We are excited to share the next installment of Glazed Suspicion by Allison Pearl, the first book in the Love and Danger in St. Claire series. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!
If you’re just joining us for this book, we recommend you start with chapter 1.
JOSH BREATHED A SIGH OF relief when his sister stormed into the interrogation room. Watching Nikki through the two-way glass had been the worst kind of torment. They just kept going at her until he’d wanted to hit someone or break something. Or at the very least, hold her and kiss her. But he couldn’t do anything.
And that was before Gary revealed that Nikki’s criminal ex-boyfriend had escaped. The terror on her face just now was the same as when she’d been trapped in her nightmares. How long had his boss known she was in danger? How could he not tell him? Gary ordered him to watch her but then neglected to tell him about a dangerous fugitive that might be on her tail? Was he using her as bait? Did he not trust Josh anymore?
He was so grateful his sister had been visiting a wealthy client’s estate one county away or she never would have gotten here in time. Josh turned his attention back to the scene unfolding.
“I don’t recall Miss Appleton asking for a lawyer.” Gary straightened in his chair.
Lizzy turned to Nikki’s hunched and shaking form, backed against the wall. “Do you want a lawyer?”
“Well, there you go, Gary.” And then smooth as silk, his sister flicked a business card across the slick steel table. It spun across the surface, sticking under Vaughn’s still folded hands. “Any more questions for my client can be directed to me. Let’s go, Miss Appleton.”
Nikki hesitated like she wasn’t sure she was free to leave. Lizzy beckoned her forward and Nikki baby stepped her way out.
Josh met them in the hallway and leaned in to whisper to his sister. “Wait for me in the parking lot. I don’t want you two going anywhere alone.” He glanced at Nikki and forced a smile.
Lizzy nodded and then led her new client away. Nikki looked back at him, her eyes pleading. He was getting tired of watching her being taken away, but this time, he trusted the person at her side.
Josh leaned against the wall opposite the door of the interrogation room, hands in his pockets. The door flung open and Gary and Vaughn walked out.
His boss frowned. “Are you going to tell me that your sister showing up was some kind of coincidence?”
“No.” Josh stood up straight, ready and willing to face the consequences of his actions. “I called her. Why didn’t you tell me about the boyfriend breaking out? I was supposed to be protecting her. Seems like something I should’ve known.”
“I ordered you to watch a suspect. Not be her bodyguard. You are too close to this. How can you trust your own judgment? Something sinister is going on around here and she might be in the middle of it.” Gary crossed his arms over his belly. “I’ve known you most of your life, son. I coached your peewee football league and then the varsity team for goodness sake. You’ve grown up to be a good man, but I’m scared that this time your faith has been misplaced.”
“I guess we’ll find out.”
Vaughn’s eyes bounced between them.
The sheriff shrugged. “I plan on doing just that. You, on the other hand, will remember your duty before you clock in tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re off this case.”
I don’t need a badge to protect someone. I just need some time off. “I understand. In that case, I’m going to use some of the many vacation days I have stored up. You’re the one who keeps telling me to use them.”
Gary sighed. “Fine. But I hope you realize that excludes you from investigating with the authority of the sheriff’s department.”
Vaughn took a step back, forcing his gaze to the floor
He doesn’t like how this is playing out, either.
“Understood.” But like Nikki said, there was no law preventing him from talking to people.
“Then I suggest you be on your way.”
“Yes, sir.” Josh turned and walked away.
When he met the girls at his car, Nikki launched herself into his arms. He held her close, palming the back of her neck as she buried her face in his shirt.
“He’s out.” Warm tears saturated his shirt. “I can’t believe he’s out. I thought I was free of him.”
Josh pushed her back so he could lift her chin and look into her eyes. “You are free of him. He’s not getting anywhere near you.”
“You don’t know him.” She sniffled and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “He’s dangerous.”
“So am I.” He smiled. “I’ll keep you safe.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt.” Lizzy tugged on his sleeve. “But we should get out of here. The last thing we need is your boss seeing how close you two are during the investigation.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Gary already saw him as compromised. “As of a few minutes ago, I’m on vacation.”
His sister cocked her head and let out a slow breath before nodding.
“I need to get my truck since I’ll no longer be driving my patrol car. It’s been here since I went on patrol last night. Lizzy, can you head over to the address I texted you so we can talk?”
“Okay.” She frowned as she glanced at Nikki. Josh could see the attorney wheels turning in her mind. Lizzy wouldn’t pull any punches when she questioned her client, but this wasn’t the time or the place.
He could tell his sister was worried about him and maybe even suspicious of Nikki, but he couldn’t think about that right now. Nikki sniffled against his chest. He needed to get her home, and then he would try to convince his skeptical sister of Nikki’s innocence. “Then let’s get going.”
As Josh backed out of his department parking space, he saw Brandon cross the lot after waving goodbye to his brother who headed toward the county courthouse next door where the tiny city police station was housed. They must be done with the search at Nikki’s house.
