Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(5)By: Jenna Brandt
With a shake of his head, Jake started to reply, but there was a huge disturbance as they arrived outside the saloon, distracting him.
Wonderful. Another fight. Rebecca got tired of all the riffraff at the far end of town. Of course, it wouldn’t be Rockwood Springs without a nightly brawl outside the Long Reach Saloon.
“You best give me back my money, Fred,” the balding red-faced man yelled at the other younger fellow as he followed him out of the swinging doors of the saloon. “I don’t take kindly to being swindled.”
Fred turned around and gave a dirty look to the other man. “You’ve some nerve following me out here, Willy. I won that money fair and square. Quit your bellyaching.”
Both men were drunk as a skunk and fit to be tied, putting Jake on edge. He was keenly aware how an argument could swiftly change into a physical fight in a moment’s notice; often resulting in brandishing of weapons.
Jake’s five years of experience as a deputy sheriff kicked in as he prepared to make a move. He pushed back the edge of his coat and put his hand on the top of his pistol which rested in his holster.
“Hand my money over now, you rapscallion, or I swear, I’m going to make you pay,” Willy demanded, as he moved towards the other man who put up his fists in defense, readying for a fight.
Jake stepped forward between the two men, raising his hands in both directions. “There’s no need to be going and getting all hot-headed.”
“Why in the Sam Hill is any of this your concern?” Willy questioned as he turned his attention to Jake for the first time. He moved towards Jake with a threatening look in his eyes.
“I suggest you step back, mister,” he commanded as he placed his hand back on the top of his gun. “I’m a deputy sheriff out of Abilene, and for the time being, the law around here.”
“Haven’t you heard? There ain’t no law around these parts. I suggest you keep to your own and stay out of my way,” Willy countered.
“Look, this can end one of two ways. I can make you stop this— by force . . . or you can calm down and discuss this reasonably over a drink.” With his free hand, Jake pulled out a coin pouch from his pocket, “On me.”
Willy contemplated the choice for a few seconds before stepping back with a shrug. “I guess I could be talked into a drink since you’re paying.”
Jake pretended to relax although internally he remained vigilant. Willy might seem docile for the time being, but drunks were usually the fickle type.
“Why don’t you boys go on back inside and I’ll be there shortly. I need to say good evening to Miss Caldwell.”
The two befuddled men made their way back through the swinging doors of the saloon.
Jake turned to face Miss Caldwell who had remained behind during the duration of the skirmish. During their walk over, he fought the urge to watch the young woman, not liking the instant attraction on his part.
He had sworn off women after his wife died. At first, wanting to remain loyal to her memory; later, as fear took hold at the thought of potential fresh loss. Even after two years, he didn’t think he would ever be capable of being vulnerable enough to open up to another woman again.
Now, as he drank in Miss Caldwell’s astonishingly good looks, Jake felt a surge of magnetism spark between them. Uncomfortable with the sudden rush of unwanted feelings, Jake inquired on a neutral matter, “Does this happen often around here?”
With an abashed look, she nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. With no nearby sheriff, a lot of the men tend to get out of hand.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” He glanced towards the saloon’s entrance. “I best be getting in there to make sure those two stay settled down. Thank you for guiding me over. I much appreciate it.”
She gave him a warm smile. “Always willing to help a lawman out.” Rebecca started to turn away, but hesitated for a moment. “The food isn’t much at the Long Reach. After the day you’ve had, you shouldn’t be punished with consuming it.” She gave him a warm smile with an invitation. “Why don’t you come on back to our place after you rent a room? I was just finishing up cooking dinner when you arrived. It’s warming on the stove.”