The incessant knocking on her bedroom door brought Rose McKinney from a sound sleep. It had been late when her last customer left last night and in no way did she want to get out of bed. She pulled on her wrapper in order to cover her nakedness and hurried to answer the door.
"What do you want?" she said before she recognized her boss, Madam Celist Devereaux.
"Get dressed Rose, there's a lawyer here to see you."
"Tell him to come back tonight. I don't do anyone in the mornings, you ought to know that Celist."
The older woman smiled. "This one isn't a customer. He's here on behalf of your father."
Rose felt like the floor had been pulled out from beneath her feet. All her life she'd heard the story of how Darius McKinney had come looking for her mother on the night she was born, but he'd been too late. Josie Sullivan was already dead when he arrived. Since then he had sent money several times a year leaving her with a substantial bank account. With the money had come letters always asking her to come to his ranch in Montana. She certainly didn't want to go west. Life wasn't perfect here, but she couldn't fathom fighting Indians and living on a cattle ranch didn't sound much better.
"Now get your tail dressed and downstairs," Celist ordered when Rose made no reply to her statement about the lawyer.
Rose didn't take time to do more than wash up and put on some make up and a day dress before going down to the parlor. The lawyer who sat there was one who had graced her bed more than once over the years.
"It's good to see you again, Rose," Thaddeus Waldman said when she entered the room. He got to his feet and kissed her hand in greeting. "I'd sorry to bring you bad news, but your father has been murdered, leaving you with his ranch the Rocking M. The will says that you must go to Montana in order to claim your inheritance."
"Can't you just sell the damn thing and bring me the money?" she asked. With the sale of the ranch, she could easily meet the price that Celist was asking for the Purple Moon.
"I'm sorry, but that isn't an option. The will is very specific about the fact that you must live on the ranch for at least a year before you can sell it."
Rose looked around the parlor. This was the only home she had ever known. Celist had raised her since birth. She has also handled the money that Darius McKinney sent with great regularity. How could she leave here to go to the wilds of Montana?
"This is a good opportunity for you, my dear," Celist said. "You need to find out if this is something you might like."
"How could I like living anywhere but here?" she protested.
"You won't ever know unless you try. I can't say that I won't miss you. I feel as though I am your mother, but as such I think this is an opportunity that you need to take advantage of."
Rose knew Celist was right, but it was hard for her to come to grips with the fact that she would be leaving St. Louis behind.