Authors: K.J. Emrick
First published in Australia by South Coast Publishing, December 2013.
Copyright K.J. Emrick (2013)
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification
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Darcy Sweet lifted her face into the cooling breeze that was blowing into the car through the open window. Her long dark hair was flying all over the place but she didn't care. She closed her eyes and just enjoyed the feeling of it.
She was tired all the way into her bones. It was a good kind of tired. After spending a wonderful long weekend in a cabin in the mountains with her boyfriend, Jon Tinker, she was ready to get back to their regular lives again. They had hiked through the forest and hills every day before collapsing exhausted into each other arms each night.
Not too exhausted to make the weekend…very memorable.
The weather had been perfect all weekend but it had been starting to turn cold and there had been a hint of snow in the air just before they had left. Summer couldn’t last forever, she mused while she idly hummed along with the radio. It had been good to get away. They’d certainly earned it after the last few months, where murder seemed to follow them like a stealthy shadow.
She let her eyes slide shut, and with a sigh, relaxed her body further back into the passenger seat. It had been a long time since she had been that physically active, but it had been fun. It turned out Jon was a bit of a nature lover, very knowledgeable about the native flora and fauna, and he’d shown her a lot of things she’d never known, even living in a rural town like Misty Hollow for a big part of her life.
After a time she opened her eyes to check on their progress. They slid shut again on their own when she realized they weren’t anywhere near to home yet. It was almost too much effort to keep them open. The road they were travelling was practically deserted this late in the evening. Between the quiet all around her and the drone of the tires on the roadway, she could feel herself drifting toward sleep. She decided not to fight it if it came. She felt safe with Jon driving. She felt safe with him in everything.
She sighed when she felt Jon’s hand settle on her knee. Lazily, she opened her eyes to look over at him.
“About another hour, Sweet Baby,” he said quietly to her.
She smiled at him. “Sweet Baby” was his new nickname for her. It had been something that he came up with this weekend, a long story that had led to his calling her that during a very, very passionate moment. It made her smile and blush to remember it.
She was disappointed that their weekend had to end so soon. There would be others, she knew, but they would have to work them into their schedule of work and private life. She sighed, wishing there could be more time for just the two of them.
As if sensing her mood, he squeezed her leg and said, “We’ll go away together again very soon.”
His hand felt good on her leg. Maybe when they got home, she’d be awake enough to let him put his hands on her some more. She could feel her cheeks heating at the thought. He definitely brought out a side of her that few men had ever been able to. She liked that about him.
She drifted off to sleep with thoughts of Jon creating vivid dreams to occupy her mind as he drove them home.
As Darcy was unpacking her suitcase the next morning her black and white cat, Smudge, jumped up onto the bed and planted himself right in the middle of the clothes she was trying to pile neatly on the bed. He sat and glared at her, his green eyes flashing.
“Don’t give me that look, Smudge. It’s not like I left you completely alone to fend for yourself. Grace was here every day to feed you and I know she spent time with you, whether you want to admit it or not, so you can just stop pouting.”
She knew he was upset with her for leaving him for the weekend, not to mention kicking him out of bed last night while she and Jon...said goodbye. Smudge had definitely been a little jealous that she was spending so much time with Jon these days. For a long time now, it had just been her and Smudge in this big old house her aunt had left her. He had been her best friend in the world, the only one that really understood her. He would just need some time to get used to there being someone else in her life.
Darcy pulled the clothes out from underneath him when he refused to budge. He rolled over with a surprised mewl and with one last dirty look jumped off the bed. He ran out of the room with his tail held high.
Darcy shook her head and grinned as she threw the last of her dirty clothes in the laundry basket. She heard Jon turn off the shower just as she was leaving the bedroom to head downstairs to make breakfast. She considered peeking in on him, but gave him his privacy instead. For now.
Downstairs she got the box of powdered pancake mix out along with the quart of milk. She mixed everything together and poured it out into the pan and then waited for it to bubble. She was happily whistling a little tune as she flipped the pancakes when Jon finally came down into the kitchen. It was still before eight o’clock, but it was a Monday and both of them had work to get to today.
