Isadora Dayton Noman paced the floor like a wild animal in a small holding cage. She wanted to run to the stranger not unlike every woman in town, but she remembered the days in that whorehouse back in Minnesota Territory where Geoffrey Noman had met her.

It was true Isa didn’t love him, but she couldn’t understand her heart. He was good to her. He had made life so pleasant and so secure she never felt fear, or denied him anything he wanted, but…

That said it more than anything she might have found to say it. There was always a “but” at the end of every sentence that described her life with Noman. He was a great lover, but Preacher DeShamer was a better lover. He was kinder than any man she had ever known, but Owen Lee the sheriff was far more exciting. He was well off and promised to get rich with his ability to buy wisely and sell shrewdly, but Ole Oelstrom was already on the way to a full herd of top cattle. He was not old but Davey Helmsrud was young and full of fun, and more her, own, age anyway. Yes, she would doubtlessly inherit a great deal when Geoffrey died, but
Pop’s Clementine would go much sooner and his wife was already sickly most of the time. What was she doing with Noman? He came up short compared to every man in town, and now the stranger…?

Her heart beat as fast as if he were a gambling man come to the whorehouse in Farley. She knew he had come looking for her, and that he wouldn’t leave until he had her, but…? But she had promised Noman she would never practice her profession again, for money, for favors, or for free ever again. True; it was a promise she had broken many times with John DeShamer, and Geoff had forgiven her every time, and though he still waited for Jo DeShamer to own up to his sin and repent, begging his forgiveness, they still went to church every Sunday, and every Sunday Jo’s sermons condemned fornication at every chance as if he wanted it to stay on her mind, and it made her so hot she could barely contain her need for the single preacher; fornicator and adulterer for sure, but the finest preacher in these parts.

But, the stranger may leave when he heard about the plans to lynch him at any time. Could she let that happen? After all he had come to see her, and Fame had drawn him to her like all the other drifters. But, besides, look how pure D handsome the man was, and with the charisma of Jesus his self she thought. She had to be crazy to even be giving her promise to Noman any credence at all. But, if he found out, or if heaven forbid she repented again, how would he take it that her infidelity had spread to another man, and she meant, another man besides Jo?
But, it was as if he said to her, “Is ya datin’, honey?” and she thought he said, “Isa Dayton, honey?” she was confused.

“Why did I have to be born this color?” she said and really meant it. “I’m probably the only black whore in the Dakotas, and all of Minnesota Territory to boot! Will my fame ever have an end to it?”

“What, Isa?” Geoff said as he sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. “Who ya talking to?”

“The four walls!” she said annoyed he had awakened at such a personal time.

“Come to bed. How am I supposed to sleep when you’re mumbling to yourself all night? I could be one of those drunks down at Willie’s Saloon tonight you know.
They really wanted me to stay, but I figure it’s their problem, especially when I found you had been home all along. How could you fall asleep in the carriage shed, anyway? If you slept more at night, that wouldn’t happen darling. Come on now; get some sleep!”

“Later,” she said dismissing the idea she could sleep and that, as drunk as he was he was not unlikely to pass out before she got undressed.

That settled it. She swung a shawl across her shoulders and walked out of the house, and before long had managed the entire distance to Pop’s bunkhouse, a leftover from his hay day as a major horse breeder in these parts. That horny old fart would be sleeping, thank God, but she hoped the stranger was still up and waiting for her in the barn like she envisioned it would be.

She was about there when she saw ugly little Salina Montoya rushing off carrying her clothes. True; the figure she saw was more shadow than substance but nonetheless it had been the little mite; no doubt about it! Had he actually…? With the little half breed Mexican!

She turned to leave.

Then the stranger appeared in the light of the lantern hanging in the haymow.

“I’m sorry, Salina. I cannot! You are too damned young!” he shouted at the night.
“Come on, Salina! Put your clothes on and come back. We’ll drink peppermint schnapps and talk about it. You’re too young, honey. You’re just too damned young. Come on, Salina! It has nothing to do with the way you look. Honest!”

Then he swore as he apparently stepped in something unsightly in the yard and shook his foot wildly in the light that made his nightshirt look like a sheet on a clothesline in a sunny afternoon; it was clear he was very naked underneath.

Was he some kind of a pervert? Had she come all this way to find a man who would take advantage of a fourteen year old and then do something like this to cover it up? But, so what if he was? He had come all the way from the South to see her in bed, how could she deny her following?

As he wiped his foot on a board, and then washed it in a wooden trough with or without soap she couldn’t tell, Isa walked up to the barn, slipped inside and making her way up to the haymow she undressed and lay uncovered waiting for this most treasured lover to come to her out of the shadows, admire what he saw, and naturally share the rest of the night making love with her, scratchy hay and all; like Salina had said earlier, it wasn’t like she wasn’t used to it what with Jo and all.

“My God, Mrs. Noman?” the stranger said, “I thought you might not ever make it.”

‘What a strange thing for this man to say to her, especially, when it was clear nothing ever need be said at all?’

“Mrs. Noman?” she repeated. “Don’t you remember me at all?”

“How could I remember you? I’ve never been north of St. Louis till this trip!” he lied.

“Well!” she gasped in a breathless whisper, and suddenly feeling cold she grabbed her dress and wrapped it about her top, and lay the shawl over her lower extremities.

“Well,” he said sliding in beside her. “I am glad you are here anyway. I thought by how under control you were when the sheriff was here earlier you were a whore of some skill. And, I couldn’t believe it, a Negress in these parts, a black whore as surely as if I was down home again!” he proclaimed and reached for her just as she stood in a huff. “What? What’s up?” the stranger said completely surprised by her actions. “Oh, yes, of course! My pants are right there on the boards, take what you want, not what you’re worth but what you want, understand?”

Isa screeched, “To hell with you!”

“What? What did I do?” the stranger said rising; now naked and amazingly even more turned on than usual; it was a rare time any woman resisted his advances.
‘Perhaps,’ he thought, was he getting careless?

Isa put her clothes back on and jumped from the haymow to avoid him taking her in his arms, knowing she would never be able to resist that. She landed on her bare feet and literally ran off toward home. Full of pride in herself, and happy to be home with her own husband, passed out though he was, she climbed into bed clothed in just her dress, letting the shawl fall on the floor, and cuddling with the man she felt so…?safe and secure with. He would never pay her for sex, or was that what their arrangement was all about? Had he ever stopped paying for it since the day he met her?

“I should say not!” she said and relaxing fell asleep later, glad that if the bed was still spinning for her man, Noman, at least it wasn’t for her; this time.