Read A Girl Like That Online

Authors: Frances Devine

A Girl Like That

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Copyright

ISBN 978-1-60260-355-4

Copyright © 2009 by Frances Devine. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.

All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.

PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

One

Chicago, May 1871

Katie O’Shannon stood on the platform and faced the teeming crowd waiting to board the train. The train from which she had just disembarked. She took a wobbly step forward then stopped short as loud shouts and excited greetings assaulted her ears. Sounds she’d longed for after four years on the farm. And yet, a twinge of fear in her stomach made her wonder if she’d been away from the city for too long.
Turn around, Katie.
Smile at the friendly conductor and return to your nice, safe seat.

Before she could take her own advice, the conductor cleared his gravelly throat. “Move along, miss. Others are waiting to disembark.”

Katie’s face turned feverish with embarrassment as she glanced over her shoulder into the frowning face of a tall man with bushy gray eyebrows and a curly mustache. “S–Sorry, sir.” She gulped a deep, determined breath, clutched her reticule tightly, thankful she’d sent her trunk on ahead, and stepped forward.

To her surprise and relief, the crowd parted. She cleared the throng and glanced around for her father as she walked toward the depot.

Her Irish temper flared as she realized he was nowhere to be seen in one direction. She whipped about on her booted heel. Before she could begin her search, she slammed into a rock-hard wall. No, not a wall. In a beat of confusion, she felt a pair of strong hands grasping her arms, steadying her. Gasping, she stared at dark brown eyes, shadowed with annoyance, looking down at her from a strong, handsome face. “Saints preserve us, I’ve got to learn to watch where I’m going.”

For a second, his eyes seemed to soften. But he gave an abrupt nod, followed by a hasty departure as he shoved past her.

Katie’s face flamed. Not five minutes in Chicago and she’d already behaved like a country bumpkin. Still, he needn’t have been so rude. She glanced around, relieved to see that no one seemed to have noticed the incident.

“Katie. Katie O’Shannon!”

The next moment, she found herself enveloped in Michael O’Shannon’s sturdy, comforting arms.

“Pa, I thought you forgot all about me!” She snuggled into the tobacco and peppermint smell of him and looked into his beaming face.

“What are you talking about? How could I forget my little girl? But for the life of me, I can’t understand why you’d want to leave your grandfather Mason’s nice, quiet farm and come to this crowded, filthy city.”

Katie laughed. “That’s just it. The farm is too quiet. Besides, I missed you, Pa.” She squeezed his arm and threw him a saucy grin.

He winked and tweaked her nose as though she were still a child. “Now don’t you go telling me lies, Katherine O’Shannon. It’s the excitement of show business you’ve been missing. But don’t you be getting any ideas about acting onstage, because I’ll not have it. Just because you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you can do as you please.” The twinkle in his eyes belied the gruff voice, but Katie knew he meant his words.

She was spared the problem of replying as they reached a three-seated conveyance with
Harrigan’s
written on the side. An ancient horse snorted and pawed the dirt.

“Sorry about this monstrosity, my girl. The regular carriage wasn’t available.”

Katie scrunched up her nose as she climbed in and sat on the cracked leather seat. “What’s that awful smell?”

“Ah, we’ve been having an outbreak of fires for going on a month now. It’s been dry for spring.” Michael took the reins, and they moved down the street amid the
clip-clop
of horses’ hooves on the wooden street.

Katie glanced nervously at the wood structures lined on each side of the street.

“Don’t you be worrying now, Katie girl.” Michael puffed his lips. “It’s a fine fire department we have these days.”

“Oh, I’m not worried. I’m much too happy to worry. How far is it to the theater? Can we go there first?” Katie restrained herself from craning her neck to take in all the sights. After all, she was a grown woman. And regardless of her foolish moment of doubt as she disembarked, she was thrilled to be in Chicago, noise and all.

Michael gave her a sideways glance, and a smile puckered his lips. “Well, I guess we can, since I have a show in thirty minutes.”

They pulled up in front of a two-story green and white wooden structure. Across the top hung a sign bearing the title,
Harrigan’s Music Hall and Theater
, in bold letters.

