A weary smile played on Drake McCalister's lips as he recalled a universal truth,every small town had a bar, no matter how desolate, and he was thirsty for whiskey and ached for relaxation. He strolled the dirt road, alongside his childhood friend and business partner, Girard Larivière.
Light from colorless dull buildings, lining the deserted streets, illuminated their dark path. Drake heard faint music coming from a tavern a short distance away, and his present thoughts about money, business, and small uncultivated towns ceased when he pushed through the tavern's swinging doors with Girard in tow.
?Drake took in the scene. The bar, alive and rowdy, seemed to horde every man in town, along with the scantily clad women who served them. A pianist played a cheerful tune on a piano near a curved stage, where four pretty girls sang and kicked their heels up in step to the jingle.?
Men drank clear amber or dark burgundy liquid from thick glasses, eating hearty meals of beef stew and potatoes. Ruffians yelled obscenities at the women on stage, but nobody took offense,not even the women, likely accustomed.?
Drake glanced at a large, long bar opposite the entrance with a slim bartender mixing drinks. To the left of Drake, some suspicious-looking tricksters wagered at tables,no doubt playing games of faro, poker, or craps..
"Howdy, I'm Stella. Can I get you, two fine fellas, a table?" A short, plump, older woman with curly brown hair approached them.
Drake greeted her with a tilt of his hat, eyeing her in the tight, drab dress she wore. It matched her unexceptional features. Her giant bosom heaved up and down inside her corset, and her breaths were labored. She cut through the crowded walkway, leading him and Girard to their seats unrelentingly.
"Hey, Stella! Get us another round over here!" a grimy scoundrel barked at her.?
"Wait a minute, Benny! Can't you see I'm moving as fast as I can? Hey Marlene! Get up off your rump and get Benny's table another round," Stella bellowed to a young girl, sitting on a stool at the bar, counting bills and copper coins.?
"How about this one?" Stella turned her attention back to the outsiders. She motioned them to take their seats at the round two-seater table in the center of the place. These fine-looking, polished men were probably big spenders, she surmised, hoping that giving them a better view of the stage would go a long way toward her earning a generous tip at the end of their stay.
"This will do, Stella." Drake nodded as he and Girard plunked down into the wooden, unaccommodating chairs, relaxing as best they could.
"What will you gentlemen be drinking tonight?" Stella flashed her loveliest smile.
"Whiskey," Drake answered.
"You don't look like a man who takes whiskey, not with such a comely face like yours," she drawled.
"Well, can you think of another way that I might quench my thirst, Stella?" Drake winked and showed off his vibrant white grin. He propped his elbow on the table and pressed his fist to his cheek, looking up at her, waiting on her response.
"What a smooth talker you are. Ain't you a sweet thing, playing on my sweet spot," she flirted back, liking the attention and a chance to trade quips with this handsome stranger. "But that's all right, honey. You don't have to prove anything to me. I'm too much woman for you to handle anyhow," she teased, smiling.
Drake delivered up a throaty laugh in return.
"I'll get you gentlemen your whiskeys," she said, appearing somewhat revived.?
"Much obliged, Stella." Drake grabbed the brim of his hat and tilted it toward her again, watching her bustle away, before removing it and laying it on the table.?
Girard sighed at Drake's rakish behavior and decided to remind him why they had traveled so far from home.?
"According to Daniel, we can find William Hunter here, the owner of this fine establishment," Girard intoned sarcastically, before adding, "the only tavern in Jadesville as it turns out."?
"Well, it may not meet our standards back home," Drake eyed the furnishings, and the rough-neck crowd rooted firmly in hard chairs, "but you have to admit the stage girls are damn pretty."?
"Damn pretty," Girard agreed, his sour attitude vanishing when he turned his attention toward the stage to watch the dancing girls.
"Here's your whiskeys." Stella gained the men's attention as she sat their drinks down. She offered a friendly wink to Drake before leaving.
Drake tossed back the whiskey and finished it in a few swigs while watching the stage. The ladies disappeared one by one behind a tall, red velvet curtain. A new girl stepped into view. Her ruby costume adorned with ribbons and lace flaunted a fitted satin corset that exposed her generous cleavage. A billowy thigh-high skirt and lace stockings pinned up by silk garter straps, met white, soft leather lace-up boots with Louis heels and decorative stitching. ?
This girl was not just another pretty female. She was painstakingly beautiful. Men, drunk or sober, showed their appreciation with hollers of approval.?
Drake studied her beauty. Her thick, crimson hair flowed about her oval face, wavy and free, reaching down to her svelte waistline. Green resonant eyes, enhanced with a thin line of kohl, smiled upon high cheekbones painted with light rouge. She was slightly taller than the average woman and had an enticing shapely figure.?
He had never seen a woman move with so much vitality and self-confidence. In her honor, the piano man changed his jingle to a gentler melody, and the woman in red started singing.
Drake couldn't take his eyes off her cherry lips as a melodic sound flowed from them. Her sparkling eyes elicited his impure thoughts, making him want to touch her smooth, glistening skin. "I find her very attractive." Drake's mouth curved into a smile.?
"Rethink your affections. A woman that lovely can only mean trouble in a place like this," Girard cautioned, before turning to share his assessment of the siren's beauty. "Look at her, shameless and deliberate with a body made to lure men."?
Drake leaned back in his seat, pensively rubbing his chin while watching the seductive temptress move off the stage toward her pleasure-seeking audience. A woman like that could make a man do foolish things. Seldom had he witnessed a woman attract men so powerfully while clothed.
She sashayed through the crowd, resting her round bottom on one rugged man's lap, her back facing him while she caressed another rogue's cheek. Her routine wasn't particularly unique, but the responses from her patrons were.
?This exquisite creature was spreading herself across tables, stretching her long silky legs as her generous breasts threatened to spill from her bodice. The men smiled but kept their hands to themselves, except for when handing her bills in her hands. She strategically stuffed them into her costume.?
Drake might have mistaken her admirers for gentlemen if it weren't for their lascivious ways with the other dancing girls, cleaving to them at every opportunity. For some reason, this girl was different. Not a single hand groped her while she passed from table to table, demanding attention with her silky vocals.
"Drake, this woman is,or is connected to someone fearsome. Men are giving her too much respect," Girard surmised.
All likely true, Drake thought, but he knew Girard intended to discourage him from making any advances he may have been contemplating. He had no intention of heeding the warning.?