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Authors: Karen Mercury

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Working the Lode

BOOK: Working the Lode
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Going for the Gold

Working the Lode

Going to California. It’s three thousand miles nearer to hell.

Mountain man Cormack Bowmaker meets up with Zelnora Sparks on the eve of California’s great rush—the discovery of gold. Zelnora is fleeing from her mentor, the mighty businessman Brannagh. They are being shadowed by the most scandalous Spanish bandit in the frontier.

Joaquin Valenzuela wants to rob them of their gold, but soon discovers a desire for much more. Californians call for the pickled head of Valenzuela in a jar, but his passion for the two Americans overpowers his zeal for mayhem.

They band together in their quest for riches, love, and the good life. Bowmaker is a sharpshooter, his aim true. Valenzuela will slit the throat of anyone who wanders by. Zelnora knows where to find the gold. And Brannagh will do everything it takes to stop them.

They are about to discover the frontier—within themselves.

Historical, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Western/Cowboys
61,972 words


Going for the Gold

Karen Mercury


Siren Publishing, Inc.

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IMPRINT: Ménage Amour


Copyright © 2010 by Karen Mercury

E-book ISBN: 1-61034-083-3

First E-book Publication: December 2010

Cover design by Jinger Heaston

All cover art and logo copyright © 2010 by Siren Publishing, Inc.

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.


Siren Publishing, Inc.

Letter to Readers


Dear Readers,


If you have purchased this copy of
Working the Lode
by Karen Mercury from or its official distributors, thank you. Also, thank you for not sharing your copy of this book.



Regarding E-book Piracy


This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book.


The author and the publisher work very hard to bring our paying readers high-quality reading entertainment.


This is Karen Mercury’s livelihood. It’s fair and simple. Please respect Ms. Mercury’s right to earn a living from her work.


Amanda Hilton, Publisher


For DL

What a perfectly shining mountain man you make.

“The happiest moments of my life have been spent in the wilderness of the Far West.”


Going for the Gold


Copyright © 2010

“Going to California. It is only three thousand miles nearer to hell.” -- Henry David Thoreau

Chapter One

November, 1847

American River, California

“I’ve heard it told,” said Zelnora, perched atop her stool, “that Sam Kincaid often masturbates in front of his wife.”

In a fit of silent laughter, her friend Mercy nearly fell off her own stool. The two women enjoyed a brief respite from their employer and benefactor, Ward Brannagh, gone back to San Francisco to consult with some men about his flour mill and printing press there. Now far away from his industrious clutches, they sat behind the counter in Brannagh’s store two hundred miles upriver, having snuck drinks from a keg of whiskey—there being not many customers on this rainy day, they concluded.

“It’s true!” Zelnora pointed at Mercy with her tin cup of the beastly stuff. It nauseated her to drink it, but she had seen the relaxing effect it had on men, and it seemed somehow rebellious to share a cup with Mercy. She could barely speak, being consumed with giggles, too. “If Nellie has the courses, or otherwise is repelled by him, why, he just yanks down his suspenders and pantaloons, and out it pops.”

Mercy doubled her laughter, and Zelnora leaned an elbow onto the wobbly counter, holding her cup so loosely the whiskey nearly spilled onto the pine boards. She even sneezed, surrounded as they were by dusty boxes of sardines, cow hides, crackers, tobacco, and glass beads for the Indians. Brannagh’s Fort store was a good idea, supplying the many ragtag of all creation, backwoodsmen who ventured over the Sierra to conglomerate at Sutter’s Fort, the first civilized stop on the emigrant trail, servicing even the
gente de razón
, “people of reason,” upper-drawer Spaniards. But on rainy days like this, their only customers were the smelliest men dressed in dead animals, with things looking like squirrels squatting on their heads.

“Oh, my,” wheezed Mercy. “Did you hear the latest from San Francisco? Some whiskey-bloated Battalion man went to Brown’s restaurant and shouted ‘The Spaniards are in the brush!’ and nearly started a riot! All night long, men were shooting at wine barrels and shrubbery.”

The women laughed so heartily they nearly didn’t hear the squishing of boots coming up the outer pathway. Yet Zelnora saw a shadow pass by the smoky window, and she gasped so loudly even Mercy came to her senses. “Ward!” Zelnora whispered, and both women instantly shoved their sloshing tin cups underneath the counter. Ward Brannagh wasn’t due back until tomorrow! They gazed at each other with shocked faces as the front door slammed open against the wall. The poor little bell hanging from the door didn’t tinkle, it squealed.

