Van's dark eyes reminded her of the sorrowful looking hound by the train depot.
"I told the judge, the sheriff, and anyone else who asked that your pa wasn't a part of the gang. Honestly, I sat in my cell for years pondering why Crane picked me to help. All I can figure is he knew I'd be game for anything that would rile my father."
He stared into her eyes. "The whole thing just doesn't feel right. And the judge mentioned the money was never found when I approached him about purchasing this building. In fact, he accused me of robbing another bank to have the money I did to pay for this." Van's face grew dark, and his brow furrowed as anger darkened his eyes.
"No one ever understood why he sentenced you to ten years for your part in the robbery. Even though many called you a traitor for helping those drifters take their money." She glanced down at the coffee staining her skirt. "I need to change this and rinse it out."
She started toward the back room when a thought hit her and she faced Van. "Where are you staying?"
"Tonight, I'll stay in a hotel, but after we clean tomorrow…" He pointed up.
Her heart raced. If people found out they both lived in this building her reputation would be just as ruined as if she'd sauntered up the stairs in the saloon once.
"Don't worry. If only you and I clean this place and work here, no one will know you stay in the back room. You can come and go out the back, wander a few doors down and then walk in the front door in the mornings, in the evening I doubt anyone will pay attention since the streets will be busier then."
"What makes you think I'll stay and work for you?" By all rights she should take her things and beg Floyd for her job back rather than work for a man involved in her father's death. She shuddered thinking of being pawed and handled in the saloon. This was a job that would help her earn back the respect of the women in town. She darted a glance at the handsome man watching her. This was an excellent opportunity. His offer was the best thing to happen to her since her father's death. But she wasn't about to let the man across the room know it.
"Give me a chance to make up to you for my past mistake." The sincerity ringing in his deep voice tugged at her feet like the strings on a marionette.
She pressed her feet firmly on the floor and drew her stance straight. "I'm only staying because I hated working in the saloon, and it will be easier to get a teaching job if I say I clerk in a boot shop rather than work in a saloon."
His mouth tipped up on one side. "There aren't too many mothers who would like their children being taught by an ex-saloon girl."
"Exactly. That's the only reason I'm taking your offer." She spun toward the store room to change her dress and put a wall between them. She couldn’t let him know his remorse had softened her to his past or that looking at him made her heart race and her body heat. She needed this job, but how was she to work beside him every day and know he slept in the room above?