We are excited to share a book installment on Wednesdays and Saturdays! Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce is the first in the Small Town Guardians series. If you love mystery and romance, come read the next chapter below!
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven / Chapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen / Chapter Fourteen/Chapter 15/Chapter 16/Chapter 17/Chapter 18
The ride from the sheriff’s station to Cody’s house took five minutes. Maggie grabbed her bag from the floorboard and exited the truck. Cody unlocked the front door and turned on the light as he stepped in.
The room was modestly decorated. There was a black couch and loveseat in an L shape, with an end table at the corner, and a matching entertainment center boasting a large television. The only thing hanging on the walls were the speakers to his surround sound system. It was definitely a bachelor pad.
She shut the door behind her and set her bag on the floor, bringing her hand to her mouth to cover the yawn that was forcing its way out.
“I’ll show you to the guest room.” He picked up her bag and led the way down a hall on the opposite side of the living room. Walking into the first room on the right, he turned the light on, illuminating a room that doubled as an office. This area was as sparse as the living room. A cheap metal desk containing a desktop computer lined one wall. A full-size bed was pushed into the corner. The bedspread was light blue with white flowers. She couldn’t help but laugh at the bedding choice.
“What’s so funny?” He simulated a shocked expression.
“Nothing. It’s not what I pictured your decorating style would include, that’s all.”
“Laugh all you want. It may be dainty, but it’s comfortable. It was my grandmother’s. My mom left it when she stayed here last.”
Maggie’s heart ached as she remembered him talking about his grandmother being a big part of his life. When she died, all he had left was his mother, and most of the time she hadn’t been home. That’s when his behavior had taken a nosedive. He’d had a rough childhood—his father left when he was very young, and his mother had been there physically but not emotionally.
“I’m sorry. How is your mom?”
“Don’t be. She’s sober going on three years now.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Now, get some rest. We’ll talk when you wake up.” He set her bag on the bed and left the room, closing the door on his way out.
She put the bag on the floor, kicked off her shoes, and climbed under the covers. The bed was soft and warm, and she was exhausted, yet still she tossed and turned. Her mind wouldn’t stop replaying the video of Dee’s death. She tried thinking of other things, like the kiss she and Cody had shared. He’d said he wanted to see her again. And, after her talk with Jacob, she was willing to try again.
Tonight, he’d kissed her like she meant the world to him. Like he was making up for the kisses he’d missed since he’d foolishly listened to her brother. Then almost immediately, he said he was sorry. He’d regretted kissing her in the midst of the chaos. Ultimately, Cody was still putting her off, choosing a “safer” option for her.
She knew if she let her guard down, Cody would break her heart again. His comfort and protection was what she wanted most at the moment, but she could feel herself diving headfirst right back into all of her old emotions. Every moment longer she spent in his company was likely to result in heartbreak. Again. She felt so close to tears. The fear and worry had made her brittle – emotionally vulnerable. His kiss and subsequent reaction almost broke her. If she wasn’t careful, she would throw herself into his arms, her heart for the taking. She had to keep her distance.
Dwelling on it wouldn’t do any good. She’d drown her sorrows in the cleanup of the house. There was so much that needed to be done before they could sell it. She tried to calm herself, methodically going over her to-do list in her mind. Every room needed painting, as did the outside. The video of Dee popped back in the forefront of her thoughts. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get her brain to shut off.
It was no use, she wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon. She got out of bed and opened the door. The lights in the front of the house were still blazing. She walked down the hall and found Cody sitting on the couch, his Bible in his hands.
“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked as he closed the Bible.
“No, too much on my mind. May I have something to drink?”
“Yes. Let me show you where everything is.” He set his Bible on the coffee table and led the way to the kitchen.
The kitchen had a small, connected breakfast nook containing a matching table and chairs. Black canisters lined a counter top. They matched the black appliances. His refrigerator had a calendar stuck to it, along with some various papers. Bills, maybe.
