Dance to the Devil's Tune
Dance to the Devil's Tune
Lady Law and The Gunslinger Series By Adrienne deWolfe
Maestro’s music creates mindless puppets, who commit crimes at his command. To lure the sinister jewel thief out of hiding, Pinkerton Agent Sadie Michelson poses as a wealthy widow.
Fearing for her safety, William “Cass” Cassidy, her hotheaded lover, hatches his own plot to end Maestro’s killing spree. But his daring gamble backfires and costs him Sadie’s trust.
Now Cass is on the run, hunted by Maestro and the Pinkertons. Torn between her mission and her gunslinging lover, Sadie must stop Cass’s showdown with Maestro, or she’ll lose her badge – and her man.
Dance to the Devil's Tune
Pinwheels of light spun in the young woman's mind, blanking her memory, stealing her will.
One hour ago, she’d had a name. A conscience. A keen intellect and the heartfelt desire to save the world. But all that had changed the moment the clock chimed the midnight hour, and the music box with the enamel peacock began to play.
Now she was staring blankly at her reflection. The mirror hung in the master bedroom of the silver-mining tycoon she'd come to rob. If she'd still possessed the power to reason, she might have thought she looked a mess with her black curls spilling in a riot from her sealskin toque. She might have dusted powder across her chill-reddened nose or re-touched her lips with her favorite, strawberry balm. Certainly, she would have bemoaned the bloody smears on her indigo evening gown.
But her appearance no longer concerned her. Not since she'd found the attractively wrapped gift box, and the darling little novelty had mesmerized her with its tune.
Tripping the hidden latch behind the mirror, she swung the hinged, 24-karat frame away from the wall. Gaslight flickered over a numbered dial, protruding from the exposed safe. She tore off a leather glove and placed her ear against the cold steel. Listening for clicks, she turned the knob.
As a Pinkerton, she was more experienced at picking locks than cracking safes. Even so, she'd never set out to steal anything in her life—not until the vault finally swung open, and she stood staring at her prize. Nestled between several stacks of silver bullion, a heart-shaped ruby winked with a blood-red luster.
Ignoring neighboring emeralds, sapphires, and pearls, she snatched the walnut-sized gem she'd been induced to steal from Lt. Governor Horace Tabor, while he attended the theater with his family. In her haste to grab her rabbit-fur muff and close the vault's door, she forgot her glove.
Descending the circular staircase, she swept past the dead butler and two equally dead dogs before slipping through the kitchen door into the gardens. Touched by a surreal light, bare branches glimmered with frost in the crisp, Colorado night. The moon was beginning to set.
A spark of urgency quickened her feet. The carriage would be waiting.
He would be waiting.
Snowflakes tumbled across her hair and landed on her lashes. She never blinked. The pointy heels of her calfskin boots beat a steady tattoo as she marched across the cobblestones, looking neither left nor right. Puffs of steam curled above the dutiful horses in the street. Beyond them, a velvety, brassier-warmed blackness beckoned.
When she climbed through the open door of the carriage, he rapped the roof with his walking stick. The conveyance lurched forward. Ice crackled beneath its wheels. The sounds jarred her senses, but he murmured her name, caressing the word with a warm, buttery baritone.
All her awareness focused on him.
"Did you procure the Heart of Fire?"
She nodded, surrendering her plunder.
"Splendid. And the dossier?"
She raised her skirt to reveal ruffled bloomers and a large, plain envelope strapped above her knee. Without the slightest hesitation, she handed him three weeks worth of evidence she'd been compiling to indict him for coercion, burglary, and murder. No other copies existed.
"That's a good girl."
He settled into the shadows, his gloved hand resting atop the brass handle of his cane. He looked like he'd just come from the opera, with his silk top hat, Inverness cape, and polished black pumps. He smelled of lemongrass soap, Cleopatra Federal cigars, and cognac. The scents stirred something deep inside her, the memory of his taste. His touch. The insidiously sweet way his fingers had dipped between her thighs, working their dark magic.