He came up behind her as she was cooking and wrapped his arms around her from behind. He dropped a kiss on the slope of her shoulder as she leaned into him. “Good morning beautiful,” Jon’s voice trembled along her neck.
“Good morning to you too,” she said. “Careful, you’ll make me burn these.” She didn’t try to move him away though as she took up the last pancake and stacked it onto the plate. Turning in his arms, she kissed him quickly.
They sat down at her small dining room table with cups of coffee and plates of pancakes. Pouring syrup on hers in random patterns, Darcy sighed loudly.
He looked at her with those bright blue eyes and raised his eyebrows in a question. “So, did you think about my question?”
Yes. She certainly had. He was so darn cute with an errant lock of his dark hair flopping down over his forehead and she couldn’t squelch the urge to reach across the table to push it back into place.
He grinned at her as he captured her hand. “Don’t try to distract me,” he said to her. “What do you think about us moving in together?”
Darcy shrugged and said, “I’m not avoiding the question. Believe me, I thought about it a lot this weekend. I’m just not sure how it would work with our two schedules and you having to do your police detective things and, I mean, what would everyone think?”
"That I'm a lucky guy?" She thought he was trying to lighten the mood but it fell flat. He looked at her intently and she couldn't work out what he was thinking. After a long moment he sighed and said, "That sounds a bit like an excuse to me." His eyes bored into her while he waited for her to respond.
She took a deep breath and said, "Okay, you're right. I'm just not sure about it. Don't get me wrong I like the idea of living with you but I'm also a bit apprehensive about such a big commitment." She screwed her face up as she tried to get her point across without offending him. "You know I was married and that relationship didn't turn out so great. I guess I just want to be sure this time. We haven’t really known each other that long.”
She could see he was considering her words. His eyes softened as he quietly said, "Feels like I’ve known you forever…” Darcy’s heart stuttered at his words but before she could say anything he continued, “But okay, I admit the idea was spur of the moment. Things are going really well with us though, don’t you think?” He said as he finished off the last of his pancakes.
“Of course I do. We’re…we’re good together.” She couldn’t quite meet his eyes. After she had divorced her ex-husband, there had been nights that she wondered if she’d ever find a man to share her life with again. Or ever want to, considering how she and Jeff had parted company. With Jon, though, it was like everything worked. They’d had their problems, to be sure, in a big way. They’d worked through it all, though, and they knew everything about each other’s lives. It was as solid a foundation for a lasting relationship as she was ever likely to find.
“Okay, so then what’s worrying you?” he pressed. “We’ve been through murder together. Literally.”
“I know, and now everything is settling back to normal life and I love that about us, Jon, I really do.” She stood up and took both their plates to the sink, bending down to kiss his ear as she passed him and whisper, “Just give me a little more time with it, okay?”
She hoped that would be enough for him. True, the little town of Misty Hollow had become a nightmare for weeks on end. That was all past them now, and even the trouble that always seemed to follow Darcy around had let her be for a while now.
Somewhere in the back of her head, though, that little voice kept nagging at her: “Yeah, but for how long?” Trouble seemed to find her even if she wasn’t looking for it.
Darcy unlocked the front door to the Sweet Read bookstore and swung it open as she went inside. She flipped the sign over from “CLOSED, THE END” to “OPEN a good book today” and then dumped her purse and tote bag on the desk small office near the back of the store. She had closed the store for the long weekend while she was away and even though it had only been four days it felt like forever. There was so much to do to get the place back to how she wanted it. She grabbed a duster and walked all around, cleaning and making sure everything was in order.
It was very peaceful inside the store at this time of morning and she soaked it up. There had been too much upheaval in the last few months and she was glad it was finally back to normal, or as normal as it could be for her. She reminded herself that Jon coming into her life had been part of that upheaval. So it hadn’t been all bad.
A little while later Darcy was busy rearranging a display shelf of books, bringing out ones that dealt with Halloween and Christmas, when her one and only employee Sue Fisher arrived at work.