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Authors: Linda George

Tom's Angel

BOOK: Tom's Angel
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TOM'S ANGEL

 

 

By

 

 

Linda George

Copyright ©Linda George/George Enterprises
January 2014

 

Published in e-book format for Amazon Kindle.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if based on reality, used fictitiously.

 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE

 

Hell’s
Half Acre, Ft. Worth, TX was a real place. My source for details about the Acre was
Hell’s Half Acre: The Life and Legend of a Red-Light District
by Richard F. Selcer, published by Texas Christian University Press, 1991. Without this book, I would not have been able to bring Hell’s Half Acre to life. My thanks to Richard F. Selcer for his excellent work on this topic, and to Lucile Davis for introducing me to this book.

 

Tom’s Angel
is the long-awaited sequel to
Gabriel’s Heart
, published by Harlequin Historicals in 1998 under my pseudonym, Madeline George.
Gabriel’s Heart
is currently available in e-book format from Harlequin Books.

 

Cover design for
Tom’s Angel
by
www.CheekyCovers.com
Many thanks to Carrie Peters Spencer for another gorgeous cover.

 

Linda’s website and blog
:
www.LindaGeorge.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OTHER NOVELS BY LINDA GEORGE

 

 

Silver lady

 

 

Ask a Shadow to Dance

 

 

Kiss Me, Chloe

 

 

Covers by Carrie Peters Spencer of
www.CheekyCovers.com

 

 

 

 

This book is dedicated to

 

Lucile Davis

 

For introducing me to Richard F. Selcer’s book

 

Hell’s Half Acre:

The Life and Legend of a Red-Light District

Chapter 1

 

Fierce pounding at the back door sent Rosalie Kincannon running to answer, fearful she knew exactly what to expect. When she opened the door, there stood a young woman in a tattered dress, breasts heaving above a scandalously low neckline. Her face, streaked with gaudy makeup, contorted with anguish.


What happened, Sadie?”


One of the dandies. Mean. So drunk he didn't realize what he was doin'. You gotta come quick, Rosie!”


What kind of injury?”

The girl swallowed hard, fighting sobs.
“Knife.”


Dear God. Who?”


Lizzy.”


Not again! Where is my father? Have you told him?”


Playing cards. Told me to leave him the hell alone. You gotta hurry, Rosie! She's bleedin' bad.”


I'll get my bag. Tell her I'm coming.”

Sadie stumbled across the yard toward The Yellow Rose, the dance hall owned by Rosalie's father.
Rosalie grabbed a cloth bag containing medical supplies she kept at the ready. She ran toward the back door of The Yellow Rose, but hesitated before going inside.

Familiar odors seeped around the door, causing Rosalie's stomach to roil in protest.
Taking a deep breath of relatively clean air, she opened the door and hurried inside.

Cigar smoke, dirt and sweat were predominant, mingled with vomit, tobacco spit and other things she wished she couldn't identify.
It was enough to make any decent person wretch. Rosalie struggled, as she always did, to keep her stomach from rebelling, and tried to focus on one thought only. Saving Lizzy's life. Again.

Sadie grabbed Rosalie's arm and pulled her into one of the filthy back rooms where
“gentlemen” were entertained. On the bed, bleeding into dingy sheets and a tattered quilt, lay a young woman with waist-length black hair, pale as death, sweating and pasty. Rosalie feared it already might be too late.


Sadie, get a bottle of whiskey.”

Rosalie worked quickly, stemming the flow of blood the best she could from at least half a dozen wounds across Lizzy's chest and abdomen.
He'd cut her leg, too, so deep across one thigh she could almost see the bone. It would take at least a dozen stitches to close the wound. Damnation! What sort of man would do this to a woman? Never mind her being nothing but a dance hall whore, Lord forgive Rosalie for using that word. Never mind that Lizzy could never be considered a decent person after the things she'd done in the saloons and this dance hall. How could one human being do this to another?

Yet it happened every day in this God-forsaken place, with violence as commonplace as the whiskey Sadie handed her.

Rosalie patted Lizzie's cheeks gently, trying to rouse her. “Come on, Lizzie. It's Rosie. You're going to be all right. Do you hear me?” She dribbled some of the amber liquid between her lips.

Lizzie's eyelashes, heavy with blacking, fluttered.
Her eyes, streaked with red, oozed tears when she coughed.


Rosie?”


I'm here. Rest now. I've stopped the bleeding.”


He was gonna kill me, sure. I was so scared. It hurts somethin' awful.” Sobs shook her emaciated frame.

Rosalie gathered her close, persuading her to drink more whiskey, relying on its anesthetic qualities to ease Lizzy's pain somewhat.
“You can't do this anymore. I won't let you be hurt again. You have to stop.”


What else can I do? Oh, Rosie, I'm so sorry. I'd be better off dead.”


Don't say that! We'll find a way to get you out of here. You sleep now. Jocelyn will make sure no one bothers you. I love you. Do you hear me?”


