Summary: What happened before Ivory arose as Adam faltered while entering the waiting area of the stage station? A small smile played on her lovely lips as she approached him. As if she could read his mind, she said, “I am what I look like. I am for real. I am really a woman.”
Rating: MA – This story ventures into an area that may make some readers uncomfortable. Though not explicit, the theme may not suit everyone.
THE LAUGHING STALLION
Bonanza Brand’s Anniversary R-Rated Writing Challenge
Depending on how you defined “nice,” Market Street was a nice area in which to relax. It was near Denver’s business and government interests and was a colorful area in its own right with hints of the “red light” delights – and other similar pursuits – to be found there. Adam did not often indulge in such activities as a form of recreation, but after a hard week of negotiating cattle contracts with several very astute Denver businessmen, he felt a little relaxation was not out of line. Besides, Bart James, a major cattleman and a partner in many of the new contracts between the city’s beef barons and the Ponderosa, was a congenial man. Bluff and hearty in stature and character, he felt Adam and he had earned the privilege of a bit of “sinful self-indulgence.” After a very fine dinner Belle Birnard’s, (one of Denver’s finer “establishments” of the era), he convinced Adam to partake of a gambling parlor not too far away that offered challenging – and honest – games of all sorts (nothing was really illegal in Denver at this time).
Adam was more than competent in most forms of gambling; with his keen mind and mathematical abilities, he was definitely a challenge in most games of chance. Besides, he was feeling mellow and, like James, felt a bit of indulgence (whatever that might turn out to be) was not out of line as a celebration for the hefty financial deals he had formed that would be quite a positive addition to the ranch’s income. And, he wanted to play a bit and just have some fun (Little Joe would have been shocked to find his brother in such a mood). So, it was a night for anything that just might happen.
As Bart James and Adam entered Caleb’s Fine Gaming, they were welcomed by several of James’ cronies. Obviously, James was a frequent and welcomed patron of the place. Soon Adam and James were invited into a gentlemen’s game whose members were well versed in the art of poker. At this level of play, “art” was indeed an appropriate description of the game at hand. Pleasant hours, flavored by the finest brandy and the most aromatic of tobaccos, found Adam and a young man the only remaining members of the ongoing game.
Reese LaFoile, was a slender, pale young man of delicate features, who played intensely and well. He and Adam had cleverly outplayed the other members of the table, leaving only themselves with the challenge of winning before them. The stakes had climbed to a great amount. LaFoile began to show a bit of edginess. Adam knew he had him at last. Soon, the game would be over and the cat would enjoy the cream of sweet (and profitable) victory. The young man had proved a worthy opponent, but Adam would still savor that final moment of conquering his challenger. Adam raised the stakes even higher. LaFoile hesitated. “Mr. Cartwright, you have me at a financial disadvantage at the moment. I will, course, cover my bet with cash – but it will be on the morrow when my bank opens. For the moment, however, may I offer my business as appropriate collateral for a bet of this nature?”
Knowing the reputation of the gaming hall and the assurance of the liquidity of all patrons to honor their obligations, Adam had no qualms in accepting the young man’ transient IOU – at least until tomorrow. He was, however, curious – of course – about the nature of the business.
LaFoile, placing a well formed hand over Adam’s hand, smiled easily, “I own an establishment in an appropriate part of town that offers many discreet services and pleasures to its patrons. It is well known for its unique offerings. You may ask anyone about the efficacy of the place. You will be assured it is unique and profitable. Holding its title of ownership will make you an entrepreneur of caliber in Denver. At least for the brief time you will hold its title of ownership.”
Perhaps it was the excellent brandy. Perhaps it was his mellow mood. Perhaps it was just a plain “what the Hell, why not?” attitude. Or perhaps it was just plain stupidity – as he was to think later – but he accepted the IOU for the bet. LaFoile removed his hand from Adam and signed his name to the IOU with a cocky flourish and ordered another round of brandy. LaFoile was as confident of his victory as Adam was of his. But three hands later, Adam found himself a business owner – at least for the time being. LaFoile accepted his defeat graciously while offering Adam an irresistible invitation.
