Grace stood in the empty hall and called up a few memories of the evening. It was something she did every night… early morning after all the customers had gone. Call it a game or a tool, she challenged herself to remember everything about the night.

Who drank what? Who played what? Who lost what? And… probably the most important for a madam like herself… who wanted who?

Tonight had been a goldmine, both on the floor and in the rooms upstairs. If all she depended on was the money from the take she was a rich woman on tonight alone… but there was more to what happened. More than she'd care to admit. She'd been impressed.

Good and truly impressed by Jimmy Hickok. She'd thought of the boy as muscle and a pretty face, but he'd got the gambler that her own men let slip by. He'd caught him and revealed his game with style. No one in the room could fault him for his method or his skill.

The thought brought a smile to her lips and it deepened when she thought of the way the suit had looked on him. The man she'd hired to take in the suit had done a beautiful job for it made the hard scrabble cowboy looks every inch the gentleman gambler.

If he wasn't careful, Jimmy Hickok was going to be known for his mode of dress just as much as his fast draw… maybe even more. He certainly had the makings of a lady's man. Trouble was Grace was thinking of him more and more as 'her' man.

Then again, she'd been burned before… so while she was looking to bed the man… she wasn't going to turn her back on him… yet.

Grace stopped short as though she hit a wall. A wall the size of Bo. A slight smile touched her lips at the thought of Bo picking up that little whelp from the Express. The boy had struggled against the larger man's hold and made it more difficult that the guard was used to. Then there was Hickok. The speed of his draw had surprised her.

The speed of his draw and the anger that seemed to bleed from every pore of his body. Grace ran her fingertip over her lips, pondering the movement… pondering the fire in his eyes.


She'd dismissed the boy at first glance… he didn't seem to have any money, no arrogance besides the little bit necessary to get him in the door to see his 'friend.' She'd dismissed the boy, because his 'heartfelt' plea to come home would fall on deaf ears. Running messages back and forth through Indian territory couldn't compare to the pretty little things she had holed up upstairs… or the knowledge and 'expertise' she had to offer him. Here, Hickok could live like a King… with the Express he'd be lucky to stay alive.

She stopped mid-laugh. There it was… that niggling worry in the back of her mind. The way Hickok had gone for his gun… it wasn't enough that they were friends, that wouldn't be enough call for the way he'd acted. Friends would get a cuss word or two… maybe a threat. But a drawn gun pointed at Bo's head? There wasn't enough cause for… then again…

Flashing back to the night before she recalled Lou's size, the slender curve of the boy's face, the lack of any scruff… the low tone of his voice that didn't seem to fit… the way the boy's pants didn't seem to fit…

Her long manicured nails bit into the felt top of the Faro table. "How the hell did I miss it?"

Grace smiled a long languid grin that revealed her true predatory nature. "Lou… maybe, Louise?"

"Otis?" A pause and silence elicited another call, "Otis?"

He appeared in the room, his eyes bleary with too much booze and not enough sleep. "Yeah, Grace? You wanted something?"

She turned her disapproving glare on him. "Not so much something, but someone." She could see that her cleverly worded answer was lost on the dolt. "I've got a way for us to make sure that Hickok does what he's told."

"Yeah?" The henchman rubbed at his eyes and stifled a yawn. "What?"

Grace breathed in, filling her lungs with the smell of victory. "I need to you to 'invite' that young man from the Express over here… and I won't take no for an answer. Bring him alone… I don't want anyone else from that litter to follow you back here."

"You gonna bring him on the deal?"

"Otis, I don't pay you to think… and that includes second guessing my orders. Bring the boy here and make sure you're not seen. Understand?"

He waved her off and turned to head back to his room. "Yeah yeah… I'll go get 'im and bring 'em back…" as he shuffled down the hall he sighed. "Ain't even got room for the people we have and she wants me to bring back another… whatever."

Her worries abated and her new path set Grace climbed up the stairs and headed for her bedroom with one last thought in her head. Nothing gets past Grace… nothing and no one.

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