Utah Territory 1871
“Lulabelle! I could swear you were diddling with a man in the stable loft.” Charity chastised one of her girls in her boardinghouse. “How many times did I warn you to stay away from scoundrels who aren’t worth your time?”
“Oh, Miz Charity!” The girl’s cheeks turned pink, unable to hide her guilt. “Well, uhh, yeah, it was Lucas Titus. Oh Lordy, Miz Charity, he’s so darn cute! And I love how that bushy moustache of his tickles some parts of me.”
Charity turned away from the girl for a moment as a tall, muscled, blond cowboy strolled through the doorway of her boardinghouse. It was as if a jolt of lightning hit her in the chest. It was more than upsetting, because she’d never felt such a burst of desire whip through her and go straight between her thighs. Not in ages anyhow. Hurriedly, Charity forced her attention back to Lulabelle who was still giggling.
“Lucas was so dang horny, Miz Charity!” The girl gushed. “I couldn’t leave him like that. He woulda bust outta his britches if I didn’t let him do me.”
“Lulabelle!” Charity huffed again, irked by the girl’s silly explanation. “What am I going to do with you, huh? You said you wanted a husband when you answered my ad. You said you knew plenty of the other kind, remember? The ones who dumped you after you gave them what they wanted. It’d be one thing if Lucas Titus is rich—but then, you didn’t care, did you? ‘Cause you’re as horny as he is. Did you even ask him if he had two coins to rub together?” Charity’s frown had turned fierce as she glowered at the petite blond whore standing before her. “Did you at least ask the damn cheat to pay for his poke?”
“He promised he’d pay me the next time—”
“Oh, no, no, Lulabelle. Uh uh, there ain’t gonna be no next time,” the boardinghouse owner grumbled. “I run a business for profit even if my name is Charity. If that bastard comes sniffing around you again, you can bet I’ll get my pistol and give him what for.”
Lulabelle tucked her pointed chin tight against her chest. Her eyes narrowed and her expression turned sulky and she stared at the toes of shoes sticking from under the hem of her calico dress.
“Are you listening to me, Lulabelle?” Charity admonished her a second time.
“Yes, Ma’am,” the girl answered, her words and tone subdued, agreement scarcely pushing past her lips.
“Then I suggest you stay outta trouble from now on. Don’t go up to the stable loft, or I’ll have to do something about it. I don’t allow customers fucking my girls unless I say so—in the hayloft or elsewhere. Men here in Virginia City know where the Silver Slipper is located. If you wish to work there, Lulabelle, I’ll see it can be arranged. But I thought you were smarter than that. At least smart enough to pick someone with coins jingling in his trousers’ pockets. Dammit, girl, there are men coming into Virginia City every single day—some with lots of money. Of course,” Charity paused, “there are some who don’t have a dime, and never had any to begin with. Like that rogue bastard, Lucas Titus. I’m warning you, Lulabelle, be careful.” Charity twitched the corners of her lips. It wasn’t quite a smile, but she really liked the girl. “Remember what I said. And remember why I kept you here instead of sending you to the bordello. You’ll turn haggard and ugly in no time if you don’t do what I tell you, young woman.”
~ * ~
Nearing forty, Charity Turnbull had arrived in Virginia City on the arm of her husband, a man twenty years her senior. Emmett Turnbull had money to spare and was ready to invest it. The pair read newspaper reports in Kansas about the Comstock Lode—its vast cache of gold and silver hidden beneath the earth in Utah territory. With his new bride at his side, Turnbull moved them to Virginia City to enhance his wealth.
Emmett Turnbull was shot and wounded later that year during what erupted into a shoot-out disputing ownership of a mine he’d invested in. The other shooter bled to death. Charity cared for her aging husband during the three months he hung onto life. She had him buried in Heavenly Rest, the town’s only real cemetery. The hallowed ground soon became a final resting place for other inhabitants who flooded into the town hoping to make a fortune from the mines. Too many ended up penniless in Potter’s Field, another graveyard farther outside of town.
Charity quickly sold most of her husband’s former holdings but kept part ownership of one small mine. She also took back her former moniker, Charity Love. Using her newfound wealth, she ordered a large, three storey boarding house erected on the main street of Virginia City within walking distance of several busy saloons. Charity grew up smart, her wits honed to sharp edges as a youngster. Born in poverty, she used her beauty and a brilliant mind to get what she wanted. A former prostitute married to Emmett Turnbull for a matter of months, she was now a well-to-do widow and business owner.
Charity soon realized Virginia City attracted ninety percent male inhabitants. Most of them were rough-looking, hard-drinking, untamed and uninhibited men ready for almost anything. Young and old, they flooded into Utah Territory from the east, south, and Midwest. Many had no real homes or families to return to after the war of aggression between the States ended in 1865. Some were lucky enough to strike it rich. Many more left defeated. Others killed themselves in despair when their money ran out.
Better-educated men, too, invaded Virginia City, men with bigger visions. They arrived in the young, growing town from places like Los Angeles or cities farther east like New York and Washington, D.C. Some even came from overseas.
Those men—men with guts, determination, and ambition—dug riches from beneath the earth and won the battle to become rich and powerful. Some stayed and settled in Virginia City, seeking suitable wives with which to raise legitimate families for the future.
When a bright scheme came to Charity, knowing women in Virginia City were scarce as hen’s teeth, she placed ads in newspapers in some of the country’s largest cities, especially those in the east and south. The ads invited young women to come to Virginia City as mail order brides.
Charity knew men, what they needed and wanted. Bawdy houses catered to men’s lust-filled fantasies, no matter what their age. A whore herself once, Charity knew the ropes. How else could she have snared Emmett Turnbull into marrying her? So, when women answered her advertisements, Charity interviewed the applicants herself. Always, she provided them with a choice. Charity was paid five hundred dollars from a bride-seeker when the couple married. It was matchmaking at its best.
At first blush, she chose girls that would make good wives. Those wanting husbands could work at her boarding house as cook’s helpers, maids, or whatever, until a bride offer was made. Like a mother hen, Charity kept sharp eyes on them. She always warned the young women never to sell themselves cheaply. Instead, she told them to hold out for marriage.
None of her girls knew Charity had once been a whore herself before she snagged Emmett Turnbull into marriage. Charity’s other girls—what they came to be called—arrived predominately from farming communities, not from places like Chicago, Kansas City, or even New Orleans.
During interviews, Charity spotted those applicants looking for adventure rather than marriage. Charity hired them for more wicked pleasures. Her prostitutes were well paid; she made sure of it since she had been a soiled dove and knew what it was like to worry what would happen if she ended up haggard, penniless or alone when her beauty faded. She protected ‘her girls’ as best as she could, aware there were other risks inherent in being a prostitute. Health and safety were two worries. Many of her male customers were uncouth, raw, male animals, looking for hard, fast, sexual completion and ready to pay with golden nuggets or silver dust. Frail women who couldn’t handle men like that didn’t last long in the business.
~ * ~
When Charity turned away from Lulabelle again, the newcomer waited at the front counter. Unconsciously, she inhaled a deep breath and walked over to greet the lanky cowboy.
Meanwhile, Lulabelle sneaked a quick look at her employer. A little smile passed over her cheeks. So what if she already promised to meet Lucas tomorrow behind the stables? He was so cute and cuddly. And so horny he gave her the shivers. She couldn’t rightly help herself. At home, farm boys fucked her lots of times during puberty. For goodness sakes, why should Charity care if she gave Lucas a few pokes for free?"