Read One Deadly Sin Online

Authors: Annie Solomon

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

One Deadly Sin (4 page)

BOOK: One Deadly Sin
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“Celebrating Mr. Fred’s good fortune?” Edie asked them. Russ and Howard were both wearing greasy Hammerbilt ball caps. Was the factory truly the darling of the town?

Howard readjusted his hat and snorted. “Long’s they don’t close the plant, that’s all I care ’bout.”

Edie tried not to look too interested. “Oh? That in the wind?”

Andy shoved Howard. “Nah. Old Howard’s just a scared old fart.” The
scared
sounded like “scairt,” and the
fart
disappeared in a joint guffaw that Howard took good-naturedly.

“You work on Harleys?” Edie asked the mechanic.

“Shoot, yeah. When I get the chance,” Andy said. “Why? You got one?”

“A 1200, raked two over, lowered in the rear with a chopped fender and a beauty of a chrome package.” She couldn’t help the pride creeping into her voice.

The three men raised impressed eyebrows.

“Wouldn’t mind taking a look-see,” Andy said.

“I’ll stop by one of these days,” said Edie. They beamed at each other.

“So… hear you got into it with Terry Bishop,” the skinny one—Russ—said. “That why Chief Drennen hauled you away?”

For a minute, the world stopped.

“Did you say Drennen?”

“Yeah. Holt Drennen. The police chief. Why?”

She shrugged, coming up with a story fast. “Used to know a Drennen in St. Louis. Any relation?”

Howard, the squat one, answered. “Nah. All the Drennens from around here are still here.” He leaned forward. “So give it up. How come Holt hauled you away?”

She leaned forward, too, taking the nearby customers with her. “I was protecting myself, and he walked into my fist.” She straightened and said with mock somberness, “Don’t like anyone getting in the way of my fist.”

The three men laughed, and she winked. Left to fill more empty glasses. Think about that name. Drennen. But Holt was too young to be…

“I need three Buds, one light, and an RC and rum.” Red’s other employee leaned over the bar with her tray. Lucy Keel was tall and straight-boned with a smoker’s tang to her voice and a head of red hair that swirled around her long skinny neck. She was sixty if she was a day, hard and tough-skinned and, when Red introduced them, said she’d been working the bar for the last thirty years. “Through two owners and three husbands, a bout with breast cancer, and a car wreck. So I don’t take no bullshit and I ain’t looking for friends. Get me my drinks fast and we’ll get along fine.”

Edie’d been jumping all night to get Lucy her drinks. She didn’t want to piss the waitress off. She didn’t want to piss anyone off. Just do her job and blend in. Nice and slow. Easy. One of the gang.

“Well, lookie here.” Lucy elbowed Edie as she popped the tops on the bottles of beer. The older woman nodded in the direction of the door. “Law’s after you again,” she smirked.

“Well hey there again, Edie.” Holt Drennen sidled up the bar with an older version of himself.

Her heart jolted, but she quickly recovered and scowled at Holt.

“You here to get in her way again, Chief?” Lucy called over her shoulder as she whirled away with the drinks.

Holt grinned. “Maybe.”

“We hear she packs a wallop!” someone down the way yelled out.

Holt rubbed his jaw. “Want to see my bruises?”

The room laughed.

Someone came up to the pair and slapped the older man on the back. “Nice to see you, Chief.”

“You, too, Henry,” the other man said.

“So what can I get for you?” Edie interrupted the love fest. Holt was still in his jeans, the sleeves of that T-shirt stretched tight over hard shoulders and muscled biceps. She recalled the feel of him, big and powerful. Found herself staring at those arms, the big hands tapering down to long, slim fingers.

“You want a beer, Dad?” Holt asked.

Dad.
The word snapped her back. Everything fell into place.

“That’s what I’m here for.”

“Draft or bottle?”

“Pull ’em, girl,” the older man said with a grin. “We want to see you work.”

She grabbed a couple of mugs and filled them. Set them down in front of the two men. Holt introduced his father.

“James Drennen, Edie…”

“Swann,” she provided, along with a quick handshake.

“Swann,” Holt said. “Don’t think I know that name. Dad?”

James gulped his beer. Eyed her over the rim of the glass. “Nope. Can’t say I do.”

Edie changed the subject. It was their name she wanted to talk about. “Two lawmen in one family. Impressive.”

“Only one.” James pointed to his son. “I’m retired.”

“Oh, so you ‘inherited’ the job.” She emphasized the word and gave Holt a pointed look.

“I campaigned like everyone else,” Holt said mildly, clearly not bothered by the implication of nepotism. Then he grinned, and there was a devilish gleam to it. “But it doesn’t hurt to have connections around here.”

“Not to mention ten years with the Memphis PD,” James pointed out.

“Oh, yeah. That, too.”

Which told her exactly what she didn’t want to hear. Not some yahoo with a badge, but a cop who might actually know what he was doing. And who looked too damn good doing it.

“You got Terry Bishop in lockup?” she asked.

“He’d only hurt himself if I let him wander around,” Holt said mildly.

She took a breath. Nothing ventured and all that. “What was he so worked up about? Something about the plant? Said he knew things. Any idea what?”

The older Drennen snorted. “I wouldn’t trust a thing Terry Bishop says.”

“Especially when he’s got a six-pack in him,” Holt added. “Got fired from Hammerbilt. Been shouting about it ever since. Not much to do around here if you don’t work at the plant.”

“Quit monopolizing her, Chief,” someone called out, and Edie left to fill more orders. Just as well. Couldn’t pump the local law for information without it seeming strange. Especially coming from someone who’d just arrived in town.

5

R
ed closed the place down at two. A couple of hours less than Edie was used to, but that was okay. She had things to do.

