Authors: Cheryl Dragon
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
A Totally Bound Publication
©Copyright Cheryl Dragon 2014
Cover Art by Posh Gosh ©Copyright May 2014
Edited by Faith Bicknell-Brown
Totally Bound Publishing
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Totally Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Totally Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2014 by Totally Bound Publishing,
Newland House, The Point, Weaver Road, Lincoln, LN6 3QN
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a
Emily isn’t about to marry just any man, but falling in love with two hot ranchers might be more than this respectable young lady can handle.
Emily St. Claire is wealthy, beautiful, young and very eligible to the single men of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The Wild West isn’t safe for a woman alone, but she isn’t about to marry for anything but love. Her charitable efforts put her in touch with all manner of people, and while she’s respectable, she causes gossip around the small town as she tries to help prostitutes and orphans. Still, she does want a family of her own.
Two handsome young men catch Emily’s eye, but Jack and Henry are so close. How can she pick one of them without destroying their friendship and their partnership? When she finds them in a compromising position, she’s shocked
intrigued. Emily never considered herself conventional, but the men open her eyes even more to how inclusive and varied love can be. Society would never approve, yet it doesn’t feel wrong for the trio. Being courted by two men at once is wild, but committing herself to them is pure madness and pure ecstasy as well. They must keep their ménage secret until they’re sure how to plan a future together so no one will suspect or discover the truth. 1878 isn’t ready for what they have to offer.
Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA—1878
When Reverend Young finally dismissed the congregation from Sunday service, Emily St. Claire breathed a sigh of relief. She kept her composure and exited the small wooden church painted white. Smiling at the ladies, Emily appreciated the sympathetic nods.
“We’re all so very sorry about your father, Miss St. Claire. But we’re very glad you’re back,” said Reverend Young.
“Thank you. Lovely sermon today.” Emily felt the eyes of the town on her as she waited for her companion Alice Lange, to finish a conversation.
The young widow had been selected by Emily’s father as a companion to his single daughter when he fell ill. It had worked out perfectly until Mr St. Claire had died and Emily had been compelled to spend the mourning period with her sister and brother-in-law in Denver.
Sheriff Drake tipped his hat. “I’m sure being back here is dull compared to life in Denver. Do you intend on moving there to be with your sister? I can deputize some men to secure your belongings and escort you and Mrs Lange.”
“Thank you, but I won’t be moving. My father loved Manitou. He struck his silver and copper near here and built that lovely home for me.” She’d been putting out rumors of her leaving since the day she’d returned.
Alice walked up to Emily, and it was a relief. The pair headed for Emily’s home not far from the church on the same end of town. The lovely spring day made the exercise delightful but as men fell into step behind the pair, she wished they’d brought the wagon.
“What could they want? The men were staring at me all through church,” she whispered to Alice.
Alice glanced back casually and cleared her throat. “The mercantile owner, the sheriff, the reverend plus a few other single, respectable men are all following us.”
“This is ridiculous.” Emily walked faster, but avoided breaking into a run.
“Your new wardrobe is the envy of every woman in town. The trimmer silhouette and subtle bustle is most becoming.” Alice dabbed a handkerchief over her brow.
“Men don’t care about fashion. They’ve not lowered the necklines.” Emily toyed with the slightly belled cuff at her elbow. The lavender gown was new from her Denver days. She owned a great deal of black, but had put a portion of her substantial inheritance into a new wardrobe and some bolts of fabric for future replacement pieces. The newer fashions were more comfortable. More practical jackets complimented the layered skirts with a slight bustle. It was much better than the hoop skirts of her youth.
“You’re a lovely young woman who is staying in Manitou,” Alice said.
The demure choker around Emily’s throat felt a bit tighter. “They can’t be serious.”
“Some of those men aren’t in town except for church and supplies. They won’t have much opportunity but to call today. Not all are objectionable,” Alice said.
The women ascended the porch steps. Her home was the grandest in Manitou with etched glass and no expense spared. The housekeeper opened the door for them.
“Hello, Sarah.” Emily stepped a foot inside and saw the old woman warily eyeing the men out front.
“You’ve got callers, Miss St. Claire.” Sarah nodded.
Emily turned and plastered a ladylike smile on her face. “Gentlemen, what can I do for you?”