Katie’s stomach lurched with excitement. This was the moment she’d waited for since she was fourteen, when her father, newly widowed, had taken her from the exciting vaudeville scene of New York City and dropped her at her grandparents’ farm in southern Illinois. She’d watched, lonely and feeling abandoned, as he snapped the reins and drove away to find work. Pulling herself from the unwelcome thoughts, Katie took her father’s hand and stepped down onto the board sidewalk.

Immediately, a boy appeared at her father’s elbow and took the reins. Vendors, pushing carts down the street, hawked their wares while dodging hansom cabs and other traffic.

Katie followed her father around to the side and entered the building.

A green-vested man looked up from his newspaper and grinned. “So this is the lovely Katie O’Shannon we’ve all been hearing about.” He stood and gave Katie an elegant bow.

“It is, Thomas Harrigan, and you’ll be keeping your distance.” Michael gave the man a good-natured glare, which was returned with laughter.

“Katie, this rogue you see standing here is the theater owner and manager of the troupe. And he’s really not a bad sort.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, sir.” Katie offered her hand, which he took gently.

“And it’s nice to meet you, my dear.” He smiled then turned to Michael. “You didn’t tell me she was a beauty and had a voice like an angel.”

“No, and you can forget it. My daughter won’t be performing in this show or any other.”

Thomas twisted his mustache, looking her up and down in a way that made Katie feel like a thoroughbred filly. He took in a deep breath and shook his head with regret. “It’s a crying shame, my friend.”

Michael set his jaw. “That’s a matter of opinion, and yours doesn’t count where my girl’s concerned. Come, daughter. I’ll take you to a seat where you can watch the show. I have to get into costume.” Michael took her hand and led her through a door into a large auditorium, already filled with people.

Ten minutes later, Katie sat mesmerized as house lights lowered and the curtain came up. The smell of grease paint tickled her nostrils, and the bright, shiny costumes filled her eyes with stars, bringing back sweet memories. But soon her nostalgia became lost in the excitement of the moment, as Katie laughed with the other afternoon theater patrons at the hilarious musical comedy.

As a young man with dark brown eyes sang a love song, the eyes of the man at the train station intruded upon Katie’s thoughts. Her eyes drifted shut as suddenly she became the female lead and the handsome stranger sang to her in perfect baritone. Lost in the ebb and flow of the scene playing in her head, she started as applause flooded the packed theater. Her eyes flew open, but in her heart, the applause was for her.

Her heart thudded to the rhythm of the boisterous clapping. If only her pa wasn’t so stubborn. No matter. “Soon, it will be me up there,” she promised herself. “I was born for this.”


Sam Nelson stormed through the door of the Nelson Law Firm and tossed his hat onto the rack in the corner.

Several desks were scattered around the room, all but his own occupied by harried-looking young men. Some were bright, overworked attorneys just grateful for a job in the illustrious firm founded by Sam’s father. Others, like Charlie Jenkins, held lesser positions, but important nonetheless.

The secretary looked up from his desk in the corner. “Your father is waiting for you, sir.”

“Thanks, Charlie. I’m sure he is. I’m an hour late.”

But I wouldn’t have been,
he thought. Not if Harvey Simons had arrived on time. Harvey, a witness in one of the elder Mr. Nelson’s cases, had taken a later train than he’d promised, throwing off Sam’s schedule for the day. By the time Harvey’s train arrived, Sam’s temper was sharp enough to cut leather.

Sam thought of the lovely, golden-haired young woman he had brushed aside at the train station. Judging from her clothing and the uncertain smile of apology, she was fresh off the farm. He’d regretted his abruptness immediately and had gone back to apologize, but she’d already disappeared, lost in the crowd. He would have liked to have made amends to her, but it couldn’t be helped. And he had no time to dwell on an unfortunate situation over which he had no control.

When he walked into his father’s office, Eugene Nelson looked up from a sheaf of papers he was riffling through. “I’m pleased you could finally join me.”

“Sorry, Father, but—”

“Never mind. You’re here now.” He bit the end off a cigar and puffed loudly as the flame from the match flared. “I have a case for you.”

