The street door to Sadie’s opened and Georgie walked in. One look at her expression and Vince knew he was in for it. She wasn’t smiling. Instead she looked as if she could cheerfully string him up by his balls.
He stood and tugged on the brim of his hat.
She walked straight over to his table and glared at him. “You have some nerve, Vince Durant.”
“I couldn’t just leave.”
“That’s too bad, because that’s all I want you to do. Just leave.”
Vince was glad nobody else was around. Dislike rolled off of Georgie in waves. It was embarrassing how much she disliked him. He couldn’t remember ever being disliked this strongly in his life. Except for that powerful glare when she’d first walked in, she wouldn’t even look him in the face.
He took a deep breath in hopes that would calm him for what he wanted, what he needed, to say. “Would you please sit down?”
“I’d prefer to stand.”
“Okay.” He couldn’t very well force her into a chair. “Then would you at least look at me?”
She lifted her gaze.
The anger in her brown eyes nearly knocked him over. It certainly took his breath away, which meant his apology was going to sound weird, as if he’d been running. “I’m sorry, Georgie.” He braved the hot fury in her eyes and focused on them with all the sincerity in his heart. “I did a really dumb thing this morning.”
Her reaction was subtle, but the tightness around her eyes and mouth eased. “That’s for sure.”
He imagined that her voice wasn’t quite as hard as it had been before, but maybe that was wishful thinking. “I have good memories of this place . . . and of you. I hate to think I ruined them today.”
“I can’t take back what happened. I could try to explain, but I don’t suppose you’d want to hear it.”
“All right, then.” He remembered Ike had said to apologize and then wait to see what happened next. So he stood there without speaking. Maybe she’d turn around and walk out. And that would be the end of that.
“I’m curious about one thing.”
His pulse quickened. Instead of walking out, she’d asked a leading question. “What’s that?”
“Why did you take your rope?”
Trust Georgie to ask that. He was afraid the truth would destroy whatever slight progress he’d made, but she deserved no less. “I wanted you to think I’d use it.”
“But you weren’t going to?”
“Damn you, Vince Durant! You tricked me!”
“Yes, and I have no excuse. Stupid pride. That’s all it was.” But he noticed that instead of stomping out the door, she stayed where she was and kept on looking at him. That was something.
Finally she seemed to reach a conclusion. “So taking that rope was just male vanity.”
She blew out a breath. “At least you admit it. I’ll give you points for that.”
Her mouth relaxed a little more. The corners twitched as if she might be holding back a smile.
He hoped to hell that she wasn’t secretly laughing at him, but maybe that was better than the glare she’d given him to start with. He seemed to be ahead of the game, so he chose to stay quiet and not take the chance he’d somehow stick his foot in his mouth.
Sure enough, as the silence lengthened between them, the hostility gradually disappeared from her expression. “I can’t believe you’re still standing here in this saloon. You’re supposed to be on your way back to . . . wherever you came from.”
“Is that where you work?”
He’d gentled a few horses in his day, and although he would never dare compare Georgie to a skittish mare, and certainly not out loud, he recognized that question as a slight movement forward, as if a shy animal had stretched its neck out to see what was being offered.
“Not now. I quit that job. I’m between jobs.”
Her expression closed down again. “That’s right. You like to stay on the move and keep your options open.”
So that was part of her objection to him. If so, that was a big obstacle. Seven years ago he’d had an inkling that she disapproved of his unstructured approach to life, but her comment just now proved it. How interesting that she admired the Ghost, a creature who lived by his own rules.
He decided to take another risk. “Look, Georgie, we’ve both had kind of a rough day, but I’d like to think that we’ve come to a truce of sorts.”
“Could we have one drink together, to toast the end of a trying day?”
She took a long time to answer, and it looked as if a million thoughts were racing through her head. “I take it you’re not leaving tonight, then?”
“No point. I haven’t decided where I want to look for work, yet. I need to make some plans before I head out.”
“I suppose one drink wouldn’t hurt.”
He longed to do a fist pump, but that would destroy the cool façade he had going on. “Great. Ike should be back any minute. Let’s have a seat.”
He reached for a chair and pulled it out for her. When she sat down, he took the first easy breath he’d drawn in hours. Maybe some mistakes could be fixed, after all.