“Miss St. Claire, your intention to stay is a blessing to the town,” said Young.
“Thank you.” She knew her charitable efforts could be considered excessive, but it was useful, and she employed some individuals, of course. She also shopped liberally.
“However, you must take certain factors into account. For your reputation,” the sheriff added.
“My reputation? Mrs Lange is my constant companion. You doubt her respectability?” Emily asked curtly.
Young held up a hand. “No one doubts anyone’s honor or respectability. However, a single woman alone is a danger. In a big city where they have women’s boarding houses or in Denver with your sister, that’s a different situation. Out west in a town like this, with so many single men, and helping—”
“Orphans and fallen women need help too. I don’t need your permission to be charitable with my money.” Emily’s headstrong antics had often given her father fits, but staying in a big city like Denver had proven she wasn’t a fool. Growing up with a dreamer for a father, she’d watched him rise to a man of status because of his mines. The world had changed its view of him. So change was possible and rules were meant to be broken.
“Maybe it’d be best if you did move to Denver?” The sheriff shrugged. “I can’t protect you all the time. Not like a husband. Or a brother-in-law.”
“You want me to leave?” Emily eyed the shotgun they kept near the door. Generally it was to ward off wolves or strangers sniffing around.
The reverend stepped closer. “Of course not. The truth is, we’ve all got a mind to court you. You’ve been swimming in your grief for so long, perhaps it’s still not appropriate.”
“But it would be prudent,” the sheriff added.
Too many men was a big problem out west. A woman alone, even a widow like Alice, was in danger from strange men of poor character. Emily never thought she’d have to worry about that here. Maybe she was too trusting?
“Your father was a good man. He wanted to keep you young and innocent forever. But you’re grown now, miss. Men will come calling,” the sheriff said.
Emily was twenty-two, old enough, certainly. But she had no intention of being forced into marriage. She’d rebelled against her father’s overprotection in many ways. Trading with the Indians when it was safe and riding horses too fast around town. The fact that he hadn’t pushed her to marry was the one thing they’d always agreed on. Not that she didn’t want to marry the right man at the right time.
Looking at the group again, she hid her disappointment by fussing with the demure bracelet of amethysts at her wrist. It was worth more than most of those men earned in a year. Of course they wanted her for a wife. She was rich.
The only two men she was interested in weren’t among the group. The Bonner men were a pair of cousins who had a ranch on the edge of town. One was serious and reliable while the other was more friendly and daring. Both were strong and attractive enough to haunt her dreams. Neither of those men had been in church or had ridden out to see her today.
marry. A single respectable woman isn’t safe out here. It’s just not done,” Young said.
“And if you insist on educating former prostitutes and taking on orphans for stable boys, you might not be so respectable for long. Get married and you’ll fix it all.” The sheriff shrugged.
Emily stepped back into the doorway and grabbed the shotgun. Pulling it up to her shoulder, she aimed a few inches shy of the feet of her suitors and fired into the soft dirt. Alice ran inside the house as the men stepped back and shouted at Emily.
“Get off my property.” Emily put the shotgun back and went inside.
Sarah shut the door and locked it. “Lunch will be ready promptly, miss.”
“Thank you, Sarah.” Emily let the housekeeper help with her hat.
Alice shook her head. “The men are sorry about your father and not quite sure what to make of you now. Single women alone aren’t always well received. I felt plenty of those stares when my husband died. A widow with children is one thing, then you’re still a mother and always will be. I’m not sure why it’s different but that’s how things are. I am respectable and will do my best to keep you so too. But marriage would resolve a lot. You’d have more freedom.” Alice sighed and studied her quilt square.
“I remember when Mr Lange died.” Emily moved into the parlor with embossed wallpaper and her favorite green damask couch and absently picked up a book she’d been reading. When Alice’s husband had died, it had taken very little time for the men to talk about the pretty young widow as though she were an abandoned gold claim ripe for mining.
“Your father’s offer of work as your companion was a godsend.” Alice sat and took up her sewing. “His failing health and passing has kept the bachelors at bay. But now you’ve got no excuse. There are plenty of choices.”
“I can take care of myself. I won’t be pressured into marriage.” Emily walked up to the front window and glanced through the lace. “A few are still out there.”