“I told you, you’re totally on the house,” Liz said, looking at the money.
“Sloan left that.”
“That man!” Liz groaned. “He always tips way too much. Well, Lily is his town, and he tries to make sure we all do well here. Wish he’d stay around!”
“You don’t think he’s going to stay in Lily?” Jane asked.
Liz shook her head. “No. Not forever, anyway. He’s popular here. He’s a man’s man, you know?” She laughed. “He doesn’t smoke, but I could’ve seen him as the Marlboro Man, sexy and rugged and good-looking. Don’t you think?”
“He’s a very attractive man,” she replied, trying to sound noncommittal.
“Be still, my heart!” Liz said, and then laughed again. “Oh, well. You sure you don’t want anything else—more tea, some coffee or maybe decaf?”
“No, no, I’m fine, thank you. I’m going to call it a night.” She reached for her purse; her food might be free, but she wasn’t letting a server work for nothing.
“Don’t you dare leave money. Next time, you can give me a tip if you want. Sloan tipped enough for five tables,” Liz told her. “Seriously, don’t you put down a dime!”
Jane didn’t want to insult the woman and she was afraid that insisting might just do so. “All right, thank you. But, please—”
“Next time!” Liz said.
Liz moved on, efficiently taking orders from the crowd now seeking chairs and bar stools.
Jane didn’t see Henri Coque, Jennie or any of the actors yet—just the people who’d been in the audience. She headed for the stairs. She glanced around to see if the slightest hint of an apparition might appear; none did. She was convinced, however, that she’d seen the image of a woman there earlier.
The ghost in her room? The spirit of Sage McCormick?
And had Sage been busy in the bedroom while she was gone?
Jane turned the key in her lock, opened her door, flipped on the light and looked around. Nothing seemed to have changed in the room. “Hello,” she said softly.
The shout came from the hall. Startled, Jane swung around. Brian Highsmith was opening the door to the room beside hers. “You all right, Jane? Were you expecting to greet the resident ghost? If you’re worried, I can check out the room for you.”
Brian was serious; he seemed worried that she might be frightened, even though he knew she was an FBI agent.
“Just because you know how to use a gun,” he said, walking down the hall toward her, “doesn’t mean you might not be afraid of the theater’s reputation.”
“Brian, I’m pretty sure every old building has a reputation for being haunted.”
“But this is Lily.”
“Yes, yes, it is.”
He paused, looking a little disappointed. “You don’t understand. This town...well, it saw a lot of violence. The whole place is haunted, inside and out. Are you positive you don’t want me to check that there’s nothing—no one—in your room?” He leaned against the wall, presenting her with a come-on smile. Was he trying to use this as a pickup line? Did he think she’d ask him to protect her, so he could offer to sleep by her side?
He was dark and handsome, and although he played the villain, he had a pretty-boy flair to him. She was disturbed to realize she was comparing him to Sloan Trent. Trent was far more seductive, even in his awkward courtesy when he’d pondered opening a door for her. She liked his looks, but she was still debating his reversal, from hostility to polite and genial conversation this evening. Well, he’d wanted a seat to have dinner. It could be as simple as that.
“Oh, no, Brian, thanks. I had my door locked. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re not afraid of ghosts?”
“Not tonight. I’m too tired.”
“You really should take the haunted hayride trip tomorrow night,” he advised. “You’ll hear about all the ghosts haunting this town. Pretty scary.”
It was the second time she’d been told she should try out that particular Lily attraction. Maybe she would. She’d enjoy learning more about the history of the town.
She smiled at Brian. He was young and earnest—if a bit too persistent. “And yet,” she said, “you seem to be okay. As do the other actors.”
“Well, we’re not sleeping in her room,” he said.
“I’ll take my chances tonight.”
“If you need me, just holler. I’ll be here in a second,” he assured her.
“I appreciate that,” she told him. “But I’m quite tired. Traveling all day, you know. I’m sure the room is empty—and that I’ll go right to sleep. A lot of people believe Sage ran away to Mexico, right? If so, she’s not here.”
“Okay, but don’t forget. Just scream if you need me. Some people don’t believe she ran off.”
“I’ll do that,” she promised solemnly.
With a reluctant nod, he returned to his room down the hall as Jane entered hers and closed the door.
She’d much rather deal with a ghost than a young would-be lothario.
She leaned against the door for a moment, and then moved away, quickly turning to lock it.
Experience had taught her. The living were usually far more dangerous than the dead.
Sloan’s house wasn’t but a mile down Main Street where it crossed Arizona Highway 101. Although it was in the countryside, it was also within walking distance of the Gilded Lily. Only two properties sat between him and the old town. One belonged to Silvia Mills—eighty-eight and spry—and the second belonged to Mike Addison, who now owned the old sheriff’s office and jail bed-and-breakfast. Mike was seldom at his property; his ranch overseer was a good man of mixed Mexican, American and Indian descent, Barry Garcia. Neither Mike nor Silvia ever had any trouble at their properties.
Sloan’s house was ranch-style and had been built in the 1860s, first as a one-room log structure, and then gradually, as the years had gone by, as a far larger home. The front door still opened into the main section of the house, a parlor with leather and wood furniture, Indian artifacts, a stone fireplace and a stone counter that separated it from the kitchen. Beyond that was a screened-in porch with a pool; to the left were two bedrooms and to the right was a master suite. It was a comfortable home and had always been in his family. Wherever he chose to go in the future, he’d hang on to the house. Johnny Bearclaw, an Apache who’d come to help his grandfather before Sloan made it home, still lived here. Johnny’s wife had died of cancer and he had no children; running Sloan’s property and working with the horses seemed to be a good life for him. He had an apartment above the barn, which was about an acre back on the land. He looked after the house and grounds and the two buckskin quarter horses Sloan kept, Kanga and Roo.
It was late. Sloan had been out far longer than he’d expected, not thinking he’d actually stop by the Gilded Lily for dinner. But as he’d driven through town from the sheriff’s office, the theater had beckoned him—mainly because he was fascinated by their visiting artist.
And he did have to eat. That was a fact. He knew he’d been rude, so maybe taking a few minutes to be...not rude would be a smart idea. He reminded himself that Logan would never have sent him his own Krewe member if she weren’t good.