The sheriff wanted Deke gone and gone as quick as he could. Could he possibly know Deke was a bounty hunter?
“Just long enough to find my brother.”
“I’ll give you a few days to search around, but then you might want to move on down the road to the next town,” he said. His voice held a strength in it that let you know he was used to getting his way.
Deke smiled. “Why, Sheriff, I may find a few more sinners in your town to convert.”
The man didn’t think Deke’s attempt at humor was funny. In fact he frowned, his eyes narrowing. “All the sinners have moved on. We make certain of that.” He turned his attention to Ruby. His gaze skimmed over her body, sending a shiver of revulsion down her spine.
She swallowed, trying to hold back the bile that threatened to spill. “I’m as free as the wind, Sheriff. I’m going to stay, until I get the urge to move on,” she said, knowing that would put a burr under Deke’s saddle.
The sheriff stared at both of them. “We’re a small cozy place, and as sheriff, I don’t put up with any shenanigans. Don’t make me chase you out of here.”
Ruby almost laughed. An outlaw town with a controlling lawman. Wonder which side of the law he operated on? She just bet it wasn’t the side of the constitution, but rather a vigilante type of law.
“Sheriff,” she said with a drawl as she flashed her lashes at him and smiled her most flirtatious. “I don’t know about the gentleman, but I’m here to earn some money until I get that wandering eye again.”
The man laughed. “Honey, I’m not worried about you, only the preacher man here. We don’t need any more gospel preached in this town. One of you guys is enough.”
With all this scrutiny, they would need to find Rivera as quick as possible and get out of this center of corruption. If he hadn’t killed her father, she would let this one go, just because of the town. But for justice for her father, she would stick out this one horse borough with the crooked lawman and make certain she found Rivera.
“Oh, I’m not a preacher. I just follow the spirit and go wherever it takes me. Right now, it’s calling me to find my brother.”
The sheriff wasn’t nearly as receptive to Deke as he was to Ruby. “Just don’t overstay your welcome, preacher man.” The man turned and walked out of the livery stable.
“Does everyone get a welcome into town from the sheriff?” Ruby asked Tim.
“Just about. Be careful and you’ll be all right.”
Ruby frowned and thought of Zenith and how the law would never accost visitors, unless they were causing trouble or were wanted. Somehow, she got the feeling she needed to find Rivera quickly before trouble wearing a badge found her.
Later that afternoon, Ruby pushed through the swinging doors of the saloon, walking toward the bar. Inside, the smell of whisky and smoke lingered in the dark shadowy room. A staircase led to a parlor upstairs, where she could hear women laughing and talking. On the main floor, a bar ran across the back wall where the bottles of liquor were stored in cabinets. To the right were tables where card games were held. And to the left was a stage where entertainment could perform.
A middle-aged woman with dark hair and an elegant dress met Ruby before she reached the bar.
“Can I help you?” she asked, eyeing Ruby up and down in her split skirt and fitted shirt.
“I’m looking for a job.”
The woman smiled. “I’d be happy to help you, dear. I charge one dollar for the men to sleep with my girls, and you receive half. The other goes toward your room and board. Clothing is added on to your bill and taken off at the end of the month.”
A shudder rippled through Ruby at the idea of unknown men touching, kissing her and trying to… There was no way she could ever work in a bordello. Never.
“No, ma’am. I respect your business, but I’m a card dealer,” Ruby said, hoping they wouldn’t try to force her upstairs. She’d