Excerpt from Dance to the Devil's Tune

      
Denver, CO
November 1883
 
     Cass swept up the limp, unconscious form of the woman he loved and carried her to the bed. He paused only long enough to fling aside a corner of the quilt. As he tugged off Sadie's boots and smoothed her chemise around her ankles, she smiled softly, oblivious to his betrayal.
     At least for the moment.
     Hardening his heart, Cass reached behind her neck with the light touch of a veteran thief and slipped the hooks that latched her necklace. A river of diamonds, emeralds, and gold-platinum spilled into his palm. He shoved this bait into his bag of loot. Pinkerton had gone to great lengths to accumulate the precious gems appropriate for Sadie's contessa disguise—gems that were supposed to lure the master thief, Maestro, to her side. The emeralds would fetch an especially handsome price from Cass's criminal contacts in the Underground.
     "Whether you like it or not," he chided her softly, tucking the quilt around her voluptuous curves, "a female tin-star has limitations. And I'd rather you learned that lesson from me than a Pinkie Killer."
     He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the musky scent of woman, patchouli, and lavender-scented linen. He couldn't resist brushing a silken curl from her breasts. Wistfully, he watched the dance of darling, rose-gold freckles each time she took a breath.
     His throat worked. He forced himself to look away.
     Retrieving his Stetson, he turned down the lamp and slipped into the hotel's hall.
     "Is it done?" Collie demanded, never missing a stroke with his whittling knife.
     Cass nodded curtly at his 17-year-old sidekick and tugged the penthouse door closed.
     Collie's raccoon snorted awake. Spying nothing out of the ordinary, Vandy flopped over, waved his paws in the air, and promptly fell back to sleep.
     "Some watch dog," Cass muttered.
     "Don't go busting your spleen on Vandy. Pinkerton's the one you're pissed at for putting your woman at risk."
     "I got plenty of spleen to go around," Cass growled, envisioning the moment when he got his hands on the bastard who'd killed a Lady Pinkerton. So help me God, Sadie will not suffer the same fate.
     "I'll take these rocks to the fence," Cass said. "Don't let Sadie out of your sight."
     "I ain't the push-over you are, Snake Bait."
     Cass glared at his sidekick.
     "Aw, lighten up," Collie said sheepishly. "You're Coyote Cass. Maestro's no match for you. You'll bait him. You'll trap him. He'll hang, and we'll all go home in plenty of time for Thanksgiving."
     Cass nodded grimly. Turning on his heel, he stepped over Vandy and headed for the elevator. He hoped Collie was right.
     Because Thanksgiving or no, Cass wasn't sure Sadie would ever forgive him.
 
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