Standing at the back of my painted wood wraparound porch, I lean my shoulder against a pillar and look straight ahead. Sweat drips down the center of my back, beneath my waistband and into my wool pants.
My leather gun belt is like a second skin hanging around my hips, my cigarette dangles between my lips, a plume of smoke gathering around my head as I look out at the vast desert countryside ahead of me.
“Sir, you have mail,” Ernest announces.
I’m not exactly sure what he’s considered, a houseman, maybe… perhaps a butler. All I know is that he came with the position and he’s not willing to leave my side, no matter how many times I tell him that he is not needed. Though I’ve become rather fond of him, his silent observations and his seeming devotion to me.
“Went on a bender last night, Ernest. Wanna just open it for me? Read it aloud?”
There is a moment of silence and I think that maybe he’s just ignored me, but then he finally speaks. He begins to read the correspondence, though I think that he’s scared to read it aloud, judging by the way his voice trembles with each word.
Dear Mr. Colton James,
We feel it is our duty to inform you, that as the current leader of this great country, you are strongly urged to take a wife and start on a family, soon. Our country takes great pride in its righteousness and morals.
We hope that we have not made a mistake in appointing a single man to the highest position of our land and that you will do the right thing and take a wife for the good of your people.
I snort. What a blazing joke. Turning my head, I glance back at Ernest, who is looking mighty pale and as though he’s about to be sick. He should know me well enough by now to know that I will not shoot the messenger.
“Thank you, Ernest. You can burn that,” I snap.
His eyes widen and he gulps, taking a step back. I watch as he dips his chin, then spins around and walks back into the house. A home and position that apparently comes with expectations and requirements as to who is allowed to share my bed and when. Something had I known, I would have taken into consideration, and most likely not agreed to take the position.
I’m full of it though.
I would have taken the position even had I known, because this country was floundering. It needed me. It needed someone strong. It needed someone who would not cow down to the whims of politicians or other surrounding countries’ and lands’ demands.
That man is me.
Which means I will not cow down to their demands to take a wife either. In fact, my visits to the Blue Bird Theatre will increase. The women there are superb, and I’ll be damned if these people dictate my personal life.
“Ernest,” I roar.
He appears only seconds later, his eyes wide as he rushes toward me, then stops right in front of me. “Sir?”
My lips curl into a snarling smile. “Go on down to Bessie Silks and ask for two of her girls and a private room for the evening, until tomorrow morning.”
“Sir,” he says in a warning tone.
Resting my palm against Blue Lightnin’, my six-shooter, I arch a brow and dare him to argue or defy me. He doesn’t. Instead he dips his chin, spins around on his heels, and a few moments later I hear the front door close behind him, then the sound of the horse’s hooves pounding against the hard desert dirt.
My cigarette still dangling, I decide to go inside and grab some coffee and biscuits before I begin my day’s work. I may be angry with the people who wrote to me, the Assembly, but that doesn’t mean that I ever stop working for my country.
Sitting down at my desk, I wait for my food to be delivered and begin to go over the contracts for the new cross country railroad system that I am set to oversee. A system that will unite our country in a way that has never been seen before, an innovation of massive proportions.
A race to a revolution.
More ways for men to fight, sabotage, and cause problems. More headaches for me. Never-ending blazing headaches. This is what the group of nosy dratted people should be worried about, not who shares my bed, or how that happens.
I will never concede. It’s why they put me in this position. If they thought that I would be their stringed puppet, they asked the wrong man to lead them.
“They’re both missing,” Dru announces.
Inhaling a deep breath, I try not to panic. My sisters are missing. Both of them. They’re not together, at least I’m pretty sure that they aren’t. Liv is thirty-one and lives in New York City. Sybilla is twenty-seven and lives in Seattle. I highly doubt that they somehow managed to get together without any of us knowing.
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