"We're almost there," he soothed.
He called himself Maestro, partly because musical novelties intrigued him, partly because he specialized in various forms of mind control. Since she'd stepped inside the cab, he hadn't taken his eyes from hers. He knew about the .32 concealed inside her muff; he knew if she found a path through the fog inside her brain, she wouldn't have hesitated to put a bullet through his black heart.
But he was confident in his power over her. He'd told her, once, that hoydens with popguns amused him, and he considered them his favorite sport. He'd also told her to kill anyone who might get in her way at Tabor's mansion.
And she had.
The carriage rolled onto 19th Street and stopped. At this late hour, the road was deserted. However, she barely noticed the world beyond the isinglass windows. She was entranced by the pocket watch he'd tugged from his vest. When he pressed the stem, the timepiece started playing a sweet melody from her childhood. Her lips curved softly as she listened.
He handed the novelty to her.
"Run along now." He pushed open the carriage door. "You know what to do."
Obediently, she stepped down to the wooden planks beneath the carriage. Freshly fallen snow crunched under her boots. Rushing river water glittered in the moonlight, not far below. The South Platte was close to flood stage.
The bite of winter air burned her lungs. She blinked again. But the mechanical melody was insistent:
"London bridges falling down,
Falling down, falling down..."
When she jumped into the river, the carriage rolled away.
* * *
Ten Days Later
Sometimes Lady Pinkertons tackled the most bizarre cases.
But no assignment could be more bizarre than this one, reflected veteran agent, Sadie Michelson. She was posing as a grieving, Italian contessa so she could get bilked by an American flim-flam artist at a traveling spook show.
Definitely a case for my memoirs, she thought, hoping an attempt at humor would distract her from the stench of copal incense and unwashed bodies, shouting Amen beneath the red-and-white circus tent.
Yes, she was freezing her bustle off in the middle of Denver's Jewell Park, where Brother Enoch Fowler and his more zealous camp followers had been parking their wagons since August. According to rumor, environmental complications, ranging from wildfires on the plains, to an avalanche in Raton Pass, had prevented Fowler's retreat to a warmer climate.
But Fowler wasn't one to question Divine Providence. The preacher happily continued his stage shows, humbugging the superstitious suckers of Mile High City—especially the nouveau riche. In fact, one of his assistants was leading the prayer service now, so Fowler could shear some wealthy lamb inside his private lair. Judging by the rest of the brassier-toting sheep beneath the Big Top—and the army of females in Puritan costumes, ladling out hot cider—nobody minded the chill.
She grimaced. Careful not to discharge the pistol strapped to her wrist, she flexed stiff fingers so she could fish a timepiece from her hand muff's lining.
Hallelujah. Show time.
Suspecting she looked like a lemon popsicle—because that's how she felt—she shook out the topaz velvet of her skirt and widened the gap between the lapels of her sable coat. The whole reason behind her contessa disguise was to bait a mysterious jewel thief, named Maestro, with the obscenely large emerald nesting between her breasts.
According to a preliminary report filed by Agent Araminta "Minx" Merripen, Maestro was relatively new to Denver and had received carte blanche entry into the richest homes. Minx had named Fowler her chief suspect. Three days later, her body had been found floating in the Platte. That's why Sadie believed Fowler was connected to Minx's death.
Eager to come face-to-face with her quarry, Sadie abandoned her rustic bench at the rear of the camp meeting. Adopting a regal mien, she skirted late arrivals, including a couple of arguing Italians, with a bawling infant, and a Mexican, who was leaning against a tent pole. The caballero appeared to be snoozing under his sombrero, the way his hat rested on the tip of his nose.
But Sadie quickly forgot the immigrants when she noticed the commotion at the registration table. She figured the sight of an Italian noblewoman, in an ankle-length fur, had flustered the two females with the plain muslin bonnets and conservative, gray gowns. Careful to hide her amusement, she watched the younger of these Puritan Throwbacks whisper in the ear of her bespectacled companion.
