Delicately, Luciana used her red painted nail to flick a bead across the abacus. She smiled sweetly at the men sitting on the opposite side of the felt covered table and folded her hands.
“Loser is the two of spades, winner is the eight of clubs.” Her almond brown eyes scanned the faro cards before the men, found that none of them had won their bets though one man had rightly guessed the losing card and earned himself a ‘copper,’ or penny chip. “Place your bets for the next draw.”
“The Hell with this!” One thin man with a handlebar mustache gathered up the scant chips remaining before him and rose up so quickly he knocked his stool over. “Tired of this seniorita robbing me blind!”
Luciana sat back in her chair and continued to smile. However, her hand slipped below the table to fondle the handle of a shotgun. It was bolted to the underside of the Faro table and rigged so she could aim it in a fifty degree arc—more than sufficient to cramp a would-be robber’s style.
She relaxed when the man stomped noisily away and pushed out the door of the Laughing Tiger Inn. That was one thing she liked about working in an upscale gambling establishment; The clientele tended not to shoot you when they lost. The bartender/owner watched the man leave as he wiped an already gleaming bar with a white towel. He arched an eyebrow in her direction and she gave him a subtle shake of her head.
“Sorry about my friend, ma’am.”
Luciana turned her smile on the man who had spoken. He was a lanky, likeable youngster with sandy blonde hair and arms as thick as table legs. He used his boot to pick up the fallen stool and set it right. “Far as I’m concerned, you’re just too pretty to be a cheat!”
She giggled on cue, leaning on her elbows so he would be treated to a glimpse of her generous cleavage. Her black lacy dress featured a plunging neckline on the bodice, a more than suitable distraction for most players. If that didn’t work—say if they were a leg man—she could scoot back in her seat and cross her legs, because the dress also sported a slit that ran up to her waist.
As far as she was concerned, being eyed up at a casino was better than being groped up in a brothel.
Not that she couldn’t have been a successful ‘soiled dove.’ Luciana knew she was a beautiful, exceptionally curvy woman, and her dark hair and eyes could enthrall almost any man. And it wasn’t as if she didn’t like making love...
She drew the next two cards, placing them in their respective piles. Again, no one guessed the winning card, and there was some grumbling from two of the patrons.
“Well, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.” The sandy haired cowboy didn’t complain as she swept up the last of his chips. “That’s all the money Pa says I’m allowed to spend at the casino. Sorry.”
“It’s perfectly all right,” Luciana said “The Laughing Tiger will welcome you back again soon.”
“Say, ma’am, could I buy you a drink?”
“God damn it, Sam, let the woman work. I got me a bet on the last three cards, and the house pays out five to one if you’re right!”
“I take a break at three,” Luciana said. “I can’t imbibe alcohol when I’m running a table. House rules.”
“So get back to runnin’ your table, Big Gourds,” said the irritated man. Sam gave him a pointed frown, but Luciana had been called worse. And she DID have large breasts...
“Of course sir.”
Luciana continued to play out the deck as Sam sauntered over to the bar and watched her closely. His blue eyes were like deep pools of water, reflecting light from the elegant chandeliers overhead. The floor was so polished and clean he had a twin sitting below him.
Once the Faro game was done—and as usual there were no winners—Luciana carefully rose from her seat and gathered up her dress so it wouldn’t brush the floor. Not that the Tiger was a dive with sawdust and peanut shells on the floor, but the dress was among her best and had sentimental value besides.
Sam watched her approach, rising to his feet when she swished her way to his side.
“Ma’am,” he said with a nervous smile.
“Please, call me Lucky,” she said, seating herself on the stool next to him. She felt his eyes lingering on her hose clad thighs as she crossed her legs. “Everyone does.”
Except those that call me a cheat...
“All right—Lucky.” He leaned on the bar and raised an eyebrow. “So how does this work? I mean, do I pay you or do I pay the bartender?”
Luciana’s eyes grew narrow, and her hands gripped the bar tightly.
“I am not a prostitute, sir,” she said through gritted teeth. “I am a dealer. Pendejo!”
She gathered her skirts and rose to her feet, leaving the confused and flustered cowpoke behind. What was it with men? Either you were wench sport fodder, their mother, or you did not exist.
In a way, she really was lucky. Most taverns in the western territories wouldn’t hire a female Faro dealer in the first place. The fact that she made a fraction of what the men doing the same job earned was not something that normally bothered her. It was just the way that it was.
The tavern was emptying out, as it often did in the late afternoon. Luciana swept into the kitchen, startling a heavyset man wearing a stained apron. He held a bottle of wine in his hand, apparently using it to season whatever was bubbling on the stove. Luciana snatched the bottle out of his hand and took three big swallows before handing it back, wiping her mouth.
“Is it that bad, Lucky?” he asked with a chortle.
