Tye smiled down at her and pulled her close, her back to his chest. He kissed the side of her forehead. “I love you, Maria,” he whispered in her ear. “You know, it’s time for me to settle down. You don’t have to live in a room at the inn or a house with your sister. My ranch house is too large for one man. Let’s get married. We could raise some cattle for me and some chickens for you. And a passel of kids for both of us.”
"And I’d lose my job. You know the school board is opposed to having a married woman for a teacher.” She twisted her head up to look at him.
"Forget the dang school board—”
"Tye—” Maria glanced at the dance floor and spotted Millie moving toward the door on the other side of the barn. She wiggled free from his embrace, turned toward him, and pulled his face down to meet hers, her lips touching his. She kissed him soundly, brazenly. “Hold that thought, Rancher Ashmore. We need to discuss this, but there’s something I have to do right now. Right this minute.”
"What? Hellfire! Where are you going?”
To catch a murderer. Maria smiled. “I need to talk to Millie Hanson. It’s really important.”
"For the love of Pete! Why now?” he asked in disbelief. “Maria, I’m trying to propos—”
"Please, Tydall. Not now. I’ve waited all evening to corral Millie and talk to her alone, away from the clutches of Aunt Emma.” Before he could utter another word, she slipped away and disappeared across the barn floor, threading her way among the dancers.