The older woman fled like a pack of hounds was at her heels.
Sadie halted and sized up the adolescent, whose badge proclaimed her to be Sister Rebekah. Not a single strand of hair could be seen beneath the waif's snow-white bonnet. She was pale and mousy-looking with unusually intense, dark eyes. An enormous wooden cross hung from a leather cord around her neck. That cord stretched nearly to her navel.
"Buona sera," Sadie greeted in her best Italian accent. ‘Finally,’ she thought, ‘those grueling language lessons with my childhood opera coach are paying off.’ "I am the Contessa di Montaldeo. I am scheduled to meet with Brother Enoch—"
Sadie hiked an eyebrow. Was it her imagination, or was Rebekah glaring at her as if she were the devil's own handmaiden?
"Mi scusi," Sadie said politely, "but the clock on your table says—"
"The clock's wrong. Sister Abigail gave your appointment to someone else."
A muscle ticked in Sadie's jaw. Sister Abigail was the near-sighted woman, whom Rebekah had sent scurrying into the crowd. Sadie had no way to verify the waif's claim.
"Very well," Sadie bit out, "schedule me for the next available appointment."
Rebekah hiked her chin and shook her head, two sure signs she was lying.
"Next week?" Sadie persisted to confirm her suspicion.
"Come if you like, but we won't be here."
"And why is that?"
"Too much snow."
Sadie struggled with her notoriously short temper. Rebekah's lie wasn't the only reason why her patience was stretched thin. The Rocky Mountain News had sabotaged Sadie’s plan to gain credibility among Denver's privileged class. Despite the effusive assurances of the editor, her elaborately concocted story about the contessa's adventures as a tourist had been relegated to a footnote in the morning edition. The editor had used the rest of the society column to praise the "lyrical virtuosity" of a Sicilian soprano, who'd stolen Sadie's thunder by debuting at Tabor's Grand Opera House last night.
Is it any wonder Rebekah doesn't know I'm supposed to be traveling with a fortune in jewels, any one of which would put the Heart of Fire to shame?
"Signorina," Sadie said in reasonable tones, "surely we can come to an arrangement." Deliberately, she fingered her ostentatious gold and platinum collar, which weighed as much as the monstrosity was worth. She didn't enjoy lugging the necklace around Denver like an ox's yoke, but if diamonds and emeralds were to be the seeds of Maestro's destruction, then so be it. "I must be leaving for California soon," she improvised, "to inspect my dear, departed Luigi's vineyards. I have heard how Brother Enoch speaks to spirits, how he gives comfort to the living. It is a dreadful imposition, I am sure, but I was hoping he might make an exception for me. I must consult with my beloved conte and ask him how to invest—"
"Go away," Rebekah snapped. "I don't like you."
Sadie blinked. She was so stunned by this rebuff, she wondered if Rebekah had remembered her from some previous encounter.
But Sadie quickly assured herself their acquaintance was impossible. In her pre-Pinkerton days, she'd never performed her bawdy songs in a venue where children were allowed.
Besides, two nights ago, she'd altered her appearance, dyeing her hair a deep, dark chestnut to look more Italian. Even her lover, William "Cass" Cassidy, would have looked twice to recognize her now.
"I am grieved to hear that, signorina," Sadie said dryly. "But the facts remain: the clock is not wrong, and I am not late. Now then. I am willing to overlook this unfortunate misunderstanding and tell Brother Enoch how helpful you've been to correct it. Or, if you prefer, I can distress him with the news that Sister Rebekah is an ill-mannered guttersnipe, who offends his paying customers."
Well, that stoked the fire in those burning, black eyes. Rebekah clutched her cross with two white-knuckled fists. "It would serve you right if I did take you to see Papa right now."
Papa? Sadie frowned. According to Fowler's Pinkerton dossier, he was supposed to be a bachelor: never married and no children.
"Signorina Fowler." Sadie locked stares with the brat. "I am not known for my patience. I demand that you point the way to—"
"Grazie, carino," purred a female voice in dulcet Italian, somewhere to Sadie's rear. "How kind you are to ask. Of course, I shall autograph your opera program."
Sadie's heart nearly stalled. In the reflection of the clock face, she glimpsed a sloe-eyed, dark-haired beauty in a low-cut, scarlet gown, which was embroidered with tiny black treble clefs. The woman's companion, a gentleman wearing a cleric's collar, gallantly held aloft a tent flap for her convenience.
Holy crap! Fowler's entering the Big Top with Dolce LaRocca!
Sadie wasn't the only one who recognized the international singing sensation. A cry went up from the Italian immigrants with the bawling infant. Soon, their shout was sweeping like wildfire through the tent:
"I love you, Dolce!"
"Bless my baby, Dolce!"
The next thing Sadie knew, a swarm of euphoric admirers was rushing the entrance. They knelt, cap in hand, to kiss Dolce's hem or beg her blessing for sundry possessions, ranging from medicine bottles and crutches, to knitting needles and Bowie knives.
The soprano responded graciously to this public adoration. She blew kisses; she clasped hands; she patted toddlers' heads. When Sadie spied Sister Abigail, squinting happily in Dolce's wake, she deduced the reason for the scheduling mix-up: Sister Abigail couldn't see three feet in front of her nose. No doubt the woman had assumed, from Dolce's accent, that the soprano was the contessa.
Great. I can't approach Fowler now; Dolce will expose me as a fraud!
Tossing a dagger's glance at Rebekah—who was smirking in the most annoying way—Sadie ducked her head, turned up her coat collar, and hurried past the opera enthusiasts. In her haste to escape with her cover intact, she didn't notice how the Mexican roused himself to follow.
Twilight was rapidly stretching its tentacles over the Rockies. Sadie ducked behind a tower of cider kegs, located a discreet distance from the tent flaps. She didn't know where Fowler fleeced his lambs, but she reasoned his quarters couldn't be far.
Glad to spy no other stragglers, arriving late for the meeting, Sadie studied the grounds. About 20 yards from the Big Top, the makeshift boardwalk abruptly ended. Countless impressions in the ground told how hooves, wheels, and boots had trampled the grass that once carpeted the area. Now, only a few bedraggled islands of green rose amidst the frosted mud ruts. To the north, horses huddled for warmth before rough-hewn hitching posts. To the south, crisscrossing foot trails led to a road, which in turn disappeared into a stand of spruces.
Eureka. Sadie hiked her skirts. Hopefully, Dolce will keep Fowler distracted long enough for me to search his wagon.
Thunder rumbled. Brisk gusts of wind knocked tree limbs together, causing icicles to snap. Sadie shivered. A Texican by birth, she'd spent the last five months on assignment in her native state, sweating bullets in a drought. When headquarters had sent the urgent wire about Minx, Sadie had hopped the first train to Denver. She hadn't anticipated the need to adjust to a 50-degree drop in temperature overnight. Nor had she thought to stop at some emporium along the way to purchase a decent pair of boots. She'd been too busy ditching her favorite nuisance: a silver-tongued gunslinger, better known as "Eros in Spurs" in polite society.
And as Lucifire in my bed.
Her lips curved at the memory.
William "Cass" Cassidy was as hot as the devil's pitchfork with a temper to match. The snoop had learned how headquarters wanted her to investigate the disappearance of a fellow Lady Pinkerton—or Pinkie, as female agents were affectionately called. Cass wasn't the least bit convinced that women should wear badges, especially in a city where the chief of police was even more corrupt than its mayor. He'd insisted on tagging along for her protection.
Sadie had been equally insistent that Cass butt out of her Pinkerton affairs. He might be a newly minted Ranger in Texas, but in Colorado, he was still wanted for three counts of stage coach robbery.
Unfortunately, Cass had been determined to give her boss a piece of his mind. To prevent him from smashing Allan Pinkerton's face—or worse—Sadie had let the tawny-haired heartthrob tucker himself out, pleasuring her with whipping cream and drizzled honey. Shortly before dawn, while Cass had been recuperating from his erotic feast, she'd snapped manacles on his wrists and dumped his three lock picks—yes, three lock picks!—out the train's window.
Thus, while her lover had snoozed, blissfully unaware that he'd need a hacksaw to cut himself from his berth, she'd fled to Fort Worth's stage depot and had finally arrived for her debriefing in Allan Pinkerton's secret railroad car.
With any luck, Cass is still speeding his way toward sunny Laredo.
Sadie smirked at the thought.
But as she entered the grove of spruces, her amusement ebbed. Here, the bristling tree sentinels blotted most of the light from the sky. The deeper she roamed, the denser the shadows grew. When she finally entered a clearing big enough for a circle of wagons, her relief was short-lived. Judging by the wheel ruts, the abandoned wood piles, and the ashes scattered across the snow, Fowler's troop had camped here and moved on.
Damn. Where'd they go?
Teeth chattering, she hugged her muff to her chest and trudged a few yards further, wincing when her ankles wobbled on their spiky heels. She didn't know what bothered her more, the pits in the road or the unnatural silence of the conifer forest.
Suddenly, a twig snapped behind her. She gasped and turned. With her Smith & Wesson cocked inside her muff, she raked tawny eyes over the hulking shadows around her. Above the hammering of her heart, her straining ears could hear nothing but the soughing of the wind.
Then a white-tailed deer stepped onto the path.
Her breath loosed in a shaky rush.
'What were you expecting?' she scolded herself. 'An ax-murdering ghost from the spook show?'
She shoved her pistol back up her sleeve and yanked her foot from a hole. That's when she heard the ominous sound that every fashionable female dreads: the crack of a breaking heel.
Son of a—
She'd only just begun to curse when a fine, freezing drizzle pelted the top of her sable hat.
It's official. I'm in hell.
The deer fled, probably because she was hopping on one foot and swearing like a bawd in a low-rent crib. But as she tried—unsuccessfully—to snap her other heel, she heard the rattle of an approaching carriage.
Praise the Lord. He hasn't forsaken me yet.
The vehicle was coming fast. Through ice-encrusted trees, she glimpsed polished brass lanterns and a perfectly matched team of Morgans—sure signs of wealth. She didn't recognize the crest on the carriage doors, but she reasoned that hitching a ride with rich folk was better than limping a quarter mile back to the spook show on one heel.
As the carriage rounded the bend, she hobbled to the intersection and waved her arms like a windmill. The whip, whose hat dripped icicles, didn't look inclined to stop. And who could blame him? The way the rain was pelting down, she probably looked like she'd fished a drowned rat from the river and plopped it on her head.
Fortunately, the hansom's occupants were more altruistic.
"Good heavens!" a young female exclaimed, rolling up the isinglass curtain. "Stop the carriage!"
The whip muttered, but he obliged. The vehicle bounced to a halt, spraying sludge all over Sadie.
She scowled, wiping a dollop of mud from her chin.
Luckily for you, pal, my study of Riggoletto didn't supply me with the vocabulary to lambast coach drivers.
The door swung wide, revealing an attractive, dark-haired couple, dressed in evening finery. The gentleman sized her up, his right hand tucked inside his hip pocket. No doubt he gripped a pistol, which meant he travelled smart. Lawless bands of road agents weren't above roughing up a woman, forcing her to play decoy for a robbery. If Sadie wanted on that coach, she would have to invent a sob story—and fast.
"Oh, grazie, signore. Grazie!" she gushed. "I am hopelessly lost in your wretched, American wilderness, and I think I was being chased by il lupo. A wolf!"
