As Blaze waited to cross the street, a middle-aged woman stood back and spoke quietly to her male companion. “All the men notice her, but her hair is red and her chest is too big.”
“So?” the man whispered.
“Redheaded women with big breasts are promiscuous,” the sour-faced lady said as if stating established fact.
Blaze felt her blood boil and was about to turn around to express her displeasure when the man, probably her husband, spoke. “I think she’s beautiful,” he noted, looking into Blaze’s eyes as she slightly turned toward him.
The middle-aged lady, a tall, gaunt figure with a hawk-like nose, slapped his arm and grabbed him by the wrist, attempting to drag him off. Before yielding his place, he smiled at Blaze. She smiled back and the man’s face lit up, but the woman pulled him so aggressively that he stumbled and almost fell.
Blaze continued walking along the wooden sidewalk toward Mrs. Trousseau’s Dress Shop. On that sultry day in mid-July, there was a general tumult in St. Louis. A large number of people, recently displaced from their farms by governmental order, were passing by in carts on their way to Independence, where they would begin the arduous journey west along the famed Oregon Trail. Being a Friday, there was also a high level of gaiety abounding and drunken men were regularly either staggering out, or being thrown out, of various drinking establishments. A scruffy fellow with rotten teeth banged into Blaze, nearly knocking her to the ground.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, straightening her dress and looking at him with an affronted expression. “Please mind your manners.”
He tried to focus on her with his drunken eyes, then stared at her chest and shook his head in disbelief. “That’s some mighty fine set of peaks you got there, doll. A man could get lost in them thar hills.”
He reached out to grab her breasts as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Blaze stepped back in horror, but the man continued forward, intent on feeling her prominent bosom. His breath reeked of liquor. Blaze frightfully backed into a wall and found herself trapped. The lecherous man bore down on her, a look of lustful determination in his bloodshot eyes. His dirty fingers twitched like a spider’s legs and he smiled dumbly as he reached out to grab her. Blaze covered her breasts with both hands and was just about to scream when the intoxicated man suddenly disappeared in a flash. She turned to her right and saw him sprawled in the dirt, wiggling his arms and legs like an overturned turtle. He looked dazed and confused. Blaze then noticed a big man, all of six feet four inches and weighing a solid two hundred and fifty pounds. He was looking at her with his hat in his hands and was, without question, the most handsome man Blaze had ever encountered. He had the nicest smile, wispy, blond hair, gleaming hazel eyes that seemed to penetrate her to the core, whiskers that accentuated his masculinity, and perfect skin and teeth. Strength and power seemed to emanate off him.
“Is the lady all right?” he asked with great concern, looking deeply into her eyes.
She controlled her breathing and lowered her hands. “Yes, sir, I do believe I am.” She stated deeply into his eyes. “Thanks to you, that is. I do declare that if you had been one moment later, I would have suffered a grievous assault from that odious man.”
“John Masters,” the handsome stranger said, holding out his huge, powerful hand. “Glad to make your acquaintance, ma’am.”
Blaze looked shyly at him, shaking his hand using only her fingertips, and marveling at how gently he held them. “Blaze Henry,” she said. “I am a lady from Maiden Street.”
“It is my very great pleasure to meet you, Miss Henry.”
She blushed slightly, her eyes twinkling. “Since you so heroically stepped in and saved me from this drunken lout, you may call me Blaze.”
“Fortune is with me on this day,” he replied in the most charming manner possible. “I did not anticipate the opportunity to meet such a beautiful lady, nor could I ever have expected to address her in such a familiar way. It is an unequivocal pleasure to meet you, Blaze.”
Her heart seemed to flutter. “Do you live here?”
“I am newly moved to St. Louis, but I am hoping to practice law in this fine town.”
“Oh?” Blaze replied, more impressed by the minute. “A man of brain and brawn. What a delightful combination.” She looked away partly out of shyness and partly because she felt overwhelmed by his good looks. After a few seconds, she turned back to him. “Where do you plan to practice law, sir?”
“I have an appointment with Switz, Jackson and Millman,” he said.
Blaze adjusted the yellow ribbon in her hair. “Why, sir, that’s the biggest firm in St. Louis. When do you start?”
“I only have an interview,” he qualified, raising his hands. “Nothing has been formalized.”
The drunken man finally regained his senses and awkwardly got to his feet. He brushed himself off and looked rum mad. “Who the hell do you think you are?” he exclaimed in a belligerent voice. He raised his fists. “That broad is mine. I saw her first.”
John flung his coat aside, whipped out his six-shooter, and pressed the muzzle to the man’s forehead. He pulled back the hammer. “You have five seconds to apologize to the lady,” he said in a no-nonsense voice, “or today you meet your Maker.”
It took the man’s foggy brain three or four seconds to process the information, but by degrees the situation registered. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he stammered, looking up at the gun. “I don’t know what got into me.” He had an expression of conviction that would have made a traveling preacher proud. “I am usually a gentleman. The liquor is to blame.”
Another disheveled man who had stopped on the sidewalk gawked at the drunkard. “Smart move, Billy Bob.” He gestured at Blaze’s hero. “That’s Big John Masters, you know.”
The drunk swallowed hard and his eyes opened ridiculously wide. “Big John Masters?” he said, growing as white as snow. “I’m sorry, sir,” he added profusely. “I had no idea who you were.”
“You shouldn’t be apologizing to me. It is this lovely belle who you insulted.” John stared with eyes of ice, his finger still on the trigger, but when he spoke, it was obvious his words were meant just as much for Blaze. “Does the beautiful lady accept this man’s apology?” he asked without looking at her.
“Yes,” Blaze said, stepping away from the wall.
“You’re a lucky man,” John noted, un-cocking the gun and sliding it into his holster a lot slower than he had taken it out. “Now move along and thank your lucky stars that this fine lady found it in her heart to forgive your objectionable conduct. I don’t know that I would have.”
The man picked up his hat and ran off, glancing back several times with a mixture of fear and relief. John turned to Blaze and held out his hand once again. She instinctively clasped it with her long, soft fingers. John raised Blaze’s hand to his mouth and kissed the backs of her fingers, his gorgeous blue eyes gliding over her soft, smooth arms, pausing at her heavy bosom, then rising to her ruby red lips and finally coming to rest on her gleaming, light blue eyes.
“It’s a great shame that we had to meet in such an unfortunate way,” John said with obvious disappointment, “but if there is one thing I cannot abide, it’s a man imposing himself upon a woman.”
“You are such a gentleman, sir.”
“Good day, ma’am,” John finished, kissing her hand one more time and allowed his lips to linger for several seconds. “It is my sincerest wish that we may meet again.”
“Yes,” she returned, feeling warm all over.
John smiled one more time then, just as quickly as he had come, he was gone. Blaze leaned against the wall and stared into space. She could clearly see John’s face in her mind’s eye, feel his lips pressed to the backs of her fingers, and she could sense his manly, authoritative presence as if he was still there. One thing that especially intrigued her was the man’s sheer physical size. But even though he was big, he was perfectly proportioned and had a gentlemanly gait. His eyes spoke of incredible intelligence, and he was so gentle, so handsome, so manly!