Read One Deadly Sin Online

Authors: Annie Solomon

Tags: #FIC027110, #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Sheriffs, #General

One Deadly Sin (38 page)

BOOK: One Deadly Sin
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“Like some in this town, I don’t take your word on that,” Lodge said. His hand ran up and down her legs, over her back and chest. He checked her pockets, found her keys and wallet and whatever spare lint was there. He should have been finished, but he kept her bent over, pressed even harder now that he had two hands to do it. “Now, you want to tell me what you’re doing here?”

“She’s waiting for me.” Holt’s voice came from the direction of the municipal building. It was tight and angry. “Let her up, Lodge.”

“So you can coddle her? Or should I say cuddle?”

“I said,” and now Holt sounded closer, “let her up.”

Lodge was wrenched away, and Edie straightened with a small grunt of effort. Holt and Lodge were nose to nose, Amy looking on in dismay.

“You touch her again,” Holt said, “I’ll have you up on harassment.”

“You keep favoring her, I’ll have you up on obstruction of justice.”

Across the square, a cluster of people gaped at the scene. Edie didn’t care for her own reputation. She figured that was already shot. But Holt’s was a different story.

“Don’t you have to pick up Miranda from camp?” Edie hurried to say, and when he still stood rigid, daring Lodge to hit him or arrest him, or whatever he was itching to do, she said, “Holt? Miranda?”

Holt eased a step over, his gaze still on Lodge.

“Better enjoy her while you can, ‘Chief,’ ” Lodge mocked the title. “She’ll be headed for the women’s prison soon.”

The word
prison
sent a jitter of fear through Edie. But Holt only wrapped a firm hand around her arm and pulled her away from Lodge, who went into the building.

“What an awful man,” Amy said, and no one argued with her. She turned to Holt. “Now, don’t you worry about Miranda. I’ll pick her up from camp and bring her back to the house.”

“Not necessary,” Holt said gruffly.

“It’ll be my pleasure. You two need some alone time.” She turned to Edie. “I’ll see you later.” She winked, and got in her car.

Edie looked at Holt. “What’s going on?”

“Get in.” Fury etched every tense line of his body, and for once she obeyed without question. He got in and drove off.

“Where we going?”

“Metaphorically? I don’t have a clue.”

Just what she needed. A little existential humor. “Literally.”

But he wasn’t interested. “That sonuvabitch ever does that to you again—”

“What are you going to do—hit him? Come on, Holt, there’s more at stake here than my freedom. There’s your job, Miranda’s future. Don’t blow it because of me.”

“Yeah, why would I go and do that?” He snorted. “You don’t think much of yourself, do you?”

“Didn’t think you thought much of me either.”

That shut him up, and they drove in silence. As the minutes ticked by time built a wall, brick by soundless brick, until Edie wanted to scream, if only to burst through. But it was Holt who spoke first.

“I, uh…” His voice sounded as if he had a live oak stuck in it, and he cleared his throat. “I’ve got a piece of news.” He told her about his father’s truck.

“So maybe he didn’t mess with my bike, either,” she said slowly, still absorbing what Holt had said. “Maybe it was an accident. A real one.”

“That’d be a first.”

A black hole opened up beneath Edie. She’d been so used to thinking of James as the villain, she didn’t know what to think now. Except if James wasn’t the bad guy… who was? She found herself staring out the window as if whoever it was might be lurking there. But all she saw were the familiar homey sights of Redbud. They sent a shiver through her.

“What now?” she asked, suddenly glad she was bottled up with Holt rather than on the streets where anything or anyone could get to her.

“We keep looking. There’s another black pickup somewhere with front-end damage. We’ll find it.”

Before or after they sentenced her?

He drove her to Amy’s house, and Edie wondered if Amy had asked him to stay, and whether he would. But she was afraid of the answer, so she said nothing. He parked and they sat there. He stared out the windshield, one wrist draped over the steering wheel.

“Look, Amy invited Miranda and me to bunk here for a while.”

“She said she might.”

He turned his head to gaze at her. “What do you think?”

“You asking permission?”

He thought about it. “I guess I am.”

She shrugged. Why get stomped on again? “Up to you. Miranda needs a place to sleep.”

“Miranda, huh?”

Her face heated, and she thought it was time to get out of that tight, closed space that smelled of leather and him. She opened the door. “Like I said, up to you.”

He followed her into the house. Neither Amy nor Miranda was there, but they found a note in the kitchen saying Miranda was at a sleepover and Amy was at choir practice and then would be gone overnight. There was a chicken casserole in the fridge and a bottle of wine, which she told them to enjoy.

It was sweet and well meant, but so off-base it was embarrassing.

Holt was reading over her shoulder, his big body nearly enveloping her. Suddenly Edie realized how alone they were. Alone in this house that had seen joy and tragedy. That had nurtured a marriage and a family. The rootedness of the place seeped into her bones. How would it feel to live like this with him?

As if he’d read her mind, and wanted nothing to do with that cozy picture, he stepped back. “You going to be okay here tonight?”

She’d left it up to him, and it looked like he’d decided. “I think I can manage.”

He nodded. “Anything happens I’ll be at my office.”

“Sure.”

“Okay then.” He shuffled, glanced around. “You call me.”

