Tessa frowned. She'd never known Beth to be rude. But her parting comment to the man- she still didn't know his name. If she planned to work for him she should learn his name. Her thoughts stopped like a wagon wheel stuck in mud. He knew her name.
"How do you know my name? We haven't exchanged them yet." She placed her hands on her hips and glared at the man. His gaze roamed over her face, then stopped, gazing into her eyes. His were like looking into a cup of coffee; dark, brown, and emitting a sense of comfort.
"You haven't changed all that much from the little girl I remember hanging around your father's barber shop."
His words were flattering and insulting at the same time. He remembered her, but he thought she still looked like the willowy child who everyone shoved food at because they thought she was too skinny.
"Not the body. You've definitely grown into a fine figure of a woman, but your hair is the same color and your big green eyes always made me stop and stare at you back then. They're like two spring leaves with a touch of dew."
Something vibrated in her chest, and her fingers tingled. No one had ever spoken to her or about her in such a manner. A bubble of happiness rested in her throat halting any words. Warmth and softness rubbed around her ankles shifting her thoughts and breaking the hold of his words.
"So who are you? Why don't I remember you?" She bent, picking up Patch and scratching her between the ears.
The man's hesitation pricked her skin like the time she knew Floyd laid in wait for her in the backroom of the saloon. The cat squeaked and catapulted out of her arms. Her unease had caused her to squeeze the animal.
"I guess I best tell you before someone else does." The man moved away from her, lifted the boiling coffee pot, and poured two cups. "Take the chair."
He motioned to the one chair by the stove. After she sat, he handed her a cup of coffee. His hesitancy to tell her who he was started her skin to itching and prickling again.
"Why are you so reluctant to tell me?"
"I left here a boy and soon learned what it took to be a man. I've returned a man who paid for his poor judgment." He placed the cup on the shelf by the stove and knelt in front of her. "I didn't come back to open old wounds for anyone. When Brett told me you were working in the saloon…I wanted to storm in there and drag you out and hand you everything I own. But that wouldn't make things right. Then I saw how you were being treated, and I need help, so, I offered you a job. If you don't want to take it after I tell you who I am I understand. But know there will always be a job here for you." He rubbed a hand across the back of his neck and stood, shifting so she couldn't see his face clearly.
"I'm Van Donovan."