Book Excerpt

"Bride on the Run"

by Elizabeth Lane

Excerpt from "Bride on the Run"

St. Joseph, Missouri

January 4, 1889

“Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
Love, oh, love, oh careless love,
Just see what careless love has done….”

Anna DeCarlo sat on the edge of the tiny stage in a cross-legged pose that offered her audience a tantalizing glimpse of silk-stockinged ankle. Lamplight gleamed on her tawny, upswept hair and glittered on the paste-diamond choker that encircled her creamy throat. Her low, velvety voice flowed like dark honey through the smoky haze that filled the grand salon of the Jack of Diamonds, rising above the piano to mingle with the clink of crystal, the whir of roulette wheels and the low murmur of men’s voices.

From the ring of tables that surrounded the stage, she could feel hungry eyes on her, feel them devouring her small, voluptuous body through the clinging peacock satin gown. Go ahead and look, Anna thought fiercely. You’ll never get another chance!

“Love, oh, love, oh, careless love…”

Did she love Harry Solomon? Anna was not prepared to answer that question. She had stopped believing in love a long time ago. But she liked the dapper, silver-haired owner of the Jack of Diamonds. He was kind and generous and treated her like the lady she had always longed to be. Last week he had asked her to be his wife. Tonight he would get his answer. It would be yes.

“Just see what careless love has done…”

Anna lowered her gaze as the song ended, letting her head fall forward like a wilted blossom. For a long moment silence filled the lamplit circle. Then, as she lifted her face the audience burst into cheers. Smiling radiantly now, she took her bows. It was all over—the smoke-filled rooms, the leering eyes and pawing hands, the haggling over contracts and payment, the endless packing and unpacking. As Mrs. Harry Solomon, she would have a home. She would have the respect and security she had hungered for all her life.

As the applause died away she slipped backstage, pausing only to take up her white merino shawl from its hook on the wall. Wrapping the shawl around her bare shoulders, she hurried through the draughty corridor and up the back stairs. Harry would be in his sumptuous second-floor office now, waiting for her answer. She had kept him on tenterhooks long enough.

For all Anna’s resolve, doubts gnawed at her as she mounted the dark stairway. Harry Solomon was old enough to be her father. Was she doing the right thing by him and by herself? Could she be a loving wife to him? Share his bed? Even give him children?

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