A Lady in Defiance
Book One By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2012 Heather Blanton
“We did,” he agreed, fighting a smile. “In this particular instance, I thought it the better part of valor to get them on their way rather than engage in an explanation of your virtue. For the moment, you were under my protection.” Naomi had the urge to smack that arrogant grin off his suave, handsome face, but balled her hands into fists instead. “I assure you, I will clear up any misunderstandings forthwith,” he promised, sounding more amused than contrite. “For now, why don’t you ladies proceed to the hotel where we can conduct our business away from all these prying eyes? I’ll be there shortly.”
Her emotions in a dither, Naomi huffed her disapproval and climbed up into the wagon. Mr. McIntyre retreated inside. For a moment, the three girls sat in silence. Looking as if she wanted to hide under a rock, Rebecca hunched lower in the seat and clutched the reins so tightly her knuckles were white. Hannah brushed the mud off her bonnet and gingerly replaced it on her head. Naomi drummed her fingers on her knees and stared straight ahead. She swallowed, attempting to loosen the tension in her jaw and somehow force herself to think through the fury.
The men populating the street stared brazenly, and several even whistled and made obscene suggestions. She glanced over the swirling sea of faces, looking for some hint of normalcy and civility. They were young and middle-aged, mostly bearded, dirty, and flashing a dangerous glint of the untamed in their eyes. So different from her beloved John. [ONE OF MY FAVORITE COMPLIMENTS IS WHEN SOMEONE TELLS ME THEY CAN REALLY SEE DEFIANCE. I HAD ONE LADY ACTUALLY TELL ME THE TOWN SCARED HER. IT’S FUNNY, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THESE GIRLS’ SHOES? BASED ON A LOT OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH, DEFIANCE IS QUITE TYPICAL OF SOME OF THE ROUGHEST MINING TOWNS OF THE 19TH CENTURY.]
Oh, God, she cried out, what are you thinking?
“We have to move, Rebecca,” she heard herself order, surprised at the steadiness of her voice. She didn’t feel steady. Not one bit. But she had to hold herself together, at least until she was alone.
Rebecca straightened and lifted the reins. “Which way?”
“It’s the third building from the end.” Naomi pointed ahead of them. “It’s right there where the street bends.” Rebecca clucked her tongue and the mules obeyed. As the wagon rolled forward, Naomi fumed aloud over the citizens while trying to ignore their bold gazes. “They’ve the manners of pirates here, and stare like they’ve never seen women before.”
“It’s not just the men,” Rebecca countered, tugging on the reins to veer away from an on-coming wagon. “We saw three women watching us from upstairs at the saloon.”
Hannah’s eyes widened with a scandalous admission as she scratched at her waist: “I waved at one of them, but she jerked away from the window like I’d fired a gun at her.”
Naomi looked over at her little sister–she had the beautiful, delicate features of a China doll but was still so naïve considering all that she’d been through. If Mr. McIntyre so much as looked at her or Rebecca the wrong way…
Naomi clenched and unclenched her fists, trying to cool down her frustration. What kind of a man was so devoid of a conscience that he could employ women into prostitution as easily as one would hire out a man to chop wood? To think that someone like him was a form of protection for them right now was almost more than she could bear. [ANOTHER OF MY FAVORITE COMPLIMENTS: THAT PEOPLE CAN’T GUESS HOW THESE TWO GET TOGETHER. MCINTYRE REALLY HAS FORGOTTEN THAT HE WAS EVER A DECENT MAN.]