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Rue Allyn

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One Night’s Desire
Book 2 of the Wildfire Love Series
Rue Allyn, author of
One Moment’s Pleasure

Avon, Massachusetts

This edition published by

Crimson Romance

an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.

10151 Carver Road, Suite 200

Blue Ash, Ohio 45242

www.crimsonromance.com

Copyright © 2013 by Rue Allyn.

ISBN 10: 1-4405-6717-4

ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6717-9

eISBN 10: 1-4405-6718-2

eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-6718-6

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.

Cover art © 123rf.com

Eileen Nauman, Janeen Johnson, Merline Lovelace

You each helped to make this book possible.

Thank you!

Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgments

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

About the Author

More from This Author

Also Available

Acknowledgments

I’d like to acknowledge the significant contribution of several people. First, I wish to thank my editor. Her insights and skill have made
One Night’s Desire
the best book it could possibly be. I also thank Ashley Myers and the Crimson Romance Publishing team. The team’s passion for a good story is well known, and I am humbled to have this book chosen for publication. Without Ashley and Crimson Romance Publishing’s interest, Kiera and Evrett’s story would have languished for much longer than
One Night’s Desire
. As always, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of my readers. Your support and encouragement throughout the years means the world to me. I hope I get to thank you all personally.

PROLOGUE

San Francisco, September 1868

“Let me go.” Kiera wasn’t strong enough to push Herbert away. He was a large man, and he overpowered her. Locking her wrists in a one-handed grip above her head, he used his other hand to rip and tear at her clothes.

“When
I’m done with you, you’ll be happy to lay with any man I choose to sell you to.”

Where was the friend of their long journey to California? What happened to the gentle lover who’d introduced her to passion with care and tenderness? Who was this monster that drank and gambled away the few pennies she could earn taking pictures of prostitutes and clients for Madame Cerise Duval, San Francisco’s most notorious madam.

“Please, Herbert, don’t do this.” Kiera hated the pleading note in her voice. In all her years under her grandfather’s cruel thumb, she’d never begged. Would she have screamed her protest now, fought harder now, if guilt and love didn’t weaken her resolve? She’d given herself to Herbert freely. So of course he thought he had the right to use her as he pleased. But she’d given herself to him in love. She did not deserve to be beaten, raped, and sold.

He tore off the last shred of cloth then flipped her over so her breasts pressed into the rough splintery wallboards of the attic room Madame Duval rented to them.

“Spread your legs.”

Kiera shook her head, then bit her cheek against the urge to weep and wail.

A terrific blow to her temple made her world reel.

She kept her limbs tightly together. She would not make this easy for him.

A second, harder blow forced her body to sag.

Her own weight jerked downward on her arms and her shoulders screamed with pain. Blood slithered down the side of her face and neck. He shoved a knee between her suddenly lax thighs and, kicking at her ankles, pried her legs apart.

He leaned in, the buttons of his clothing scraping her back. His hand fumbling at his trousers teased her buttocks with unintended caresses.

“That first blow was for disobeying me. The second was to remind you of the first.”

“Please … ”

“Shut up. I want to enjoy this, not listen to you whine.”

His erection sprang free. Now his hand wandered her bottom, stroking, squeezing, testing, patting the two mounds and pressing his fingers against then within …

She couldn’t stop the scream that tore from her throat the same way he was tearing into her body.

He hit her a third time. “I said shut up.”

Her vision dimmed, but she still felt his hips lift as he prepared to thrust fully into her.

The thrust never came. Instead, he released her wrists.

Dizzy with pain and chilled with fear she lay panting against the wall. She could hear his heavy breathing, feel his body’s heat, but he didn’t touch her.

“Now step back, Herbert.”

Madame Duval’s voice finally registered. Where had she come from? Why interfere in rape when flesh peddling was her stock in trade? Kiera slowly rolled to face the room, an odd sense of detachment possessing her as she moved. The effort to think was great — almost too great. She should be grateful, she supposed. She was grateful, but couldn’t help wondering why Cerise Duval cared if a man chose to sodomize his lover against that lover’s will?

“You’ll regret this,” threatened Herbert.

Kiera’s lips twitched, and she almost laughed. Madame Duval held him at pistol point, and he was threatening her? The arrogance of the man. Didn’t he realize that, even if he escaped being shot, Duval’s power in San Francisco was so great she could — with complete impunity — have him publicly hanged and his body tossed in the bay. No one would dare object, save the victim, for whom it would be too late.

“Come over here, Mrs. Whitson,” Duval spoke the false name Kiera had been using since before she met Herbert. “Stand in front of me and face this
morceau de merde
who calls himself a man.” Those steel on velvet tones brooked no disobedience.

Legs shaking, Kiera complied, even though doing so placed her between Duval’s pistol and its current target. Holding the pistol steady and aimed at Herbert’s head, the madam’s free hand stroked soothing circles across Kiera’s back.

“Tch, tch,” the madam clicked her tongue. “Your threats are a bit foolish, don’t you think Herbert? Given who has the gun.”