“Si.” Luciana gasped as the liquor burned her throat. “My talents are wasted swindling cowboys at the Faro table. If only they would let me in the High Stakes club, I would show them that a woman can play poker!”
“Little cousin,” the rotund man said with a sigh. “Even if they would let a woman join their table—which they will not—you still need a thousand dollars to buy in. Have you ever even SEEN a thousand dollars?”
“Plenty of times,” said Luciana “I’ve just never had a thousand dollars before. Chui, what am I doing here, so far away from home?”
“Well, let’s see...” Chui bustled about the kitchen as he spoke, adding spices to the pot. “You didn’t approve of the man your father chose to be your husband...even though he was wealthy.”
“Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos is a pig,” Luciana said, making the sign of the cross. “He once forced a man who worked for him to eat a pile of dog shit, just for bringing him cold coffee.”
“I don’t dispute that,” Chui said, his smile fading. “But you asked...”
“That I did,” she said with a sigh.
“How did your father even lose to such a man?” Chui shook his head. “Eduardo Lunes is by far the superior gamesman.”
“He cheated, obviously,” Luciana reached for the bottle again, but Chui held it away.
“Ah ah,” he said “I’ll be fired if you get drunk before the evening rush again. And you of all people shouldn’t point fingers at cheaters.”
“I do what I am told by my employer,” Luciana said. Remembering the touch of the owner’s pudgy hands, she shuddered. “Well, almost everything that I am told. What is he always saying?”
“That ‘people who walk in the door here should expect to lose their money?’”
“Yes, that would be it.” Luciana giggled, feeling a bit light headed from the wine. “Besides, you know what my father used to say his number one rule of cards was?”
Chui smiled, knowing the answer but playing along.
“Win if you can,” she said, snatching the wine bottle away and taking a swig. “Lose if you must, but always, always cheat!”
The last patron stumbled out of the Tiger as Luciana gathered up the Faro cards and a few loose chips that had fallen under the table. She could feel the bartender’s gaze following her every move, and dreaded what was coming next.
She smiled in spite of herself as her heels clumped over the polished floor. “Pretty good take tonight, Seamus.”
The bald man grunted, and painstakingly counted out every chip. She earned one dollar for every twenty earned—most dealers earned out on twelve—but by the time he was finished counting, there was a tidy sum on her side of the bar.
“Thank you, sir.” Luciana started to gather her money, but Seamus slapped a fat hand atop of the pile first.
“Not so fast,” he said. Deliberately, he fished out ten dollars from her pile and stuck it in his pocket. “This month’s room and board is due.”
“Ten dollars a month for a glorified closet.” She sneered over the counter at him. “You don’t charge your other dealers room and board.”
“If you think you can get a better deal somewhere else, the door’s right there.” Seamus thrust his finger at the night air. His bearded face split in an oily grin. “Of course, there are...other sleeping arrangements we could make.”
“Have a good night, Seamus.” Luciana headed out the door, gathering a shawl about her shoulders as she went. The autumn air was a bit nippy now that the sun had set.
She got about three feet out the door when she was startled half to death by Sam, looming out of the shadows.
“Ma’am,” he said, cheeks blushing red. In his hand was a boquet of wildflowers, and he had ran a comb through his blonde locks. “I’m real sorry about earlier. Can you forgive me?”
“Of course,” said Luciana. She was still a little miffed, but his apology seemed sincere enough. “It was an honest mistake.”
“So, ah...you up for some dinner? My treat. There’s a German fella up the way selling some kind of spicy sausages that just explode on your tongue, like a crate of dynamite!”
“I’m always up for something...” Luciana teased his hair lightly “...spicy.”
Arm in arm, they made their way down the dirt road. Kettle corn crackled in an urn as the man cooking it hawked them to buy a bag. Snake oil salesmen ‘cured’ the afflicted with their miracle liquid, and no one who purchased their own bottle seemed to notice that the hawker had terrible rickets.
About a stone’s throw from the Tiger was the town square, bustling with activity even though the sun had already sunk below the horizon. Luciana and her date waited patiently in line at the open window of a one story building, where the German was serving out his spiced sausage.
“So, are you a rancher? Sheepherder?” Luciana asked.
“Naw, ma’am, I’m a lawman believe it or not,” he said. Sam tapped his shirt. “I don’t got a badge or nothing, but I’ve been deputized by sheriff Cleetus Judd.”
“A lawman? You must be really good with your hands...” Luciana stroked his muscular forearm lightly with her nail.
“I can shoot straight enough,” said Sam with a touch of bravado. “Our posse is gonna track down the Dalton Boys gang. Ever heard of ’em?”
“Yes,” Luciana said “Actually, Big Man himself played Faro at my table once.”
