Good thing Naomi was wise enough not to use a gun…
As the Conestoga disappeared around the corner, Naomi stepped outside. McIntyre thought she looked, well, refreshed, or at least more relaxed. That was good, considering what was coming. Maybe she wouldn’t reach for a gun when she found out the details of this business deal.
“The marshal has taken your wagon around back. I’ve asked him to find Emilio to help unload the heavy items.”
“Thank you,” she replied, less haughtily than he’d expected.
He pointed across the street. “The bank is just over there.”
“Well, I’m ready.”
As they crossed the street together, McIntyre asked, “When is your sister’s baby due?” Naomi’s quick stumble and clenched jaw was all he needed to know he was right. He assumed, therefore, he was right about the absent father as well.
“Baby? What baby?”
He thought her voice sounded shrill and shaky. “Come now, Mrs. Miller,” he chided as they negotiated street traffic. “You should remember that I have several women in my employ. I notice things about a woman’s figure that most men don’t.” [IN A WAY, IT IS ALMOST A GIFT THE WAY MCINTYRE CAN EVALUATE WOMEN AS IF THEY ARE BREEDING STOCK. IT’S ALSO HIS CURSE. HE’S FORGOTTOEN HOW TO FEEL ABOUT A WOMAN.]
“What you don’t know … ” She turned on him as they reached the boardwalk and raked him with an icy stare that would have terrorized a lesser man, “is that not everything in Defiance is your business.”
He begged to differ, but didn’t say so. He had acquired enough of this woman’s animosity and still might have more coming once they were in the attorney’s office. Acquiescing only for the moment, he ushered her further down the walk.
“You need to learn the difference between friends and enemies, Your Highness. Perhaps the question was rather impertinent of me, but I was thinking of Hannah’s wellbeing. Should she need the services of a doctor or midwife−”
“We don’t need anything,” Naomi spat without looking at him.
He took the hint and changed the subject. “Speaking of health, the man you encountered on the street today−”
“Which man? The one who took Hannah’s bonnet or the drunk who nearly climbed in the wagon with us?” McIntyre didn’t miss the subtle accusatory tone in her voice, as if all the rude behavior in Defiance could be traced back to him.
“Yes, O’Banion. He doesn’t bring much to this town, but he does have a lot of friends. In a matter of hours it will be all over Defiance that you’re not in my employ and neither are you working girls. If there are any further … incidents, I’ll see to it that the marshal and his deputies camp on your doorstep.”
Naomi looked up at McIntyre with those green eyes that for the first time weren’t flashing like a storm over the Rockies. For the sweep of an instant, she unexpectedly lowered the veil of defensiveness and sighed, a deep, melancholy sound. “Last July we were harvesting corn, planning picnics, eating fried chicken after church. And now…” She trailed off, pain etching itself in her furrowed brow and trembling lips.
He wished for something helpful to say but words eluded him. It had been so long since he had been required to offer even the smallest amount of comfort to another human that he felt incapable of it. Anything he could think to say would only earn him a fierce slap across the face and he preferred to delay that as long as possible. [MCINTYRE MAY NOT BE THE MOST LIKABLE FELLOW, BUT HE DOES EXHIBIT SOME WISDOM. WHEN IN DOUBT, PIPE DOWN. THIS IS ALSO A HINT, THOUGHT, THAT’S HE NOT REALLY A STOIC MAN, JUST ILL-PREPARED FOR COMPASSION.]
Trying to move them past this awkward moment, he touched her on the elbow and pointed at the next entrance. Opening the door for her, she entered the bank and several men−employees and customers−acknowledged her with appreciative glances. In turn, they also offered greetings to McIntyre as he and Naomi walked toward the back of the bank. They climbed a set of steps that took them to a door labeled Davis Ferrell, Esq.