Edie, Lucy, and Red worked quickly to tidy up. When Lucy was done, she plopped in a chair, took off her nurse’s shoes, and rubbed her feet. “My second husband used to massage my feet,” she said absently.

“Yeah?” Edie popped an orange slice in her mouth. Not much call for condiments but she liked to keep them stocked and fresh.

“You ever been married?”

Edie shook her head. “Got too much to do.”

Lucy nodded sagely. “A man’ll slow you down, that’s for sure.”

“Hey,” Red said. “Watch what you say. The enemy is listening.”

“Now, Red, you ain’t the enemy,” Lucy said. “Just an ole annoyance.” She cackled at her own joke. Slid her shoes back on and lifted her chair onto the table. “Well, you’re a good sport, Edie. And you work fast. Keep it up.” She headed for the door. “See you tomorrow night, Red.”

Edie shook hands with her boss. “Thanks for the job.”

“You earned it tonight.” He clapped her on the back and left.

Edie turned off the lights, locked up, and slipped out back for a breath of air. There were things to do before she closed her eyes in Redbud that night, but first there was darkness to soak up. She leaned against the back of the building, breathed in the night. The sound of Red’s car heading away drifted past. And then nothing. Not even the sound of traffic buzzing. Too far off the highway for that. Just the whisper of her own ghosts to keep her company.

“So I hear you got car trouble, Edie Swann.”

The voice came out of the cavernous black, ghostly and disembodied. She jumped.

“Whoa there, woman. It’s only me.” Holt Drennen stepped closer.

“Jesus.” For a minute she’d thought she was being haunted. Given who she was she had every right to be. But it was only a living soul. She smacked Holt in the middle of his wide, hard chest. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Man, didn’t anyone teach you to use words instead of your fists?”

She eased back against the wall, her breathing back to normal. “Didn’t anyone teach you when to go home?”

“A police chief’s work is never done.”

She said nothing, knowing the truth of that all too well. And what would he say if he could look into her heart? His work with her was only beginning?

She should keep her distance. Cool as an arctic dawn. Yet she wasn’t cool. Her heart thrummed a hot, steady beat. Her finger drummed against her thigh keeping time. And her head whispered a single word.
Danger. Danger.

The recklessness her aunt always criticized stirred, molten and thick. She was intimately aware of his big body next to hers. She imagined them together, the song of it, low and sultry. It was crazy, this instant attraction. She didn’t even know the man. She should send him away. It was late. She was tired.

She was tempted.

“Thought this was your day off,” she said.

“Technically that was yesterday.”

“So you’re back on duty.” She peered closer and made out some kind of emblem on his shirt. A star? A uniform jacket? Thank you for small miracles. She didn’t like the idea of him skulking around in jeans and a T-shirt. He looked too delicious in them. And if he kept it up, he might discover more than she wanted him to. “And I’m your early morning task?”

“Gotta check out all the newcomers.”

She paused, careful now. Was he serious, or just bantering? “Want my social security number?”

“Nah. Red’s got it if I do.”

Her shoulders stiffened. Had he already scoped her out? If he’d discovered who she really was, why not say so? No, he knew nothing. Had discovered nothing. She was just… a newcomer, as he said. And she could almost smell his attraction. That was something she could manipulate, couldn’t she? Draw him in. Pillow talk could be useful.

And he was considerably gorgeous.

“So what
do
you want?”

He peered down at her, and though she couldn’t see well enough to know the expression in his eyes, she felt them piercing and hungry. She shivered.

“Truth?” he asked.

“Night’s the perfect time for confession.”

“Can’t sleep. Been here five years and the quiet still gets to me.”

“City boy?”

“Nope. Redbud born and raised. But city spoiled. Can’t get the hum out of my head. Thought I’d see if Red was still open.”

“Drinking on the job, Chief?”

“Coffee, Edie Swann. Just a lowly cup of coffee.”

Her pulse picked up but she didn’t show it. Coffee alone with Holt Drennen was more than a temptation. It was a dare. And she was too damn weak-kneed when it came to daring herself over men. “Well, Red’s closed up, but I’ll reopen if you want.” She yawned, hoping he would take the hint.

He did. “Thanks, but it’s late. Don’t want to keep you from your beauty sleep.”

She put a foot on the bottom iron stair. “I’ll owe you one.”

He nodded. “I’ll collect.”

She felt his eyes on her back as she climbed up, the clang of her feet on the metal echoing between them.

She got to the landing at the top, inserted the key, and opened the door. Turned to say good night, but the dark had swallowed him up.

Safe, she let herself lament that she hadn’t given him that cup of coffee. Or invited him to follow her up. But the regret lasted only a moment. Long enough to ensure he’d cleared out. Time enough for her to complete her task.

She did it with shaky hands. Not from fear, because she believed in the righteousness of her mission. But because something about Holt Drennen, chief of police of Redbud, lingered in the air. Like a tantalizing smell to wind that drew her off course.

She’d always liked big men. The way they could crush you and didn’t. The heft of them. As if no storm could blow them down. Holt was a big man. Hard-handed when he needed to be. But good-humored, too. It was the gleam in his eyes that made her look twice. The twinkle that said the world might be a serious place, but we don’t have to give in to it.

Then again, he hadn’t lived her life. Hadn’t heard his mother scream out her soul and her mind. Hadn’t watched strangers bury his father.

She ripped off the protective strip from the envelope seal. Pressed it tightly. Crept down the iron stairs to the alley where her bike was parked. She kicked the starter and the engine snarled awake. The abrasive howl bolstered her, reminded her of the strength she owned, bone, sinew, and brain.

BOOK: One Deadly Sin
11.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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