Golden Desire Ch. 05byopels©
They still continued to see each other every day as she wasn't ready to become a full fledged card dealer yet. She practiced with Nicholas at his home every afternoon, always careful to avoid anything even slightly romantic. After a week, late one afternoon, he finally deemed her ready.
"Are you sure?" she asked nervously.
"Yes, I'll put you on first thing in the morning. It's not very busy then."
"Alright," she said nervously.
Hesitating he said, "There is one other thing that needs to be taken care of before you can start."
"What?" she asked warily.
"You need some new dresses."
"What's wrong with my dresses?" she asked, offended.
"Come upstairs and take another look at the women dealing," he said.
Her heart dropped as she peered down at the women dealing the cards. She hadn't noticed before, but they were all wearing low cut gowns, with elaborate hairdos and some even wore cosmetics. "Oh my. I have to look like that?" she asked, clearly worried.
"You'll look beautiful," he whispered in her ear.
Her breath caught in her throat, but she took a deep breath and stepped away from him. "Well, if that's the way I must dress, then I suppose I do need some new gowns. Where do I get them from?" she asked, trying to be positive.
"There's a dressmaker a couple of streets over who has some ready made gowns that are suitable. With a few alterations, you'll be ready," he said with a smile. "And since they are the required uniform, I'll pay for them."
"Thank you," she smiled. She had expected nothing less.
Her first day of work came and she arrived early at Nicholas' house. They had agreed that she could keep her dresses there, since she was uncomfortable being out on the street in them.
In the room she had previously occupied, she slipped the gown over her head. Pulling the laces tight she was again amazed at the transformation that occurred whenever she put one on. The dresses were constructed in such a way that it appeared as though her breasts were about to tumble out at any minute, but of course they were well secured. She tried to pull the neckline up just a bit but it wouldn't budge. She fixed her hair as best she could like the women next door. Nicholas had not yet seen the dresses and she hoped he would approve. She walked down the stairs and into the drawing room where he was waiting.
He stood when she entered and just stared at her with wide eyes.
"Well, how do I look?" she asked nervously.
"You look..." he struggled, trying to find the right word. "Ravishing, incredibly seductive...delicious," he finished.
She couldn't help but giggle. "Delicious? I look delicious?" she asked.
Approaching her and picking up an artfully loose tendril of hair, he said in his deep, smooth voice, "Yes. Good enough to eat."
She didn't dare look into his eyes. Laughing nervously, she said, "Good enough to eat? Oh my."
Stepping back, he cleared his throat and asked, "Are you ready?"
Twisting her hands, she replied, "As ready as I'll ever be." Dropping her hands, she took the arm he offered and followed him next door.
By the end of the week, she was no longer nervous before her shifts and by the next week, Nicholas had moved her to afternoons. Since the dealers in his houses weren't allowed to accept tips, as they were in other houses, he paid quite well and she found she was actually able to save a few dollars a week.
After three weeks, she found she had saved twelve dollars. Not too bad, really, but she had inquired about the fare to get back home and to go overland it was six hundred dollars. Not only that, it was also extremely dangerous. She couldn't bear to go back by ship and a few dollars a week wasn't going to get her to Albany.
She was at Nicholas' relaxing after a shift one evening, when he said, "I never asked you. You said you were going to inquire about fares to go back to Albany. What are they like?"
She snorted and replied, "Six hundred dollars to go overland. I've managed to save fifteen dollars so far. It's going to take me forever," she said with a discouraged sigh.
"What's waiting for you there?" he asked.
"What do you mean? My home, my business," she replied.
"But what else? Is there a life?"
She opened her mouth to answer, but stopped. He was right. There was nothing really for her there. Nothing that she couldn't get elsewhere. "Well, maybe not, but where else would I go?"
"Maybe somewhere closer. There are some towns up north that are starting to grow. And of course there are cities in the southern states, but they're on the east coast and probably not any cheaper to get to."
Not looking at him, she sighed again. "Even if it only cost a hundred dollars to get somewhere else, it would still take me six months to save. And I'm sure it costs more than that." She realized she hadn't really tried to get the money from him and decided that maybe it was time to be a little friendlier. Looking over at him, she lowered her lashes and said softly, "It looks like you'll be stuck with me for quite awhile."
Picking up her flirtatious attitude, he responded, in an equally soft voice, "I think I can handle that."
When she continued to look at him with her inviting gaze, he rose from his seat and walked over to her, holding out his hand, inviting her to take it.
She slid her hand in his and rose. Instantly she was in his arms, lips pressed to his. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her upstairs.
Once again, in the morning, when he awoke, she was gone. She had become so accustomed to San Francisco, that she had no qualms about walking around alone. And since she had stolen away at daybreak, the streets were already coming to life.
When she arrived at his house later that same day to prepare for her shift at the gambling house, it was his turn to be absent. She went upstairs and changed her dress. As she emerged, he was leaning against the wall in the hallway, waiting for her. He smiled as she exited, drinking in her exposed flesh. "As always, you look delectable," he complimented.
Returning his smile, she answered, "Why thank you. That's very nice of you to say."
He approached her and from behind, wrapped his arms around her. "I missed you this morning," he whispered in her ear. "Why do you always run away before dawn?"
"I don't know," she answered. "I wake up and can't go back to sleep, so I get up."
"Why don't you wake me up? I'm sure we can find something to amuse you," he whispered suggestively. His hands were creeping up from her waist, causing the most delightful tingling sensation.
She gently removed his hands, and in a playful tone admonished, "Mr. Andrews, if you continue that, your gambling house will be short a dealer today."
"So?" he replied, trying to replace his hands.
Ducking away from him, she said, "Well, you may not miss the revenue but I will." Backing down the hall she said, "Will I see you later, after my shift?"
Gazing at her hungrily, he replied, his voice slightly husky, "Yes, I'll be here."
With a smile, she turned and headed down the stairs.
During her shift that afternoon, her attention was caught by one of the other girls. Sylvia, a voluptuous blond, had a large dark red flower in her hair. Victoria had been strangely curious about the arrangements that Sylvia made with the male customers. She was so discreet, that if Victoria didn't know what the flowers meant, she wouldn't have suspected. During a break, she approached the other woman, who was standing at the bar.
"Good afternoon, Sylvia, how are you today?" she asked. She had never really chatted with her before and was a little nervous.
Sylvia was lighting a cigarette, and replied, with an exhalation of smoke, "Oh, I'm alright. How about you?"
"Fine, thank you," she said. Nervously, she continued, "May I ask you something?"
"Sure," she answered, taking another long drag on the cigarette.
"I understand that if you wear flowers in your hair, that's an indication to the male customers that you're willing to make...extra arrangements with them. Is that right?"
"Yeah. What of it?" she asked suspiciously. Everyone knew that Victoria was friendly with Nicholas and Sylvia was worried that she might be in trouble.
Hesitating, she asked, "May I ask, how much do you charge them?"
"Why do you want to know?" she asked, still unsure.
Blushing furiously, she replied, "Well, I want to make some money, so I can get back home, but with what I can save from just dealing cards, it's going to take years. And I thought, that maybe, there was another way."
"You want to sleep with men for money?" Sylvia asked bluntly, with great surprise.
Shrugging her shoulders, she said, "I've been married, it's not like I've never been with a man. Anyway, I was mostly just curious."
"I charge them ten dollars," she said. Looking Victoria up and down, she said, "You could probably get fifteen for the first little while. You're not too used yet. And if you do more than one a day, you can make money quickly."
Trying to hide her shock, she asked, "More than one a day?"
"Yeah, that's what's nice about working the afternoon shift. You can fit more than one in after work." Butting out her cigarette, she said, "Time to get back at it."
Victoria stared at the blonde woman as she made her way back to her table. Could she do that, she wondered. Sleep with men for money? If she made thirty dollars a day, she could have the money to get back home in a month.
Later that day, back in her hotel room, her fingers gently caressed the petals in a bouquet of flowers she had bought. She thought about some of the men that came to her table and shuddered at the thought of them touching her. But, she thought, I don't have to accept the proposals of all the men who ask me. It's at my discretion and I can choose only the nice ones. However, that means it'll take longer to save the money. Well, two months of sleeping with nice men is far better than one month of sleeping with every man, she rationalized.
She sighed, could she really do it? I would be a prostitute, she thought bluntly. But I would make the money I need to leave here. Wherever I went, no one would know.
Fingering the velvety soft petals again, she thought, maybe I'll just wear them and see what happens. I don't have to accept any invitations. I can just test the waters. Satisfied with her decision she lifted her fingers from the blooms until tomorrow.
Nicholas wasn't in when she arrived the next day. She changed her dress and pinned the stems of the flowers into her hair. She snuck out of the house, not wanting any of the servants to see her, and went next door. She had some regular visitors to her table and they noticed the blooms in her hair immediately. After a couple of hours she had more men at her table than ever before.
Nicholas was doing some paperwork in the office of one of the hotels, when one of the clerks brought him a note, saying that a messenger had brought it.
Curious, he opened it and quickly scanned the contents, his face clouding with fury. He tore out of the hotel and quickly mounting his horse, he raced off down the street.
He burst through the doors of the gambling house and stormed over to Victoria's table. Seeing that what the note said was true, he pushed through the throng of men, and grabbing her arm, he growled to the players, "Sorry, gentlemen but this table is temporarily closed." He pulled her out from behind the table and across the house, into an office.
Slamming the door, he shouted, "What in blazes do you think you're doing?"
"What am I doing?" she answered, shouting back. "What do you think you're doing, coming in here and dragging me away from my table? Humiliating me like that?"
Reaching out and yanking one of the flowers from her hair and throwing it at her, he demanded, "Why are you wearing these?"
"You know why. You're the one who told me what they mean," she replied angrily.
"I know what they mean, but why are you wearing them?" he demanded again.
"I need to make money," she replied, still angry. "I want to leave here and saving a few dollars a week isn't going to do it," she stated.
"So you're willing to become a whore?" he sneered.
She recoiled as if he had hit her. Trying to summon up some of the anger she had felt a moment ago, she replied, "You said so yourself, it's the quickest way to make money in a town full of men."
"Well, not here it isn't," he stated, matter of factly.
"What do you mean? You have girls here with flowers in their hair right this moment," she argued.
"I make the rules here, and one of the rules is that you, Victoria Somerset, are not allowed to wear flowers."
"I, specifically, am not allowed to wear flowers, but Sylvia is?" she asked, astounded that he would say such a thing.
"Yes, that is correct," he replied, crossing his arms and leaning against the desk.
Fuming, she said evenly, "Fine. I resign. If you won't let me wear flowers, I'll work somewhere else that will." She delighted in the shocked look in his eyes, as she turned on her heel and stormed out.
She stalked out of the gambling house and ignoring the stares on the street, walked back to the hotel. From her room, she looked out the window at the place across the street. Maybe they could use a flower wearing Blackjack dealer, she thought.
She put a few new flowers in her hair and went to the gambling house across the street. The owner, Mr. Deacons, was in and she was granted an interview immediately.
"Well, Mrs. Somerset, you want to work here as a Blackjack dealer?" he asked, smiling at her, appreciating the amount of cleavage she was displaying.
"Yes, Mr. Deacons, I've just terminated my employment at another establishment and am eager to begin again elsewhere," she stated.
"And I see you're wearing flowers," he said, still smiling at her.
"Yes, my former employer did not approve of me wearing them, so I'm seeking a position where I can wear them," she said, returning his smile.
"Well, Victoria, may I call you Victoria? At the Golden Nugget Gambling House, all of my girls wear flowers. It is part of the job. If a customer wishes to engage your services, it is done through me and you receive a share of the amount paid," he explained, trying to make it sound as pleasant as possible. She was so young and fresh he knew he could make quite a bit of money from her.
"I have no say in who I entertain?" she asked, a little worried.
"No, but the services of my girls are not available to unsavory characters," he said warmly. He didn't add that, in his mind, the only thing that made a man unsavory was his inability to pay.
"And how much would I make?" she asked, beginning to think that this didn't sound too bad.
"You could make up to fifty dollars a night," he replied.
"How many men would I be expected to entertain?" she asked, clearly surprised.
"I depends on how long the man wants to spend with you," Mr. Deacons replied. "If a gentleman wanted to spend the whole night with you it would cost him seventy five dollars, for which you would receive fifty. If he only wanted to spend half an hour, then it would only cost him fifteen dollars, for which you would receive ten."
"I see. And I have no say whatsoever in who I am to entertain?" she asked again.
"Frankly no," he said. "If you refuse a customer, your employment is terminated."
"What do you think my chances are of making fifty dollars a night?" she asked.
Gazing again at the flesh spilling out of her gown, he replied, "Oh, I think the odds are very good, my dear, very good indeed."
"So, am I hired?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm willing to give you a try. When would you like to start?" he asked, already happily calculating how much money she was going to make him. Of course he had lied to her when he had mentioned how much he would charge the customers. He was going to charge them much more than he had told her.
"How about tonight?" she suggested.
"Perfect," he replied. "And by the way, here, you are going to be known as Miss Victoria. The 'Mrs.' would turn the men off."
"Of course," she replied. "When should I be here?"
"Come by at about seven o'clock," he said with a smile.
Rising, she returned his smile, "I'll see you at seven, and thank you, Mr. Deacons. I appreciate this."
"My pleasure. I hope you'll enjoy working here," he answered, seeing her to the door.
She happily returned to the hotel. She wanted to get a bit of rest before she began work that night. She went to bed, however, sleep eluded her. What was she getting herself into? She had only intended to see what sort of response she would get when she wore the flowers at Nicholas'. She'd really had no intention of accepting any offers. And now she had just accepted a position at an establishment that gave her no choice.
Although, Mr. Deacons had promised no unsavory characters. And if she made fifty dollars a night, that meant she would be able to save enough money to leave San Francisco in less than a month. She wouldn't be making a salary from dealing cards, but she knew she would come out much farther ahead than if she had stayed at Nicholas'.
That evening, she nervously walked across the street. She reported to the overseer of the tables and was told to go see Mr. Deacons right away. Puzzled, she reported to his office.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" she asked him.
Smiling at her, he replied, "Word has gotten out that you're working here. You already have a customer waiting."
Her mouth went dry and the bottom dropped out of her stomach. "Already?" she replied nervously.
"Yes, and he's paid for the whole night. You've already made fifty dollars," he said, his smile growing wider. He had charged the man $125 for his night with Victoria.
"How long is 'the whole night'?" she asked, worried that it would actually be that.
"Until one in the morning, when we close," he answered.
"Six hours," she said, her nervousness increasing. "Where do I go?" she asked, trying to ignore the growing tremors in her stomach.
Consulting a book on his desk, he replied, "Upstairs, room five."
Taking a deep breath, she replied, "Room five. Alright." She gave him a trembling smile and left the office. She climbed the stairs with weak legs and stood before room five.
You can do this, she thought. You didn't care much for Nicholas and you had sex with him. You didn't look forward to or enjoy sex with Henry but you complied, she told herself. This no different. It's only a few hours.
Squaring her shoulders she quickly turned the door handle and walked in the room. The man was sitting on the bed, his back resting against the headboard. She froze when she saw familiar green eyes staring at her.
"Nicholas? What are you doing here?" she asked, clearly horrified that he might be her customer.
"I think it's rather clear what I'm doing here," he replied calmly, rising from the bed.
Finding it hard to breathe, she gasped, "How did you know?"
"My employees at the hotel told me they saw you coming over here, in that dress, which I own by the way, so I thought I would check with the very respectable Mr. Deacons if he had any new raven haired girls for hire. And imagine my surprise when he replied that he did!" His voice dripped with sarcasm as he slowly approached Victoria.
She began backing away from him. "Please Nicholas, leave me alone. I only want to leave here and start my life again somewhere else."
"Why do you want me to leave? You'd rather be with one of those filthy miners than me?" he asked. "I know the rules of this place. You can't refuse me," he said, his voice taking on that low, smooth tone she usually found so hard to resist. He had backed her against the wall and grabbing her arms, he pulled her to him. "Come on, Miss Victoria," he sneered, "it's not like we've never done this before." He ground his lips against hers.