Author Elizabeth Lane
by Elizabeth Lane
Excerpt from "Wyoming Widow"
June 10, 1879
“I know you’re in there, girlie,” the wheezy voice rasped through the thin planking of the door. “I heered you rustlin’ them papers in there like a purty li’l red-haired mouse! Open the door, now, so’s I won’t have to get out my key.”
Cassandra Logan huddled in the shadows beside the potbellied stove, her arms wrapped protectively around her bulging belly. Today was the first day of the month. The rent on the shack was due. The landlord, Seamus Hawkins, was here to collect.
And Cassandra had no money to give him.
Her stomach churned as her ears caught the jingle of his heavy key ring. In a moment he would be inside. Then what?
Things had gone from bad to worse in the seven months since her husband, Jake, had died in a gun-fight over a pretty blond saloon girl. For a time, scrubbing floors in the Union Pacific Hotel had brought Cassandra enough money for food and rent. But finding work was impossible now. What employer would hire a woman whose apron strings were wrapped beneath her armpits?
As the key slid into the lock, she forced herself to move. Cowering in the corner would only encourage Seamus to bully her—the last thing she needed at a time like this.
Before he could turn the knob, Cassandra swung the door open and stood facing him, arms akimbo, trying to look as fierce as possible. Since the man was at least twice her size, it was a ludicrous effort. He leered down at her, fat and unshaven, reeking of whiskey and garlic.
“Well, where is it?” he demanded, clearly savoring his power over her. “You knew I’d be comin’ ’round today.”
Cassandra willed herself not to writhe beneath his gaze. “I’ll have the rent by Monday,” she lied desperately. “Surely you can wait that long. I’ve always paid you on time.”
Seamus’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I’ll give you till this time tomorrow,” he said. “Have the rent in full by then, or it’s out you go. There be plenty folks needin’ a roof an’ able to pay.”
He took a step over the threshold. Cassandra’s stomach clenched as she sensed what was coming next.
“You know, girlie, there’s more’n one way to pay a man. You let me come ’round whenever I get a yen for somethin’ sweet, an’ you won’t owe me a cent.”
“I don’t think your wife would approve of that arrangement, Mr. Hawkins,” Cassandra said icily.