Josie wanted to change out of her soiled work clothes and get dinner started. But another three smacks on the door changed her mind. She jerked open the door, but the greeting she was fixing to force out stuck in her throat.
Gil Yancy scowled down at her, filling the doorway with his tense form and her heart with dread. â€œI shouldâ€™ve reckoned youâ€™d skedaddled up to the house.â€
â€œI have work to do.â€
He thumbed his hat back. â€œI saw Mrs. Andrews had company, so I held off stopping by until the lady left.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right good of you.â€ And a surprise. â€œBut Iâ€™m mighty busy right now.â€
She started to close the door. He grabbed the panel and put his weight against it, forcing Josie to step back.
â€œTell Mrs. Andrews I need to talk to her.â€
Josie rolled her eyes. â€œAbout what?â€
â€œThatâ€™s between me and Everettâ€™s widow.â€
So he knew. â€œCanâ€™t it wait until later?â€
â€œNope. I paid my respects to Everett and now I want to extend my condolences to his missus.â€
She hadnâ€™t expected that. But then she hadnâ€™t expected this trusted friend of Everettâ€™s was this cowboy. Mercy sakes, could things get any worse?
â€œCome on in the parlor.â€ Josie frowned at his fine boots, wishing she had the money heâ€™d spent on them. â€œBut no spurs in the house.â€
Gil bobbed his head and set to shucking his spurs, determined to make a good impression on Everettâ€™s widow. When he looked up, the shady lady was gone. He reckoned she went to fetch Mrs. Andrews.
He left his spurs on the porch and wiped his boots on the rag rug inside the door to knock the dust off. After hooking his Stetson on the ornate hat stand, he took a gander in the mirror.
Damn wavy hair of his had a mind of its own. He licked his fingers, smoothed his hair down the best he could, and then moseyed into the parlor. Nothing fancy, but the room was in good order and smelled like flowers.
Gil settled on a big Morris chair that looked sturdy and comfortable. A lacy black shawl was draped over the back of an armless chair. He imagined a frail older woman wrapped up in it, whiling away her hours knitting or doing some such handiwork.
A minute soon turned into fifteen. Dammit to hell and back! Had the shady lady bothered to tell Everettâ€™s widow heâ€™d come calling and was down here waiting for her?
He was about to go looking for the old gal when he heard footsteps on the stairs. He settled back in the chair, both anxious and dreading this first meeting with Mrs. Andrews. Couldnâ€™t be easy on the old gal to be alone.
A woman stepped into the parlor doorway, and Gilâ€™s jaw damned near hit the shiny pine floor. Instead of Everettâ€™s widow, the shady lady had returned.
Sheâ€™d changed out of her dirty dress into a clean one that hugged her in all the places a man longed to touch. Sheâ€™d pinned her dark hair up, but a few curls fell to her shoulders.
The sweet little thief looked pretty and wholesome. Smug as all get out, too.
â€œNow what is it you want to talk about?â€ she asked.
The skin on his nape crawled. Uh-uh, naw, the idea that was going through his head couldnâ€™t be true. His olâ€™ partner wouldnâ€™t have married a shady lady.
â€œWhat I have to say is between me and Mrs. Andrews.â€
â€œOf course.â€ She walked to the armless chair angled next to his and sat down, drawing the shawl around her narrow shoulders. â€œWe have a problem, Mr. Yancy.â€
â€œHow do you know my name?â€
â€œEverett told me.â€
Ah, hellâ€“ â€œDid he now?â€
She smoothed her skirt to cover her trim ankles, the jerky movement hinting she was more nervous than she looked. â€œYes, he did. My husband kept no secrets from me.â€
Gil pinched his eyes shut, finding no pleasure that his hunch proved out. The shady lady whoâ€™d robbed him blind was Everettâ€™s widow.This had to be the damnedest fix heâ€™d ever landed in.