“What is it this time?” Probably another squabble over property lines or something just as trivial. Even after five years of working for his father, the elder Mr. Nelson treated Sam’s efforts as though he were still a boy learning his ABCs.

“Jeremiah Howard has retained us for an injury case involving an Irish immigrant. I’d intended to give it to Bob, but he has a family emergency and won’t be back for several weeks.” He looked at his son through narrowed eyes. “This could be important for you. Do the job right, and it could push you up the ladder. You know what I mean.”

Sam knew what he meant, all right. There was one position open for junior partner. Three young lawyers, including Sam, were gunning for it. And his father wasn’t one to play favorites. If anything, Sam was expected to work harder and be smarter than anyone else. Sam had started at the bottom like everyone else, and it was up to his own efforts and abilities to rise to the top.

Sam flopped into the leather armchair in front of his father’s desk. “Details?”

His father shoved a file folder toward him. “It’s all here. Howard wants to get it settled before the end of the year.”

Sam took the folder, left his father’s office, and went to his desk. He leaned back for a moment, inhaling the smells of leather, old books, and cigar smoke. Smells he loved, familiar to him from his childhood.

He skimmed through the papers then returned to the first page and began to peruse the information.

One Chauncey Flannigan, an Irish immigrant employed at Howard’s Warehouse and Lumberyard, had been involved in an accident while performing his duties. A large stack of lumber had slipped and tumbled down on the employee, knocking him to the floor.

According to Mr. Howard, who had been on the premises at the time, Flannigan had suffered nothing but a few scratches and scrapes. He’d been sent home for the rest of the day. When the man failed to return to work the following morning, Mr. Howard had naturally hired a man to replace him.

Two weeks later, bandaged and on crutches, Flannigan had shown up at Mr. Howard’s office. He had just been released from the hospital, where he had undergone surgery for a head injury. He had also been treated for several broken bones. He claimed the injuries were a result of the incident at work and demanded restitution. Mr. Howard, the firm’s long-standing client, denied the claim.

Within the file were two signed affidavits from witnesses claiming to have seen Flannigan at a tavern the night of the accident. The witnesses claimed there had been a fight. There was also a letter, signed by the foreman and several employees of the lumberyard, stating that Flannigan’s injuries from the accident were minor and he’d left on his own two feet with no evidence of a head injury or broken bones.

Sam straightened the papers and leaned back. The case seemed open-and-shut to him. A ne’er-do-well attempting to profit at someone else’s expense. Of course, he’d visit the lumberyard and talk to the witnesses. He’d also pay a visit to Chauncey Flannigan. That way he wouldn’t be surprised by something detrimental to his client on court day.

“Hey, Sam.” Jack Myers, one of the junior partners and Sam’s friend, stood in front of Sam’s desk.

“Hi. What’s going on, Jack?”

“Just wanted to see you working on the case that’s going to win you a promotion.”

Sam glanced around the room, but no one seemed to have overheard. “It’s not mine yet.”

Jack laughed. “Okay. Actually, I wanted to see if you were busy tonight. Sally’s cousin Janet is in town, and we need you to make it a foursome for dinner.”

“Sure. Where do I pick her up and what time?”

“I thought we’d go together to pick up the girls. Meet me at my place around seven.”

Sam nodded and watched with a twinge of envy as his friend went, whistling, back to his office. A small office, true. But at least it was Jack’s alone.

Sam glanced down at the stack of papers on his desk. Maybe he shouldn’t have accepted the invitation to dinner. He should probably be spending every minute on this case. But, after all, he needed to eat. And a little relaxation with a young woman wouldn’t hurt either. Maybe it would help him forget the pair of brilliant blue eyes staring up at him from a face momentarily washed over with embarrassment. Embarrassment he was responsible for.

Sam shook his head. There was nothing he could do about that. And since it was unlikely he’d ever see the girl again, why did the memory keep intruding into his thoughts?

He leaned forward and started once more at the beginning of the first page. Yes. Cut-and-dried.

One corner of Sam’s mouth turned up in a smile of satisfaction. The position of junior partner was right around the corner.

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