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Authors: Frances Devine

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Six

Katie bit her upper lip and squinted her eyes in an attempt to hold back the tears. She ran into the ladies’ dressing room and flung herself onto a stool, her head leaning on the dressing table. The memory of the young man’s shocked expression as he stared at her from the audience stabbed her, and humiliation tore at her in relentless frenzy.

“Katie! Whatever is the matter?” Fear sharpened Bridget’s voice. “Did something go wrong onstage?”

Katie looked up. “No, no. It’s nothing. Nothing at all. Just nerves, I guess.” She stiffened and swiped at the moisture in her eyes. What right did he have to be shocked that she was an actress? He was probably some rich man’s son who’d never worked a day in his life. The snob.

The other actresses spilled into the room, their sudden entrance catching Katie by surprise.

“What a great first night. I don’t think we’ve had this good an opening since last holiday season.” Caitlyn Brown threw her wig on a table and slipped off her shoes. “And Katie, honey, you did a wonderful job. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.” Furtively, Katie dabbed at her eyes.

A tap sounded on the door, and Caitlyn walked over and flung it open.

Katie gasped at the sight of her tormenter, holding a bouquet of flowers he must have bought from the street vendor outside the theater.

He cleared his throat, his clean-shaven face red with embarrassment. “Uh, could I speak with Miss O’Shannon?”

Caitlyn eyed him then glanced sideways at Katie, who shook her head. “Sorry. Miss O’Shannon is indisposed at the moment.”

“Oh.” He glanced across at Katie then looked away.

“But perhaps if you come back in ten minutes, she will see you.”

His face brightened. “Good. Will you give her these?”

Caitlyn took the bouquet and shut the door. With a teasing look, she handed the flowers to Katie. “Your first performance and already an admirer at the door.”

“Why did you tell him to come back?”

“Because he’s a bonnie handsome lad and I couldn’t resist the pleading in his eyes.”

Katie removed her makeup and changed into her street clothes. Maybe she had misunderstood the look on his face. Perhaps it wasn’t revulsion, after all.

Ten minutes later, right on schedule, another tap sounded on the door. She threw a reproachful look at Caitlyn and went to answer. She supposed she mustn’t be rude.

He stood, hat in hand, and in spite of herself, she nearly melted at his smile.

“Miss O’Shannon?”

“Yes.” She stepped out into the hall and closed the door. “Is there something I can do for you, sir?”

“You do remember me, don’t you?”

“Of course. You’re the gentleman who returned the napkin that fell off my basket.” She paused then continued. “The man at the station.”

He grinned and gave a little laugh. “Good. I was afraid you’d forgotten me.”

“Sir, you know my name, but I have no idea of yours.” She crossed her arms and waited, determined not to be at that sort of disadvantage another moment.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m Sam Nelson.”

She held out her hand for a shake, and to her surprise, he lifted it and brushed his lips softly against her fingers. A bolt went through her, and she jerked her hand away.

“Forgive me. I don’t know what I was thinking.” He smiled.

She shook her head and laughed. “Well, all right. You’re forgiven. But don’t ever take such liberties again.” She tucked her hand into her pocket to make sure. “The flowers are lovely. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” He cleared his throat. “I wonder if you would consent to dine with me.”

She drew back in surprise. “Tonight?”

“No, no. Of course not. How stupid of me. I’m sure you have plans. Well, how about tomorrow night?”

Katie blushed. She had no plans except to go home and get a good night’s sleep. But she would never accept a dinner invitation on such short notice, especially from a young man she barely knew. Besides, her father had forbidden it. “No, I’m sorry. That won’t be possible.” She noticed she was picking at a nonexistent thread on her dress. She curled her fingers up and crammed her hand back into her pocket.

“I see. Very well, I’ll see you tomorrow night. Thank you for allowing me to speak with you.” He bowed, turned, and walked away.

What did he mean he’d see her tomorrow night? Didn’t he hear her refuse his dinner invitation?

She turned and went inside, nearly knocking Caitlyn down. “Oh. You were listening!” Katie declared, scandalized.