"A wolf?!" The dainty, blue-eyed female, who couldn't have been a day over 21, looked aghast. "You poor darling! You must be Lady Fiore, the Contessa di Montaldeo! I read in the Rocky how you came to Denver to attend Rothchild's art auction."
The gentleman tossed his companion a warning glance. "Madam," he addressed Sadie more warily, "you are quite safe now. I see nothing to indicate that you've been followed."
"And even if you were," his companion chimed in staunchly, "Dante is a crack shot. He'd turn that wolf into a pelt for sure!"
"My ward is understandably biased," Dante said in a smooth, cultured baritone that suggested Boston roots.
Repairing his lapse in chivalry, he stepped into the drizzle and swept a formal bow. When he straightened, Sadie found herself locking stares with one of the most alluringly sensual men she'd ever met. He sported a beaver top hat and a form-fitting Chesterfield overcoat, which accentuated his broad shoulders and lean waist. His eyes were dark and mesmerizing, and the cleft in his clean-shaven chin lent him an air of nobility. Sadie guessed him to be about 35 years old.
"Permit me to introduce my companion properly," Dante said. "This is Miss Wyntir Grayfell. And I am Dr. Dante Goddard, at your service."
Dante Goddard? The eminent psychiatrist?
Sadie's mood brightened at this stroke of good fortune. During her debriefing in Pinkerton's private railroad car, she'd learned how Minx had consulted with Dante, as well as a psychology professor, named Mendel Baines. At the time, Minx had been trying to determine if a wealthy dowager, named Lilybelle Welbourn, was as senile as her daughter-in-law claimed. More to the point, Minx had wanted to know if Lilybelle had been hoodwinked out of a fortune in heirloom jewelry by Enoch Fowler and his "spooks."
"Grazie, Dottore Goddard," Sadie said when he shrugged off his overcoat and wrapped it around her shoulders. The wool was heavy and toasty-warm. Dragging it closer, she enjoyed the civilized fragrances of him: applewood tobacco, lemon-spice cologne, and cedar hair tonic. "You and Signorina Greyfell are the answer to my prayers."
"We shall see you to your hotel," he assured her warmly. "Come."
But as Sadie stepped forward, her remaining heel skated on ice. One moment, she was flailing for dear life; the next moment, she was clinging to Dante's neck and sliding down a chest like Colorado granite. When their stares locked, she glimpsed golden flecks, like kindling fires, in his dark eyes.
She sucked in her breath.
After working for 11 years as a professional seductress, Sadie had thought herself immune to masculine beauty. But with Dante's arm locked around her waist, and her muddy pumps dangling helplessly above his shoes, she couldn't quite bite back a nervous giggle. His lips curved in a lazy smile, leaving no doubt he was accustomed to making females giddy.
"Grazie, dottore." Sadie's cheeks flamed. She vowed to take an ax to her traitorous heel at the first opportunity.
"Please. Call me Dante. All my friends do."
I'll bet your patients do too. While they're naked on your couch.
"And you must call me Fiore," she said gamely, recovering her composure. Might as well strike while the iron is hot.
He helped her into the carriage, and she settled beside Wyntir, who fussed like a mother hen, shoving a brassier under her seat.
"Lady Fiore, I'm sorry you've had such a fright," Wyntir said, uncorking a silver flask and reaching for a demitasse cup. "Turkish coffee? To warm you up?"
Sadie wasn't a big fan of café; tequila was more to her liking. However, she was willing to make an exception, if only to thaw the blood in her fingertips.
Suddenly, from the corner of her eye, she spied a flash in the drizzle. Seeking the source of that light, she peered through the window and scanned the embankment. Through the ribbons of mist weaving through the spruces, she spotted the man in the vaquero hat. He was holstering his gun.
Damn! I knew I was being followed!
"Fiore?" Dante prompted as the coach lurched forward. "Is something wrong?"
