Meet Rhys and Teddy from Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell
Inside the Brass Bell Saloon, Teddy Gamble led to a corner table, kicked back a chair and sat.
“Marc André Rhys Delmar at your service, mademoiselle.” Smiling to full effect, Rhys slid into a second chair and squared himself across the scarred bar table from Teddy Gamble. Her expression was that of a caged cat, one of pent-up energy and barely held-back anger. He stared at her because it was impossible to do otherwise. She was like no woman he’d ever seen. Her face was finely boned. And her hands had tanned a honey-brown from the sun. They were nearly the same color as the fringed buckskin shirt and trousers she wore. Her eyes, all banked with angry fire, were the most striking he’d ever encountered, a glowing green color as remarkable as the stones she wore.
“It’s plain Teddy, here,” she said. “I don’t need any mademoiselle or mouthful of names to know who I am.”
With a whisk of her hand, she pushed the dusty hat from her head and sailed it into the seat of an empty chair at the table. Rhys had been prepared for a cropped head of straggly hair but was surprised to discover that Teddy Gamble had an abundance of shining tawny locks which had been gathered in a braid and pinned beneath her hat. With some relief he concluded he’d been right to suspect that the woman had at least a tiny element of femininity to her.
“A thousand pardons, mademoi—Teddy,” he said. “I only intended politeness.”
“Well don’t tangle yourself up in it,” Teddy snapped. “Just spit out why it is you think you’re part owner of the Gamble Line.”
Rhys flashed another smile. “It is not what I think. It is what is true.” He fished in his inside coat pocket for the leather packet in which he’d placed the papers given him by Zachary Gamble. “Monsieur Zachary Gamble wagered his share of the company in a game of cards.” With what was, to Teddy, agonizing slowness, he spread the papers on the table for her to view. “He lost.”
Teddy’s heart faltered a beat. Her Uncle Zack’s exaggerated penmanship was unmistakable. He’d signed his interest in the company over to the Frenchman as a pledge against a gambling loss. And evidently her Uncle Zack had either been unable or unwilling to ante up the cash to buy that interest back.
But be that as it may, Teddy wasn’t about to accept the fancy man’s claim without a challenge. “Uncle Zack will have to tell me himself that he surrendered his interest to you,” she said coldly. “For all I know you robbed him and forged that signature.”
Rhys blanched white. He came halfway out of his chair, then thought better of his action and eased himself down again. “Mademoi—” He paused, blew out a long breath then spoke with deliberate slowness to Teddy. “If Monsieur Gamble could tell anyone anything I would not have come halfway across the world to redeem these documents.”
“What do you mean?” Teddy hissed.
“Your uncle is dead.”