Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 62

It was only eight o’clock when I finished making the beds, and I wasn’t sure what to do with my time. I was too tired to dig up any more emotional hornet nests, but the TV didn’t work. At the risk of interrupting Mason, I went into the office to find a book to read.

When I stood in the doorway, he glanced up at me and smiled. “Hey. Did you come to visit? Do I get to greet you like you greeted me when I came back tonight?”

He reached for me as I walked past him, and I swatted his hand away.

“You may be a self-proclaimed patient man, Mr. Deveraux, but I am not. So I’ve decided to keep my distance from you until this impasse has been resolved.” I scanned the shelves, finding mostly medical journals and non-fiction books.

He leaned back in his seat and belly-laughed. “I hope to God you aren’t a patient man.”

I shot him a glare and fought to keep from giggling.

“I never took you for a cruel woman, Rose Gardner.”

“It’s not about cruelty. It’s about self-preservation.” I found a section with classical fiction but kept moving. I needed something lighter than a leather-bound copy of Moby Dick or Anna Karenina.

He turned back to his work but kept sneaking glances at me.

I found a section of romances dating from the seventies and eighties and picked one up to read the back blurb.

“I take it that you’re looking for something to read.”

I put my hand on my hip and turned to face him. “Aren’t you supposed to be working?”

His eyes darkened. “You’re far too distracting.”

While I loved this game, Mason was working on something important and I didn’t want to take his attention away from it. I headed for the door, still holding the old romance novel.

“You can read in the chair in the corner,” he suggested, nodding toward it.

I turned back to him with a grin. “I’ll read in the living room so you’re not distracted.”

I plopped into an overstuffed chair, but it wasn’t very comfortable. In fact, none of the furniture in the living room looked all that cozy. I suddenly imagined my own furniture in here and how I would arrange it.

I jerked upright. Was I really considering this?

Maybe so, but I’d been through too much in the last forty-eight hours to make a big decision.

I read for fifteen minutes and was just starting to get sucked into the plot when my phone rang again. I pulled it out of my pocket expecting to see Joe’s name.

But when I saw the number on the screen, my heart leapt into my throat.

The call was from Violet’s home phone.

She had to know she wasn’t supposed to call me, which meant it must be important. Then I remembered she wasn’t even supposed to be at home. Hoping it wasn’t a mistake, I answered. “Violet, are you okay?”

Silence greeted me on the other end.

I held my breath for a couple of seconds. “Violet?”

The voice that answered turned my blood to sludge. “Long time no see, Rose. I’ve missed you.”

Daniel Crocker.

“How did you get into my sister’s house?” I asked, trying to control my panic.

“Aren’t you going to tell me that you missed me too?”

“No.” Tears welled in my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. “Why are you at Violet’s house?”

“Baby, I’m the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions. Then I’ll tell you about Violet.”

“No, tell me about Violet first.”

“Violet is somewhere safe and sound. For now.”

I forced myself to take a deep breath.

My voice must have sounded panicky because Mason appeared in the doorway, worry in his eyes. He reached for my cell phone and turned on the speaker, holding it up between us.

“Why are you hiding from me, Rose? I just want to pick up where we left off before we were interrupted by the state police last June. Good call on dumping Joe McAllister, by the way.”

I wanted to ask Daniel Crocker how he knew about me and Joe, but Joe was all over the news. “What do you want?”

“You.” His raspy voice sent terror searing through my body. “I’ll meet you tonight at ten at The Trading Post, just like old times. Be sure to bring the tequila bottle I left on your front porch.”

“That was you?” I whispered.

“I’m hurt that you didn’t get the reference. I’m beginning to think I care about us more than you do, Rose.”

“I just never thought you’d break out of prison…or that you would come smash pumpkins on my front porch if you did. It seems like there would be other things you’d want to do. Like flee the state.”

“And leave you? Not happening, baby. I’m not going anywhere until we’ve finished our business. Besides, I wanted to give you a gift. Did you like the rose petals?”

I couldn’t find enough air to respond.

“It was so hard to watch you lying there so peacefully when I wanted nothing more than to climb into bed with you. But we both know it’s all about the chase and the anticipation. You weren’t ready. You needed to prepare yourself.”

Mason’s hand clenched so tightly around the phone I couldn’t believe he didn’t crush it.

“Tell your DA friend—who I’m sure is rudely listening to our private call—that he’s not welcome to our party. In fact, I’ve got my own surprise for him for taking what’s mine.”

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