Brannagh stepped in boldly, legs spread wide, king of all the ramshackle items he surveyed.

A tall, imperious man, clean-shaven aside from well-trimmed side whiskers, even after the hard journey from San Francisco he wore a white shirt, black cravat, and short-skirted frock coat. Of late, he’d adopted the felt sombrero of the Californio vaquero, and the result made him look even fiercer, if such a thing was possible. Thankfully, he had a wide smile today. “Ladies! Sisters!” he proclaimed, stepping forward without shutting the door. He threw his dripping sombrero onto a box of jerked beef. “I had a great venture in San Francisco, very profitable indeed. You will be glad to know I’ve brought back a quantity of cotton and chintz shawls, cock’s and foxtail feathers, Moroccan leather shoes, and washbasins, as well as picks and shovels, although I am sure you womenfolk don’t care much about tools.”

Zelnora swallowed hard, holding her hand to her chest. Mercy was busily stoking the fire in the corner stove, so it was up to her to speak. “Why, Elder Brannagh…It sounds as though you had a successful excursion. Have you brought any copies of your
California Star
newspaper? I should so love to read of any news.”

As Zelnora had feared, Brannagh made directly for her, leaning on the rickety counter and pounding his fist on it in a silent demand for whiskey. “Of course, Sister Sparks. They’re safely stowed away in the cart away from the rain.” He fairly wiggled his eyebrows in some sort of imaginary shared knowledge, while Zelnora swiftly found an unused tin cup to fetch him some whiskey. He gulped it in several healthy swallows, banged it on the counter, and leered again at her. It was certainly taking Mercy a long time to stoke the fire! Brannagh didn’t leer because he wanted more whiskey. “Come with me, Sister Sparks, and I shall give you a copy.”

Trying not to show her trepidation, Zelnora followed Brannagh into the back office where they both transacted business and took care of the ledgers. This time, Brannagh did shut the door behind him.

Zelnora knew there weren’t any newspapers in the office. He’d just told her they were in his cart. Instead, he backed her up against the desk covered in inkwells, surveying implements, and scales. He withdrew something wrapped in cigar packing paper from his coat pocket before flinging that garment onto the floor. Now he pressed her so closely into the desk she could smell his fresh out-of-doors sweat that only became unpleasant when one didn’t wash for many days. But on Brannagh, the scent was always somehow repulsive. Zelnora based this knowledge upon the only other man she had kissed—her former husband, Barton Sparks. He had always smelled lovely, like cloves and pipe tobacco.

“A gift for you…Zelnora.”

“Why, Elder Brannagh…Ward,” Zelnora whispered, taking the little package. Within the seconds it took her to open the package, Brannagh had thrust his crotch fully into her lap, so that she wasn’t certain whether to open the thing or respond to his attentions.

He placed two hands on the desk on either side of her hips and breathed into her ear, “Open it, my trembling fawn.”

Two silver earrings of the finest, most intricate Spanish workmanship were revealed to her. “Oh, Ward!” she cooed, tossing the cigar paper to the floor and attempting to view the earrings, but his knees pressed hers apart. Instead of the usual round dress, she had taken to wearing the loose Californio skirts that reached only midway between knee and ankle, wearing no petticoats, and there was no excuse not to part her knees. Soon she was sitting perched on the edge of the desk, clearly feeling the outline of his ugly penis against her quim. Despite her feelings of revulsion, her quim responded in its usual ardent manner, engorging and becoming spongy as Brannagh humped her slowly, as though perhaps she might not notice, being preoccupied with the earrings. Perhaps he’d given her the earrings to distract her, as one might a child.

She knew Brannagh’s penis was ugly, as she compared it to Barton’s, which was long, proud, and straight, and she had taken great pleasure in it. Brannagh’s was thin and crooked, and he did not wash that area as assiduously as he washed the rest of his body—as though women had no sense of smell.

