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Banging at the door gave her a chance to evade Beth's speculating scrutiny. Tessa hurried to the door and opened it for Van to haul in another crate.
"You really should get someone else to help you unload that wagon. It's going to take you all day at this rate." Beth waved her hand at the crate Van placed on the floor.
He straightened. "You're right. Why don’t you go see if you can find a couple men who could help me?"
Beth shook like a banty hen ruffling her feathers for a fight. "I'll do just that as long as you don't ruin my friend's reputation." She spun on her heel and flounced out of the shop.
Tessa glanced at Van, and they both burst out laughing.
"I remember her being annoying when we were kids, but I never dreamed she'd grow into a spitfire." Van shoved his hat back off his forehead and wiped a hand across his eyes, swiping at the tears of mirth glistening.
Tessa stared at his actions. Everything he did exuded maleness.
"I didn't realize you two were such good friends."
"Huh?" Yearning, deep and primal wound through her, eliciting thoughts she heard Marge and Viv talk about during the slow periods at the saloon.
"Beth, when did you and she become such good friends?"
Tessa shoved her thoughts away and raised her gaze to Van's.
"Oh, we didn't really become friends until Ma was ill. Beth's father is a doctor, and I spent so much time over there getting medicine and asking what I could do for my ma that we started talking." She lowered her lashes and stared at his feet. "She was the only one who would still talk to me when I had to work at the saloon."
"I'm glad you have a friend in Beth. For all her interfering she has a good heart." Van placed a hand on her arm.
Her body leaned toward him. The sparkle in his eyes showed promise. Her heart raced, willing him to lean down and kiss her.
"This way men." Beth's voice jerked Tessa straight, and Van stepped back, again.
Beth entered the shop with two young men in tow. "Van, this is my cousin Lenny and his friend George. They would love to help you with your crates."
The young men's bored expressions said they would rather be doing anything but helping with crates. Tessa felt sorry for them. She knew how forceful the tiny woman next to them could be.
"Lenny, George, just start hauling in the crates in the back of the wagon out front. If they have a mark on the top, put them by the ones Miss Harrison is unpacking. The others go by the work bench." Van motioned to the door and the two shuffled out.
"Tessa, I wanted to invite you to Sunday supper after church."
She turned to Beth. Church. She hadn't set foot in church since her ma died. Not that she blamed anyone for her mother's death. She didn’t have the strength to face the people who thought her a sinner for working in the saloon.
"It would be a good way to get back in the graces of the townsfolk." Van's softly spoken statement fluttered her insides.
"Only if you go." She wouldn't face the congregation alone. Let him take the step toward rectifying his name as well.
"You could both come to Sunday supper after. Brett would like that." Beth said, stepping out from between them.
Tessa watched Van. He rubbed the back of his neck and stared at her. What was going through his mind? His eyes searched hers. What did he want to see?
"We'll go together." He turned to Beth. "And I'd be pleased to take Sunday supper with you and Brett."
Tessa had half hoped he'd refuse. Now there was no backing out.
Lenny and George banged through the door carrying crates. Van moved to help them and the three left the building to get another load.
"You and Van seem to be getting along well," Beth said, wandering around the shop.
Tessa returned to the open crate and pulled boots out, matching the pairs. "He's easy to get along with and a good boss." She placed the larger pairs on the bottom shelf and pried open another crate.
"Where are you staying? No one seems to know."
Beth's sudden change of conversation jerked Tessa's concentration. "What?"