“Now what I need to know is where I and my young charges can stay while we’re in town getting to know you all.”
Michael glanced from the dark-haired beauty who had thought he was a porter to the dreadful woman causing a spectacle further down the platform. At her direction the rest of the floozies formed a line and were smiling and flaunting their assets at Cold Springs’ finest. He ignored them. Seen one loose woman and you’d seen them all. He had a shipment to receive and a store to run.
And an unexpected distraction.
“I really am very sorry I mistook you for the porter,” Miss Baldwin apologized again. She was well spoken, he’d give her that. Her soft black hair was tied up in a simple style that framed pale skin, deep blue-green eyes, and rosy lips. Her perfect figure was concealed in a modest, elegant dress. She hadn’t bought a dress like that anywhere nearby and the brooch pinned at the collar was genuine ivory.
“Not a problem.” He smiled. “I’m sure it was an easy mistake to make.”
He picked up his clipboard, scanning over the packing list. His eyes only made it halfway down the page before flickering back to Miss Baldwin. She studied the platform and the town beyond it with a resolute expression.
“You haven’t seen beauty until you’ve seen Katie,” the garish Miss Helen talked up another of the girls.
Michael begged to differ. He studied Miss Baldwin. She had her carpetbag open now and was sorting through its contents. Her lips were pressed in a perfect pink line of determination. There was no reason at all that he should find her more interesting than his work.
“You aren’t going to….” He nodded towards the others.
“Oh no.” She glanced up and shut her carpetbag, arching an eyebrow. “I don’t need that kind of attention.”
He closed his mouth and stood straighter. “That’s very … confident of you.”
“There are days, Mr. West, when confidence is the only thing I’ve got going for me.”
A lopsided grin tweaked the corners of Michael’s mouth. If this poised beauty expected to find a husband amongst the miners and cowboys of Cold Springs she was out of luck. Not one of them was up to the challenge.
“Do you want me to bring the wagon around, Mr. West?” Oliver asked as he jumped down from the train’s cargo car.
Michael continued to appraise the enigmatic woman in front of him until she noticed him watching her. “Yes,” he told Oliver. “See if you can flag down one of the Jones boys over there to help you while you’re at it. Tell them I’ll pay them a dime each to help with the shipment.”
“A dime?” The woman nodded her approval. “For that kind of money I’d help you myself.”
“Would you now?” He tucked the clipboard under his arm, work forgotten.
“Certainly. Are you hiring?” She kept a straight face but there was a sparkle in her bright eyes.
One of her light-skirt companions laughed at something and half the men on the platform laughed with her. It served to underline her question. His grin broadened. “As much as I need help at the store, I don’t think I could afford you.”
“I thought you were one of the richest men in town, Mr. West.”
It had been so long since a woman had flirted with him that he’d forgotten how to flirt back.
“Alright, you’ve got me there,” he chuckled. What was wrong with him? He should go back to work or run as fast as he could.
He checked to make sure no one from town was listening. “I just need to make sure all of the crates on this packing list are here. Oliver can handle the rest. Then can I take your bags somewhere?” he asked out of sheer mad compulsion to find out who she was and what she was doing there. He glanced past her to the others. One of the young women actually lifted the corner of her skirt to show off her calves. “Do you know where you’ll be staying?”
Genre – Western Historical Romance
Rating – R