“Big Manfried Dalton?” Sam’s eyes were wide as silver dollars. “What was he like?”
“Polite. Handsome, a good dresser.” Luciana sighed. “A bit cold, though. Had eyes like a rattlesnake only less friendly.”
“Did he shoot up anybody?” asked Sam eagely.
“No!” Luciana smacked him on the hand. “Don’t sound so happy when you ask something like that.”
“Sorry.” Sam stepped up to the window and came back with two tin plates with steaming sausage and something that looked like slaw. The pair sat down on the edge of a broken cistern to enjoy their meal.
Luciana found the sausage still sizzling with heat, so she tried the slaw first. It had an oily consistency, and a flavor that was somehow bland and overwhelming at the same time.
“What is this?”
“That? Think he called it saurkraut. It looks nasty, but you get used to the taste.”
Luciana grunted politely and tried her sausage. It was tender and spicy and delicious. A bit of grease ran down her chin before she could wipe it away.
“Here, ma’am.” Sam handed her his handkerchief.
“Thanks,” she said, taking the proffered cloth. “And I told you, silly boy, call me Lucky.”
“And stop apologizing,” she said. “It’s unbecoming. When is your posse set to head out?”
“Tomorrow around nine. Sheriff’s waiting on a shipment of cartridges supposed to be on the train, and he wants to hit the trail right after.”
“The sausage is quite delicious,” Luciana said. “Now I’m kind of parched, though.”
“I thought of that.” Sam reached into his breast pocket and produced a flat glass bottle. “Scotch, Lucky?”
“Thank you.” Luciana took the flask from his hand and took a swallow. It set her throat aflame but was far from the most flavorful scotch she’d tried. “So, what are they paying you to take down the dangerous Dalton boys?”
“Sheriff says the reward on Big Man alone is twenty grand,” Sam said as she took another swallow.
Luciana choked and coughed. Sam slapped her on the back as she spat, unladylike, in the dirt.
“You all right?”
“I’m fine...except there’s something wrong with my hearing. I could have sworn you said that Big Man had a twenty grand bounty on his head.”
“Oh, he does!” Sam nodded vigorously. His face scrunched up, eyes rolling skyward as he did mental calculations. “My share of it should be around twelve hundred dollars, and that’s just for Big Man! Imagine if we can rustle up his whole damn gang?”
“You should be sitting pretty after that,” she said.
“I hope so.” Sam took a hard pull from the flask, and for the first time there was a touch of fear in his blue eyes. “I mean, I hope it goes well. The Daltons have shot up a lot of lawmen down in Texas.”
Luciana kissed him on his smoothly shaven cheek, which seemed to take him by surprise.
“You’re very brave,” she said.
“Naw, just very broke,” Sam said. “Matter of fact, I kinda lost the cash I was gonna get a room with, and just spent the rest on the sausage. Guess it’s the stables for me tonight.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” Luciana said, putting her hand on his thigh and squeezing.
The door slammed open and the two of them spilled into Luciana’s room. They collapsed on the bed, her on top. Luciana straddled his waist and playfully undid the buttons on his brown shirt. Bit by bit his toned chest was revealed. He had a nest of curly blonde hair between his pectorals, which she buried her face in and breathed in his scent.
“You’re so beautiful,” he said, stroking her hair.
Luciana trailed kisses up his chest, neck, then his chin. Just barely, she brushed his lips with her own. His mouth opened and their tongues mingled. Her heart was hammering in her chest like pounding hoofbeats. It really had been too long...
Sam’s hands roughly groped her bottom. Luciana nibbled on his ear while her hands busied themselves at his belt. She reared up for a moment so she could peel open his trousers and shimmy them off past his boots.
Flipping up her skirt, she moved her nether garment to the side and eased down on top of his erect member. It was painful going in, but once she settled atop him there was nothing but bliss. Their hands interlocked and she thrust her hips forward hard.
As she expected, Sam was inexperienced and came quickly. His face slackened with shock, blue eyes mystified as they stared into her own. Luciana kissed him and then rolled off.
“What are you doing?” he said, voice breaking.
“Shh,” she replied, her hand sliding along his slick manhood. “This will get you ready again faster, yes?”
Sam reached back and grabbed the headboard and gasped. He sucked in a great gasp of air when Luciana opened her mouth and wrapped her lips tightly around the head of his cock. Slowly, she dragged herself off of him, teasing the underside with her tongue.
“You’re...putting it in your mouth-”
Luciana rolled her eyes up and gave him what she hoped was a reassuring stare before bobbing her head up and down. Sam’s legs twisted and his body shook with passion.
Wiping her mouth, Luciana smiled and snuggled up next to Sam’s side.
“All set for another ride, cowboy?” she purred.
An obnoxious snore issued out of his slack jawed mouth.
“Typical,” Luciana said with a sigh.