Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 20

“I wish I was.” She sighed and pressed her back to the wall again. “Aren’t you worried?”

“It makes me nervous knowing he’s on the loose, but Mason says the state police think he’s in Louisiana.” I paused. “Mason is taking this afternoon off from work to come to the press conference and spend the rest of the day with me.”

“Aww…”

I shook my head, but I couldn’t stop my grin.

“Will you just date the guy already?”

“I can’t, Neely Kate. Not yet.”

“I’m an old married woman now. I need to live vicariously though you.”

I laughed and bumped into her arm. “Yeah, you’re about to hit your four-month anniversary. That’s like forever.”

“When time does Joe show up?”

“I don’t know.” My chest tightened and my heart sped up. “I think right before one.”

“How are you doing? Really?”

I took a deep breath. “Honestly, I’m scared to see Joe. I don’t know what he’s going to say or do. He might ignore me for all I know.”

“The way you look? There’s no way that man could ignore you. I’m glad you’re showing him what he walked away from.”

“That’s not why I wore this.”

“I know. You don’t have a manipulative bone in your body. I think Violet got all the bitchy genes.”

“Neely Kate!” I chastised, but I couldn’t hold back my laughter.

“So what are you supposed to do at this thing anyway?”

“I have no idea how this works. I think I’ll hide back here until someone comes looking for me.”

“Good idea. Better steer clear of Violet right now, though. She’ll be on a war path.” Neely Kate moaned and leaned her head against the building, closing her eyes. “Something is not agreeing with me.”

“Still not feeling well?” I asked, worried about her. Neely Kate rarely complained of physical ailments.

“It’s probably those dog-gone hot wings. My grandmother made me take her to Big Bill’s Barbeque for buffalo hot wings last night and then to the VFW for bingo night.” She shot me a pretend glare. “Since it was Halloween and you were with your niece and nephew, I couldn’t use you as an excuse to get out of it.”

“Surely it’s not that bad.”

“Fine. Next week you go with her and help her set out all her good luck charms just so. Then every time she gets any kind of bingo, she tells everyone she’s a psychic and she knew she was gonna win. By the end of the night, she has several new clients for her psychic readings.”

“Do you think she’s really psychic?”

“I used to kinda believe. Until I met you.” She laughed. “In any case, those damn hot wings are my curse. Not only do they send my guts into a panic whenever they’re within ten feet of my mouth, but they seem to do the same to my grandma. Yet she still won’t give ’em up. Not even after the time she took them to the Maryville Southern Baptist Church Valentine’s Sweetheart Potluck and tried to pass ’em off as her own.” She shook her head with a laugh. “Oh, my word! The uproar! The church board had to call an emergency meeting to see about getting her kicked off the ladies auxiliary.”

We giggled over her grandmother’s antics for another twenty minutes before the back door opened and Mason poked his head around the corner.

“So this is where you two are hiding? Is it just me, or does Violet seem even more tense than usual?”

“It’s not just you.” Neely Kate laughed. “You missed the fireworks.”

Mason’s gaze shifted to the back room to see what he might have missed.

I walked toward him. “I’ll tell you about it later. Is Jonah out front?”

“I didn’t see him, but I wasn’t looking for him, either. I was more worried about finding you.”

“I take it that means they haven’t captured Daniel Crocker yet?”

“No, but they’re still pretty confident that they’ve tracked him to Shreveport.”

“That’s what you said this morning.”

“I’m sorry.” He grimaced apologetically. “I wish I had better news. Just get through this press conference, and then how about I take you to Magnolia for the rest of the day? We can see a movie and eat dinner. It’ll take your mind off of everything.”

I smiled up at him, my stomach fluttering. “I’d like that.”

Neely Kate moved behind Mason and waggled her eyebrows at me with a lascivious smirk. I shot her a glare.

Keeping his eyes on mine, Mason grinned. “You’re not helping, Neely Kate.”

She laughed and disappeared through the open back door.

Mason let it close behind her, hesitating. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I nodded. Part of me didn’t want to, but I needed to for so many more reasons.

Too bad that didn’t make me any less nervous.

He stared into my eyes, his smile fading. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, Rose.”

“Me too.”

Chapter Seven

When we went back inside, Muffy found her bed in the corner of the back room and hunkered down. I wondered if my little dog could see the future too, but it didn’t take a psychic reading to know things were about to get even tenser. I found Violet in a huddle of several people I didn’t recognize, all wearing suits and business attire. Her head swiveled as I emerged from the back room, and she shot me a glare. All the customers had vanished.

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