For a moment, she struggled with guilt, worried that she'd endangered civilians. Then she reasoned that the Mexican would have already plugged her if he was willing to risk a murder warrant to snatch her emeralds. No, he was probably biding his time, waiting to see where she lodged so he could search her hotel room for plunder.
Based on that assessment, Sadie guessed the Mexican couldn't be Maestro. Denver's Prince of Thieves had no qualms about leaving corpses in his wake. By accepting this mission, she'd also had to accept that her emerald bait would attract opportunistic riffraff.
With as much dignity as she could muster, she pasted on a smile for Dante and tried to forget how her curls were hanging in disarray and her skirts were dripping with slush. "Si, dottore. All is well. You are my hero. And you, signorina, are my angel. I am so grateful for your willingness to drive me back to the Windsor Hotel."
Wyntir blushed as she passed the steaming demitasse cup. "Think nothing of it, Lady Fiore. Any good Christian would have done the same. You see, Dante?" Wyntir added with a touch of asperity. "There was a reason to take the high road today. Just like Brother Enoch said."
Distaste flickered over Dante's face. "An inspiring message, to be sure— if one could overlook the messenger."
Sadie hid her amusement. Clearly, Dante thought little of Enoch Fowler, and that was another reason to like Dante.
"Dear Lady Fiore, please don't take offense," Wyntir said, her blush deepening to a pretty rose. "You traveled a long way, and went through a terrible ordeal, to hear the voice of God today."
Sadie decided to let Wyntir believe her romanticized version of the truth. "You must call me Fiore, carina. We are all friends now, si?"
Wyntir nodded, looking pleased. "I shudder to think what might have happened to you, if Dante and I hadn't come along. Were you harmed by that odious wolf?"
Sadie pasted on a martyr-like smile. "I am quite well. But my sable, I fear, has seen better days."
"And your necklace," Wyntir commiserated. "Your servants will be digging out the mud between all those diamonds and emeralds for hours! Goodness," the younger woman added, leaning forward to take a closer look at Sadie's collar. "That stud is truly stunning. I daresay it could rival the Namdaran jewels—which, unfortunately, you'll never get to see. They were stolen recently from our museum."
Sadie was well aware of the theft. Her supervisor, Mace Ryker (better known as Agent Sledgehammer,) was working that case.
"This trifle?" Sadie said in bored tones. She fingered the cushion-shaped emerald, which was roughly the size of a robin's egg. "My little bauble is hardly comparable to the Heart of Fire. Now that gem is worthy of your high praise. A maharajah's wedding gift to his true love? Ah, amare! But I read in the Rocky how the necklace was stolen from Signore Tabor's mansion. Che peccato—what a shame."
Wyntir nodded sadly. "A tragic affair. Horace is beside himself. His butler was like a second father to him."
"You know the lieutenant governor?" Sadie asked in some surprise.
"Oh, yes. He and Papa used to play billiards at the Gentleman's Sporting Club before... before..."
Wyntir's bottom lip trembled, and her eyes grew bright with tears.
Dante reached across the coach and gave her hand a squeeze. "You must forgive my ward," he said, offering Wyntir his handkerchief. "Mourning is especially difficult for a young woman who faces the holidays without family."
Sadie fidgeted. Nobody knew that truth better than she did.
"Fortunately," Dante continued kindly, "Wyntir has a great many friends to support her since Edmund's death. Why, all the First Families of Denver have RSVP'd for her 21st birthday party. The Moffats, Byers, Crokes, Welbourns—"
Sadie's interest increased exponentially. The Welbourns?
Wyntir's face brightened suddenly, as if a light bulb had switched on in her brain. "Dante, I've had the most wonderful idea! Fiore should come to my party! Since she's new in town, I could introduce her to all the important people, whom a contessa should know."
Sadie felt the warmth of Dante's approving gaze upon her face.
"I'm certain Denver's First Families would welcome you with open arms, Fiore," he said.
"Oh, do say yes!" Wyntir begged, giving an exuberant little bounce. "I'll send an invitation, of course, but the festivities will be held the Saturday before Thanksgiving."
