Thirty-Two and a Half Complications Page 14

I wasn’t so sure about that, but I had no desire to contradict him. When Joe was working for the state police in Little Rock, he’d applied to get a regular deputy job so he could be with me in Henryetta. The long distance, along with a host of other issues, had been hard on our relationship. But pure happiness had leaked out of Joe when he told me about applying for the position. Something had told me that he truly wanted the job and wasn’t just doing it for me. But then I’d believed a lot of things about Joe that had turned out not to be true. I gave myself a mental shake. Joe’s happiness or unhappiness in his current career was no longer my concern.

Mason shifted me on his lap. “I can send him a list of parameters based on the description you gave me and ask for him to send me the mug shots, but he’ll want to know why I’m calling him. He won’t cooperate unless I tell him…and I won’t lie, Rose.”

The unfinished like him hung in the air. I had no intention of asking Mason to jeopardize his integrity. “And if we find the guy in the mug shots, what will we do? It’s not like we have any definitive proof. Are we wasting our time?”

“Unless the money they took from you changed your vision, they didn’t get enough loot for whatever purpose they have. Like I told you, they’re probably going to rob something else. Another bank. A store.” He took my hand in his. “They had guns, Rose. One of the guys got physical with you, and I suspect you haven’t told me everything that happened. What if he really hurts someone next time?” Worry filled his eyes. “Not to mention that you said he threatened you if you told anyone about them. What if they figure out who you are? They have your deposit bag. I bet there was a deposit slip in there with the name of your business, right?”

My already queasy stomach started to churn. I hadn’t even thought of that. “Yeah.”

“So no, we’re not wasting our time. We need to ID this guy as soon as we can. And once we find him, Joe will help figure out a reason to make the arrest. We just need to piece things together before they strike again. And maybe hurt someone this time.” He hesitated.

“Go ahead and say it.”

“I’m worried that they might come looking for you. In fact, I’m thinking about asking the sheriff’s department to send out a patrol to check on your house when I’m not there.”

“Don’t do that. You know who will volunteer for the job.”

“Your safety comes first, Rose.”

I groaned. What a mess. “I really don’t want to see him.”

“I don’t want you to have to see him, but you know he’ll insist on it, patrol or no patrol. Once he realizes I’m pulling those mug shots for you, he won’t send them to me. He’ll insist you come to him.”

I felt like I was going to throw up. “You’re sure there’s not another way?”

“None that I can think of. Believe me, I’d rather keep him out of this too, but I don’t think we have much of a choice.”

I swallowed and nodded, turning to look out the window.

“Talk to me, Rose.”

“You’re right. I don’t want to see him, but I need you to know that it’s not because I still want him...” I turned back to face him.

“I do know that.”

“I just felt like everything was finally settling down.” I gave him a grim smile. “But I can be a grownup. I can do this.”

“Do you want to be with me when I call him?”

I shook my head. “No. Just tell me when and where I’m supposed to go after you talk to him.” I stood, pulling free from his grasp. “I need to get back to work.”

“Rose.” He reached out and grabbed my hand again. “Don’t be upset with me.”

“I’m not upset with you. I promise.” I leaned over and kissed him. “How late do you think you’ll be at work tonight? I can fix us something to eat.”

“I’m not sure yet. I want to work on that case I was telling you about, but I can do that in the office at the farmhouse. Don’t go to any trouble with dinner.”

“Call me when you know something.”

“Okay.”

I left Mason’s office and took the staircase down to the first floor of the courthouse, heading for the personal property department. My best friend Neely Kate was sitting at her desk behind the counter, her usually long, fluffy blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her face was practically bare of makeup—very unlike her—and she was eating a saltine. Her coworker was noticeably absent, and I was happy we were alone.

Her eyes widened when she saw me come through the door. “Hey, Rose. You here seeing Mason?” she asked.

Her question made me feel guilty. I used to come to the courthouse to see her. Now she was a secondary reason. “I wanted to see you too. Sorry that I’ve been busy.”

“Please.” Her nails were painted in light teal and white stripes. “You have no idea how happy I am that you two are together. But I will admit to missin’ you.”

“How about lunch tomorrow? If you’re up to it, that is. How’s the morning sickness?”

She put a hand on her stomach. “Not so great. But I can handle lunch. Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from spending time with you.”

“I guess Violet was lucky. She never had much morning sickness.”

Neely Kate’s eyebrows lifted. “If that was some lame attempt to make me feel better—or make me feel worse—keep it to yourself.” She released a low chuckle. “I had no idea that the minute you announce that you’re pregnant, every woman in a two-block radius feels the need to share each excruciating—” her eyes pierced mine “—and I do mean excruciating, details about her pregnancy.” She shook her head and quirked her brow at me. “I’m tellin’ you, the Eastern Fenton County High School had their abstinence program all wrong. What they should have done was bring in a few of the women I’ve encountered to tell their stories to the student body. Then we’d have a negative population growth.”

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