“Mr. Cartwright, while it may be only temporary ownership, but if you would come with me I would be honored to show you The Laughing Stallion, my humble establishment. It might also provide you with a bit more of an evening’s entertainment. Certainly, as the new owner, you will enjoy all the pleasantries and privileges your status deserves.”
The offer was a siren’s song of curiosity. Adam agreed to LaFoile’s offer, letting himself be led by his host to an elegant carriage. A liveried footman directed the men to the opulent interior of the conveyance. The two chatted amicably during the brief ride. Adam was not surprised when the coachman pulled the carriage to a halt in front of a pair of ornate wrought-iron gates. Another liveried employee opened the gates and the carriage pulled inside. The gate closed behind them.
A large, well maintained two-story mansion welcomed them. Subdued music filtered from the open windows. Conversation and laughter could be heard behind the rich draperies covering the windows. The coachman jumped from his box and opened the carriage doors, allowing LaFoile and Adam to climb the few stairs to the massive double doors. LaFoile pressed a discreet button to the left of the doors. A moment later, the doors were opened by a tuxedoed butler who bowed them into the house. “Welcome home, Mr. LaFoile. And, of course, a welcome to your guest.”
“Good evening Wells,” Reese LaFoile responded as he ushered Adam into the well-appointed foyer.
A soft rustle of satin caused both Adam and LaFoile to turn toward the gentle sound. “Ah, Ivory,” LaFoile smiled, “I am glad you are here. This is Adam Cartwright. He is a visitor to Denver and to our home. And, momentarily the owner of our humble place. Please make him feel welcome.”
LaFoile turned to Adam. “Ivory is my concierge. She will see that you are comfortable and excellently cared for until I can send Gold to you. Gold will be your companion for the evening. You will find Gold a most gracious and delightful creature, and I hope, much to your liking? I will probably not see you until tomorrow at the coach station, at which time I will provide the funds to cover my obligation to you. Until tomorrow.”
LaFoile bowed his head to Adam with a smile as he turned leaving Adam in Ivory’s care. Ivory was a rare beauty with deep liquid chocolate eyes and warm, coffee hued skin. She moved to take Adam’s arm to lead him into a large salon. The room was elegant in its appointments, with several small groups of sitting arrangements scattered about. Assorted groups of men and women of all ages in various combinations and their “companions” were sipping from sparkling crystal goblets and glasses; conversation seemed very gay. No one really especially noticed Adam and Ivory as she led him to a brushed black velvet settee and settled there with him. “Mr. LaFoile occasionally brings new owners to us. He is an accomplished gamester – most of the time. I assure you, he will honor his debt to you. In the meantime, welcome to The Laughing Stallion. May I bring you some wine, brandy – or any other beverage of your preference while you await Gold’s arrival?”
Ivory’s voice, soft and seductive, was flavored with a slight French Creole accent. She was obviously very adept in her role as hostess for The Laughing Stallion. Her well-fitting gown was a deep red satin with gold trim. The neckline drew Adam’s eyes to a delightful décolletage – as it was designed to do. She leaned forward slightly, allowing the dress to enhance the sweet view before him. “It will be a few moments before Gold LaFoile will be with you.
“I would like some brandy, if you will, of course, join me?” Adam said.
“Of course, Monsieur Cartwright. A moment, and I will return.” Ivory arose gracefully, gliding away from Adam, her form beautifully swaying the rich gown. While she was away, Adam glanced about the salon, noticing that many of the pairings were not of the usual kind one found in a place like this. It did not occur to him them that in this place, one of a unique kind as LaFoile had said, that unusual parings were not in the least unusual.
His thoughts returned to his promised companion for the night. Gold LaFoile? Obviously a relative of the young Reese. Adam smiled. Indeed, he was being shown the best the house had to offer. If Ivory was any example of the ladies who served the guests of the house – and glancing about the place, she was – he was in for a most lovely treat.