Caitlyn burst out laughing. “Yes, I admit it. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much. Do tell us.”

“There’s nothing to tell. He invited me to dinner, and I refused. That’s all.”

“You refused? Why? He’s gorgeous.” Caitlyn rolled her eyes.

“Now you be leaving her alone.” Bridget glared at the teasing actress. “Pay her no mind, Katie.”

“Thanks, I won’t.” She smiled at her defender and at the playful actress, happy to have friends who cared.

Katie and Bridget walked home. As they trailed behind her father and Rosie, Katie told her friend about the incident at the station and the encounter at Conley’s Patch.

A thoughtful expression settled across Bridget’s brow. “It seems to me he’s setting his cap for you. Be careful. Who knows if his intentions are honorable or not?”

Fear shot through Katie. Could Bridget be right? It was strange that he’d had that shocked look on his face. Then he came with flowers and an invitation so soon.

Katie gasped. Did Sam Nelson think she was a loose woman?


Sam reached inside his vest pocket and pulled out the string of tickets he’d purchased before he’d gone backstage. Row one, center seat. If the show outlasted what he’d bought, he’d buy more.

He placed the tickets in the top drawer of his bedside table and berated himself for being so bold with Miss O’Shannon. Just because he’d been thinking of her for weeks, did he think she would jump into his arms?

Sam’s thoughts continued to chastise him as he tossed and turned in his bed, finally falling into a troubled sleep sometime near dawn.

He was front and center the following night. Once more he carried a bouquet to her dressing room and asked her to dine with him the next evening. She declined the invitation.

There was no show the next day, as the theater was closed on Sundays, and Sam spent the afternoon fidgeting until his mother finally turned to him with a frown.

“What in the world is the matter with you, Sam?”

“I’m fine.” He sent her a rather sick smile that even he knew was unconvincing.

Suddenly her face brightened. “You’re in love, aren’t you? That’s why you’re mooning around.”

“Really, Mother. I’m not some young lad with a crush.”

“Mmm-hmm.” She busied herself with her knitting. “Who is she?”

Sam was silent for a moment as his mind considered opening up to his mother about Katherine O’Shannon. No, not yet. He didn’t need a reaction from her just yet. “Mother, when there is actually a young woman in my life, I promise to tell you all about her.” There. Not a lie. But maybe not the complete truth either.

The two weeks that followed were a world of contradictions. During the day, Sam was the serious, hardworking attorney, focusing his attention on the Flannigan case.

Evenings were a different matter altogether. Like a lovesick schoolboy, in the middle seat of the first row, he sat mesmerized by Katherine O’Shannon.

Every night, after being turned down again, he told himself he would stay away from Harrigan’s from now on. But the following night, there he sat, swimming in the depths of her blue eyes. If his mother had again accused him of being in love, he couldn’t have denied it.

Jack was about to lose patience with him. “Sam, my friend, you’re going to let that showgirl rob you of your partnership.”

“No, I’m not. And don’t call her ‘that showgirl’ in that tone of voice.”

His friend sighed. “Sorry, but man, you’re losing your mind.”

Sam bristled. “I’m doing my work just fine.”

The Flannigan folder peeked out from under the stack of books piled on Sam’s desk. Something about the case still bothered him. At this point, he was mostly getting paperwork together and checking for any evidence that might have been overlooked.

Making a sudden decision, Sam stood up. “As a matter of fact, I’m heading out to Conley’s Patch now to interview Flannigan again. I’ve got a hunch there’s something I’m missing.”

“The Patch, huh?” Jack’s suspicious tone grated on Sam. “You sure you’re not hoping to run into the actress?”

“I hope I do, but that’s not my reason for going. I honestly do have business to attend to.”

“All right. But I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Sam considered his friend’s words all the way to Conley’s Patch.

The heat in the Patch radiated from the stinking street, and the smell from the ditch running down the center was so bad Sam would have covered his nose and mouth with a handkerchief, but he didn’t want to offend Flannigan more than he already had.

The meeting with Flannigan did little except confuse Sam. The injured man’s attitude and demeanor simply didn’t line up with the accusations against him.