Pulling two glasses from the cabinet, he gestured to the refrigerator. “I have some sweet tea and orange juice. I’d stay away from the milk. It might be past its due date.”
She loved his tea and hoped he still made it the same way. He’d spent so much time eating dinner at their house growing up, her mother treated him as one of her own. While she and Jacob were charged with setting the table, Cody was given the job of making tea. He always added too much sugar. She loved it syrupy sweet. On the days Cody wasn’t around, momma made the tea, and she never used as much sugar.
She took a sip of the tea she’d poured herself and let out a small sigh as her taste buds danced in the sweet liquid. “I love your tea.”
Cody sat down across from her and chuckled. “I couldn’t tell.”
She put her cup down on the table and ran her finger around the mouth of it. “Cody, I don’t understand this. I don’t know what I’ve done to cause all of this. We don’t even know who it is! You know, in the beginning it was little scary things but now someone is dead. Not just dead but murdered. All because of me.”
“You can’t blame yourself for this. It is not your fault. Whoever is doing this is at fault, they have only fixated their sick game on you.”
“Logically, I know that, but I still can’t escape the guilt.”
“Could we pray?”
“I’d like that.” She closed her eyes and started saying a silent prayer.
“Dear Lord, thank You again for this day. Thank You for keeping Maggie safe. I pray that You’ll continue to keep her safe and give her peace in knowing that this is not her fault. Comfort her in this difficult time. I pray for Your guidance in finding the person at fault. Amen.”
“Thank you.” They sat in companionable silence and sipped their tea.
“Jacob went home last night,” Maggie volunteered, breaking the silence.
“That’s great. How’s he feeling?”
“He’s sore but okay. We talked for a little while last night… He still doesn’t know about us.”
He looked in to his tea glass, avoiding her gaze. “I never said anything. After you left, Jake and I kind of went our separate ways. We didn’t stop being friends exactly. But he had his Army life. I went into law enforcement and had my life. He married Caroline and they had their life together. After Caroline’s death, he poured himself into his work and was hardly home. And being Sheriff has kept me busy.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t because you were afraid he’d kick your butt for hurting his little sister?” She took a drink of her tea and arched her eyebrows.
“Whatever! I always won our tussles.” Laugh lines creased his face.
“Sure. Admit it, you were scared,” she teased.
The laugh lines disappeared, and his face hardened. “I was honestly waiting for him to come beat down my door that first week. Then he left, and you left a couple days after. I’m surprised you didn’t tell him.”
“No, I didn’t tell him. He actually still doesn’t know. He was going back to the Army, and he’d recently started dating a girl. He always worried too much about me and he didn’t need to be weighed down with my baggage. But that’s all in the past. Since we’re stuck with each other, tell me what made you choose law enforcement.”
“That’s an easy one. Remember right before we started dating I had been in some trouble?”
She nodded, taking a drink of her tea.
“Sheriff Rogers kept in touch with me and mentored me. After you left, the guys I had gotten into trouble with were all arrested. Most of them are now serving some hefty jail time. A lot of people saved me from winding up in there with them. Jesus saved my soul, you saved my heart, and Sheriff Rogers saved my life. I wanted to do that. I wanted to help others. I signed up for the police academy the week after you left. What about you? An elementary school librarian, huh?”
Her cheeks started to heat. “Yeah. That was only meant to be a stepping stone in my career, but I sort of fell in love with helping kids. Nothing beats the look on a child’s face when they finally understand something they’ve been struggling with for a long time.”
“What about your writing?”
“I still write. I had some things published in magazines and anthologies, but I haven’t submitted anything in a long time.” Her eyes were heavy with sleep, and a yawn forced its way from her mouth.
“You should go lie back down and get some rest.”
“I think I’ll try again. Here’s hoping it’s successful this time. Goodnight, Cody.”
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About Jennifer Pierce
Jennifer Pierce currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and River Valley Writers, where she serves as secretary.
WHERE TO FIND JENNIFER PIERCE
SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES