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Hearts Afire



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About The Book

“Sara Luck is an author to watch. Her well-developed characters, accurate historical settings, and hot naked men will have readers turning pages.” –RT Book Reviews

She left behind fame and fortune, and discovered something far more precious: the love of a strong Western man.

From the spotlight . . .

The toast of New York’s theater world, Sabrina Chadwick dazzled with her raven-haired beauty and brilliant performances. But her rising star came crashing down after a disastrous night of scandal and betrayal that left the young actress with nothing but a broken heart. Now the preacher’s daughter who found glittering success on the stage must begin a new life somewhere she can escape her shattered past as Sabrina Chadwick.

. . . to love’s shining light.

Lincoln Buchannan had no idea that the lovely lady new to Colorado Springs had been a star back East. The wealthy mine owner only knew that Victoria Drumm was stranded without accommodations in a city bustling with gold rush fever! Link offers Tori shelter in his sprawling home and agrees to help track down her brother, a fervent union organizer in nearby Cripple Creek. As desire flares between Tori and her rugged rescuer, so do the demands of striking miners in a violent and historic protest fueled by passionate convictions on both sides.


Hearts Afire ONE
New York Chronicle—December 1893
Brilliant Performance
Miss Sabrina Chadwick continues to amaze New York theatergoers with her brilliant performances. Her portrayal of Lily Fontaine in the Lyle Ketterman production A Young Woman’s Travail is perhaps the best performance of the season. She brings to the role all the nuances envisaged for the character by the playwright, Ethan Springer, beautifully displaying all the extremes: naïve to urbane, shy to assertive, victim to triumphant. From the moment she emerges from the wings she owns the stage, and hers is the brightest star in the firmament, the other players but pale lights in her luster.

The Ketterman Production Company’s husband-and-wife team, Lyle and the former Bella Chase, have once again combined with their most talented actress to bring excitement to the boards. This writer cannot speak highly enough of this wonderful play.

Sabrina Chadwick was the name Victoria Drumm had chosen for the stage. At the moment Tori, as she preferred to be called, was already in makeup and costume, waiting in the wings for the curtains to open for tonight’s production. She sat on a high stool and looked at the other players, smiling when she saw the nervousness of some of the newer cast members who were moving their lips as they silently went over their lines.

Robert Walker, the director, and Keith Collins, the stage manager, were busy with last-minute instructions. Tori looked around for the producer, but she didn’t see him. For as long as she had known Lyle Ketterman, he had never missed a curtain opening.

“Bob, have you seen Lyle?”

“No,” Walker replied. “But I’m sure he’ll be here. He’s always here.”

“I’m a little worried about him.”

“Don’t worry. If ever there was somebody who could take care of himself in just about any situation, it’s Lyle.”

Collins approached the two. “Bob, if you don’t have any objections, I’m going to go ahead and fly those tree flats between the second and third act. We don’t need them and it gives us a little more room for the window flats if the trees are out of the way.”

“Good idea,” Bob said. Then, seeing one of the other players, he called out to her, “Julie, no, no, I want you to have the sprinkling can in your hand when the curtains open.” Walker and Collins hurried away, leaving Tori alone.

Tori looked around, but still no Lyle.

“Good luck, Miss Chadwick,” one of the newer young actors said.

“No!” an older cast member said, admonishing the offending party. “Never say good luck! Are you crazy? Do you want to jinx this production?” The older cast member pointed to a side door. “Go outside, turn around three times . . . spit, curse, then knock on the door and ask to be readmitted.”

“What?” the young actor said.

“Just do it, or by damn, you’ll never be in another production as long as you live!”

Tori smiled. She knew all the theater superstitions and traditions. Her uncle, Harold Freeman, owned this theater, and he and her aunt Frances had a flat on the second floor. Tori had lived with them from the time she was twelve years old until just a couple of years ago, when she had moved to her own apartment.

The stage of the Freeman was well illuminated by electric footlights. It had two spotlights, which, with gels and lenses, could widen or narrow focus, helping to establish the mood the actors wished to project.

“Curtain,” Collins called, and Tori could hear the applause as the curtains drew open. Julie was onstage with the sprinkling can.

“Oh, these are such lovely flowers. Miss Fontaine does keep a beautiful garden.”

The first act went off without a hitch, and every time Tori left the stage, she looked for Lyle.

He wasn’t to be found, and she was growing more and more concerned.

Then, just before the close of the second act, Tori, in character as Lily Fontaine, stepped downstage right. Reaching her mark, she stepped into the glow of a soft-focus blue spotlight. She lifted her hand to her cheek, tilted her head, then spoke her lines loudly enough to be heard throughout the theater, though with just the right tone in her voice to express the concern of the moment.

“Oh, am I to marry Simon McGraw? No, I cannot, for I will not be trapped in a loveless marriage. But if I don’t marry him, Mother and Father will be turned out of their home. Oh, what am I to do? What am I to do?”

The curtains closed to the applause of the theater audience.

Tori hurried offstage, then into her dressing room, where she would change costumes for the next act. Hannah Inman, her makeup and wardrobe assistant, was waiting for her.

“You are the most wonderful actress, Miss Chadwick,” Hannah said as she laid out everything Tori would need to freshen her face. “I’ve seen this play dozens of times, but every time I hear you deliver your lines, I cry.”

“That’s very sweet of you to say.” Tori picked up a powder puff and began dabbing at her makeup. “Has Mr. Ketterman still not shown up? I’m beginning to worry that something may have happened to him.”

“It’s not Mr. Ketterman—it’s Mrs. Ketterman.”

“Bella? Has something happened to Bella?”

“Mr. Ketterman’s coachman just came in. He had to rush Mrs. Ketterman to the hospital this afternoon. He said she was in a terrible state—crying and in such pain,” Hannah said. “Poor dear, I so feel for her. You know how much she wanted this baby—why, that’s all she’s been talking about—and now the coachman says he’s sure she’s lost it. It must have been just terrible.”

“Bella? Bella was expecting a child?” Tori asked weakly.

“Oh, yes. Didn’t you notice she’s been green around the gills lately? This baby’s been makin’ her awful sick.”

“I hadn’t noticed.” Tori laid the powder puff on the dressing table.

The door opened and Mrs. McKenzie brought in the dress Tori would need for the third act.

“Here’s your costume, dear. Be extra careful when you put it on. I took in the waist a bit so it fits a little better.”

“Thank you,” Tori said, so quietly the words were barely audible.

“Have you heard about poor Mrs. Ketterman?” Mrs. McKenzie asked. “The coachman said Mr. Ketterman is just beside himself. They both are devastated.”

“I know he was excited about the prospect of becoming a father,” Hannah said. “What man tells everyone he knows when his wife is with child?”

Mrs. McKenzie sighed. “What a wonderful husband he is. Mrs. Ketterman is so lucky to have a man who adores her like he does.”

“Five minutes!” Walker shouted from just outside the door. “Five minutes till curtain.”

“I have to get Mr. Crites’s costume to him,” Mrs. McKenzie said, hurrying out of the dressing room.

“You’d better hurry, Miss Chadwick,” Hannah said. “You haven’t even begun to change.”

“I . . . I have three minutes after the curtain rises before I’m onstage again.”

“Can you dress yourself? I promised Mr. Collins I’d help move some of the props for him.”

“Yes, go ahead.”

Hannah hurried out of Tori’s dressing room, and Tori whispered to herself, “A baby? How could that possibly be?” She sat for a long moment, staring at her reflection in the mirror as tears began welling in her eyes.

A short knock on the door caused Tori to jump.

“Sabrina, are you ready?” Walker called.

“Uh, yes.”

“Then get in your place quickly, my dear. The curtain has just opened for the third act.”

Tori looked over at the costume she should be wearing for her next stage appearance. She hadn’t even begun to change, and she knew that even if she started now, she couldn’t possibly be dressed in time. She left the dressing room and walked out to the wings.

Some of the others who were waiting to go onstage saw that she hadn’t changed, and they looked at her in shock.

