Welcome back to Tuesday Tales! This weeks prompt is Purple.
So I’m back…and though I meant to return to my little fantasy series, this week I’m actually travelling back to Dominion Falls (sort of, the series at least). I’m in the midst of writing a little novella between stories. This one focuses on Leanne – the Virgin Madam, and Tommy – brother of the MC in the Dominion Falls series. They shared a flirtation in book 5, so this is part of their little story.
When they travel to another town to pick up some new talent for Leanne’s brothel they walk in on some soldiers dragging two children into town. The children are white, but were raised by Ute Indians. One man alone offers to take them in. Feeling uneasy, Leanne and Tommy head out to check on them. Leanne manages to get the girl to talk, and learns she still speaks English:
“Jacob.” The reverend spoke before she could, which was likely best or she might have regretted her words. “How are things with the children?”
“Fine. They’re getting some milk. Doing chores as they should.” He lifted his chin. “Ain’t had no trouble. Got them in real clothes and everything.”
Only the sharp squeeze to her hand from Tommy kept her mouth shut.
Tommy himself cleared his throat. “Don’t you think it might have been better to let them ease into things? They were awful scared yesterday.”
“No.” Jacob narrowed his eyes at Tommy. “They gotta learn the right way to do things. Hard work will get the Injun out of them.”
“May we see them?” Leanne kept her seething to herself well enough that Tommy didn’t even cast her a sideways look at her request.
“They ain’t yours.”
“They aren’t yours yet, either.” Tommy’s smile turned dark and threatening in a way she’d only seen a few men accomplish. “We just want to check on them. I have some doctoring knowledge and I want to see that they’re not carrying any illnesses or injuries from their past.”
Jacob didn’t seem to have an argument, so he just shrugged. “They’re this way.”
Leanne followed, eager to see the children for herself. In no time they’d crossed the small yard to the barn. As the door opened, the children scattered from beside the cow to hide, which did nothing for Leanne’s nerves.
She stepped around Jacob to enter the dimly lit space first. Keenly aware of the dark gaze at her back she approached the girl. A few feet away she knelt down. “Hello there. Remember me?”
The girl nodded once slow as molasses. Her brother crouched behind her, his gaze fixed on Jacob. Leanne noticed that the girl kept her hand fisted tight at her side.
Curious, Leanne held out her hand. “Would you come outside into the light? We’d like to see you again.”
After some hesitation, the girl turned to her brother. They spoke low and quiet in the language they’d used the day before. They approached her together, hand in hand. When they got close enough, Leanne rose and set a hand on the girls shoulder.
Relieved she didn’t pull away, Leanne guided the pair outside, being sure to put herself between them and Jacob as they passed. “There we are. Now let’s see you two.”
True to his word, Jacob had put the pair into white clothes. Ill-fitting and filthy ones, but definitely not what they’d been in. Both children were dirty, and the girl still kept her hand clutched close to herself.
Leanne glanced at Tommy. “Perhaps you men could get us some water. We’ll see what we can’t do to clean up these faces.”
Tommy took the hint with a quick nod. He all but pushed Jacob back toward the house.
Leanne waited until they were some distance off before she turned back to the pair. “You poor things. You’ve been through it the past few days, haven’t you? Now, what shall I call you? Do you have names?”
“Shivering Willow,” the girl whispered. “He is Jaybird.”
“You speak English.” Leanne smiled in delight. “Wonderful.”
“My parents spoke it. Let us speak both.” Shivering Willow lifted her chin.
“Your parents? Were they with the Ute taken to the reservation?” At the girl’s nod, Leanne sighed. “What are their names?”
Willow clammed up, shutting her mouth and shaking her head.
“All right. What about that? What do you have there?”
The girl’s gaze darted toward where the men had disappeared. When there was no sign of them she held out her hand and opened. On her palm sat a shiny purple bead.
Leanne remembered the necklace around the girls neck the day before. “Did that come from your necklace?”
“He ripped it off.” She nudged her chin toward the house. “I saved this.”
“I see.” Leanne frowned. “Is he mean?”
The girl closed her fist, and her mouth. In one quick motion she’d moved her brother behind her again. Pride and stubbornness took over her features.
“If he is, we can take you away somewhere.”
The girl gave her a look filled with doubt. “Home.”
“No, I can’t do that.” Leanne sighed. The voices of the men reached her ears. “Do me a favor. Find a place to hide that bead. Keep it safe. I’ll see what we can’t do to help you.”
The girl tucked her hand behind her with her brother, chin lifted in a show of strength Leanne wasn’t so sure she actually felt.
“White promise means nothing.”
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