"Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas; . . . her principal business is polygamy without the sanction of religion; her code of morals is the honor of thieves, and decency she knows not. . . The employment of many citizens is gambling, her virtue is prostitution and her beverage is whisky. She is a merry town, and the only visible means of support of a great number of her citizens is jocularity." -- Hays City Sentinel, 1877
Dodge City, Kansas
Adelaide Markham huddled, shivering, in the corner of the Dodge City jail cell. She’d never before seen the inside of a jail house in her entire life and was scared to death. The other women in the cell with her looked just as frightened, except the girl in the scanty saloon outfit who the marshal had just thrown in with them.READ MORE
Drawing her legs up, Adelaide rested her chin on her knees. How did she, a young woman of twenty-five, raised in a God-fearing, loving home by two doting parents, end up in jail? She jerked as gunshots went off outside the jail house. She hated Dodge City and wanted more than anything to get away.
She thought of her snug little house about ten miles outside of the town, where she’d spent the most enjoyable years of her life. Until influenza took her husband, Gerald, and their sweet little girl, Mary. She wiped the tear that escaped the corner of her eye. She’d learned months ago that crying did nothing except give her a headache.
“Marshal, when you gonna let us the hell out of here?” The saloon girl ran her shoe across the bars of the cell, making enough racket to block out the sounds from outside.
“Shut up, Cinnamon,” a man’s voice called. “The Marshal left me in charge and I ain’t letting you out until he says so.”
“Well, where did he go? He can’t just throw me in here and walk off. I demand to have my say.” She leaned against the door, gripping the bars. “And don’t call me Cinnamon.”
“That’s your name, ain’t it? And there ain’t nothing to say. You hit the mayor over the head with a pitcher of beer.”
“The old lecher deserved it!”
“Shut up, girl. And settle down.”
The girl, whose name was apparently Cinnamon—although she didn’t want to be called that—flounced over to the cot where Adelaide sat and plopped down, crossing her arms, pushing up her breasts dangerously high. She looked over at Adelaide. “What are you in for?”
“Having no job, no home, and no money.”
“Well, hell, if you ain’t got a job, then there ain’t no way to have a home or money.” She adjusted the straps on her dress and tugged the neckline up. “My name’s Cinnamon O’Brien. But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll call me Cindy. What’s yours?”
“You look like what my ma used to call a ‘good, God-fearing woman.’ How’d you end up with nothing?”
Adelaide cleared her throat, knowing it would hurt just uttering the words. “My husband and little girl died of influenza. Gerald was a gunsmith, and since I didn’t know the first thing about guns, I couldn’t keep his business going.”
“I’m an only child and my parents drowned right after Gerald and I were married. Their buggy went over the side of a bridge during a rainstorm.”
Cindy reached out and touched her hand. “I’m so sorry, girl. You’ve had it hard, haven’t you?”
Fighting the tears once again, Adelaide merely nodded. “I left my house and came to Dodge City. I got a job as a waitress, but having no experience, I didn’t last long. When I got fired I started living in an abandoned building. The owner told me I could stay if I um . . . ‘warmed his bed’ as he put it. When I refused, he had the marshal arrest me for trespassing. He said he would drop the charges if I reconsidered.”
“Damn men.” Cindy looked over at the two other women sitting on the small cot against the opposite wall, watching the exchange. “What are y’all in for?”
The brunette shrugged. “I worked with Doctor Snodgrass, selling medicine out of his wagon. I thought it was real good stuff. But it turns out it was just water he colored with beet juice. He skipped town and left me here. People filed complaints, so the marshal arrested me. I don’t know why, since I never got any of the money. Dr. Snodgrass took it all.”
“Damn men. What’s your name?”
Cindy gestured with her chin to the other woman. “What’s your story?”
For a full minute the girl just stared at them. Finally, she wrapped her arms around her middle and whispered, “I killed a man.”
Dodge City Marshal Dane Jones stood next to Nellie Ward, his arm draped casually over her shoulder as the two of them watched Nellie’s brothel burn to the ground.
With no one available to help put out the fire, Dane had made sure all the girls were out before he took up his position next to Nellie. “Damn shame. You have the cleanest girls and the least watered-down whiskey in town.”
A young whore wrapped in a silk robe walked up to them. “What are we gonna do now, Nellie? Where will we sleep tonight?”
“I guess the marshal here will have to put us all up in the jail.”
“I ain’t going to no jail,” the young girl huffed. “Margie at The Palace is always looking for girls, I’m going there and see if she can take me in.”
“Me, too.” Two other whores joined the group, and before the last wall of the brothel had fallen in, all six of Nellies girls had left her standing there with the marshal.
“Well, ain’t that the living end.” Nellie glared at their backs, her hands on her hips.
Dane tucked a lock of hair behind Nellie’s ear. “Don’t worry. Once you get a new place set up, they’ll come back.”
“No.” She sighed and shook her head. “I’m too old to start over, Marshal.”
“Too old? Hell, woman, you’re no more than forty.” Nellie was not only still young looking for her line of work, she was also a handsome woman with a fine figure who didn’t need all the face paint she used.
“I’ve been in this business since I was fourteen. There are days I feel older than the Widow Charles, and she must be seventy if she’s a day.”
Dane turned to her and gave her a slow smile, his mind working furiously. She could be the solution to a problem he’d been wrestling with all day. He continued to stare at her, the idea forming in his mind sounding better all the time.
“Marshal, I don’t know why you’re staring at me like that, but it’s making me mighty nervous.”
His grin grew wider. “Nellie, how fond of this town are you?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t make any difference to me where I plant my feet. In fact, Dodge City is getting too wild. Even for me. Why?”
“I have four young women sitting in my jail right now.”
“Four young women? In jail? Marshal Jones, are you crazy?”
He hooked his thumbs in his gun belt and rocked back on his heels. “Probably, but I think I’ve come up with a solution on how to get rid of them, and help you at the same time.”
“Why do I think I’m not going to like this?” she groused as he took her by the elbow and hustled her in the direction of the jailhouse.
JTC, Amazon wrote:
Ms. Hutton writes a masterful, brilliantly written tale. The characters are engaging and interesting. The storyline is unique, compelling and will always give the reader a satisfactory read. I can't wait to read the next installment of "Prisoners of Love - Mail Order". A must read Historical Romance set in Dodge City, Kansas. Absolutely loved this series! More, please!
Wende, Amazon wrote:
I loved Adelaide and Miles' story - although they had an unconventional start to their marriage, they definitely had chemistry and were great complements to each other. Miles was a take-charge type of man, but with a definite soft spot for Adelaide and his daughters. He was also quite clueless on how to take care of his girls, but I liked that he made an effort to learn. I felt sorry for Adelaide's circumstances but admired her grit.
What a wonderful start to a series. Adelaide was in dire straits and the only way she had of surviving with her honor intact was to marry. Which is where the book really began. I loved how there was not a rush for the main characters to fall in love but rather they took their time. Miles was wonderful and funny. His little girls were completely out of hand. He needed a mother for them. It was great reading the ups and downs of these four people becoming a family. My favorite quote from Miles, “Life is full of risks, honey. If we try to avoid them, we would never leave our homes. If fear wins, we lose.” This is true in real life also. Can't wait to read the next book in this series.