Barton liked to tell a lot of stories about the old days, and how much better their sleepy little western town had been before all the folks back East got it into their minds that a cheap fortune and wild time could be found and headed West.
"Before the invasion," he liked to preach, "Before Steve died - this was a good town."
"You couldn't tell by looking at it," Kate would dutifully reply, because insulting the town wasn't really where her heart was at, but she had to stick up for the Eastern newcomers; she'd been one, once, after all.
But she hadn't come West trying to find gold. That usually made Deputy Barton tolerate her presence, even while he mercilessly mocked every single other Easterner.
"No, you can't tell," Barton grumbled, giving a frustrated glare to the full jail cells. "And you know why that is, Bishop? Because it wasn't enough to come invade our town when none of them were wanted. They had to come fill up our saloons and overcrowd our streets."
"And rob your banks when they found out they couldn't make a quick fortune?" Kate offered, even though most of the bank robbers hardly stayed put in their town. They were always traveling, always looking for a new target to steal from.
"Exactly!" Barton claimed, and Kate tried not to roll her eyes.
Sheriff Barnes' sigh was not as well-hidden. "If the town's so damn bad, why don't you two go do something about it?"
"You're saying I'm not doing enough?" Barton demanded. "You know, Barnes, I was the first choice to replace Steve as sheriff."
"I think I will go see if I can rustle up some trouble," Kate answered - not that either of them heard her. She hadn't realized, before coming out West, that two men could like each other the way a lady and a man could.
For her part, she pretended not to notice. And for their part, they pretended not to notice that she was a lady.
It wasn't the most traditional arrangement, but neither was the entirely too close relationship Sheriff Barnes carried on with the local horse thief (gorgeous redhead that she was) or the entirely too intimate triangle of a relationship Deputy Barton carried on with Dr. Morse and the local saloon store owner when he wasn't practically courting the Sheriff Barnes.
'Course, Kate saw a lot of the saloon herself, seeing as how one of the owner's sons was her best friend.
"You're late for lunch," Billy noted as Kate entered the saloon. "Another robbery?"
"Another morning of Barton complaining," Kate corrected.
"Sounds exciting," Billy said solemnly. "But not as exciting as a letter I got today." He removed a crumpled envelope from his pocket and slid it across the table.
Kate recognized Cassandra's handwriting immediately and she bit down the entirely inappropriate thrill it gave her.
"The daughter of a wanted bank robber corresponding with the town's deputy," Billy laughed around his sarsaparilla. "With the son of the saloon owner as the go-between. When you break the law, you don't hold back."
"Well," Kate answered, adjusting her hat, "As Barton would say, they make 'em different back East."
"They sure do." The warmth in Billy's grin indicated that, unlike Barton, he was pretty glad of the fact.