Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 13

“Would you meet me somewhere for coffee?”

My stomach fluttered in anticipation, but my head told it to be still. Mason was using his business voice. This wasn’t about us. “Sure. Merilee’s?”

“Not this time. How about the new coffee shop south of town, The Coffee House. Do you know where it is?”

“Yeah,” I said, still confused. “But I have to run by a job, so I’ll be in my work clothes.”

“That’s okay. I just need to talk to you and the sooner the better. Can you meet me in about thirty minutes?”

“I was about to leave, so I can meet you in fifteen.”

“See you there.”

After I put Muffy in the bathroom, I drove across town, anxiety prickling the hair on the back of my neck. Why did he sound so business-like? Had he changed his mind and decided to tell me he was moving on?

I pulled into the parking lot, recognizing Mason’s car several spots away. A patch of new houses and businesses had sprung up south of town over the last few years, and Violet’s neighborhood was part of the transformation. The Coffee House had opened after our nursery and had replaced us as the most buzzed about new business. For a town a full hour from the nearest Starbucks, an establishment that specialized in espresso drinks was a big deal.

Mason stood outside the front door, wearing a dark suit and looking more handsome than ever. It made me blush to realize that I noticed. “Thanks for meeting me, Rose.”

“You know I wouldn’t refuse you anything.”

He had opened the door for me, and I was walking through it when he stared down into my eyes. The longing in his gaze stole my breath away. “Be careful or I’ll take you up on that sooner than I intended.”

A shiver ran down my back and I let my imagination wander to what that might entail, which surprised me even more. This morning was full of shocks.

We walked up to the counter and placed our orders, then stood at the end of the counter waiting for our drinks.

“So…are you going to tell me why you asked me here?”

“Can’t I just ask you to coffee?”

“Well, yesterday we decided we would spend more time together as friends. And I definitely would have still come if it was just a friendly invitation. But your Mason Deveraux III, assistant DA voice convinced me this was something other than a coffee date.”

“No wonder you solve so many mysteries,” Mason teased as he took our cups from the barista. But I noticed his smile didn’t reach his eyes, and his shoulders were tense. “You pay attention to the details.”

We found a table next to the window that overlooked the parking lot. Once we were settled, I couldn’t shake my nerves. Why would Mason ask to see me over here about something DA-related?

My stomach fell to my feet. What if it was about Bruce Wayne?

“So what’s up, Mason?” I tried to keep my voice from quivering.

He took a breath, his forehead wrinkling with concern. “I wanted you to hear this from me first.”

The seriousness of his expression left me lightheaded. “What?” I whispered.

“There was a prison break last night.”

My eyes flew open. “Miss Rhonda escaped?” Mason had promised me weeks ago that if Jonah’s mother ever got out of jail, he’d make sure to tell me as soon as he knew. Only after I said the words did I realize I’d used her fake name. “Does Jonah know?” I could only imagine how upset he’d be.

He shook his head, looking even more worried. “No, not Wanda Pruitt.”

“Then who? Why are you telling me in person—?” I sank back into my chair as the truth hit me like an anvil.

Daniel Crocker.

“The sheriff’s office is following several leads and the state police are also part of the manhunt.” He reached across the table and took my hand. “They’ll catch him, Rose.”

I nodded in shock, clinging to his fingers.

“He’s probably miles away. He’s had enough time to leave the state, so I’m sure you have nothing to worry about, but I wanted you to hear it from me. I’m sure you’re safe, but as a precaution, the police are going to increase their patrols of your neighborhood.”

“Like that’s done me any good in the past.” I pulled my hand from Mason’s and forced myself to take a sip of my coffee, which was so hot it burned my tongue. “How sure are you that he’s left the state?”

“My friend Jeff at the sheriff’s office is very sure. Their most solid lead points to Shreveport.”

“Not the sheriff’s department. You. Do you think he left the state?”

Mason grabbed his cup and spun it in his hand. “I don’t have a good handle on the guy. I read all of his files after you told me that his former associates threatened you last month. The smart thing for him to do would be to leave the state.”

“You still haven’t given me an answer.”

“All of the law enforcement offices are certain he’s left, but they’re neglecting to take into consideration that he’s a psychopath. And from my experience, psychopaths never behave as they should.”

“So you think he could still be around the area.”

His eyes searched mine. “I don’t know. Maybe. So I need you to report anything unusual. A phone call. Anything strange that makes you uneasy.”

“The decorations on my front porch were destroyed last night. But I’m fairly certain that my neighbor Thomas and his friends did it.”

Prev Next