Naomi didn’t speak as she and Mr. McIntyre climbed the stairs. She did inhale his scent of a musky cologne and apple-sweetened tobacco. Pleasing odors even if the man was less-than-likable. She felt completely foolish for having dropped her guard that way outside, revealing such personal thoughts to this pirate. She attributed her momentary weakness to simply being overwrought with grief … and irritation. It grated on her nerves that he had spotted Hannah’s condition right off … which brought her back to the statement he had made about women in his employ. How could he act like running a brothel was as respectable as managing a mercantile? Disgusting. Whatever the case, she would work harder to keep her chin up and back squared in front of this rogue. [POOR NAOMI, TAKING SO MUCH ON HER OWN SHOULDERS.]
They reached the door and Mr. McIntyre knocked but did not wait for an answer as he opened it for Naomi. They stepped into a small office and found Mr. Ferrell at his desk. He looked up from his paperwork, casually removing the spectacles from his nose.
Remembering his manners belatedly, he leaped to his feet and reached for Naomi’s hand. “Pardon my manners. Mrs. Miller, it’s a pleasure to meet you. McIntyre,” he acknowledged him with a nod and his clients took the two seats in front of his desk. A skinny but dapper man wearing a plain, grey suit, he moved with swift, jerky motions. Naomi wondered if he was always like that or if Mr. McIntyre made him nervous. “I’ve just finished up the transfer of deed for the hotel.” He slid a piece of paper over to Naomi and held out his pen. “If you’ll write your full name here and here and sign here and here, that will do it.”
Naomi took the pen but also took a moment to review the deed. Mr. McIntyre leaned in uncomfortably close to her ear and whispered, “Davis may look and act like Ichabod Crane, but he’s quite a gifted attorney.”
Frowning, she moved away from his breath ruffling her hair and perused the legal document in her hand. Naomi noticed almost immediately that there was no description of lot size or water rights, only information on the building. “I−I’m sorry,” she sputtered puzzled. “This doesn’t seem to be complete. Why is there no mention here of the lot size? And there is a well, isn’t there?” she asked, eyeing both men. [THIS SCENE IS BASED ON HISTORICAL FACT. WYATT EARP’S WIFE JOSEY MARCUS, BEFORE SHE WAS HIS WIFE, BOUGHT A HOUSE TO SHARE WITH SHERIFF JOHNNY BEHAN IN TOMBSTONE. HE OWNED THE LOT; SHE OWNED THE HOUSE. WHEN SHE’D HAD ENOUGH OF HIS DALLYING WITH OTHER WOMEN, JOSEY LEFT AND TOOK HER HOUSE WITH HER, HAVING IT MOVED TO ANOTHER LOT IN TOWN, MUCH TO JOHNNY’S DISMAY. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED THAT STORY!]
“Lot size?” Mr. Ferrell repeated. “I’m not sure I follow. I was under the impression you were getting the building only.” He looked at Mr. McIntyre. “You were in a hurry when you stopped by, but I thought I understood it was the building and not the land.”
“Not the land?” Naomi repeated toward Mr. McIntyre, knowing there were daggers in her eyes.
“Let me explain,” he said, pulling a cigar from his breast pocket. “You see, you came and asked to buy the building. You made no mention of the lot. I assumed you didn’t need it or want it. This is a common practice here in the west.”
Naomi was dumbfounded, struck completely speechless, but only for a moment. The glowing ember of anger in her gut caught fire. Her voice dropped to a deceptive calm as she addressed the attorney. “So we own the building, but not the land on which it sits. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Mr. Ferrell answered simply.
She cut her eyes over to Mr. McIntyre. “Why would anyone buy a building and not the land? And why didn’t you tell me you were separating the two?” She was furious, but mostly with herself for being so stupid.
“Buying the building without the land keeps things affordable and allows land owners to collect rent. I don’t want rent, however. Just think of us as partners in the hotel business.”
Naomi jumped up so suddenly, she nearly flipped her chair over. Fuming, she stomped away from the men as far as the little office would allow, all of about six feet. Looking out the window, she couldn’t have cared less about the low afternoon sun reaching to kiss the distant shimmering mountains. She could’ve kicked herself a hundred times for getting in this mess and now she would have to explain it to her sisters. How could she have been so stupid?!
Think, think, think, she told herself angrily, determined to hold back tears or die trying. Protect yourself. Lord, help me…
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