Disturbed, he left the house, determined not to let the seeming inconsistencies get him off course. Flannigan should probably be performing at Harrigan’s. After all, a con man wouldn’t get very far if he wasn’t convincing.

He got into his buggy and headed back to the office.

A young woman walked down the dirty street, her golden curls peeking out from beneath her bonnet. The tilt of her head, the set of her shoulders, even from the back he knew it was her. He urged the horse forward and pulled up beside her. “Miss O’Shannon.”

Startled, she turned. Her eyes grew wide, and Sam knew he wasn’t mistaking the gladness he saw there.

“May I give you a lift somewhere? It’s awfully hot to be walking.”

Nervously, she glanced around. “I had hoped to hail a cabbie, but there doesn’t seem to be one in sight.”

He didn’t want to say that cabbies didn’t usually hang around this area. Strange she didn’t know that. He stepped out of the carriage. “I assure you, I only wish to help you if you’ll allow it.”

Her eyes shifted with uncertainty then looked fully into his own, nearly robbing him of the ability to breathe. “If it’s not an inconvenience,” she said in a tiny voice. “I could use a ride to the theater.” The feel of her tiny gloved hand filled him with awe as he helped her into the carriage.

He urged the horse to a trot and glanced at her with a smile.

A pink blush washed over her face, and she gave him a sweet smile. “Mr. Nelson, I feel I should explain why I haven’t accepted any of your invitations when you’ve been so kind.” She gave a slight cough.

“You owe me no explanation, Miss O’Shannon. You have a right to refuse me if you please.”

“But you see, I would have accepted if it were up to me.” Once more the pretty blush caressed her cheeks.

“What do you mean?” He hoped his eagerness didn’t startle her.

“My father has forbidden me to accept invitations from any young man without his approval. And after all, he doesn’t even know you.”

Sam tried hard to control the grin that started in his heart and worked its way to his lips. But it was a hopeless task. “Well,” he said, “we’ll just have to do something about that, won’t we?”

Seven

Katie jumped out of the carriage before the young man had a chance to assist her. If her father saw her, there was no telling what he’d do. Oh, why hadn’t she asked Mr. Nelson to drop her off a block away from the theater?

She heard his startled exclamation as her feet hit the street, and she turned, throwing him an apologetic look. “Thank you so much for the ride. It was very kind of you, but I must be going.”

She started off toward the side of the building, hoping to avoid anyone she knew. At the sight of Bobby and Molly standing at the corner, she groaned and stopped.

Bobby shot a glare at Mr. Nelson, who still sat in his carriage, watching her. “Who’s that?” Bobby demanded, sending Katie a reproachful look.

“Why, he’s an acquaintance of mine, Bobby Brown, if it’s any of your business.” She frowned at him, and he turned and stalked off.

“Ah, poor, poor Bobby. Now you’ve gone and broken his heart.” Molly grinned and looked pointedly at the carriage and its occupant.

Katie felt heat rise to her face. Why in the world was he still sitting there? “Well, I don’t know how his heart could be broken,” Katie retorted. “I’ve never given him reason to think I was interested in anything but friendship.” Well, maybe she had flirted a little bit. A pang of conscience stabbed her as she remembered her ploy to get information from him about Conley’s Patch.

“If you say so, dear.” Molly rounded the corner of the building.

Katie’s heart thumped. She didn’t need to look back to know he was still there, watching her. But she looked anyway. Land’s sake. What was he doing?

He tipped his hat and grinned.

Katie waved and then bolted around the corner, her stomach doing little flips. Stepping through the open door into the theater, she couldn’t help the smile that tilted her lips.

“I saw that.” Molly was waiting for her just inside the door.

Setting her chin, Katie sent Molly what she hoped was a firm look. “Mr. Nelson is merely an acquaintance. Not even a friend, much less a suitor.”

Molly laughed. “Hey, I’m only fooling. Don’t get riled up, now.”

In the crowded dressing room, Katie made her way past women getting ready for the afternoon performances. She hurried to get into her costume then sat at a dressing table to apply her makeup.