I hear. God bless you, Rosie. Without you, I don't know what I'd do.”


I know.” Rosalie motioned to Jocelyn to take her place beside Lizzy, then replaced the unused bandages and other supplies in the cloth bag. For next time. “Keep her sipping until she passes out.” Jocelyn nodded.

Outside the doorway, Rosalie whispered to Sadie,
“Where is my father?”


Playing cards.” She pointed across the main room of the dance hall. “Across from him is the dude from Denver.”


I see them.” Allowing anger to overrule her senses, Rosalie stalked over to the table.


Paw, I need to talk to you about Lizzy.”

William
Kincannon glanced up from his cards. He hadn't shaved in days. They’d probably been playing all night. He pulled his watch from its pocket—the watch her mother had given him as a wedding present—and peered at it with bloodshot eyes.

Only two players remained at the table, piled high with coins and paper money.
The “dude from Denver,” a man about twenty-five with bloodshot eyes and hair thick and greasy, stared at her with an odd gleam in his eye. He had blood on his sleeve.


How about her?”

Kincannon
's head jerked around like a lassoed calf. “What are you talking about?”


You're out of cash. How about her?”

Rosalie couldn't believe his insolence.
Could he actually be suggesting her father should bet her in the game?


Paw—”


Shut up, Rosalie.” He turned back to the stranger. “Done. Whata ya got?”

With a smirk, he laid the cards on the table.
An audible breath came from every man watching the game. Kincannon stared at the cards with disbelief. Hands shaking, he laid his own on the table. Two pair. Deuces and fours. The dude had a straight flush.

Kincannon
closed his eyes.

Rosalie felt her neck and face redden and tried to comprehend what had just happened.

The stranger gathered the money from the table with two broad sweeps. “I'm going to Dallas on business. Send her to Denver in a couple of months. She'll make a handsome house maid.”

Rosalie's face tingled with fear.
“Paw, what is he saying?”


We'll talk about it at home! Now, git outta here.”

The stranger came slowly around the table toward her.
She held her ground, unwilling to show weakness in any measure.


Now, sweet thang, you shouldn't be put out with your paw. I tried to get him to bet those fancy horses of his, but he wouldn't do it. You happened along at the perfect time. You're going to be part of the Strickland household in Denver. You and me will get to know each other a mite better after I get home from Dallas.” He reached to touch her cheek.

Rosalie slapped his face before she could think better of it.
His eyes blazed.


I won't forget that happened, Missy. The minute you get to Denver, we'll set the ground rules of how you're to behave. I don't think you'll forget again.” He turned and strode to the bar. “Whiskey.”

The bartender poured a glass of rotgut and shoved it toward him.

“The bottle, too. Consider it part of the pot.” He took the bottle and tipped it toward Kincannon. “Two months. She'd better be there or I'll be back—for you.”


She'll be there.”

Rosalie ran to the back of the dance hall,
through the back door and all the way home, slamming the door behind her. Breathing hard, almost choking on tears, she tried to deny what had happened, what her father had done.

He came in behind her a few minutes later.

“Rose, where are you?”

She didn't answer.
She heard him crossing the kitchen.

He came into the front room and sank into his favorite chair, as worn to a frazzle as he appeared to be.
“I'll explain.”


Explain? There's nothing to explain.” She quivered with rage, clamping her lips together.


I figured I could win. Hell, he was so drunk, he had to be bluffing. I had more than five thousand dollars on the table. I couldn't just let him take my money.”


So you bet your daughter when you could have bet the horses.” The words were bile. She'd always loved those horses. But no more.


Without those horses, we'd go hungry. I'd never bet my horses in a card game.”

She took a deep breath.
“But you bet your daughter.”


It all happened so fast. We'd been playing for hours. All night. My head wouldn't clear. We was about to make our last bets. He said he had to take a piss, and left me at the table, sweatin', tryin' to figure out whether I should bet or fold. All I could see was those cards—and all that money.”


Deuces and fours. You actually believed you could win.”


Damn right! But he had all them hearts.”

Arguing would be useless.
“What now?”


Huh?”


What happens to me?”

Kincannon
hauled himself out of the chair and took two steps toward her, arms extended.


No, Paw. You aren't going to weasel out of it. This time you've gone too far. What's going to happen to me?”

He dropped his arms and sank back into the chair.
“You'll go to Denver to be house maid to the Stricklands.”


Who are these people? Or do you have the slightest idea?”


Richard Strickland's a banker in Denver. Zane Strickland, the card player, is his son. Hell, Rosie, it could be the best thing ever to happen to you. If you play your cards right, he might just decide to marry you.”

She stared at him, still unable to believe her own father could do such a thing.
“Did you hear what he said to me? Marriage is the last thing on his mind.”


Aw, he didn't mean it. His paw won't let him hurt you or nothing.”


You're sure of that, are you?”


Pretty little thing like you? They'll be glad to have you in their family.”

BOOK: Tom's Angel
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ads

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