Ivory returned with two snifters. Handing one to Adam, she saluted him with the other glass, delicately sipping its contents. “Tell me about yourself , Monsieur Cartwright. Mr. LaFoile mentioned you were a visitor to Denver. Where are you from?”
“From a place in the Nevada territory near Virginia City. It’s called the Ponderosa, named for the giant, ancient trees that grow in the area.” Adam engaged in the light conversation with Ivory. It was not the worst way to spending an evening. Ivory was attentive to Adam’s talk and drew him into her attentions quite easily. Not that he had any problem with being so sweetly led by such an enchanting creature.
“Hello, Mr. Cartwright,” a dulcet voice drew him from Ivory to the owner of the voice. Adam rose to meet his companion. Gold took his breath away. Tall, slender, with an abundance of aureate hair, sapphire eyes, a gleaming smile and a stunning figure, Gold was the epitome of the perfect golden woman of almost every man’s fantasy. A dress of cream satin and velvet was a glove for her ravishing form.
“If you will excuse me, Monsieur Cartwright, now that Gold is here, I will leave you and attend to my duties. Good night, Monsieur Cartwright. Gold.” Ivory nodded as she arose to depart. He thought he caught a quick, private glance between the two. Or was that a product of excellent brandy and soft lighting? Not that it mattered, other thoughts chased away the fleeting thought.
Gold moved to the settee, settling close to Adam. The soft mounds under the dress brushed against him in subtle introduction and promise. The subtle scent of roses tickled his nostrils. A delicate hand was placed on his sleeve, “Mr. Cartwright, may I refresh your drink as we become acquainted?”
“I think I am quite intoxicated as it is,” he replied with a smile, suddenly aware of the ache between his legs that let him – and Gold – know exactly where his mind was at the moment. Gold was the most desirable creature he had ever seen. It was going to be a very long night – or a very short one. Either way, he found himself with an almost juvenile eagerness for it to begin. The subtle physical gestures between them enhanced the age old game of seduction and delights only to be momentarily imaged. Adam thought of many of the descriptions and designs in a book he had – The Kama Sutra, A Tale of Love.
A small musical laugh came from Gold’s most kissable lips, “I understand you are the new proprietor of The Laughing Stallion? At least temporarily?”
“I assure you the operative word is ‘temporary.’ Reese promised me the debt will be paid by the time I leave Denver,” Adam said.
“This is not the first time The Laughing Stallion has exchanged owners. Of course, it always returns to its original owner, who dearly loves the place. It is unique, even here in Denver, where almost anything is to be had in the way of pleasurable pursuits,” Gold responded with a coy smile.
As the hour grew late, many of the couples left the salon. With only a few couples enjoying a bit of dalliance, Gold arose, taking Adam’s hand. “Perhaps, we should adjourn to a more comfortable locale. I have some fine chilled champagne waiting for us. Would you care to come with me?”
The sapphire eyes held his in its magnetic, alluring gaze, alive with unspoken promises. Willingly Adam allowed himself to be led up a wide, winding staircase. The hall was lined with doors. Another level of curved stairs followed. Gold led Adam up the elegant spiral. “Our finest suites are on this level,” Gold spoke leading him to a door at the end of the dimmed hallway. Gold opened the door, gesturing for Adam to enter the boudoir. A large bed adorned with white and gold plush covers was turned down in promising anticipation. Downy pillows beckoned him. The subtle scent of roses caressed the air. Shutting the door quietly behind, Gold led Adam to the welcoming bed. Quietly, Gold stepped behind him, lowering his suit coat from his shoulders down his arms, nibbling his neck with each movement. Gold lightly tossed his jacket onto a nearby chair then stepped in front of him. With a soft, sighing laugh, he pressed backward onto the waiting sheets. “Now, you just relax a bit and I’ll bring us some champagne to help us get into the mood for the joy we shall share this evening.”
