Behind the Ranges, BookIII

Saving Soomey's life means Silas is responsible for her. But the Chinese girl wants more—his everlasting love.

The Duchess of Ophir Creek
eBook ISBN 978-1-60174-011-5
The Duchess of Ophir Creek cover
Trade Paperback ISBN

"... a story sure to keep the reader smiling as you read about these two headstrong characters as they fight their attraction to each other while fighting to maintain their own needs. 4 Blue Ribbons!"--Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies

Soomey knelt beside the fire and set water to boil for tea. If only she could read what was in his heart. Boss seemed a just man. He had bargained with her honorably, had not tried to cheat her as so many did the Chinese. His treatment of Tao Ni had been gentle and kind, surprisingly so, given that he was a man, and an American. Even when she had disobeyed him, he had not beaten her, although she knew his patience had been strained. His face showed no signs of dissipation, his body no softness.

Best of all, he had shown that while he was quiet, he was neither weak nor conciliating with those who would take advantage of weakness. The Vester man, who was very powerful, had treated Boss with respect.

Travel to Portland was out of the question until the passes opened in spring. While she might survive the journey in winter, Tao Ni almost certainly would not.

Until the day Boss had saved them, she had not worried that she would be seen as a woman by the Americans. Didn't all Chinese look alike to them? But her shirt had ripped a little bit when the pole was dragged from her shoulder. What if it had torn open? The men would have seen that she was female, despite the band that bound her breasts.

She and Tao Ni needed a protector—an American. None of the Chinese would accept responsibility for them, particularly knowing she was female, yet not available. If Li Ching had not forbidden it, the men she'd traveled with would have raped her without hesitation. Unfortunately, his power and prestige did not extend outside the Chinese community.

Soomey looked at Boss from under her lashes, wondering if her assessment of his character was correct. Her life and Tao Ni's depended on it.

She still had a few gold coins left from the sale of her beautiful clothes, but she doubted even a great fortune could buy this man's trust and loyalty. Despite her vow that she would never again be a man's toy, there was only one thing she had that Boss might value.

So. She would not be a possession. What she would offer Boss in exchange for his protection would be freely given, not taken. The difference between him and Captain Watkins was that Boss would not own her.

She sat back on her heels. "There is something you must know," she said, dropping the broken English she had hidden behind.

He said nothing for a moment, just stared at her with speculation in his eyes. Finally he said, "Well?"

Licking her lips, she said, "I am not what I seem. I speak good English. I can read and write. What you see..." She made a gesture that took in her black clothing, the rude shelter. "What you see is because I...because it was necessary for me to travel with other Chinese, until I reach Portland, find a job as houseboy." She paused. "You know barracoons in San Francisco?"

"The cribs in Chinatown?" He nodded. "Yes, but...?"

"I would be there by now, if I had not escaped," she said, willing him to understand.

Was this her fate, to always warm an American's bed? At least this time, she reminded herself, it would be her own choice. "You go...went to whorehouse. You are a man. You need a woman."

She bowed her head. "I am woman."

Boss stared at her in the gloom of the shelter for long moments.

"Well, hell!" he said at last.

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