Chapter One: Whorehouse
“Hey, sugar? You lookin’ for something? If you are, I bet I got it.” The woman smiled as she emerged from the shadows. “Name’s May.”
She was blocking the path leading from the landing to the stairs, and Jenny could see that she looked tired. Real tired. Too tired for someone who was probably younger than she looked and once a lot prettier. If Jenny had to describe May in one word, it would be ‘used.’
“Nah.” Jenny deepened her voice, the strain of doing so aggravating the persistent soreness in her throat. It took effort, making her tone match her masculine disguise.
She’d hoped that would end the conversation, but May stepped forward, putting her cleavage at eye level with Jenny, who knew that a man would be expected to stare. And so Jenny did, noting that May’s left breast had a mole and the right had two faint purple bruises.
“You’re charming. Mighty charming,” Jenny said, suddenly grateful to be focusing on May’s breasts instead of her eyes. The last thing she needed was for this woman to get a good look at her face. So Jenny continued to stare at the swells of flesh, focusing on the mole, as she excused her lack of interest. “It’s just that I got business to see to. I’m ah, new in town and lookin’ to rent a room.”
May threw back her head and laughed. “Sugar, you won’t find a room here, at least not for more than an hour. This here’s the brothel.”
May ran the back of her fingers down the side of Jenny’s now-flushing face.
“Look at you, so innocent,” Mary cooed. “I can fix that, you know.” She reached over to slide her hand down Jenny’s back. Jenny jumped when that knowing hand tried to cup her ass.
“Uh, some other time, ma’am,” she said, pushing past.
Jenny’s heart was pounding now, and she kept her face down, hoping the brim of her hat would conceal the flush of embarrassment that still stained her cheeks.
Stupid! Stupid! She’d not been here two days and she’d already mistaken a brothel for a boardinghouse. And this on the heels of a disturbing encounter with a man she’d run into when she’d been staking her claim. Jenny had chosen a plot like one William had always talked about—along a stream bank near a bluff. Her brother had described the process to her so often that she thought she could almost hear his voice in her head as she walked off the forty-foot square, driving stakes at the corners, and nailing up the notice stating this claim belonged to W. F. Beaumont.
She’d turned then, and nearly bumped into what could have literally passed for a bear of a man. He smelled, and the grubby collar of his shirt gaped open, exposing a furry chest.
He was looking at the sign, then back at her.
“What kind of name is that—Beaumont? You French?” His eyes appraised her. Dark eyes. Mean eyes. His voice was deep, gravelly. “Lot of foreigners coming in here. Some of us don’t much like it.”
Jenny lowered her voice. “No. I’m from Oklahoma.” She stuck out her hand, trying to look and sound as casual as possible even though her heart was racing. “William Beaumont.”
The man looked down at her hand, took it, and squeezed it in a handshake so hard that it nearly brought tears to Jenny’s eyes.
“Dan Forbes.” He continued to stare at Jenny, but was not smiling. “I was eyeing that spot,” he said, indicating her just-staked claim with a nod of his head. “Been eyeing it for several days now.”
“Well… sorry.” Jenny started to walk away, but a huge hand clapped on her shoulder. “What did you say your name was again, boy?”
The way he said, ‘boy’ caused Jenny’s heart to hammer harder. Part of her wanted to reach up to make sure the binding on her breasts had not come loose, even though she knew it had not. The strips were still tight—so tight she could barely breathe. She’d also smeared extra dirt on her face, hoping to obscure the smoothness of her skin; had she sweated it off? Jenny knew she was short and slight, but she’d hoped to at least pass herself off as a boy. But the way this man was staring at her…
“Can you tell me where the nearest boardinghouse is?” she suddenly asked.
The man said nothing for a moment. When he finally smiled, she wished he hadn’t. His breath was foul, his teeth chipped and yellow-gray in his mouth.
“Yeah, little feller… Just go up to town and you’ll see it. Big sign on the door. Says ‘Cora’s.’ Can’t miss it.”
Jenny had walked away then as fast as her legs would allow, reaching to feel for the small bag of coins tucked under the waistband of her pants as she fled. It was all the money she had in the world—all the money she had to see her through until she could find some gold. William had said it was everywhere, flowing in the water. It would be rough living in the mining town, he’d said, but the wealth would come easy.
Looking around, she wondered about that. She’d never seen so many people in one place before, but none of them looked even remotely successful. Everywhere were grubby men, skinny men, dirty men—most looking like they took their meals in the form of whiskey. And obviously dishonest men, she thought, now that she realized Dan Forbes had actually directed her to a whorehouse.
Jenny was about to head down the stairs when she saw the man himself walk in through the door. His shaggy head was turning this way and that, the dark eyes scanning the room. Instinct told her that the bear man had followed her. But why? Turning around, she headed back up the staircase to the landing, hoping to take the hall to a door leading out the other side. There wasn’t one. Hearing heavy footfalls around the corner, she did the only thing she knew to do; she ducked into a room and headed for a closet.
When the door opened a few moments later, Jenny expected to see her hulking pursuer. But instead it was May, trailed by two men with sandy blond hair. One was tall, with a scar down the side of his face. The other was short with what looked like the start of a reluctant beard.