She crossed her heart, held up a hand. “Will do.”

“Okay.”

“You said that already.”

“Yeah. Right.” He huffed out a breath, and walked out the back door.

As soon as he disappeared she was instantly sorry. She didn’t want to leave it up to him. Not if it meant he’d go.

Ah hell.

“Holt!” She caught him at the car, his door unopened, looking back at the house as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave either. “I can’t eat a whole chicken casserole by myself.”

48

D
inner started stiff and formal, both of them on their best behavior. Holt still looked out of place in Amy’s kitchen, a giant in a field of tiny yellow flowers. But he seemed to prefer the kitchen to the dining room, because he set the table there while she warmed the casserole in the microwave. When it was ready, he held her chair for her.

She wasn’t the shy type, but she felt shy all of a sudden. Sitting in the kitchen like old married folks gave her a glimpse of what might have been. And she wasn’t sure she liked it. There’d be no yellow in her kitchen. Pink would be banished, too. If she had her way, it would be red and black, white and chrome. Like Beauty, her bike. So if Holt thought he’d tie her to yellow flowers and chicken casseroles and girly things…

She caught herself. Man, look at her all Martha Stewart, making plans. She gulped her glass of wine. Holt was watching her. Did he know what she’d been thinking? She flushed. Realized it, which made her face even hotter. What was wrong with her? She never blushed.

“I ever tell you about Mrs. Beasly’s cat?”

The question was so random, it made her forget whatever she’d been fussing about a minute ago. “Who’s Mrs. Beasly?”

He launched into the story, a tall tale about his first day as police chief, when he got a call from Mrs. Beasly, who’d since passed on. She was distraught because a stray cat had jumped through an open window and she said it was the spirit of her dead husband. “She kept calling it Merl, which was her dead husband’s name,” he said, and mimicked an elderly female southern drawl. “ ‘Chief, you come on over here and arrest that cat. Won’t have no husband haunting me.’ I’m sitting in my office, wondering how she knew that the cat was her husband, and whether my dad had maybe put her up to it but also wanting to make a good impression and all on my first day. So I check it out and sure enough, there’s this cat, and his fur is colored into a big ‘M’ on his right side, like someone took a marker to him. I catch the cat and take it outside. Boy, am I feeling like a good Samaritan. Few hours later, Mrs. Beasly’s on the horn, screeching at me about her husband again. I go back out there, same story. I catch the cat, put it outside. This happens like four more times, and I’m starting to think there’s something to this haunting thing. After the fifth call, I get wise and pretend to drive away, only I turn the corner, get out, and double back. And there’s Mrs. Beasly opening the window and letting the cat back in.”

Edie smiled.

“There we go,” he said softly. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for.” He held her gaze, and maybe it was the wine or maybe it was the look in his eyes, or maybe it was Mrs. Beasly’s cat. Whatever it was, all of a sudden the mood gentled.

“What’d you do?”

“Came back with some cat food. Stayed a while. Listened to her talk about her grandchildren.”

She shook her head. “Anyone ever tell you you’re a nice guy, Chief Drennen?”

“She kept the cat. Named him Beasly.”

Edie put her fork down. “You’re making that up.”

He held up a hand. “Do nice guys lie?”

She stiffened, his words cooling the air between them and bringing Edie back to where they’d been hours ago. “Unlike me.”

He looked stricken. “Aw, geez, Edie. No. Not what I meant.” He pushed back in his chair, looked around the kitchen as if one of the flowers might pop out and rescue him.

She picked at the congealing casserole on her plate. “But you were right. I did lie to you.”

“Truth isn’t always as clean-cut as we’d like it to be. The point is—”

“The point is, this is screwed up.”

“This?”

“You, me.” She waved a hand between them. “Us. FUBAR. Fucked Up Beyond—”

“Repair. Yeah I know what it means.”

“You’re the law. I’m headed for jail.” She shoved her plate away. “If that ain’t FUBAR I don’t know what is.”

“Don’t let that jerk get inside your head.”

“Who—Lodge? I don’t need him to remind me what’s in front of my face.”

He reached across the table and took her hand. His skin felt warm, his fingers strong. It would be nice to stay there lulling herself into the false security of his touch. “I’m gonna figure this out,” he said.

“Before or after they fire you?”

He was silent. “It’s only a job,” he said at last.

She looked at their entwined fingers. “See, that’s what I mean. You’re a nice guy, so you’ll fight to the death. Me? I’ve already hacked your family into pieces—”

“My father did that.”

“Only because I showed up. And I’m not going to be the bullet that kills your career, too.”

Holt watched her hand slip from his. It was a slow, simple gesture, her palm sliding across the ice-cream-parlor table, gliding around the half-empty casserole dish, the plates with food still on them, the napkins, glasses sweating from ice cubes—all the normal detritus of a home-cooked meal. But it felt as if he was watching something important disappear over the horizon. Something that would never return. Or if it did return it would never be the same.

He looked away. Felt his mouth twist into the semblance of a smile. “Thanks for dinner.”

“You didn’t eat much.”

“Neither did you.”

They sat for a moment, silence binding them and breaking them. Then he rose and made his way to the door. No good nights. No see ya laters either.

49
BOOK: One Deadly Sin
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