“See?” Brannagh whispered huskily into her neck. “There are stones of turquoise, like you showed me in San Francisco. Oh, Zelnora!” Suddenly swept away on a wave of lust, Brannagh tore the earrings from her fingers and slammed them onto the desktop. He bent her over backward, kissing her squarely on the mouth with dry, chapped lips, thrusting his penis fully over her trembling quim. There was no friction between them, rather a sort of slimy movement of her drawers, as she was now quite thoroughly soaked. Her traitorous body responded to any touch! As though she was so starved for sex! Brannagh was an odorous beast who only utilized those who worked for him like so many slaves, Zelnora knew, yet her rebellious quim cried out for more. It was completely reprehensible of her, and she felt tremendous guilt, yet…she did want more. Barton had spoiled her, or perhaps “soiled” was a better word…

The frisson of his crooked penis worked her into such a lather that she even responded to what he thought passed for kisses, although it was difficult for him to moisten his lips enough to create a proper kiss. She even brought one slippered foot up to hook on to the back of his boot, opening herself up wider to his desperate clutching.

“Zelnora, my slutty fawn! Oh, how my balls have longed for you!”

With a metal compass of some sort sticking into the base of her spine, Brannagh yanked down the neckline of her
in one movement. Her left breast burst free, and Brannagh dove in, slurping and mauling like a starving feral dog at a carcass. Again, her hypocritical body responded, especially when he bit at her nipple and squeezed her breast as though to bring forth milk. “Ah, come to your master!” He growled. “Come and learn a lesson at the feet of your commander!”

He humped her as though set on spilling his seed inside his pantaloons, and indeed, by the way he grunted, it sounded as though he was about to. Zelnora clutched his head to her bosom, uttering tiny ladylike moans, though she could not bring herself to speak any of the untoward words the elder was voicing. “Oh, Ward, Ward,” was all she could think to say as he titillated her to greater heights. Indeed, the traction of his bent penis against her sopping quim was nearly enough to bring her to crisis.

But that smashed front door’s bell tinkled then, the door shut politely, and Brannagh went still as a statue, silent aside from his panting, chapped breath.
A customer!

Instantly, he stood upright, looking rapidly from side to side, hands stretched into claws, his crooked erection rapidly subsiding. Zelnora lay upon the compass—or perhaps it was a pen—with legs still outspread as Brannagh dashed off to the storefront.

She stood slowly, her lovely braided coiffure all in shambles, her embroidered rebozo headdress long ago having slid to the floor. She felt her lap to ensure there was no spot of moisture there, but she went out back to the necessary, where she had put up a mirror, to tidy herself up a bit.

Zelnora arranged the braids in their coiled position around her head as she thought about him. She knew he accosted many other women of their faith in the same manner, but no one dared complain for fear of excommunication.

Yet, did he give them earrings, earrings as beautiful as the ones she now affixed to her ears? He was thoughtful enough to recall she had pointed out the turquoise stones as perhaps being of value. The stones she had seen in San Francisco apparently came from the Rio Grande area, from what little Zelnora could discern from the Spaniard who sold them. Brannagh always being on the lookout for profitable new enterprises, he was quite intrigued by the minerals that might be found in the mountains of the Far West. Besides, if they struck a mining bonanza, as they called it out west, perhaps Brannagh would be generous enough to give her a fair share, and she might for once live independently of men.

Returning to the store, Zelnora discovered it empty aside from Mercy. The lovely redhead sat on her stool, her chin in hand, gazing dreamily at the blurry, smoky window. Perhaps she had gotten into the whiskey again. Taking her own stool, Zelnora casually asked, “Who was the customer?”

Sighing deeply, Mercy said, “A fine, upstanding, upright, handsome backwoodsman.” Again she sighed deeply.

Zelnora frowned. “Mercy!” Mercy was betrothed to a man of their faith. Jerusha was coming overland with three hundred others, and no one had heard from him in months. Zelnora, Mercy, and the other San Franciscans had arrived by sea from New York two years prior.

Mercy finally removed her chin from her fist and looked directly at Zelnora. “I know what you’re thinking, Zel. Jerusha. But oh, you should have seen this man!” Mercy looked heavenward as though for divine assistance. “Rugged, handsome, manly—A man must be very rugged to make it to this far outpost—the ones who survive, that is.” Looking at Zelnora again, Mercy continued, “Zel. He was not one of those reeking mountain men who smell like they sleep with animals, and wear animals, and trap animals—”

“—and wear animals on their heads.” Zelnora giggled.

“—no, Zel, he walked with an upright, manly bearing, and he wore fine, embroidered, beaded leggings, and he was clean-shaven and even smelled of pine, and when he smiled at me, he had fine, even, white teeth, and—”

“Where did he go?” Zelnora asked suddenly, surprising even herself.

Mercy sat up straighter, perhaps offended, but she answered, “Why, he went with Brannagh down to the fort. They had some business to conduct.”

BOOK: Working the Lode
2.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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