≡≡≡continued from here≡≡≡
Of course, as I’m shoving the car door shut with my hip, Rufus’ aluminum water bowl goes clanging to the pavement with all of the subtlety of a gunshot. My eyes immediately raise toward Steve who has stopped, tilted his beige hat upward slightly, and is studying me. After all this time, I wonder if he recognizes me. The quick shake of his head tells me, why, yes, he does remember the cousin of the woman who broke his heart.
I pick up Rufus’ bowl, hurry to the door of my temporary home, and try to negotiate the handle with my full hands.
“Here, let me,” Steve says. “You weren’t planning on saying hello?”
I look up at him. Those glacial blue eyes haven’t changed; they are still perceptive and verging on a territory between being frosty and blue hot. I wince. “I didn’t know if you wanted to talk to me.”
“Why are you here?” he asks.
“No, I mean, here. In this building.”
“You can say her name. I don’t melt when I hear it.”
“Okay. Mandy said her friends were taking in a few evacuees and that this would be safe, and she trusted them and—”
“I get it. I’m not sure I like it, but I get it.”
“What don’t you like? Me? Being here? In your town?”
He shakes his head and then smiles. “You’re always welcome. No, sometimes the goings on here are a bit strange.”
“Who you callin’ strange, Deputy Sherriff?” Lyle asks as he approaches down the dimly lit corridor.
“Hello, Lyle. How are you doing?” Steve asks.
I feel the temperature in the room drop about forty degrees, which isn’t my imagination and which, I’m more than willing to take a huge bet on, is due to Cousin Mandy. Lyle and Steve exchange a monosyllabic conversation in what I believe is the verbal edition of a pissing contest. They both stand ramrod straight. Their voices are pinched. Inside, I smile ruefully, what did you do here, Mandy?
“You know Waffle Butt?” Lyle asks.
“Waffle Butt?” Steve repeats while my telltale flush again creeps over my face, forever the curse of being a redhead. Steve glances at me and then I see recognition flicker through his eyes. “That one time at the diner—”
“Yep. That would be it.”
Steve grins. “I’ve known Waffle Butt for about fifteen years. She started life as Lyndsey Sue, which is a damn sight prettier than Waffle Butt.”
All the time that he’s saying this and staring at me, everything inside me skitters, jolts, and pirouettes because his voice makes me remember why I fell in love with him in the first place and why a part of me never forgave Mandy for being the prettiest man-bulldozer this side of the Mississippi.
“Yep, but not quite as funny,” Lyle says. “Don’t stick around too long, Deputy Sheriff. You tend to make people uncomfortable.”
Steve squints. “If no one’s done anything wrong, there’s no reason to be uncomfortable,” he says drawing ‘uncomfortable’ out as Lyle had done.
Lyle doesn’t respond, which makes me wonder exactly what I’ve gotten myself into…or rather, what Mandy has gotten me into.
≡≡≡to be continued≡≡≡
FYI for future installments this will be under the category Don’t Worry Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright