Copyright ©2011 by Patricia Jager
Floyd's grip released on her arm. She opened her eyes. The latest arrival to the saloon had Floyd by the front of his shirt.
"You don't hit women." He shook Floyd like a rug and flung him.
Tessa, held her breath as her employer landed hard on a table, glasses shattered to the floor, and patrons shot to their feet to avoid the collapsing table.
"Did they hurt you?" The stranger's deep voice drew her gaze to his face a half a head above hers.
She shook her head, rubbing her arm. His eyes were a deep shiny brown. They held her captive. He swallowed and reached out, brushing her hand from her arm. His gaze dropped to the redness caused from Floyd's grip. The planes of his jaw twitched, and his eyes lit with anger.
"Get away from my help." Floyd regained his feet and charged toward the stranger.
"If this is how you treat your help, I’m surprised anyone works for you." The man turned a steely stare on her boss and sidestepped his charge.
Tessa grinned inside as Floyd shot passed the stranger and landed on the floor.
The stranger didn't spare her employer a glance. He clasped her hand in his and dragged her to the door.
"You leave with him and you'll never work here again!" Floyd shouted from his spot on the floor.
Tessa tried to pull out of the stranger's grasp.
"She doesn't need your job."
She stared at the man. Shaking her head she backed away. His eyes didn't leer like most men. They stared her straight in the eyes, no wandering to her exposed chest or legs, and held her gaze.
"She'll be working for me."
She started to protest.
"In my boot shop." He opened the door and waved an arm toward the street. "How about it? You want to be a clerk in my boot shop?"
A respectable job. She glanced around at the drunks and leering glances. Away from this atmosphere and out of these clothes. She didn't know the man but she felt safer with him than Floyd and believed he didn't want more than to help her.
She nodded. "Yes. I hate working here." Tessa moved passed him and out the door. The minute the cold December air hit her bare shoulders she shuddered. Her shawl was in the backroom of the saloon.
The stranger draped his jacket around her and looked down at her. "I'll walk you home. You can start tomorrow. We have to get this building cleaned up."
Fear shook her body watching his Stetson topped head tip toward the empty building she lived in.