“I don’t normally do this,” May was saying as the shorter man shut the door. Her back was to the closet, but through a crack in the door, Jenny could already see that the prostitute was reaching behind her back to undo the laces of her corsets.
“That ain’t what we heard, May.” The taller of the two men walked over and pulled the unlaced corset free, tossing it aside. “I heard that you sometimes let two share, especially when it takes both of them to pay your fee. I even hear tell that you like it.”
He reached out then and pulled May roughly to him, turning her so her back was against his chest. They were both facing the closet now, and Jenny held her breath as she watched him pull down the threadbare chemise.
May’s breasts, unbound, were large and pendulous, with long, cherry-colored nipples that the man now pinched and rolled between the thick fingers of his large hands.
“Don’t be greedy, Jake.” The shorter man walked over and shoved his friend’s hand aside, replacing it with his mouth. May’s head fell back against the chest of the man called Jake, who continued playing with one breast as his friend suckled another.
“Mmmm,” May said, and Jenny realized that she didn’t look so tired any more. When the taller man’s hand went under her skirt, May reached down and lifted the hem. Jenny almost gasped at the sight. May was letting the taller man support her weight as she spread her legs for the one kneeling between them. The kneeling man put his fingers between her thighs, where they disappeared into a nest of dark curls. Jenny felt lightheaded as she watched the kneeling man drive his fingers in and out of May as she moved her hips in a lurid dance on the end of his fingers.
“I want some of that, Mack.” The taller man moved May away from his friend, tossing her onto the bed. Jenny knew she should look away, especially when the men began undressing almost frantically as they stared down at the half-dressed woman who lay there smiling with her breasts spilling over her corset, and her skirt hiked up to expose her bare pussy. It was almost, Jenny decided, more indecent than if she’d been as naked as the men now were.
They circled the bed like wolves about to pounce, and Jenny felt her heart begin to pound. This couldn’t be right, could it? She knew a little of the way things were between males and females; she’d seen cats and horses and dogs mate, and in her father’s library she’d once found a book that showed a man and a woman copulating. But that had been just one man and one woman, like the preacher said the Bible commanded. There was nothing Biblical about what May was doing as she spread her legs for one man’s mouth while opening her mouth for another.
Jenny clapped her hand over her own mouth, trying to ignore the slurping noises that filled the room. Jake had his face buried between May’s white thighs. Every few moments he’d pull back as if coming up for air, his face glistening with wetness, before spreading the lips of her pussy to resume his carnal feast. At the head of the bed, the tall man was straddling May’s face, pushing his cock in and out of her mouth as she played with her breasts.
This isn’t right. It can’t be! Jenny’s head was spinning. What kind of depraved world have I come to?
May began to shudder and cry out, wrapping her legs tightly around Jake’s shoulders, her calves pulling her to him as he gripped her thighs hard. He was making sucking noises, and she was bucking against his face. Then suddenly he was wrenching her legs apart, kneeling between them as he grabbed May by her wide hips. Jake pulled her onto his cock and began hammering her as his friend left the bed to stand behind him.
Was it possible that they were both going to take her? Jenny sat down on the floor of the closet, feeling weak. She could still see the scene through the crack in the door, and wanted to look away but couldn’t. Jake was grunting, his muscular buttocks clenching. A few seconds later, he collapsed with a cry, and in that instant the taller man grabbed him and pulled him away so roughly that the shorter man stumbled, his half-hard cock bobbing as he tried to retain his footing.
May’s legs were still spread, her pubic hairs christened with a milky white substance that Jenny decided had come from Jake. And now the taller man was flipping May over and pulling her to her knees, slapping her ass as he lined his longer, slimmer cock up to her spread, dripping pussy.
“Aaaahhh, that’s it,” he said, slapping her ass again. “You bad, bad girl, taking two cocks at once. That’s what you are, ain’t it, May? A bad, filthy girl?”
“Yes!” She was crying out now, and with each slap of his hand, Jenny winced. He was driving into her, alternating the spanks with his thrusts, and Jenny was confused. If he thought she was bad and filthy, why was he having relations with her? And why was he punishing her for doing what he said? It was all so perplexing and overwhelming, and she bit back a cry of distress at being there in the closet, at being in Coloma at all.
But then she reminded herself that she was here for a reason: gold. William had once told her this was no place for a lady, and that was why she couldn’t go. Now she knew why.
Oh, William, Jenny thought. Why did you have to go and die on me?
The cries had stopped. The taller man was shuddering as his friend had done, but this time, May seemed to shudder with him, her head thrown back as she cried out. A few moments later he slipped out of May, and the two men dressed while offering casual conversation to the woman they’d just so violently used. Money was exchanged, and winks, and then the trio left the room.
Jenny’s legs were shaking when she finally found the courage to leave the closet. The room smelled of a sharp tang and sweat, and she flushed when she looked at the bed to see a stain left by the activities she’d just witnessed.
She crept to the door and looked out. Seeing the hall was clear now, she crept down it. There was no sign of the large man who’d followed her in. Pulling the brim of her hat down, Jenny made her way out and to the boardinghouse, telling herself she’d never again enter a house where a woman allowed herself to be used by two men.