Turning away from him, Gold swayed to a small table where a bottle of champagne and two glasses awaited. Adam did not see the bottom of the silver bottle stopper flip open and its contents emptied into a sparkling flute. Returning to Adam, a shapely hand held out a glass to him. He took it. With a quiet clink of the flutes Gold held sipped from the glass with inviting lips. Adam drank the contents of his glass. Gold set down the glass and turned away from Adam. The reflection faced him in the mirror. “Now, for the fun part,” Gold whispered to him as the glorious golden mass lifted away. Slowly turning to face Adam Gold smiled, saying only “Surprise!”
In a mad second, Adam realized what was before him. He bolted from the bed, his anger white hot as Reese laughed aloud. Adam’s fist collided harshly with the mocking face before him. It was the last thing he remembered as he fell into a swirling blackness. He did not know he hit the floor and lay there quite oblivious to anything that followed. His last thought had been that Reese had fooled him, deceived him and what could have – would have – happened if Adam allowed his intoxicated state to lead him to a heinous, hideous act that negated any thought of pleasure with this obscene creature.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. For a moment, the room spun about in a lazy, lurching manner. Then things stilled. He looked about him, almost afraid to move, his body swathed with a heavy lethargy. He was naked, in his bed in his hotel room. A sweet breeze stirred the curtains at the window. Daylight was bright with morning’s new light. Slowly, he sat up. He could move about in a normal way. Only a small headache tormented him. He stood up. Everything stayed in its place. Looking at his pocket watch, the time showed 9:00 am. His clothes from the night before were neatly folded on a nearby chair. He checked the pockets of his clothes. His wallet was in tact, it’s contents as he remembered it. Also, in the front of the money was the white piece of paper of LaFoile’s IOU.
LaFoile! His anger burned again as memories rushed back to him of the night before. He remembered everything. Every. Damned. Thing. His hands curled into hard fists. Rage consumed him. Then, he started to laugh. He had been played for a fool. The clever young man at the card table had certainly played him a hand he would never forget. Nor would he tell anyone what had happened. Maybe he would tell Sport. Sport would never tell. A hot bath seemed a good way to wash away the memories of a mistake he almost made. He would go home in a few hours, leaving Denver far behind. It would be a long time before he came back to this town! Forget the IOU. He had no desire to pursue the debt. He would consider the money a tuition for a lesson learned about trust and discretion. He had done well on the trip, anyway. The contracts he had signed were in tact in his brief bag. Their profit would assuage his bruised ego. A good breakfast and then off to the stage coach station. He chuckled at himself, despite his hurt pride and ego.
He had one more surprise waiting for him.
He entered the waiting area at the stage station. Ivory arose as he entered. A small smile played on her lovely lips as she approached him. As if she could read his mind, she said, “I am what I look like. I am for real. I am really a woman.”
He looked at her with a brow arched in question as she held out an envelope to him. “It’s the money for the IOU. Reese had no intention of defrauding you. He may have fooled you with his disguise, but that is what he does – he and the others at the Laughing Stallion. But now you know why it is called the Laughing Stallion. Reese does have a bit of a sense of humor, you must admit.”
He took the envelope from her. He did not count the money inside. He did not want to. He looked into the lovely, deep eyes before him. For a second, a thought crossed him mind – what if he had been with Ivory last night. He smiled, raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingers. “It could have been a beautiful evening. As it is, I shall remember this moment as my fondest memory of Denver.”
She gently withdrew her hand from his grasp. With a small curtsey, she bid him farewell. “Adieu, Monsieur Cartwright.”
“Farewell, Ivory.” Adam turned around and boarded the waiting stage.
As the horses started away from Denver, Adam relaxed in his seat, ignoring the chatter of the other passengers. He pulled his hat down over his eyes. Yes, he fully understood – and in a wry way – appreciated the joke of the Laughing Stallion.
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