Tessa Harrison pulled the less than adequate saloon dress over her head. Two more months and she could test for the teaching certificate. Till then she had to keep thwarting Floyd’s advances and anger over her not bedding men. As soon as she received her certificate, she’d use the money she saved up for decent clothes and a ride out of here.
The town pricked and festered like a sliver under a fingernail. She ached to get away from the accusations her father was in on the robbery and the impoverish life she and her mother had lived the past twelve years. People had begun to forget the past and things had changed for the better until two years ago when Judge Spencer decided he wanted to live in Pleasant Valley. He brought up the robbery every chance he had, and when they could no longer make payments, he bought the house. And offered to let her stay if she warmed his bed. She gagged at the thought. He was old enough to be her grandfather.
Patch, the calico cat she found near starved to death in the alley, wrapped around her legs and purred loudly. She glanced at the animal and smiled. At least she wasn't completely alone.
"Don't worry, I'll bring you back a morsel, but you better keep the mice out of this room." Ever since a mouse ran across her bed as a child, she had an aversion to the beady eyed creatures. The cat sleeping at the foot of her bedroll every night helped her sleep in the back room of the empty building next to the saloon.
Tessa stared into the small piece of mirror propped on a crate. She pinned her dark brown wavy hair up and smiled smugly. The judge may have taken her house, but she'd found a roof to cover her.
His empty building.
The first night after working the saloon, Floyd had offered to share his bed. She snorted. She’d freeze to death before sleeping with the disgusting man. She’d fought off his grabbing hands and insults, leaving the saloon through the back. She’d made it as far as the stoop of the empty building before breaking down.
Pulling herself together, she used the skeleton key above the threshold to open the door and started living in the back room without anyone knowing.
Her temporary home.
Tessa draped a woolen shawl around her shoulders. It was only a few yards to the saloon, but December in Pleasant Valley was bitter and snowy. She exited the building, locked the door, walked across the alley, and stepped into the storage room of the Red Dog.
“Tessa?” Floyd’s voice sent her on alert.
“What?” She pulled the shawl from her bare shoulders, draping it over a peg by the back door. She hated the saloon dresses. The skirts were short and the tops bared her shoulders and tops of her bosoms.
“The crowds growing and Shirley’s sick.” His large round head peered above the keg of beer he held. His bulging eyes gleamed with interest as he scanned her shoulders. “Get yerself out there and please the crowd.”
Only two more months.