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Authors: Susan Behon

One Last Call (7 page)

BOOK: One Last Call
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At her lack of reply, he turned to business. “Yeah, well, I’ll go wait inside with your dad, while you two get, uh, situated.” He backed away and made a retreat for the nearest open door.

“Sarah…”

She didn’t want to hear his voice anymore. Josh Logan was nothing but trouble. Her first opportunity, she was buying industrial-grade earplugs to drown out that sexy drawl. She snatched up her purse and hopped out of the truck on her own. Sarah gritted out, “Forget that happened.”

“I can’t.” Josh was closer behind her than she thought.

“Try.”

* * * *

Josh didn’t know what came over him. He’d meant to talk to Sarah first, to explain why he’d left and ask for forgiveness before even attempting to get physical with her. Instead, he laid one finger on her, and he was lost. Touching her was like tasting the first sweet drop of water after being parched for way too long. Now he craved it. He craved her.

Kenny glanced up from the Mini Cooper when Josh followed Sarah inside. He nodded at Josh and greeted Sarah. “Mornin’, Sarah. I’m afraid we got some bad news about your car.”

“Hi, Kenny. Josh already told me. What makes you think someone was fooling with it?”

Sheriff Hughes pulled out a notepad. “Explain the nature of the tampering for me, Kenny.”

His dad wiped his hands on a rag and motioned toward Josh. “My boy found it. Come over here, son, and shine the light over the pump.”

Josh grabbed the lamp and pointed it at the problem. He took over the explanation. “Seth, look right here. Sarah, come over here so you can see too.” He showed them a blown rubber tube that was softened and gummy. “The power steerin’ line shouldn’t be almost gooey. A hose can blow for lots of reasons, includin’ wear and tear. This one wore down from the inside. Someone put acetone or paint thinner in the power steerin’ fluid. You can smell it. It slowly ate away at the rubber seal until it blew.”

Seth brought out a digital camera and snapped some pictures for evidence. “I’m going to need some samples of the fluid too.” The sheriff took out some rubber gloves and scraped up some fragments from the hose. He studied the mess. “Wouldn’t you notice something like that before now?”

Josh shook his head and glanced over at Sarah. “Sarah doesn’t have her car serviced here, so I had no idea.”

The sheriff finished bagging the evidence and turned to Sarah. “I’ll need the name and address of the garage you use. I’ll also need dates and the nature of the service last time you were there.”

“Why would they tamper with my car?” Sarah stared at the blown hose. “They don’t even know me. I get the oil changed and that’s it.”

Seth continued writing. “The mechanics of the other garage are the first logical suspects who would have unfettered access to your car. Have you taken it anywhere else, let anyone look under the hood?”

“No. I top up the fluids myself. Dad taught me that a long time ago. It’s not that hard.” She held up a hand. “And before you ask, I know the difference between power steering fluid and paint thinner. Someone else did this.”

Josh was angry on her behalf. “Sarah, if you’d been on a crowded highway instead of an empty back road, you coulda been killed.”

* * * *

Sarah still couldn’t believe it. “That’s ridiculous. Who would want to kill me?”

The sheriff tapped a pen against his notebook. “Has anyone been bothering you at the bar? Anyone lurking in the parking lot?”

Although it felt like an interrogation, Seth was only doing his job. He’d taken over as head of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department since Bobby Newman, the former deputy sheriff, went nuts last summer and tried to kill Sabrina O’Malley-Sutton. Sheriff Hughes wasn’t crooked, homicidal, or an idiot like Bobby. That made him a better cop all the way around in her book.

Now, to answer the questions. Sarah thought about the usual crowd. “No. Just the same old regulars.”

“No one pressing unwanted attention?”

Sarah thought about Richard and discounted him. She didn’t think he had it in him to do something as ballsy as mess with her car. “Old Walt Mahoney tries to smack my backside when I pass by his barstool, but he only tries that when he’s really drunk.”

Kenny took exception to that. “Walt? That old coot knows better than to get handsy with a young lady. We’re gonna have words. Bet on that.”

Sarah was kind of flattered at his defense of her. “It’s okay, Kenny. He knows I’d knock him on his ass if he ever made contact. The rest of the time he’s harmless.”

Josh straightened and stood next to his dad, a fast-forwarded, gray-haired version of him. They had the same edge of concern in their stances. “What about Richard?”

