Once a respectable young governess, Louise Small tumbled from society’s grace after her employer forced himself on her. She wound up at The Red Petticoat playing Little Lapis Lazuli, a submissive who dresses like a girl and offers her bottom up for frequent spankings.
She enjoys her new identity, so far removed from the prim governess she’d been, but she longs for a real daddy—one who is kind and caring, yet willing to administer real discipline. When she spies Culpepper Cove’s Mayor interacting with his young niece, she knows he’s just the sort of man she wants. But his disdain for her and her profession put them in conflict.
Letting go of her little self, she reverts to the proper, fine-mannered governess to win his attention. But at what cost? With her little side squashed, and no hope of being accepted in polite society, she hardly knows who to be or what kind of life to lead. Is being the Mayor’s wife be enough?
About The Red Petticoat series:
The Red Petticoat Saloon series is a collection of books written by #1 and USA Today bestselling authors. Each book tells the unique story of a different woman, ‘a gem’, who comes to the saloon to find a safe haven and discovers they become part of a family. Recurring characters appear in each book to allow readers a continuity as they learn about the women who have learned to bend but have not broken under the harshness that life has to offer. It is a series where strong, loving men find not only entertainment at the saloon but the special women who reside under its roof.
*** Currently availably exclusively at Amazon ***
“Lapis, I need you to do me a favor.” Amethyst spoke from behind the bar, flipping mugs for ale onto the countertop with an impressive efficiency. The saloon area of the Red Petticoat was packed with patrons, every bar stool taken and men crowding around tables. The smell of whiskey filled the crowded room.
“What do you need, Amy?”
“I’m all out of small bills and the bank will close any minute. I’ve been waiting for Gabriel or Madame Jewel to get some, but they’ve been busy all afternoon.” Amy handed her several ten and twenty dollar bills. “Run down to the bank and get me some change? Quick-like, before they close?”
“Isn’t there someone else…”
“You can go alone, remember?” Amy said, “Mr. Gabe changed the rule so that we don’t need a companion unless we go out at night.”
“But…” Lapis looked down at her little girl outfit doubtfully.
“You look fine, unlike the rest of us. That’s why I asked you.”
It was true—her outfit would be perfectly acceptable in London or Paris or Boston. Perfectly acceptable if she were ten years old.
But the rest of the gems flounced around in corsets and petticoats, or if in dresses, in colors too bold, with skirts hiked up to show their pink or red petticoats. They wore lipstick and their hair spilled across their shoulders. She, meanwhile, had pulled her hair up into two pigtails, her blonde ringlets tied up in gay ribbons.
She took the bills, tucking them in her sash at her waist. It was easy to shine bright and gay when playing ‘Little Lapis’. But it would be awkward at the bank. Everyone would stare. She preferred to stay in the confines of The Red Petticoat where she could play little girl all day and all night long and forget her past.
She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. She’d held her head high traveling pregnant and alone to Culpepper Cove, California—she could handle this. What was the worst thing that could happen? Someone would call her a whore? Well, so what? It was true.
She pushed the swinging door open and walked down Culpepper’s main street, taking care to step around the horse manure littering the way. Culpepper Cove, like most of the wild west, was the uncivilized society, full of rough, mannerless men who didn’t go to church or shave or mind their cursing. Horses and cattle alike shared the streets with carriages and the ratio of women to men was something like one to a hundred. Which was why the gems at The Red Petticoat were fast on their way to becoming wealthy. For her, both the wealth and the opportunity to indulge in her lifelong fantasy of playing a little girl took the sting out of her tumble from grace.
She opened the bank’s door, glad to find it unlocked. Apparently she wasn’t the only one making a last minute transaction before the weekend. Sam Singleton from the mercantile store stood at the counter. Behind him, a brutally handsome, broad-shouldered man dressed in a finely tailored suit waited in line, holding the hand of a little girl, no more than six years old.
The child turned and stared up at Lapis, who smiled before she could stop herself. Mr. Fine Suit probably wouldn’t want his daughter engaging with a whore.
He glanced back, his dark-lashed hazel eyes taking a quick sweep of her attire and hair. Her heart gave a double-pump. As handsome as his suit, he had a square jaw and lips almost too sensual for a man. His brown hair reached his collar, but it wasn’t unkempt and his white shirt was clean and starched beneath the waistcoat. He turned away without acknowledging her.
It shouldn’t bother her. What did she expect? For him to tip his hat? Say good day? She was a fool to swoon over a fine pair of shoulders in a nice suit. Still, she couldn’t tear her eyes away from him—his tall, muscular frame, those large, capable-looking hands.