“Oh, Miss Chadwick, your costume!”

Tori stood there, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she listened to the dialogue coming from the stage. The words that she had heard every night since the season opened tended to blur.

“Are you all right?” one of the bit-part actors asked.

Tori wiped her tears, but didn’t answer. Her cue was delivered:

“You should watch what you say, Jason. Lily would not be pleased by such words, and I hear her coming now.”

Tori stood frozen, making no move go onstage.

“Did I hear her? I am sure I did,” the actor said, now ad-libbing in an attempt to save the moment. He put his hand to his ear. “Yes . . . I hear her coming now.”

“Miss Chadwick, your cue, your cue!” the bit-part actor said.

Tori stepped onstage.

“I trust, my dear Lily, that you did not mishear my words, for surely it was not my intent to be indecorous,” the actor portraying the role of Jason said.

Tori had a line, but she didn’t respond as the tears continued to stream.

“I say, it was not my intent to be indecorous,” the actor repeated.

Tori stood but a second longer, then she turned and rushed off the stage without saying a word. The two actors looked at each other for a long, speechless interlude.

“Sabrina! Sabrina, what is it? Where are you going? What just happened out there?” Walker questioned.

Tori didn’t answer. Instead, she hurried past the cast and crew, who looked on in shock and confusion.

As the silence lengthened, the audience began to get restless.

“Go on!” someone shouted.

“Say something!” another audience member shouted.

The two actors fled the stage, and the curtains closed.

“Bob, do you want to tell me what this is all about?” the actor who was playing Jason asked angrily. “How dare that woman leave us standing naked onstage like that!”

Walker shrugged his shoulders. “You tell me what happened. You know as much about it as I do.”

“She was crying before she went onstage,” Julie said. “I saw her.”

“What caused that? She’s usually so composed.”

“I don’t know, but she was visibly upset and she was crying.”

“I saw it, too,” said the young actor who had wished her luck. “Oh, I hope I didn’t . . .”

The older actor who had admonished him earlier put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and said reassuringly, “It wasn’t because of you.”

By now the house was beginning to grow angry and the boos and catcalls grew louder and louder.

“Bob, you’d better get out there,” Keith Collins said.

“Me? Why should I face that crowd?”

“Because you’re the director, and the producer’s not here.”

“All right, all right, bring up the houselights, and I’ll do what I can to get us out of this.”

As soon as the houselights came up, Walker stepped before the curtain and stilled the boos by holding up his arms to call for quiet.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as the director of A Young Woman’s Travail, I beg your indulgence. We have had a medical emergency here tonight, and this performance is concluded.”

“We want our money back!” someone yelled.

“If you will stop by the ticket booth, you will be issued rain checks for a future performance. The Ketterman Production Company apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused. Good evening.” Walker turned and disappeared behind the curtains as the yells and booing began again.

With an angry expression on his face, Bob Walker strode past the cast and crew, who were now standing in shocked silence. When he reached Tori’s dressing room, he banged on the door.

“Sabrina?” he called. “I want an explanation of just what happened out there! Are you sick?”

There was nothing but silence from the other side of the door, and Walker knocked again.

“Miss Chadwick?” he said again, a bit louder.

When she still didn’t answer, he banged on the door so loudly that it could be heard all over backstage. Now his concern had given way to anger.

“You’d better have a good excuse, young woman!” Walker shouted. “Do you hear me? You’d better have a damn good excuse! Now, you open this door!” He tried the doorknob again but still got no response. “All right, missy, if this is how you want to play, I can play this game, too. I’ll see to it that every penny of the returned receipts comes from your paycheck, unless you have some plausible reason for this petulant behavior! Good night, Miss Chadwick.” He turned from the door and stormed back to the stage wings, where everyone else was anxiously waiting.

“What’s her story? What happened?” Collins asked.

“Who knows? I need a drink.”

“Me, too. I’m coming with you.”
Cripple Creek, Colorado
“Buchannan, you’re nothin’ but a damn troublemaker! What makes you think you got a right to be stickin’ your nose in somebody else’s business?” The speaker was holding a knife in the way of someone who knew how to use it. It was low and horizontal, the blade coming out from the thumb side of the hand, which gave him more flexibility.