Seth clicked his pen and began writing what Sarah assumed was Richard’s name. “Has your ex-husband been bothering you?”

“Not really.”
Not before now, anyway.

“Show him your phone.” Josh nodded toward her purse.

“Mind your own business.”

“Show him, Sarah. Seth needs to see it.” They were going to have a serious discussion about that high-handed attitude of his.

Sarah handed the phone to the sheriff. He raised his eyebrows as he scrolled. “How long has this been going on?”

“I deleted his last few texts, so not long. This is the first time I’ve seen what he was sending.”

Seth gave a grim nod and handed the phone back. “I’ll have to speak to him.”

“Richard would never…”

Josh interrupted her. “You never thought Richard would send you love songs either.”

Sarah would have shrugged if she didn’t think it would hurt her shoulder muscles. “Okay, fine. Don’t expect to get much out of him.”

A side door slammed open, and a frantic man with thinning blond hair strode in. He was dressed in a white shirt and a mud-brown silk tie that had probably cost more than her car payment. “Where’s my wife?”

“Your wife?” Josh crossed his arms over his chest and stood ready to take on the newcomer.

Sarah stepped around the sheriff. “Richard?”

Chapter 6

HER
ex-husband came at her with his arms spread out to embrace her. Sarah took a quick step back and almost tripped over her own feet in her effort to deflect the gesture.

“Richard, what the hell are you doing here?”

“I’d heard you had an accident, Sarah.” He spoke slowly to her, like she was a confused child. “Of course I would check on you. You’re my wife.”

“Ex-wife.”

He waved that away, easily dismissing her words, and her. “Sheriff, what happened?”

“Why don’t you ask your
ex
-wife? She was the one in the accident.” Josh’s jaw was clenched and his eyes were narrowed, taking Richard in and obviously not liking what he saw.
Join the club
.

Richard flicked an annoyed glance at Josh. “Why don’t you concentrate on your job? Fixing my wife’s car? Isn’t that what you grease monkeys do here?”

Josh took a step forward, and Kenny held him back.

Sarah repeated, “Ex-wife,” and set a hand on her hip. “Who told you about my car? And how did you know I’d be here this morning?”

“That’s not important. What’s important is…”

“Who?” Sarah wanted to make sense out of something today.

Richard sighed in exasperation. He never liked explaining himself. “I was over at the café grabbing my usual cup of coffee, and Gracie mentioned it when she rung me up.”

“How the hell did Gracie know? I’ve only been here about fifteen minutes.” The grapevine in Madison Falls must have gotten on Wi-Fi. News was traveling faster than ever. Sarah shook her head in disgust. “What I really want to know is why would she tell
you
?”

Richard reached out to touch her shoulder, and Sarah flinched away again. It was disturbing that he thought he had the right to put his hands on her.

Josh moved past his dad to stand next to Sarah, getting in Richard’s space. They were practically toe to toe, and the difference between the two men was like night and day. One was washed out and soft and the other was Technicolor and hard. “Here’s a question. Why are you sendin’ Sarah love songs if you’re divorced?”

Richard’s practiced smile fell in feigned hurt feelings. “You showed him our song, Sarah?”

She did not want “our” anything linked with Richard. “It’s not our song anymore.”
Thank God.
“We’re over. If this is some lame attempt to bleed more money out of me, you can forget it.”
Had he always had that weak chin?
Sarah must not have noticed it before.

“Sarah, you
love
that song. It’s got your name in it.” Richard’s voice was annoyingly whiny.

“FYI, man, she
hates
that song.” Sarah didn’t need Josh to fight her battles for her, but she’d be lying if she said he didn’t look sexy doing it.

“How would you know?” Richard inspected Josh as if her were an unpleasant insect.

“I know Sarah.”
He used to.
Not anymore. He still seemed to have more of a clue than Richard.

“Is this him?” Richard kept his concentration on her when he lifted his chin toward Josh.

“Him who?” Sarah had never told Richard about Josh. She’d kept that memory painfully close to her heart. It wasn’t exactly a secret that she and Josh dated during high school. After he left town, Sarah refused to talk about him. Of course, that didn’t stop anyone else from doing so. Seeing her first lover and her last lover standing next to each other now was surreal.

