Every Little Thing

Page 28


Thank God.
Never in my life did I think I’d be grateful for Vaughn Tremaine’s presence but I was. In fact I was beyond grateful. I didn’t know if it was adrenaline or shock or what . . . but I was a turned-on kind of grateful.
“Well . . . thanks,” I whispered, unable to look at him.
If I looked at him, he’d know I was imagining stripping that gorgeous dark red sweater right off of him. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eyes. He’d rolled up the sleeves of the sweater, revealing tan corded forearms.
I had this thing about strong forearms and nice hands on a guy.
Vaughn had both.
I bit my lip at the sight and tried to pull myself together.
What the hell!
It’s the adrenaline, I assured myself.
The sound of my garden gate swinging open sent relief through me. A much-needed distraction in the form of Sheriff King entered my inn.
Jeff King had been voted into office the same year my mother’s good friend Jaclyn Rose was voted into office as mayor. Jeff was rugged, competent, fair, an all-around good guy and sheriff. He was also widowed. His wife had passed away of cancer eight years ago and the women of Hartwell had been sniffing around him ever since. Without much luck.
Dahlia had a fling with him a number of years ago, and I think Jeff had liked her. Unfortunately, she was the wrong woman to start over with. I’d been frustrated, a little annoyed even, when Dahlia broke things off with him—until I remembered my friend was too good at punishing herself. And also that she gave her heart away to someone else a long time ago, even if she refused to admit it.
The sight of Jeff calmed me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t feel safe. I felt safe with Vaughn standing beside me. But I didn’t feel calm. There was nothing calming about being this attracted to a man I wasn’t even sure I liked very much.
“Jeff,” I said. “I mean Sheriff.” I always forgot to call him that when he was on duty.
At six feet five, the tall, broad-shouldered police officer seemed to fill the entire space. And I was okay with that. I liked his powerful presence right then more than I could say.
“Hey, Bailey.” Deputy Wendy Rollins stepped into the inn, glancing around, taking everything in. Wendy had been part of our police force for twenty years, and was another good friend of my mom’s.
I smiled, glad she was there, too. “Sorry to call you guys out so late.”
“Don’t be sorry.” She frowned. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”
“Crime scene?” Jeff asked.
“Her office,” Vaughn replied. “I was taking a walk, saw her doors open, thought I’d check it out. And I caught Stu Devlin attacking her in her office.”
Wendy scowled, swallowing what I knew were probably a few choice words, while Jeff looked taken aback. “Stu Devlin? Positive ID?”
“No.” I shook my head, furious. “He was wearing a mask.”
“Then how do you know it was Stu?”
“Oh, come on, Sheriff, I’ve known him my whole life.”
He sighed. “Show me to the office and explain everything from the start.”
I did just that, and was comforted by the fact that Vaughn stayed by my side throughout the whole thing.
Thirty minutes later, Jeff and Wendy had our statements and were standing in the garden of the inn.
“I’ll have one of the deputies drop by tomorrow morning to get statements from your guests at breakfast,” Jeff said.
“Thank God I already offered them free food,” I muttered, put out that my guests would have to be even more inconvenienced.
Vaughn’s hand settled on my arm and I looked down at it, shocked by the touch, as I listened to him say to Jeff, “And Stu?”
“All I can do is bring him in for questioning but without a positive ID from anyone I don’t have a lot to go on.”
“That’s bullshit.”
“Tremaine,” Jeff warned. “It’s not that I don’t believe you. I’ll do what I can. I promise. Bailey, is there anything else I should know that might help me? Bailey?”
“Huh?” I jerked my head up from staring at Vaughn’s hand. “Oh. No. Not that I can think of right now. If I do, I’ll drop by the station.”
“Get some sleep.” Jeff nodded and turned to leave.
I waved good-bye to him and Wendy and then turned to Vaughn. I was more awake than ever, and I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I didn’t really want to be alone right now. “You should get back.”
He scrutinized me for a moment, and it was as if he could read my mind. “I spotted a bottle of wine in your office that managed to escape destruction. Want to open it? It might calm your nerves.”
I was more than a little surprised by the offer, and also touched. I was seeing the other side to Vaughn Tremaine that Jess swore was there. Maybe she was right. “Do you want to drink it on the beach? The water always soothes me.”
He nodded, amiable.
Actually amiable.
I hid my shock as best as I could. “I . . . uh . . . Let me change first.”
Vaughn’s eyes drifted over my skimpy attire and he looked pissed off all over again. “You do that,” he muttered, striding off in the direction of my office.
“Well this is going to be interesting,” I murmured. I held the collar of his jacket to my nose and took a whiff. My stomach fluttered of its own volition at the smell of his cologne. Oh, holy hell. “Very interesting.”