Oh, what had she done? She knew better than to accept a ride from a man who was practically a stranger. When her father found out, and he would, he’d likely put her on the first train back to the farm. Katie cringed at the thought. But there was no getting around it. She had to tell him herself. Right after the show.

For the first time, she didn’t enjoy performing. Her heart didn’t soar as it usually did when she sang her solo, and she recited her lines without feeling. As soon as she’d made her final exit, she rushed to the dressing room and poured her heart out to Bridget.

“Now, now. Don’t be frettin’ so. After all, your da would probably rather you took the ride than be walking down the streets of the Patch. What with all the—” The girl stopped and gave Katie a curious look. “What do you think a fine young gentleman would be doing at Conley’s Patch?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe he had business there.” She frowned. What was Bridget getting at?

“At the Patch? What sort of business would he be in?”

“I’m sure I don’t know. How should I?”

“If he’s going to be hanging around you, you’d best be finding out everything you can about him. Including his business.” Bridget’s eyes widened. “He could be a gambler or even criminal of some sort. They often look like gentlemen.”

“Bridget, you’re scaring me.”

“Well, and I mean to. A girl can’t be too careful, after all.”

Katie sighed. “Guess I needn’t worry about it. If my father doesn’t send me away, he’ll watch me like a hawk.”

“I won’t be arguing with you about that.” Bridget darted a sympathetic look at her.

Just then, the rest of the women flocked into the room, and Katie took a deep breath. The show was over. There was no putting it off any longer.

She found her father removing the paint from his face.

“Katie, my girl.” He sprang from the chair and planted a kiss on her cheek. “It’s glad I am you came to see me. You’re usually running off someplace before I can hardly say hello and good-bye.”

“You’re stretching the truth, Pa, and well you know it.” Katie smiled, relieved to find him in a good mood. Maybe he wouldn’t be so angry after all.

“Pa, there’s something I need to tell you.” She cleared her throat and swallowed.

“Well, and here I am. What is it?”

“Please don’t be angry with me, because I’m very sorry.”

He frowned and peered at her. “Have you been spending too much of me hard-earned money now? Is that it?”

She shook her head vehemently. “I have my own money now.” The very idea.

“That hasn’t been stopping you from spending mine, too, now, has it?” He patted her on the arm. “But I don’t mind a bit, my Katie girl. So don’t be fretting.”

Maybe she should let well enough alone. After all, there was no harm done. She gave her father a tremulous smile and turned to go. No, it would be much worse if he found out from someone else. She turned and faced him again. “I accepted a ride to the theater from a young man this afternoon.”

“Ah yes. You’ll be referring to Mr. Nelson. I thanked him nicely for rescuing my daughter from the streets of shantytown.” He pursed his lips and scowled. “And how many times have I told you not to be walking around Conley’s Patch by yourself?”

Katie gasped. He told her father? But how was that possible? “When did he tell you?”

“Right after he dropped you off at the door. He wanted me to know why you were in his carriage. A fine upstanding young lawyer, he is. And very concerned that I might get the wrong idea.”

Gladness and relief rose up in Katie’s heart. An attorney. Good. So he wasn’t a criminal, after all. “And you don’t mind that I accepted a ride from him?”

“Not after he explained that he was a patron of Harrigan’s and recognized you from your performance.” He glared at her again. “He was concerned you might be accosted. Otherwise, such a fine young gentleman would have never suggested such a thing.”


Sam whistled through the grin that wouldn’t leave his face as he walked into the office. Michael O’Shannon was a good man and a grateful father.

It had been obvious Katie hadn’t wanted to be seen in his carriage. When he saw her talking to a couple of performers outside the theater, he knew he had to avert scandal. And perhaps get on her father’s good side at the same time. It had been a streak of genius that led him to reveal to Katie’s father that he’d given her a lift. Instead of being angry at his daughter and thinking the worst of Sam, he had slapped Sam on the back and thanked him for taking care of Katie.