Brandon nodded to Josh as he passed like he was saying, ‘No hard feelings.’” Josh raised a hand. He and Gary may be at odds, but Josh couldn’t blame the guys for doing their job.
After stopping at his place to get his ankle holster and a snub-nosed thirty-eight, he threw some clothes in a duffel and they headed towards her farm.
“You doing okay?” He glanced at Nikki. She’d been quiet the whole drive.
She shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. It feels like everything is happening at once and I don’t understand any of it. It’s bad enough the police think I’m a drug dealer, but now Ryan is out there somewhere, planning who knows what.”
“He won’t have an easy time getting to St. Claire, if that is in fact his plan. Remember, he’s an escaped prisoner. A fugitive on the run. The US Marshals will be all over the state looking for him. It’s their job to find him.”
“What?” He hadn’t said anything particularly funny.
“I was just thinking that you’re finally off the hook for your job now.”
“What job is that?”
“Watching me. I mean, if you’re on vacation now, you don’t have to do what the sheriff told you to anymore.”
“I’m on vacation just so I can watch you. Gary took me off your case. This way, I can stay by your side.”
“Why would you do that for me?” She caught her breath.
“You know why.” He looked back to the road so he couldn’t see her reaction to his words.
“But how can you still feel that way after everything you just heard?”
“What I heard is that you have a past, and we all have one of those.”
“I know, but I’d understand if you were beginning to doubt me. I know what things look like. In your place, I wouldn’t believe me.”
Josh stepped on the brakes as they bumped onto her driveway and pulled to a stop behind his sister’s two-seater.
Nikki sucked in a breath.
She rubbed her temples. “Yeah, it’s been a long day and I think the pain medication has worn off.”
Josh fought back a yawn, realizing he’s been up for twenty-four hours. “It has. And we both need some sleep. I should’ve grabbed your pills when I left for the station. You need to get inside and go to bed. Got it?”
Nikki laughed, raising her hands in surrender. “Yes, sir, deputy.”
After he helped her inside, he coaxed her into taking more medication, and then he got her tucked under her covers. Now, as he descended the stairs to the ground floor, he prepared himself to face his sister. Lizzy had tried to fire questions off when she’d met them on the porch, but somehow, Josh had convinced her to let Nikki rest. For now.
She waited for him in Nikki’s kitchen, sitting poker straight against the back of a ladder back dining chair, her lips pursed.
“She hasn’t done anything.” Josh leaned against one of the counters and fiddled with a dish towel tossed on the counter. The Whitaker brothers should’ve cleaned up better before they left.
“I know you believe that, but the evidence is pretty convincing.”
“I heard the entire interrogation. You didn’t show up until the tail end.”
Lizzy folded her arms. “You’re lucky I got there at all. If that mine owner didn’t pay extra to have meetings at his mansion, I would have been home in Pittsburgh. Hours away.”
Josh held his hands up in surrender. “And I’m very grateful. I was just trying to say that she had a reasonable explanation for everything they asked her.”
“Liars usually do. I don’t think I trust her.” She tapped her chin with a finger.
“But I do. Do you trust me?”
“You know I do.” She sighed. “But it’s obvious that you like her. How can you possibly be objective?”
“Faith isn’t objective.” He stepped up to the table and fell into the chair beside her.
“Josh. Don’t you—”
He reached out and gripped her arm. “Are you going to help us or not?”
Lizzy’s hands fell into her lap. “Of course I will.”
“Thank you, sis.” Josh flicked her chin. His little sister never changed. She could never say no to her big bro.
“So, what happens now?”
“Well… I’m going to drive back up to Pittsburgh and grab some clothes and email the office that I may not be in for a couple days next week. Then, I’ll come back and I guess start charging you by the hour. Are you going to pay my expenses, too?”
Josh wrinkled his nose. “Any chance I could get a discount? I’m pretty sure I can’t afford you.”
Lizzy narrowed her gaze. “I know you can’t afford me. But if I’m going to drive all night, you’re at least paying for my coffee stops. Otherwise, pro bono it is.”
“You’re the best.” She was the best but would her best even be enough? “Do you think you can help her?”
Lizzy ran her fingers through her hair. “Well, if she did have an aunt leave her money, we can get some record of that, and then I’ll start trying to pick apart the department’s case.”
“What do I do?”
“If her drug dealer ex is coming, I’d advise keeping an eye out.”
“I plan on it.”
“Good.” Lizzy nodded. “The important thing right now is getting answers. If you know she’s innocent of hiding the drugs and money, then maybe it’s time you start trying to find out who’s so set on making her look guilty.”
Like what you read?
Read chapter 9 now
And don’t miss SPRINKLED WITH SABOTAGE, the latest book by Allison Pearl
About Allison Pearl
Allison Pearl is a small-town girl who’s lived just about everywhere. She loves books,tea, chocolate, and watching old movies with her husband and black lab, Sal. To keep in touch and get updates on new releases follow her Facebook page ‘Books by Pearl’ at http://www.facebook.com/allisonnicolepearl/ or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonPearl5 andInstagram at @allisonnicolepearl