“Uncle Will? Is that a little girl?” the child asked.
Uncle. Not Daddy . But he acted like a papa. A good one, too.
“Don’t stare, Polly. It isn’t polite.” He tugged her fingers, making their intertwined hands swing between them.
To her regret, he didn’t turn again.
The girl lowered her voice, still staring openly. “But is it?” she asked in a loud whisper.
He leaned over and scooped her up, settling her on his hip. “Would you like a dress like that, Pollykins?” He tickled her face with his nose and she giggled, leaning back. Clearly it was a game they had played before.
As an experienced governess and teacher, she had to admire his prowess with redirection. He had addressed the child’s rudeness with the kindest rebuke and had saved himself from answering her question simply by changing the topic.
Her ‘Little Lapis’ side swooned. How she’d love for a man like that to play ‘daddy’ to her. He’d be the perfect papa—wholesome and stern, but kind and fair. The sort who knew just how a little girl longed to be cuddled after a sound spanking.
Heck, she’d settle just for watching a man like that to be papa to her children. That’s all she’d ever dreamed of, really. A husband who would be a good father to a gaggle of happy children.
Whatever her name was. Just stop. A man like that wouldn’t give a soiled dove like her the time of day. He wouldn’t and he already hadn’t.
Sam finished up with the teller and the fine suited man walked forward. “Good afternoon, Mayor Rockwell. What can I do for you?”
Of course, he was Mayor Rockwell. She’d heard of the town’s mayor but since she spent most of her time hidden at The Red Petticoat, she hadn’t had a chance to meet him. Somehow, knowing he was a mayor turned her knees to jelly. Tall, handsome, strong, and powerful. The man who presided over Culpepper’s governance. She’d love for him to govern her.
She imagined what sort of justice he would deal to a naughty girl’s backside. Not a naughty girl like his sweet niece—she didn’t believe corporal punishment helped children learn. No, a naughty girl like her. A very naughty girl.
Her white panties with the ruffles sewn on the back dampened as her mind conjured images of the mayor pulling them down and spanking her until she couldn’t sit. She drew a deep breath and attempted to distract herself by retying the ribbons in her hair.
The mayor concluded his business and ignored her as he walked in her direction. It was a snub, but a kind one. There was no sneer or sniff. No lifting of his nose in the air or purposeful jerk of his gaze away from her. She’d experienced far worse shopping at the mercantile.
She dropped her eyes, heat coloring her cheeks despite her resolve to hold her head high on this trip into town. She thought she sensed the slightest pause as he passed by, his head turning as if to look at her, then arrested by better judgment. She imagined she elicited sympathy from him.
But that was foolish. And she didn’t need his pity, even if he did experience it.
She thrust her shoulders back and marched up to the teller, pulling the bills from the sash of her skirt. “I need change. Small coins if you can, please.”
The banker’s lip curled when he gave her an up and down sweep of the eyes, but he counted the money and pushed the equivalent amount in smaller coins across the desk.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, as if she had just as much right to be there as anyone else. Which she did.
“Do you need a bag for that?” the teller asked when she hesitated, staring at the large pile of coins.
She flashed him a relieved smile. “Yes, please.”
The smile he returned had a leer in it. She ought to be used to that sort of thing, but she wasn’t. She still never liked to be ogled. It didn’t give her the sense of power it seemed to give the other girls. It made her uncomfortable. He dropped the change into a cloth bag and handed it to her. “Tell Madame Jewel I said hello.”
“I’ll do that, thank you.” She took the bag and tucked it in her waistband, hurrying outside. She told herself she was rushing to get back with the change, which the Red Petticoat had been in dire need of, but the truth was that she wanted to scan the streets for the mayor.
There. She saw him up ahead, walking with the little girl still holding his hand. What a sweet sight they made. Her lady parts pulsed between her legs.
She’d give anything to have a man like that.
William walked home thinking about the stunning gem from the bank—the one dressed as a little girl. It was an interesting choice of dress for a prostitute. Not risqué in the least, and yet somehow still as sexy as a petticoat and corset. Perhaps it was the sight of a grown woman’s body in the abbreviated dress, the flash of muscled calf and ankle as she walked. Or perhaps it was that narrow waist set off with the white sash. Or the beautiful golden curls.
Her face had been lovely. Angelic, even. He’d never seen such an outfit on another woman, but he doubted anyone would look better. But why dress like a little girl? He hadn’t known how to answer Polly’s question, so he’d simply avoided it. The girl was too young to understand prostitution anyway.
