The Bartender's Mail Order Bride(2)By: Cindy Caldwell
“No, I’m hopeless.” Meg cocked her head sideways at Clara. “Where are you off to?”
“Oh, I’m heading to the Occidental to meet Suzanne and Sadie. They’ve got some letters in response to Sam’s ad and I’m anxious to see.”
The blood drained from Meg’s face as she sat up straight on the swing. “Oh, that sounds lovely,” she managed, wishing her fluttering heart would settle.
“It does? I hadn’t thought you’d like that sort of thing, but I’d love it if you’d join us,” Clara said. “Get your wrap and bonnet and I’ll wait in the buggy.”
“Thank you, Clara. I’ll be right out,” Meg said, trying her best not to sound too eager as she ran in the house.
She ran a brush through her hair with absolutely none of the time and care her brother had just given the horse as she raced to pin it up under her bonnet. She turned toward the door and then back around again, quickly changing her dress before she realized that she had no idea if Sam would be there or not. No matter, though. She was determined to make him notice her, one way or another.
“I hardly know what to say to him about the whole thing.” Suzanne set the letters down on the table as they waited for their lunch.
Sadie, Suzanne’s identical twin sister, lifted her glass of lemonade and nodded to the waitress for a refill.
Meg smiled as she looked around the room, admiring the restaurant that her friends, Sadie and Tripp, had opened not too long ago. She was pleased that it was bustling and that Sadie looked so happy, apparently glad that she’d agreed to come to Tombstone from Chicago to be Tripp’s mail order bride.
“How’s the new help working out?” Clara asked Sadie, whose hawk-eyed gaze followed the young girl around the room.
“I’m not sure yet. I really would prefer to be doing it myself, but Tripp just insists that I not be on my feet that long every day until after the baby comes, and maybe not even then. I can still help out in the kitchen, and actually, that’s helped him a great deal, but he doesn’t want me running around all day and night.”
Clara patted her hand as she looked at Suzanne. “I know it’s not what you would prefer, but I do think it’s for the best. I mean, given your family’s propensity for twins.”
“Your family now, too,” Meg said, her eyes twinkling as Clara turned crimson.
“Don’t say that, any of you,” Sadie said as her face blanched. “I love the twins, and I loved being a twin, just not sure I’m up to raising them.”
Meg looked from Sadie to Suzanne, thinking of her own twin sisters as she shook her head and wondered how their parents ever told them apart.
“Oh, here he comes,” Sadie whispered behind her napkin as the other girls straightened, looking away.
Except for Meg. Her heart fluttered as he strode toward them, his lean, long legs making quick work of it. He wore his bartender’s vest and had his sleeves rolled up like she’d seen card dealers do, and to her, his black hair and crystal blue eyes gave her trouble keeping her sigh inside.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said, his white teeth flashing as he smiled and took a quick bow.
Meg noticed that they all were looking mostly down at their plates rather than at Sam, and she wondered what was going on that she didn’t know about.
Sam looked quizzically at them all in turn, and when his eyes met Meg’s, his eyebrows rose questioningly. She had no answer for him but a shrug of her shoulders.
Finally, Suzanne picked up the letters and fanned herself with them. “Have a seat, Sam. We have some things we need to discuss.”
His eyes narrowed as he pulled a chair over from the closest empty table and sat down, leaning forward.
“So, how many lovely brides do I have to choose from? Mother arrives soon, and since I told her I was married and I really don’t want to disappoint her, I need to get moving.”
His smile tugged at Meg’s heart—not least because she couldn’t imagine him with anyone else. A stranger, no less.
Suzanne cleared her throat and handed the letters to Sadie, whose eyes widened as she looked from Suzanne to Clara to Sam.