Now, if Sam could only be patient and let O’Shannon get to know him better, he thought he had a pretty good chance of winning the protective father over so he could court his daughter.

Charlie Jenkins looked up from his desk and gave him a nod. “Glad to see you in a good mood, sir. Your father wants to see you. He said as soon as you got here.”

“Uh-oh. Is it bad?”

Charlie glanced around and lowered his voice. “I wouldn’t want to say, Mr. Nelson, but I will say he didn’t seem very happy.”

“Well, nothing is going to spoil my mood.” Sam headed to his father’s office, wondering what he’d done. “Charlie said you wanted to see me.”

The senior Mr. Nelson turned slowly and peered at Sam through narrowed eyes. “Jeremiah Howard,
your client,
waited for you for some time. Would you mind divulging where you’ve spent your afternoon?”

Sam looked at his father in surprise. “I don’t remember an appointment with Howard.”

“That’s beside the point. If you’d been in the office, he could have spoken to you instead of railing at me for two hours.”

“I went to see Flannigan again. Something just isn’t ringing true to me.” He picked up a newspaper from his father’s desk and riffled through it.

“So, did you get anything out of the man?”

Sam continued to scan the newspaper, wondering what to say. “Father, Chauncey Flannigan doesn’t seem like a con man to me.”

When his father didn’t say anything, Sam looked up and met silence.

Eugene Nelson eyed his son. “Don’t forget who our client is, Samuel.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Very well. Send a messenger boy to Howard’s office with an appointment for tomorrow.”

“I will, sir.”

Sam dispatched the messenger then sat at his desk, tapping his fingers against the oak desktop. His father was right. Whatever he personally thought about Howard, he was representing the man and needed to give him his best. He’d been meaning to visit the lumberyard and speak to some of the employees and decided that would be the first thing on his agenda in the morning. While he was there, he’d try to meet the foreman who’d been on duty that day.

Sam leaned back and considered what else could be accomplished while he was in the area. The two tavern witnesses who’d given statements needed to be spoken to. It wouldn’t do for them to waver in their accounts of the fight.

Taking a legal pad from his desk drawer, Sam made a list of questions for the men he hoped to interview. He also intended to look over conditions at the lumber mill and make sure there was nothing to which an accusing finger could be pointed.

The shuffling of feet and opening and closing of file cabinets announced the office was getting ready to close for the day.

Cramming his pad into his briefcase, Sam stood and made his way to the front, amid friendly good-byes. The thought of seeing Katherine quickened his steps. He was relieved to see that Charlie had sent someone to the livery to bring his horse and carriage around.

As he rode home in the stifling heat, he glanced up, hoping for the sight of a rain cloud. It was the middle of September. But the driest September Sam could remember.

When he arrived at home, he found his mother in the kitchen supervising dinner preparations.

“Sam, dear. We’re having guests for dinner. Could you possibly bring the ice cream freezer out? Everything is mixed and ready to go. You have time to crank out a batch before you change, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Of course, Mother. Let me go hang up my suit coat.” When he came back downstairs, he went to the storage room
off the kitchen and took his mother’s pride and joy out of its
box.

She poured the mixture of cream, sugar, and vanilla into the container and added salt and cracked ice to the freezer.

Sam started cranking. “Who are the guests, Mother?”

“Oh, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The Langleys’ niece, Martha, is visiting, and Ella wants her to meet young people her own age. I told her I was certain you would be happy to meet Martha and perhaps introduce her to some of your friends.”

Sam grinned, amused at another of his mother’s attempts to help him find her future daughter-in-law. She’d been hinting for some time that he should be settling down. She’d be quite surprised if she knew he had already chosen his future bride. “Yes, of course, Mother. I’d be happy to show her around, but I have plans for tonight.”

She held both hands up to her pretty, plump face. “Oh dear. I should have checked with you first. But I’m sure they’ll be leaving by nine. Would that upset your plans? I’ll be so embarrassed if you can’t be here.”

When Sam saw his mother’s hopeful expression, he knew he wouldn’t be seeing Katherine O’Shannon tonight.

BOOK: A Girl Like That
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