Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 48

I nodded and he left me staring out at the acres and acres of land that belonged to me. While I’d used some of the money from my inheritance for the nursery, I’d ignored the farm until a shortage of liquid assets had made me consider selling it. But as much as I hated to admit it, I felt an immediate sense of belonging here.

“There are three more bedrooms and two bathrooms,” Mason called out. “You can pick whichever room you’d like to use, but there’s a bigger bedroom in the back that looks like it’s the master with a canopy bed.”

“Muffy would love it here,” I said, looking down at the overgrown bushes in the yard. I was already starting to come up with a landscape design.

Mason pulled me into his arms, searching my face. “What about you? How do you feel about being here?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

A car came down the gravel drive, sending dust flying into the air. I tensed, but Mason kissed my temple. “Don’t worry. That’s probably just one of the deputies with our things.”

I looked up at him in surprise.

“After I finished at my office last night, a deputy took me to my condo and your house to get some clothes and personal items. I called the sheriff’s department to ask you what you wanted but you were already asleep and I didn’t want to wake you. So I guessed.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure you did fine.”

“We’ll find out soon enough. Let’s go on down. There’s a surprise for you.”

I couldn’t imagine what it might be, but when we descended the stairs and I opened the front door, I saw a brown streak bolt from the car and head straight for an overgrown azalea bush.

“Muffy?”

I pushed the screen door open and ran outside, right past Deputy Miller. My little dog’s head popped up and she bolted to me, jumping onto my lap when I squatted.

Mason followed me and stopped at the bottom of the steps. “I knew you were missing her, so I asked Jeff to have someone pick her up from Violet’s house.”

Muffy licked my face and I stood, holding her in my arms. “Thank you,” I pushed past the lump in my throat.

His smile faltered. “Rose, you should know that the sheriff put Violet and her kids into protective custody.” He saw the panic in my eyes and put a comforting hand on my shoulder. “They weren’t threatened in any way, but he wants to be on the safe side.”

I took a deep breath and nodded. “That’s good, right?”

“Yes.”

The new deputy opened the trunk of his unmarked car and lifted out a box. I noticed the car that had brought Mason was already gone.

Mason smiled down at me. “Why don’t you let Muffy learn her way around, and I’ll help the deputy take our things in?”

“Okay.” I put Muffy down and followed her around the entire perimeter of the house while Mason and the new deputy carried in boxes and a couple of pieces of luggage. I recognized one of them as my own.

Deputy Miller was still standing on the front porch, dividing his time between watching us and the drive. “Your dog is cute. What’s his name?”

“Muffy. And she’s a she.” I put a hand on my hip, wondering if he was making fun of her. “You really think she’s cute?”

“Well, yeah.” He looked confused by my question.

I was fairly certain he was the first person to ever have called her cute. I liked him already.

After Muffy had sniffed everything twice and run out of surfaces to pee on, I took her inside. Mason was in the kitchen with the man who had brought our things.

“Rose, this is Deputy Fitzgerald. He’s one of the five men who will be rotating on and off duty.”

“Good morning, Deputy.” I reached my hand toward him and he shook it. “Thank you so much for bringing my dog along with our things.”

“No trouble, ma’am.” Muffy sniffed at the deputy’s feet and he gave her an annoyed look before returning his gaze to me. “Well, I need to get going. This is the biggest manhunt in Fenton County history since the horse thief ring of 1884 and we need all available men.”

Mason shook his hand. “Thank you, Deputy. With any luck at all, he’ll be captured before you’re scheduled to report for duty here at the farm.”

Deputy Fitzgerald grimaced. “The way Crocker’s hidden, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

I shivered and Mason wrapped an arm around my waist as we watched the deputy leave.

“Don’t listen to him, Rose. Sheriff Foster himself assured me they were following up on several solid leads.”

Maybe so, but I was inclined to believe Deputy Fitzgerald. “What’s in the boxes?”

“Food.”

My eyebrows rose.

“We have a working kitchen.” We both took in the dusty mess. “Well, almost working, so I figured we could cook.”

“Good idea.”

The refrigerator wasn’t working so we pulled it away from the wall and I squeezed behind it, searching for the electrical cord. After I plugged it in, I shimmied out of the space, dusty but grateful to hear the humming of the motor.

“I feel like I’ve stepped back into the mid-twentieth century,” Mason mumbled, gesturing to the vintage cabinet and the laminate counters.

“That’s because you have. No one’s lived here in over twenty years.”

“I can’t believe all of this is yours and you just found out a few months ago.”

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