A FEW LINES from COLD GOLD by Victoria Chatham
“Well, look ‘ee here!” The first rider grinned at her, revealing a mouthful of stained and crooked teeth that reminded her of broken tombstones. “New blood in town.”
“Hello, fancy lady,” the second rider said. “You goin’ to share a drink wi’ me before we share somethin’ else?”
The other riders dismounted and gathered around her, jostling Serena until her back flattened against the wall of the saloon. Her mouth quickly dried up. Her heart pounded. She smelled their sour breath and sweat-stained clothes, felt their anticipation and wished she had paid more attention to Sheriff Johnson’s warning.
“Oy, you lot!” Every head turned at the strident tone of a woman’s distinctly English voice. “Jasper, you idiot, you don’t know a real lady when you see one. Cal, you wouldn’t know what to do with one anyway. Tom, Walt, Clarence, stand back and give the lady some room. Clear off, the lot a’ ya.”
Grumbling, the men turned away and walked into the saloon. Serena closed her eyes and sighed with relief.
“Are you stupid, or what?”
Serena pushed off the wall and faced her rescuer. The force of the expression in the woman’s blue eyes almost caused her to take a step back again.
“I...I wasn’t thinking,” she stuttered.
“That was perfectly obvious,” the other woman retorted. “Come on, we need to get you off the street. This way.”
The woman took Serena’s arm in a strong grip and hurried her along the boardwalk in the opposite direction to the Eldorado.
“In here.” The woman opened a door and pushed her into a store redolent with the warm and wonderful aromas of coffee and fresh baking. “Go on, straight through that door facing you. I’m right behind you.”
Her rescuer’s hand, firm on her back, gave Serena no choice but to go where directed. The moment she passed through the second door, she spun on her heel.
“Just who are you?” she demanded. “And what gives you the right to push me around?”
“Well, pardon me for breathing.” Anger spiked the woman’s voice and blazed in her blue eyes. “You’d rather be pushed around by a bunch of randy miners, would you?”
“No, of course not. And I do thank you for coming to my aid, but who are you?”
“Someone you shouldn’t be seen with, that’s for sure.”
“Why shouldn’t I be seen with you?” Serena looked her rescuer up and down and might have been looking in a mirror, so similar were they. The woman was her height, dressed in clothes as fashionable as her own. Tendrils of hair, blonde rather than dark brown, framed the woman’s face and, just like Serena’s own skin, the woman had a fresh, clear complexion.
“Because I’m Lorelei Sutton and I own a brothel just outside of town.”