“I caught you red-handed, Landry. You were high-grading from the Isabella, and you know it, and when you’re stealing gold from J. J. Hagerman, you’re stealing from me, too,” Link Buchannan said. “I don’t like to see my dividends walk out the door when the likes of you and your cohorts steal ore by the buckets full.”

Lincoln Seward Buchannan, called Link by all who knew him, was standing in the middle of Myers Avenue on a cold and dreary afternoon. He was unarmed and facing an angry, knife-wielding hulk of a man named Gorran Landry.

Such confrontations were familiar for the booming gold-mining town; this was unusual only in that a miner was calling out a “socialite.” Because of that, a crowd began to gather.

Landry’s smile was menacing as he moved toward Link. “I don’t care how blue your blood is, when I cut out your gizzard, you’ll bleed red just like the rest of us.”

“You’ve had too much to drink, Landry. Now, just go on home and sleep it off,” Link said. “And besides, if you did cut me up, you’d have a long stay in the state pen. Is that what you want? Just take a look at all these people watching us.”

“Them’s not people. Them’s whores and their johns gatherin’ round to watch me take out a fine Philadelphia bastard.”

Link looked toward the small crowd lining the street. Most of the onlookers were women, and most of them were residents of the many bordellos that lined Myers Avenue. “They make good witnesses.”

“Course they do, ’cause they’re all your friends.” Landry moved toward Link.

“All right, Landry. If you’re hell-bent on doing this, give it a try.” Link spread his feet about shoulder width, bent slightly at the waist, and let his arms hang loosely in front of him.

An evil smile spread across Landry’s face as he began nodding his head. “I’m gonna enjoy this a whole lot, and these folks is gonna back me up all the way. You’re askin’ for it, slicker.”

Landry lunged toward Link, thrusting his knife before him. Link moved to one side as gracefully as a bullfighter avoiding the horns. The knife thrust found only empty space, and because of his lunge, Landry was left off-balance. Link reached out and grabbed the knife hand by the wrist. He jerked his attacker forward, using his own momentum, then, sweeping his leg against Landry’s, threw him down.

Now, with Landry belly down on the ground, Link put his knee in the middle of his back and twisted his would-be assailant’s arm behind him.

Landry yelped in pain.

“Drop the knife or I’ll break your arm!”

Landry opened his hand and let the knife fall.

Link picked it up, then held the point against Landry’s neck. “Can you give me one good reason why I shouldn’t slit your throat?”

Landry said nothing, but spit in the dust.

Link kicked the man in the ribs. “Get up.”

Landry got up, rubbing his arm. “You coulda broke my arm, you bastard. Now give me my knife.”

Link threw the knife at the top of a light pole, burying the blade a quarter of the way into it. “Go get it. Don’t you ever come around me again, and if I catch you in any mine I’m connected with, I’ll see to it you have a long vacation.”

With a hangdog expression, Landry walked away, chased by the laughter and chiding of the assembled crowd.

Stepping up onto the boardwalk, Link heard slow, deliberate clapping from a man leaning against the light pole.

“I’m glad you were aiming high,” the man said as he extended his hand to Link.

“Speck, have you been here all along?” Link asked, addressing his friend Spenser Penrose.

“Uh-huh. Just watching to see if you needed me to step in and give Landry a swift right hook. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been as generous as you were. I would have taken him out.”

“Sure you would have,” Link said, laughing with his friend.

Link, Speck Penrose, and Speck’s business partner, Charles Tutt, had grown up as childhood friends, all living within a few blocks of each other in Philadelphia. They had competed against one another as they swam across the Delaware River or rowed on the Schuylkill. Everything the boys did was a contest—who could catch the biggest fish off the bridge, or who could skate the fastest on the ice—and this friendly competition had continued into adulthood.

Charles Tutt had been the first of the three to come to Colorado. Initially, he had tried his hand at raising cattle near Colorado Springs, but when that operation didn’t succeed, he began selling real estate and insurance.

