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Thursday, July 09, 2020

Counting down the days with excerpts -- here's #2

Six days and counting until What Frees the Heart comes out! I'm posting an excerpt each of those days, along with the pre-order links for the Kindle and paperback editions. (I'll put the links at the end this time.)

So here's Excerpt Number 2, the first scene in Chapter 2.


Jenny climbed the stairs trying to look carefree, in case any of the other girls was watching. Not much point to it — they all knew. It was never good news if Madam Mamie called you up to her office. If she was pleased with you, she’d come and find you and give you a kind word or a side-hug or maybe a cash bonus. The office was for scolding a girl, or even warning her that she’d come to her last chance and might be out on her ear soon.
Jenny had a pretty good idea what the trouble was. It wore a fancy frock coat, smoked cigars too smelly for what they cost, and had looked down his nose at her when he left that afternoon.
Mamie’s door was open, but as soon as Jenny showed up, Mamie waved her in, stood up, and closed it. Jenny’s belly went cold. Would Mamie kick her out, just because one client didn’t find her as much to his taste as he’d reckoned? Where could she go? The sheriff would never let her walk the street for customers, even if she could stand to do it.
Mamie grabbed Jenny’s shoulder and steered her into the chair close to Mamie’s desk. “Sit down, girl. And don’t look so petrified. You’re not in that much trouble. You just need reminding of some things.” Mamie sat back down at the desk, thumped her elbows on it, and leaned forward. “In fact, I bet you can tell me what those things are.”
Jenny knew she must have a sour-looking pout on her face as she recited, “Make the gentleman feel welcome. Follow his lead, unless he don’t know what he’s doing. Make him feel special. Laugh at his jokes —”
“Which is not the same as telling jokes of your own, now, is it? It is especially important to avoid coarse humor. Our patrons do not consider themselves to be coarse individuals. And you should have learned better than to use slang expressions to our more refined gentlemen.”
Jenny stuck out her lip. “Why’d he pick me if I’m so common, then?”
Mamie got her I shouldn’t have to explain this look. “Probably because he knew that all my girls are supposed to have some class. You didn’t just leave a customer dissatisfied —”
Jenny tossed her hair. “Oh, he sounded satisfied enough to me. He bellowed like a hog!”
Mamie stood up behind her desk, leaned over it, picked up the nearest bit of Jenny’s hair, and gave it a sharp tug. “You know that’s not what I’m saying. You didn’t just leave a customer dissatisfied with the quality of our service, you damaged my reputation by doing it.” She did a double take, looking at the hair. “Right here, this is part of the problem. That color looks cheap. You’d have done better leaving it brown.” She turned the strands of hair this way and that. “On the other hand, now that it’s lighter, you could . . . how’d you like to go red? Plenty of men consider red hair exotic, and even believe red-haired women are more passionate by nature.”
Jenny tried to remember what she’d heard about turning hair red. “Do you mean henna? Won’t it rub off or nothing?”
Mamie let go of Jenny’s hair, sat back down, and tapped her long fancy fingernail on the desk. “No henna for my girls. We’d use the latest dye, that I ordered a while back from a factory in Massachusetts.” Prob’ly like what Mamie used herself. Jenny had to admit Mamie’s hair was a prettier blonde than Jenny had managed. “I figured I’d be wanting a redhead sooner or later, if one didn’t wander in. Of course, dye like that is expensive. You’d have to share the cost.”
That would mean a smaller payment for every customer until she paid off however much Mamie wanted out of her. But what choice did she have? After she’d gone and ticked off that stuffy old coot, she had better do whatever would make sure Mamie gave her another chance. “All right. I’d like that fine.”
Mamie finally smiled. “And fine is just how you’ll look. Meanwhile, you need to spend more time with some of our best-mannered girls. Listen to them, try to talk more like them, watch how they handle men. Girls like Lucette and Penny, they could almost skip bedding the customers and still send them out happy.”
I’d sure like to skip bedding some of them as come in here. She knew not to say anything of the kind. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Have them teach you some songs. You’ve a pretty voice, if you learn what to do with it.”
Jenny winced before she could catch herself. Her brother would laugh himself sick. He’d had plenty of names for her singing. Squealing like a slaughtered hog again? Honkin’ louder’n the goose, you are! But she’d give it a try, and then Mamie would see.
“Back to work, now. And no more telling jokes, not until you learn some better ones and when to tell ‘em. Stick to smiling and flattering. And of course, act like they’re the best lover you’ve had all year.”
Were any of the customers fool enough to believe it when a whore said that? Well, she should know by now how big a man’s ego could get.


Pre-order the Kindle edition here; the paperback, from Amazon, here; and the paperback from Barnes & Noble, here.

Tomorrow: Tom and Jenny actually meet!

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