Sadie was secretly thrilled that Wyntir had provided the social entrée to bait Maestro. "A birthday party would be a charming diversion," she purred.
For the rest of that journey, Wyntir couldn't stop blathering about her party. Every now and then, Dante would chime in with a droll observation about the guest list or a gentle reproach about the extravagance.
Sadie fixed a smile on her face and listened with half an ear. She kept glancing out the window and wondering if the Mexican was tailing the coach. The last time she'd had the nagging suspicion she'd been followed, a container of Greek fire had crashed through her window at Galveston's Satin Siren Casino and Saloon. She'd barely escaped with her life, no thanks to Mace, who'd been posing as her pimp at the time.
At long last, the carriage rolled under the Windsor Hotel's porte-cochère. Sadie returned Dante's Chesterfield, and he handed her his calling card. She accepted it graciously, lingering in the hostelry's doorway to wave good-bye. The ploy allowed her to scan the courtyard for suspicious-looking characters.
To her relief, she spied no vaquero hats.
Then again, a man could remove his hat, and Larimer Street wasn't the hotel's only entrance.
Doing her best to ignore the disdainful sniffs and disapproving stares of the Windsor's illustrious guests, Sadie hurried across the lobby in her bedraggled sable. The hotel had been financed, in part, by Horace Tabor and modeled after the famous British castle, which was probably why one of the turrets flew the Union Jack. The hotel also happened to be one of Denver's fanciest, with mirrors made of crushed diamonds; a suspended dance floor (so couples felt like they were waltzing on air,) a shopping hall full of boutiques; one elevator; two grand staircases; and three restaurants, boasting legendary chefs from Europe.
Sadie's stomach rumbled at the thought. Too bad no maitre d will admit me while I look like a refugee from a mud hole!
At long last, the elevator bell dinged to announce her arrival at the fifth and final floor. She glanced warily down the hall toward her penthouse suite, which had served as Tabor's love lair until March. That's when he'd ignored the fact that he was still married to his wife of 26 years and had wed his mistress.
Men are such dogs.
Pressing a coin into the elevator operator's palm, Sadie dismissed the car and dashed for her door.
Thank God. The wax seal's still intact.
She bolted the lock behind her.
The rise of a full moon cast twisted, claw-like shadows across the rose-patterned wallpaper and the towering, black-walnut furnishings. She figured the spooky silhouettes had contributed to her renewed sense of unease. The flame in the lamp by her bed flickered at its lowest setting, just as she'd left it.
Sighing, she shrugged off her coat and tossed Dante's calling card on the chiffonier. She'd made good progress for one day, meeting the psychiatrist and earning an invitation to mingle socially with Denver's First Families. But the day wasn't over yet. She still had to attend Mendel Baines's lecture on hypnotism at eight o'clock. That meant she'd have to ring for water so she could scrub off her mud in Tabor's legendary, gold-leaf tub.
She turned for the bathroom. She hadn't taken three steps toward her goal, however, before the menacing click of a revolver froze her in her tracks.
"Buenas noches, seňorita."
Sadie sucked in her breath. An alpine breeze riffled the curtains.
The Mexican had sneaked in through her window!
Purchase Dance to the Devil’s Tune
Book 2, Lady Law & The Gunslinger
Books in the series:
- Devil in Texas, Book 1
- Dance to the Devil’s Tune, Book 2
- Devil Plays with Fire (Coming 2017)
- Shady Lady (the prequel novella, published in the #1 bestselling Historical Western Anthology, Pistols & Petticoats. )
About the Author
Adrienne deWolfe is the #1 bestselling author of action-packed Historical Romance novels, where feisty Heroines buck the conventions and true Heroes must be wickedly funny. Her Lady Law & The Gunslinger series is her first foray into Romantic Suspense. For sneak peeks of Adrienne’s sassy ladies and sizzling rogues, visit http://LadyLawandTheGunslinger.com.