire, but his strong hand holding it down stopped her. “If you heard that, you also heard that they call me Ball Buster Belle. I didn’t get that name without working for it.”
“So I heard. Now if you’ll just put down that shotgun maybe we can talk about the fact you need a hand more than I need a hole in my chest.”
“You seem to have me at a bit of a disadvantage, but don’t think for one minute that I won’t shoot you if you give me any cause or I just feel like it. I expect a hard day’s work and pay top wages, but I don’t take none to being pushed by any man.”
She watched as he took off his hat to reveal a mane of black hair that fell to just below his shoulders. “Heard all about you in town. I doubt you’d be able to scare me off quite as easily as you could some of the others. The name’s Black, Black Conley, and I’m lookin’ for a job for the winter. Won’t fool you none, I plan to move on come spring, but I still need a place to bed down, three meals a day, and a job to do. I think I know all about your operation. You see my ma ran a ranch like this in Texas. She made damn good money from the cattle and as much from the women who worked for her, if you get my drift.”
“I get your drift. Are you any good with that gun?”
He laughed heartily. “I would have thought that once I told you my name you would have figured out who I was. It worked for them fellers in town. Had the bartender shaking so hard he could hardly pour me a glass of whiskey.”
She nodded. Black Conley wasn’t exactly what she’d expected him to be, but she knew about him all right. From the stories she’d heard, he’d killed over thirty men and all of them in fair fights. She’d thought he would be older and more hardened, yet his brown eyes told her it was possible a little boy still rested behind them. He didn’t use the offensive language most men used when they came here looking for a job. To be truthful, he sounded like an educated man. So why was he here, on her doorstep offering to work as a ranch hand? For that matter, why was he here in the middle of nowhere when his guns could make him more money in one of the bigger frontier towns? In thinking about it, she knew if he was as good with his guns as the papers said, he was exactly what she was looking for.
“I do know who you are, Mr. Conley. Come on in, I can’t offer you whiskey, since I don’t allow it in the house, but I can get you a cup of coffee, while I heat you up some of the stew we had for supper. It looks like you could use a good meal.”
He agreed and followed her into the house. Once inside, she would get a better look at him. The long black hair framed a dark skinned face, with brown eyes that any woman could easily drown in. His background could be anything from Mexican to Comanche, considering he said he came from Texas.
“If you take this job, my rules are simple. Like I said, I allow no whiskey at this ranch. If you want to drink, do it on your own time and do it at the Purple Moon in town. If you come home so drunk you cause a disturbance, you’re fired. Do your work during the day, and, at night if the women aren’t otherwise occupied, you can take a poke at them, but not for free. They’re working women and what they do at night brings money into the coffers of this ranch. Another thing, I pay a good wage, and I expect loyalty in return. What goes on here stays here.”