Breath scented with orange pastilles touched Kiera’s cheek. “Give me your right hand,
chère
,” continued Duval. “I will show you how to protect yourself from beasts.”

Still dazed, Kiera lifted her hand. Duval, her hand covering Kiera’s wrapped Kiera’s fingers around the pistol grip, positioned her index finger on the trigger and extended their arms, all the while keeping the weapon pointed squarely at Herbert.

“You must first cock this lever with your thumb.” Duval demonstrated and cocked the pistol. “Then you gently squeeze the trigger. Just as you would squeeze a lover’s genitals.
Oui?
But not just yet.”

Kiera blinked trying to shake off her detachment.
What is Duval doing, and why am I not screaming my head off?

“Herbert, I should kill you for damaging the goods, but I won’t,” Duval said mildly. “I’ll just kill you for being stupid.”

Duval’s index finger pressed down on Kiera’s, pulling the trigger. The shot deafened all other sound. A round hole appeared in Herbert’s astonished face. A trickle of blood formed as he fell. Backward.

“Now once more just for fun.” Duval repeated her actions with the pistol, this time striking the spot in Herbert’s chest where his heart should have been.

Kiera’s hand shook uncontrollably as detachment receded.

Duval took one look at Kiera and frowned. “Bah. Look at you, shaking like a coward. Are you a weakling? I had thought you stronger.”

“Why?” Horror still numbing her mind, Kiera shifted her gaze to Madame Duval.

“He really is dead because he is stupid. Profits are up since I started showing F. Lyn Whitson’s pictures of my merchandise to clients so they could choose a companion ahead of time. If he made you a prostitute, you would no longer be so cooperative in providing photographs. I would have much more trouble than necessary. I need a photographer more than I need another whore. Now sit, before you fall down.”

Kiera sat, pulling a robe over her body with one hand. The other still gripped the pistol.

Duval stepped to the door, opened it, and called for her butler.

Several minutes passed, but the butler arrived soon enough. “Yes madame? You have need of me?” His demeanor gave no indication that he’d noticed the body or the blood.

“Ah, Ames. Mrs. Whitson has finally decided she has had enough of her so stupid lover. Unfortunately, she shot him dead instead of asking me for help. I want you to clean up the mess she’s made.” Turning to Kiera, Duval continued. “When you are dressed,
chère
, please come to my sitting room. We will discuss the new terms of your employment here.”

CHAPTER ONE

Wyoming Territory, Late May 1870

From the back of her mare, Kiera Boudicca Alden peered through the cloud covered night at the horses lazing in the corral of the Flying V ranch. The frenetic activity from the party going on inside and around the main house didn’t seem to bother the horses, but it bothered Kiera, almost as much as the angry voices coming from the direction of the horse barn. “Ain’t no way, I’m letting you run off with her,” one voice snarled.

She couldn’t hear the reply, but a moment later she did hear gunshots.

She sidled her horse closer to her Shoshone companion. “Muh’Weda, we’ve got to get out of here,” she whispered.

“If they’re arguing about some girl, they’re too busy to notice us, and we need to get those horses back.”

Kiera made one more attempt to convince her spirit brother that his plan would lead to disaster.

“I’m all for you gaining enough
puha
to convince Aishimite’Bui’s father that you’ll make her a worthy husband, but you could have found a less dangerous way to do it than stealing your ponies back from the most powerful rancher in the territory.”

“This way is best. The greater the risk, the greater the
puha
. Besides we’re only taking a few horses. With all the noise those whites are making, they’ll never notice. Come on.” He nudged his horse forward.

Kiera had little choice but to follow where her friend led. She was here because of that friendship, but she very much feared someone would see the horses being taken from the corral and assume she and Muh’Weda were rustlers. Rustlers were shot on sight or, if captured, hanged.

Their unshod Indian ponies made little sound as they slipped through the shadows toward the barn.

“I don’t like this,” she muttered so only Muh’Weda could hear. “Do you smell smoke?”

“No. If there was smoke the horses would panic. You find the three mares and lead them out,” whispered Muh’Weda as he unlatched the corral gate. “I’ll get a rope over the stallion and be right behind you. Remember, if we get separated, I’ll meet you at the weeping rock near the Big Horn.”

“But … ”

Before she could object, he was through the gate and swallowed by the now stirring equine mass.

Under the waning moon the night was dark. How was she supposed to find three specific mares out of more than fifty in the wooden enclosure? Her photographer’s eye supplied accurate memories, but she took photographs in clear daylight, not darkness. Muh’Weda seemed to think she’d have no problem. She rubbed the scar on her left temple to ease the ache of tension and ignored the itchy feeling at her nape. Then she recalled the image of the horses she’d photographed nearly a year ago and started searching.

With every moment in the corral, she got more and more tense. By the time she found the three mares, her skin prickled, her head pounded, and an icy sweat formed on her brow. Unease spread through the herd like wildfire. She sniffed the air. Now certain she smelled smoke, she managed to get the mares on leads and headed toward the gate then glanced about to locate Muh’Weda. She found him, but he was too far away to hear any warning she might call. Her hand was lifting the gate latch when a horse trumpeted in anger.

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