Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 47

I glanced at the front of the car and noticed the deputy was watching me in the rearview mirror.

He smiled. “It shouldn’t take much longer.”

“Thanks.” I leaned my head against the window.

“I’m Deputy Miller and I’ll be on watch today.”

“Nice to meet you, Deputy Miller. I’m Rose.” But he already knew that. I took another look at him. It was hard to get a full-fledged impression, since I could see little more than the back of his head, but his eyes looked kind in the mirror and he didn’t seem to hate me. Both were steps in the right direction.

Neither of us spoke as he drove for several miles on the two-lane road before turning onto another county road and driving for several more miles past a few farms and sections of untouched woods. Finally he turned onto a one-lane gravel road, the entrance nearly hidden by overgrown tree branches.

“So far, so good,” the deputy said, looking in his rearview mirror. He dropped his speed to keep from flinging gravel. “It’ll work in our favor that the drive is so hard to find.”

My stomach twisted into a knot as the tree branches thinned and a clearing spread out before us, a war of emotions stirring inside me. With all the commotion and stress, I hadn’t really had time to absorb the fact that this would be my first visit to my birth mother’s home.

A two-story, white clapboard, Victorian-style farmhouse sat at the end of the drive, the other sheriff’s car parked in front of it. A large red barn with a wooden fence enclosure was situated several hundred feet behind the house on top of a small hill. Several acres of overgrown fields lay to the left of the farmhouse and several acres behind the house was a gently sloping hill covered in evergreen trees.

The deputy pulled up next to the other car. I climbed out and shut the door, staring at the front porch that wrapped around the right side of the house. Mason was already standing on the porch, surveying the land, but he came down the steps and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “What do you think?”

I had wanted to hate it out of anger. Dora hadn’t chosen to die, but my childhood had been ruined after her death. I recognized the ridiculousness of my reaction, but that didn’t change the way I felt. Still, as I stared at the peeling paint of the Victorian-style house, my anger started to fade. “I’m reserving judgment.”

“Fair enough.” He spun around and took in the circular drive. “But this is an amazing safe house. We’re completely secluded here with open space all around the house. And from the looks of it, there’s only one way in and out. It couldn’t be more perfect,” he said and whistled.

Well, I was glad something was going our way.

When we walked onto the porch, I realized we had a problem. I turned to Mason, who was still looking all around, absorbing the details of the place. “I don’t have the keys.”

“I’ve got a couple of sets,” Deputy Miller said, walking up behind us. “Once we determined it was a safe location, we had a locksmith come out to change the locks.”

I got my first full look at him. He was young, but not as young as Officer Sprout, and he had an air of confidence and competence the other man had lacked. His dark hair was cropped short and his dark brown eyes still looked friendly.

Mason joined me on the porch. “Let’s check out the inside and then investigate the barn.”

The deputy swung the screen door aside and unlocked and opened the door. He moved aside so that I could be the first one to enter the house. I took a couple of steps into the foyer and stopped in my tracks, barely aware that Mason had followed me inside. The exterior of the house didn’t do the interior justice. We were standing in an entryway across from a large wooden staircase that led to a landing with a wood banister. To our left was a dining room with white wood paneling halfway up the wall, furnished with a long ornate dining room table and chairs, a buffet stacked with china, and a glass cabinet stuffed full of crystal. To my right was a living room filled with old Victorian-style furniture. A small baby grand piano resided in the back corner. A brick fireplace was flanked on each side by four-foot-tall bookcases with windows above them. Much to my amazement, books still filled the cases. Jutting off the living room was a library with wood-paneled walls, a large desk, and more bookcases crammed with books.

I continued toward the back of the house, Mason trailing behind me. We passed through a swinging solid wooden door into a large kitchen. The walls were painted a pale yellow and white cabinets and appliances lined two of the walls. A large farmhouse-style table sat at the back of the room, beneath a pane of windows that looked out onto the backyard and barn. A door to the left led to a small powder room.

“When you said farmhouse, this isn’t what I was expecting,” Mason said.

“Yeah, I know.” I’d expected rustic, and although the house wasn’t ostentatious, it was far from a simple farmhouse.

We went upstairs next, and filed into the first bedroom on the right. A full-sized four-poster bed was pushed against one wall and a huge armoire filled another. The other two walls featured huge windows that looked out onto the land.

Mason parted the sheers, sending dust flying into the air. “Rose, I can see the county road at the end of the drive from here. This house really is the perfect place for us to hide out.”

I could only stare, trying to sort out my confused emotions. As if he could read my mind, Mason gave me a hug and said, “I’m going to give you a few moments alone while I check the other rooms.”

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