When an unseemly fraternity prank forced Link to give up his plans to attend law school, Albert Buchannan demanded that his son take a position in his bank. Link did everything he could to force his father to fire him, so when Charles Tutt invited Link to join him in Colorado Springs, Link left Philadelphia with his father’s blessing.

That was five years ago, and Colorado had been good to Link. His gregarious personality along with his rugged good looks had enabled him to succeed, and when Speck, who was down to his last $100, joined the pair, Link decided it was time to open his own office, setting up the old competitive spirit that the three had enjoyed since childhood.

“I don’t know about you, but I could use a drink about now,” Link said.

“That’s what I want to hear. I was on my way to the Topic to see how my girls are doing,” Speck said. “Would you care to join me?”

“Sounds good to me.”

The Topic, a dance hall on Bennett Avenue, was located in a building owned by Tutt and Penrose, and he considered the “girls” to be his employees as well as his friends. Because the miners worked around the clock, the dance halls never closed. The girls served as dancing partners for the men at any hour of the day or night, but their main job was to sell liquor. Each girl was paid a commission for every drink she sold.

While the traffic in prostitution was heavy in Cripple Creek, the girls at the Topic were not hired for that. Most of the brothels were located one block south on the 300 block of Myers Avenue. Here, the more elegant parlors were intermixed with several one-woman cribs.

“Hello, Mr. Penrose, Mr. Buchannan,” one of the girls said, meeting the two men just inside the door.

“Ah, here’s my Kate,” Speck said as he gave the attractive woman a hug. “Can you put my friend and me in the meeting room?”

Kate’s eyebrows lifted. “Do you want company?”

Speck laughed. “Not this evening, honey. Hennessy is the only company we’ll need.”

Kate smiled as she led Link and Speck into a small room off the dance floor. “For you, I’ll find the best cognac in the house.”

“You’re a good girl, Kate, and I won’t forget it,” Speck said.

“Is that a promise?” Kate brushed an errant curl off Speck’s forehead with a smile as she left the two men.

Once they were comfortably seated and the brandy delivered, Speck proposed a toast. “To us,” he said as he handed a glass to Link. “Two of the best-looking scalawags ever to leave Philadelphia.”

“Ha! It wasn’t me Kate was fawning over,” Link said.

“It’s my black hair. You know, Link, you should think about covering up that gray you’ve got showing.”

“I’ve worked hard to grow every one of these gray hairs.”

“Speaking of which, how’s business?”

“It’s good. I’ve got a few prospects dangling on the hook.”

“Oh, do you? Would I happen to know these prospects?”

“There you go, Speck Penrose. I’m not telling you a damned thing.” Link shook his head. “I’ll be meeting my people in Colorado Springs as soon as I can get everything put together.”

“I guess you’ll see Charles?”

“Of course. If I play my cards right, Josephine may invite me for Christmas dinner.”

“I’ll miss being there,” Speck said. “I love those kids just like they were my own, especially little Charles.”

A broad smiled crossed Link’s face. “Do you mean that the way it sounds? Are you looking to get some of your own?”

“You read too much into things, my friend. All I’m saying is that I like my partner’s kids. Nothing more.”

“I’ll bet the Amazon has something else to say about that. Everybody knows you’re in love with Sally Halthusen.”

“I’ll have to admit, I enjoy her company, but it’s because she’s done such a good job training my horses,” Speck said. “It has nothing to do with anything else.”

“Sure, it’s the horses. I think that big woman’s got it in her mind that she’s going to marry you, and you’re not going to have one word to say about it.”

“There could be worse things,” Speck said. “How about you? Don’t you think it’s about time you found someone and settled down?”

“Listen to this drivel—coming from the biggest womanizer in Colorado. We’re the same age, Speck. I’d see you getting hitched to Sally long before you find me getting snagged by one woman. Cripple Creek, and now Gillette, even Colorado Springs—these towns are a bachelor’s paradise. Why would I want to mess that up by settling down?”

“You just wait. I’ll wager a bet—say, five thousand dollars—that you’ll be married long before I am. After all, you’re an old man, at least six months older than I am, sir.”

