Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 15

“I’ll get a postponement. With Crocker loose, I’ll just worry about you all day anyway. If you don’t mind having a shadow today, I’d like to be there to support you.”

The thought of spending the day with Mason made me happier than I’d expected. “You don’t have to, Mason.”

“I know, but I want to. There’s a difference.”

“Okay then.” As grateful as I was to have Mason by my side, I couldn’t neglect the fact that Bruce Wayne probably had no one. I needed to figure out where he was and all the evidence was pointing to the one place in town where I definitely wasn’t welcome. “I have an appointment with Jonah later this morning. At the church.” I hated lying to him, but it couldn’t be helped. Bruce Wayne disappearing within twenty-four hours of Daniel Crocker’s escape from prison was too big of a coincidence to ignore. And while I still wasn’t ready to tell Mason, I felt safe telling Jonah, especially since he ran a program for troubled youths who were mentored by rehabilitated criminals. Jonah had access to resources I didn’t.

“How about you talk to Jonah, and I’ll meet you at the nursery around noon. But tell Bruce Wayne what’s going on and make sure he’s with you at any job sites today. You really shouldn’t be alone.”

Mason was right. The fact that Daniel Crocker was running around loose freaked me out more than I cared to admit. “That might be a problem. Bruce Wayne has called in sick every day since last week.”

He paused. “Is he okay?”

“I don’t know. David told me that he thinks it might be bronchitis.” Technically, it wasn’t a lie.

“So you’re working alone? That’s not a good idea.”

“I know. But there’s nothing too pressing that can’t wait. We were supposed to start building a retaining wall today, but I’d barely have time to get started before I’d have to leave to get ready for the press conference.”

“Good.” He glanced at his watch and grimaced. “I’d love nothing more than to spend the morning with you, but if I’m taking the afternoon off, I need to get some work done.”

I nodded, hating the fact he was taking off work because of me.

“Rose, don’t feel guilty.” He laughed when my eyes widened. “What? You think I don’t know how much you hate inconveniencing people? Just remember this: It’s not an inconvenience for me. I’m grateful for an excuse to spend the afternoon with you. Even if the situation is less than ideal.”

He walked me to my truck and stood in front of me, pushing my back against the driver’s side door. Being this close to him made my heart beat faster.

“Be careful, Rose,” he murmured, tucking a piece of my hair behind my ear. “I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.”

“I don’t intend to let anything happen to me.”

A grin lifted his mouth. “You’re like a cat with nine lives, but don’t press your luck. You have great instincts. Listen to them. If you feel like you’re in a dangerous situation, call 911. Even if you don’t think the police will help, they’ll do their job. I promise.”

“I will.”

He reached around and opened my door. “I’ll see you at the nursery around noon.”

As Mason took off for the courthouse, I checked my cell phone for any missed calls and tried calling Bruce Wayne again, getting his voice mail. “Bruce Wayne, I know Daniel Crocker escaped from prison. If you’re in some kind of trouble, please just call me so I can help.” I hung up, feeling like my pathetic efforts were a waste of time. Maybe it was time to tell Mason. After all, Bruce Wayne could be in real danger. But Mason had just told me to listen to my instincts, and they were telling me not to let the police know just yet.

At the moment, my best hope for an ally was in the pastor’s office of the New Living Hope Revival Church.

Chapter Five

Every time I walked into the main office of Jonah’s church, I always stopped and blinked when I saw the secretary who looked nothing like Miss Rhonda, aka Wanda Pruitt. His new secretary was much younger than the older women who loved to flock to him. Jonah definitely had a way with the grandmothers of our town, but the scandalous rumors had no truth to them. The older women were lonely and Jonah spent time with them, actually listening, which came as no surprise to me. He’d listened to me for weeks before we officially called it therapy.

“Hi, Jessica. Is Jonah in his office?”

The young woman looked up at me with a fake smile. Her bleached blonde hair was big and curly and her shirt was tighter than necessary and slightly inappropriate for a church office. She’d arranged little knick-knacks around the office, and a candle burned on her desk, filling the room with the scent of snickerdoodle cookies. “I’ll let him know you’re here.” But she didn’t look happy about it.

She pressed her intercom button and Jonah’s office door opened within seconds.

A toothy, too-white smile spread across his face as he leaned against the door jamb. “What’s the wonderful smell?”

Turning in her seat, Jessica beamed. “That’s my candle, Jonah. But I brought you some cookies. Would you like some?”

He rubbed his stomach. “I’m gonna gain ten pounds if you keep bringing in those delicious baked goods.” He turned his attention to me. “Rose, what’s the pleasure of this visit? I thought we were seeing each other at my house tomorrow afternoon.”

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