A shadow in the doorway caught Patrick’s attention. The small figure outlined in the bright light from outside looked female. Short, slight, but too shapely for a girl..
She sallied into the male domain with surprising boldness for a lady. Her yellow silk skirt was bunched up in the back in what he assumed was a new style. Gold braid trimmed a black velvet jacket. No farmers’ wives he knew wore that get-up.
Golden curls framed a face with youthful contours. Yet she possessed a mature poise. Patrick tried to guess her age, and couldn’t.
He didn’t wait for her to find whoever she sought, but went straight over to warn her she had best wait outside. As he approached, she regarded him quizzically.
“I’m here to speak with the owner.” She spoke distinctly, without any discernible accent. Thick lashes a few shades darker than her hair framed luminous brown eyes. He hadn’t seen many brown-eyed blondes, and it added to the mystery.
Her delicacy and youthful beauty and something else, perhaps the innocence shining in her eyes, drew out a strong protective urge along with unexpected stirrings of desire. Patrick didn’t analyze the disturbing reaction. She had to leave. Now.
“Miss, you can’t be in here.”
The young lady gave him the kind of smile a teacher might bestow on a slow child. “Mr. O’Shea…do you know where I might find him?”
The way she responded, like he hadn’t understood, annoyed him. “I’m Patrick O’Shea.”
The mystery woman’s smile vanished and she blinked as if surprised. She quickly recovered her poise. “Yes, Mr. O’Shea… I saw your advertisement on the side of the building.”
Her lips twisted in a wry expression. “I supposed it was yours. Someone wrote, “Female entertainers wanted.”
“Oh, that…yeah, that’s mine. I wrote it…” He caught himself before he kept blabbing on like a fool. Maybe he had taken too much medicine and it had fogged his brain.
She brightened up after he claimed responsibility. “Good. Then I’m talking to the right person.”
“The right person?” He still couldn’t figure out why she was here, though now he recognized her as one of the women who had arrived on the bride train earlier in the month. That didn’t explain why she’d come to the saloon to talk to him about a sign he put up…unless she had an objection.
That had to be it. She was one of those busybodies who liked to tell folks what they could and couldn’t do.
He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned down at her. “Are you here to tell me I shouldn’t be hiring women?”
Confusion flashed across her face, replaced by a look of amusement. “No, Mr. O’Shea…I’m here to apply for the job.”