“I’ll take that bet, but no more acting as your cowcatcher,” Link teased. “You know you push me out in front of you just to fend off all the women around here. I don’t mind the working girls you send my way. The ones that bother me are the self-righteous ones, the ones who wouldn’t step foot on Myers Avenue for fear it would ruin their holier-than-thou reputations. They’re just standing in line waiting to marry any fool who’s either ambitious or lucky enough to take a fortune out of these mountains.”

Speck laughed out loud. “You’ve got that right, my friend. You have indeed.”
New York
Tori’s apartment was in the Gerlach Hotel, between Broadway and Sixth on West Twenty-Seventh Street. Several members of the Twelfth Night Club, the recently formed club for professional women of the theater, lived there as well. As Tori stood at the window, she looked out over the twinkling lights of the city. Even at this early-morning hour, the street below was active, as several horse-drawn hacks made their way beneath the swags of Christmas greenery that crisscrossed the street.

Christmas. She had been invited to an open house at the apartment of Frank Leslie, another resident of the Gerlach. Frank was now the legal name of Miriam Leslie, the widow of the founder of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. She had changed her name for business reasons, so she wouldn’t have to change the masthead of the newspaper. Tori enjoyed her acquaintance with Mrs. Leslie, who held receptions every Thursday. Through them, Tori had become friends with contemporary Broadway stars such as May Robson, Clara Lipman, and Maude Adams, as well as other representative artists, musicians, and literary folk. Tori was certain the Christmas celebration would be an extension of those gatherings, even including Frank’s recently divorced fourth husband, William Wilde, and his famous brother, Oscar.

Because of her actions tonight, though, that world would be closed to her forever. She had been approached by Charles Frohman to play the lead role in Clyde Fitch’s Masked Ball, but because of her loyalty and devotion to Lyle Ketterman, she had turned him down, and Frohman had chosen Maude Adams to play opposite John Drew instead. Now Maude was the most financially successful actress on Broadway—not Sabrina Chadwick.

But it didn’t matter.

Tori’s stomach grumbled loudly to remind her that she hadn’t eaten since morning. Most of the time the cast of the play took their dinner together after the last show, and she was sure that’s where they were now. She also realized she would be the topic of conversation, and every one of them would be angry with her for what she had done. And they had a right to be.

Turning from the window, Tori went to her bed. Fully dressed, she lay there, staring into the darkness.

By the time the morning light streamed in through her window, Tori had made a decision. She would go to the hospital to confront Lyle Ketterman. He had, no doubt, heard what had happened the night before, and she wanted to make certain he understood his role in her calamitous performance. But when she got to the hospital and found where Bella was, Lyle was nowhere to be seen.

She stepped into the room. Bella, with her eyes closed, looked so small and innocent, so pale. Tori stood beside the bed, too emotional to speak. She stared at this woman—someone who had befriended her, someone whose money had made her a star, and yet Tori had betrayed her in the most unimaginable way—and in that moment, she knew what she had to do. She turned and as quietly as possible stepped to the door.

“Sabrina? Is that you?” Bella called out quietly.

Tori wanted to rush out of this room, but she stopped.

“I’m so glad you came. You missed Lyle, poor dear. He’s been by my side all night, and he just stepped out for a bite to eat. He’s taking this so hard, but I told him there’s plenty of time to have another baby.”

Tori turned to face Bella.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Tears welled in Tori’s eyes.

“Thank you, dear.” Bella reached for Tori’s hand and took it in her own. “I want you to know how much I have enjoyed our friendship. You are very special to me, and to Lyle, too.”

She doesn’t know, Tori thought. She doesn’t have the slightest idea.

“I’m sorry,” Tori said again. “Please, forgive me.”

“Forgive you?”

Tori turned and hurried from the room.

About The Author

Sara Luck taught school in Alaska for six years, spending much of that time 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Married to a retired army officer (also a novelist), Sara and her husband live on the beach in Alabama with a Jack Russell terrier named Charley.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (April 29, 2014)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476753775

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