From the west. Lightning forking across the sky, tremors that fractured earth and ocean-those were portents of ruin. Danvers eased up from behind his rosewood desk, tipping his hat back and surveying the young deputy. There was nothing out there to tempt men, whether sinners or saints or all of those in between.
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From the west. Lightning forking across the sky, tremors that fractured earth and ocean-those were portents of ruin.
Danvers eased up from behind his rosewood desk, tipping his hat back and surveying the young deputy. There was nothing out there to tempt men, whether sinners or saints or all of those in between.
Like buzzards. If they stepped foot in his town with the intention of bringing trouble, the only carrion to scavenge would be their own. Throwing us off the scent. But then, most outlaws were cowards at heart, and his deputies were eager to please him. Danvers stepped out onto the stoop. The sun hung low over the flat roofs and peaked facades lining the street, washing the graying buildings with pale gold, casting deep shadows in between.
The jagged ridge of mountains on the western horizon appeared lavender-and were quickly deepening to purple. He walked loudly down the board sidewalk, alerting the watchers to his approach. He answered their nervous greetings with an easy smile designed to assuage their fears.
These were good people, worth saving: the women in their clean, bright calicos and fresh skin and modest glances; the men with their work-roughened hands and solemn mustaches that always gave the appearance of a frown.
No one dared lift a hand or belt, and not one whore had sported a bruise in years. Their gratitude was enough, and eventually, the wariness that lingered in their eyes would fade. It was a fine place, Eden. Mobs, pandemonium, chaos-they were anathema to him. His gaze swept over the waiting men, and he delivered his pronouncement in a low voice.
The men were disappointed, but the hunger in their demeanor transformed into a willingness to wait. Their conversations resembled the gossip of women.
Danvers sat at the bar and waited for his deputies to return. Appearances were rarely deceiving. From outside the saloon, he heard the heavy tread of booted feet. Danvers was not given to superstition, but the sound suddenly spoke like an omen, the fist of God falling like a hammer against his skull.
He looked toward the batwing doors. And Sheriff Samuel Danvers was absolutely certain that his little piece of heaven was soon headed straight for Hell. A possible ally existed among the assholes. Her ally cocked a dark brow. Her sneakers crunched over the floor. How had they gotten the shells on this side? You should do this part. Charlie paused in the middle of scraping the broken shells from the counter into a small wastebasket and gave him a Look.
It was effective, that Look, even on drunks. Or cut off their drinks, which was sometimes the more dire consequence. His hand resembled a quivering mouse when he pulled it back to curl around his mug.
But she knew from experience that a Look was one thing; outright rejection, another. Easier just to play along than risk them moving from obnoxious to belligerent. God, how many of these things had she heard? Not many with cowboys, though. Mostly priests and rabbis. She took a stab. That fucking ruins the whole joke. Forget this shit. Try not to fuck that up. Ease off, man. Thaddeus White, right? I was twelve. A throat cleared behind her. Her savior had come.
Good Old Matthew Cole. She grabbed her navy pea coat from the hook inside the break room, slid it on, and dug her knitted cap from the pocket before slipping out through the kitchens. But flat could be fluffed; drowned rat could not. Rain misted over her face and sparkled beneath the halogen security light.
Cardboard wilted in the recycler to her left. The lid on the brown dumpster was up. She grimaced, imagining the sodden garbage, and tipped it closed. The clang shot through the alley, disturbing a yellow-striped cat and echoing in her ears until she reached the gated stairwell to the roof.
The gate was wrought iron, with a metal screen to prevent anyone reaching through the bars to the interior knob. As a safety measure, only the outside knob locked-if someone dropped the key over the side of the roof, they could still open the gate from the inside.
Luckily, in Seattle, extremely cold days were as rare as a perceptive drunk. Charlie ran lightly up the stairs, her feet slapping tinny chimes from the aluminum treads. In the middle of the roof, a few potted plants edged an Astroturf carpet and surrounded a porch swing better suited to a verandah in Savannah than atop a bar in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood. A white string of lights spiraled around the evergreen branches, though the holidays had passed four months earlier.
The scent of grease and fried potatoes it carried did not fade as easily. Old Matthew called the roof garden his little piece of heaven; when Charlie had utilized the sand-filled planter that doubled as an ashtray at the end of the swing, it had been hers. Still was. Though the old movie theater across the street obscured most of the downtown skyline, there was just enough glitter to offer a lovely view.
The chill from the seat soaked through her black cotton pants, but the canvas awning had kept it dry. A push of her foot sent it swinging, and she fished her cell phone from her coat. For the space of a few seconds, the rocking tempo perfectly matched the ring of the phone. Jane answered on an upswing. I wrote it on a sticky. You just stuck it. We ordered in. And wine. And her ridiculously articulate-if absentminded-sister was spouting two-syllable non-words.
All dark hair and eyes and sinful lips. Except now I feel dirty. Charlie grinned at the phone. Try not to be naked at noon. The call time flashed up at her from the backlit screen: fifty-six seconds. Her smile faded. Adding in the minute it had probably taken to come up here, she had thirteen minutes before she had to return. She should have brought a book.
Or her knitting bag. How long had she been relying on Jane being available when she needed a distraction? God knew Charlie had been dependent enough in her life; she should have recognized the signs by now.
If anyone deserved happiness, it was Jane. With effort, she forced away the self-pity-that emotion was addictive, too. She rocked a little harder, let her head fall back against the cushion, and closed her eyes. Why had she let a guy like Stevens get to her? She never had before. At least she could be confident that no one could see her for the next ten minutes. Determinedly, she occupied herself with a game of pinball on her cell phone until she heard a swell of laughter and voices.
Most of the moviegoers turned right, walking down the sidewalk toward Harvard Street and the parking garage. One large group of twenty- or thirty-somethings, males and females in tailored trousers, long, belted coats and chic haircuts, headed straight for the bar.
None of them carried umbrellas, but many Seattle urbanites viewed them with disdain-as if getting soaked honored some sacred Cascadian tradition. But two steps down, still enshrouded by darkness, Charlie froze.
Meljean loves to say that she was a child that brought up deep in the woods, where she would hide under the blankets reading romance, comic books and fairy tales at night. She then grew up and spent several years working as the manager of a construction company doing bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting while writing fan fiction on the side. Brook then quit her accounting job to pursue her first love of writing when she realized that she was better at crafting stories. She currently lives with her daughter and husband in Portland Oregon. Meljean had always been a voracious reader and always found time to write during her free time. She believed she could write as a hobby when she got a job but she could not have been more wrong.