Something about a grown woman in a little girl’s dress made her incredibly appealing. He hadn’t known what kind of woman would fit him, but seeing her, she seemed like a fantasy come true. He wanted to protect her, cherish her. But he couldn’t. He had Polly to shield and care for and he couldn’t be fantasizing about a prostitute.
He opened the door to his little house and lit a fire in the woodstove, setting a cast iron skillet on the top. Most days of the week, Josefina came over to cook and clean and watch Polly, but today one of her grandsons was sick and she’d stayed home.
“Polly, run and see if the chickens laid any more eggs.”
“Why? Are we having eggs for supper?”
“How about flapjacks?”
Her little face lit up. “Yes!”
“Then run along. We need at least two eggs, three would be better.”
“Don’t worry, Uncle Will. There will be at least two eggs. I know there will be because yesterday, when I checked…”
He pointed toward the door before the child launched into a long explanation. She could talk up a blue streak, and if he let her, he’d never get their supper made.
Polly grabbed the basket and ran out to the coop.
He smiled. When his brother Thomas had asked to leave Polly there with him that fall, he’d refused. He didn’t know the first thing about raising children, for one thing, and the poor girl didn’t even know him. And a girl her age needed a mother—or a female influence. Not that Thomas could offer her that, either. It was about as hard to find a wife in California as it was to grow a third arm.
But Thomas had a house to build and a claim to mine, and if he brought Polly, she’d be alone for hours every day and sleeping under the stars. At least in Culpepper, she had a warm bed at night and there was some semblance of community. Not much, because the West was barely civilized, but she had Josefina, the woman she called abuelita.His hired housekeeper didn’t speak much English and he didn’t speak much Spanish, but they managed to get along. Polly played with Josefina’s grandchildren and had learned to understand and even speak a little Spanish.
There wasn’t a school yet—he wanted to hire a teacher and build a schoolhouse, but until there were more children, the town couldn’t justify the expense. Some might not think the education of a little girl mattered, but it bothered him that he hadn’t taught her to read yet.
His parents had taken his and Thomas’s schooling seriously, spending their entire savings to send him to college. Education had made him who he was, and he wanted his niece to have the same benefit.
Polly burst back in the house. “Guess how many?”
He smiled. Such innocent joy. “How many?”
She shook her head.
She giggled and shook her head again.
She laughed. “Uncle Will!” The basket emerged from behind her back. “There were four.”
He took it from her. “Excellent work, my little friend. Now, hand me that bowl over there and we’ll start cracking them. Has Josefina shown you how to crack an egg?”
The little girl shook her head. “No. She never let’s me help cook.”
“Well, she probably thinks you’re not old enough. But I think you’re ready to crack eggs. Watch this—you just tap the side against the table like this.” He cracked the egg. “And you stick both thumbs into the crack and pry the two sides apart.”
“Let me try!”
“I want you to try. Here.” He pushed the basket of eggs across the table to her and set the bowl right in front.
She made an attempt, not cracking the egg hard enough, and splintering it into a dozen tiny pieces as she tried to work it open.
“That’s all right, try again.”
She picked up another egg and had better luck with her second attempt, only getting a few pieces of eggshell into the bowl with the egg. He fished them out. When she finished, he instructed her to beat them while he added the flour, sugar and milk. She turned and beamed up at him.
His heart contracted. In the few months since she’d been his ward, he’d come to love her as his own daughter. Soon, Thomas would come back for her and this little house would be empty again. No running footsteps or laughter. No giggles and chasing chickens.
He hadn’t realized that he’d been missing a family all these years out west. He’d had his profession, which he took quite seriously, and that had been enough. When his newly-widowed brother had shown up on his doorstep with Polly in tow, he’d been delighted to have family nearer, until he learned of his brother’s plan to leave the child with him. But his brother had been right. Their parents were dead and family relied upon each other, especially when there were children involved. Caring for Polly had been a gift. A stressful, difficult gift, but a gift nonetheless.
It was time he started a family of his own. Maybe he could find a mail-order bride as some of the men in the West had done. For some reason, his mind flitted to the beautiful girl in the bank. The lovely, silly prostitute who liked to dress in girls’ dresses and wear her hair in pigtails.
No. Definitely not a woman like that. She was the last woman he should think of when conjuring up the perfect bride, no matter how wholesome she appeared with that angelic face and dimpled smile.
He shook his head as if it would rid his imagination of the image of her standing in his kitchen in her short skirts, her golden ringlets dancing around her ears, her bright blue eyes—had they been blue? Yes, he seemed to remember the bluest eyes staring back at him, set in fresh pink cheeks. Like a little Swiss milk maid. Or a cherub.
Not wife material. Certainly not wife material. Not at all.