"Are your eyes closed?"
She laughed softly but did as Barb asked of her. Every dress this talented seamstress designed for her was always shown off in the same way. "Yes."
A moment later a soft hand encircled the top of her left arm while another hand landed lightly against her back. She allowed her friend to press her toward the small cramped area opposite her office desk and chair. A frozen touch slowly replaced the warmth of her friend's hand, and a hint of flowery perfume replaced the scent of her friend's earthier one. Honeysuckle flowed into the air around her a second later, a breeze of chilled wind moving past her skin into her interior being, making her dizzy with the aching familiarity of it. As she moved through the scent, closer to the old-fashioned Chinese wall, a strange iciness settled deep in her bones, freezing her feet to the floor.
She'd felt this profound, unnatural chill a few times before.
"Jen, don't stop now."
The strangeness deepened in her, and she brought her arms up to wrap them tightly around her upper body. "I'm freezing."
"It's not cold in…" Barb's hand dropped from her back but not from her arm. "Oh, it's that kind of cold."
"My little saloon girl is visiting with me again."
"So you're finally admitting she's a saloon girl?"
Barb's words seemed to come from a great distance as the cold around Jen intensified.
"I've been telling you that for weeks," Barb added. "What changed your mind?"
"She's a ghost that haunts a saloon."
"Yeah," Barb said. "You've always known that, but it never convinced you before."
Icy tentacles suddenly wrapped around Jen, like a frozen pair of snow-hardened gloves, before an eerie voice whispered, "He's coming."
"What?" Opening her eyes at the barely heard sound, Jen stared at her puzzled friend. "Did you just say something?"
"Are you all right?"
"Tell me you just said something under your breath."
"Sorry, Jen," Barb said lightly. "What's going on?"
The prickly eeriness left her system as quickly as it'd entered, bringing blessed feeling back into her freezing, stilled body. The hint of honeysuckle perfume lingered for only a few seconds before dissipating in the October Montana air.
"Please tell me you heard a woman's voice just now."
"Are you telling me she actually talked to you?" Disbelief registered clear in Barb's wide, dark eyes. "All mine ever does is mess with my stuff."
"I've never heard her speak before." Jen frowned. "Maybe it was my imagination."
"So what did your imagination say to you?"
"She thinks someone will want to be the queen of England," Rose's soft voice broke through the sudden silence. "I told her I doubted that would happen."
"The queen of England," Wyatt said under his breath.
Barb glared at him. "It might be possible for me to do this if someone hadn't chased my last helper away."
"I didn't chase anyone away."
"Right." Barb stood from the chair and looked down at him. "All I asked you to do was take her out to dinner one time, that's all."
He sat forward in his seat, eyes darkened in anger. "Oh, really?"
"Yes," Barb said. "I just wanted her to feel welcomed here."
Wyatt leaped up and glared hard at her. "Then you should've told her that. You should've asked a more willing man to go out with her."
"She wanted you."
Renewed laughter burst throughout the room, even Jack and William joined in this time. All eyes were focused on her, waiting. She wasn't sure what everyone was waiting for, but she didn't plan on giving them anything else to talk about today.
Unfortunately Wyatt wasn't as unwilling. "So you used me?"
"She was a nice lady."
"With twenty hands," Wyatt added. "And a very determined attitude."
"You didn't have to sleep with her."
Wyatt stood up taller, towering over her five foot three inches. "I did not sleep with that woman."
"She told me you did." And you were lousy, she wanted to add. "I believed her."
"Because you're a man." Before she could put a lock on her mouth, she added, "And rumor has it, you haven't been out on a date since your daughter's arrival."
Wyatt froze before shaking his head and turning toward the door. "I'm going back to the station."
Barb followed him, not stopping until she got to the bottom of the steps and noticed the cold air. She gathered her unzipped coat around her and stepped back up the stairs. A hand stopped her forward momentum. A dark, dangerous look stopped her biting comment. She pulled her arm away, but Wyatt only clamped his fingers around it harder. Not enough to hurt, only enough to show her he wasn't going away until he had his say.
"I thought you had to leave."
Wyatt moved and placed his free hand on her other arm. He squeezed his fingers tight and pulled her hard into him. "You're going out to dinner with me."
He ignored her protest. "This Saturday."
She twisted left and right in an unsuccessful attempt to escape his hold. Giving up, she froze on the step and clamped her hands tight near her thighs. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
"We'll see about that." Sliding both hands up her arm, he cupped her cheeks and pulled her against him. Moist cinnamon-scented breath lingered near her mouth, tempting her. "I may have been working at Craine Station for the last couple of weeks, but I have heard the rumors."
"Oh, about you being a—"
His lips touched hers, barely there but enough to steal her breath. He slid his hands from her cheeks and settled one on her shoulder while moving the other over the top of her head. Tingles spread through her body as his fingers combed through her tangled hair, fingertips feathering over her. She melted at his simple touch.
"You believed Carol," he said, trailing his fingers down to her earlobe. "I'm going to prove her wrong."
"No." She pushed against his chest with regret, feeling him yield a bit. "It's never going to happen, Wyatt Campbell."
"We'll see about that, Barb Grant."