Richard widened his stance and sneered, “The guy keeping my wife from taking my phone calls.”

All right, she’d had enough of Richard’s high-handed bullshit to last her a lifetime. “
I’m
the one keeping me from taking your calls, you pompous ass. I don’t have anything to say to you, so you can stop calling and texting.”

“Sarah, you’re not seeing him, are you?” The question was gasped out in disbelief.

It was on the tip of her tongue to say, “No, of course not,” until Josh rested his hand on her lower back. She’d never lied much before, but this doozy slid out easily. “Yes.” Technically, she
was
seeing Josh. He was right beside her so she looked right at him. If it got Richard off her back, so much the better. She’d deal with him for real later.

Richard’s mouth gaped as he looked at the two of them together. “No! You can’t be.”

“Yeah? Why’s that, slick?” Josh leaned in, subtly radiating enough quiet menace to make Richard take a step back.

Richard opened his mouth to say something, possibly explain himself, but the words didn’t come. This scenario was something he obviously hadn’t prepared for. The notion that he assumed she was single grated on Sarah’s nerves. Knowing he was right was a blow her ego didn’t need.

Well, Josh could be useful for something. Some hot eye candy looking possessive went a long way in salvaging her ego. She wasn’t proud of that, but there you have it.

Seth stepped between them and tapped Richard on the arm with his notebook. “If you’d step outside with me, I have some questions for you.”

Richard practically jumped out of his skin. “Me? I didn’t do anything.”

After giving her ex a bland smile, in a cordial yet steely voice, Seth said, “I’ll only need a few minutes of your time.” The sheriff gestured for Richard to precede him out the door. It wasn’t a request, and everyone knew it.

Her ex-husband turned pleading eyes on her. “Sarah, I need to talk to you. It’s important.”

“What is it?” They could get whatever it was out of the way right now so she wouldn’t have to talk to him again. She’d had her fill of Richard for the next…forever.

Richard lowered his voice in a futile attempt to keep the others from hearing him. “We can’t talk here. Can I take you to breakfast?”

“No.” Looking at him made her lose her appetite.

“Why not?” The man thought Sarah would skip along with him on a breakfast date? She
had
to be in the
Twilight Zone.
Any minute now, Rod Serling was going to pop out from behind a stack of tires.

“I already have plans with Josh.” Josh slipped his arm from her back up to her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. He knew she couldn’t shrug him off, and part of her didn’t want to.

Richard was shorter than Josh so he had to back up to look down his nose at him. It was a failed attempt. “He can wait.”

“No, he can’t, and neither can I.”
Condescending jerk.
“Go talk to the sheriff, Richard. We’re done here.”

Richard’s hand hovered over his gelled hair, making sure it was still in place. It was a nervous gesture he’d had since they’d dated in college and he’d started losing his hair. Sarah noticed the sweat stains darkening the fabric under his arm when he raised his hand to his head. That was odd. It had been a sweltering hot summer, but the garage was cool this early in the morning. Maybe he ran from the diner?

That didn’t explain the faint tremor in his fingers or, wait, was Richard wearing his wedding ring again? Sarah took a closer look. He was! It was hard to mistake. Instead of a plain gold band, he’d wanted one channel set with diamonds. Sarah thought it gaudy and was against buying it. His argument was that it wasn’t fair that she be the only one to get diamonds when they got married. He’d picked it out, and Sarah had had to make payments on it. She’d thought by now Richard would have pawned it.

When he saw Sarah notice, Richard clenched his hand into a fist and shoved it into the pocket of his slacks. “Fine. Later, then.” He made it to the door before glancing back to her. His murky brown eyes matched the shade of his tie. “I’m glad you’re okay, Sarah.” That was the only thing he had said all morning that sounded sincere.

Sarah didn’t have a response, and for once this morning, Josh kept his mouth shut too.

The sheriff gave a salute with his notebook and closed the door behind them with a soft click.

“Dick,” Josh muttered.

“Richard.”

“No, that guy’s a dick.”

* * * *

How could Sarah have been married to that arrogant little weasel?


Seriously, Sarah? Him? You married that guy?”

“No need to rub it in.” She stared at the door. “He had his good qualities.”

“I can name a few things that were probably wrong with him before. What the hell is his deal now?”

BOOK: One Last Call
2.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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