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.
A FEW MINUTES AFTER LEAVING Vaughn’s house, Josh parked in a metered spot smack in front of the Nadine County Courthouse. Time to find a few answers.
He peeked over at his workplace, then reached into the middle console between the bench seats to fish for change.
When he glanced up, he saw Nikki looking at him, her lips pinched to the side. “Are you locking me up or something?”
He dropped four quarters into the front pocket of the flannel he’d put over his white T-shirt before they left the farm. “No. I thought we would canvas. The woman in the 911 call said ‘They’re robbing the doughnut shop.’ To me that implies she saw it happening. Vaughn said he questioned the business owners that were present at the scene but I thought we’d make the rounds again. Maybe someone will remember something. That is, if you’re up for the walking.”
She chewed on her bottom lip. “I think I’ll be okay, but why would you park here?” She gestured towards the stone carved courthouse. “The sheriff’s department is right next door. Won’t they see your truck?”
Josh grinned. “I want them to see it. I want them to know we’re not hiding out somewhere. I want anyone who might be watching to know I’m not intimidated.”
Nikki drew in a breath and grabbed the door handle. “Lead the way.”
Josh hurried around to her side to help her step down onto the sidewalk.
“Where to?” She stretched out her muscles, grimacing as she straightened her back. Hopefully, this wouldn’t be too much for her.
“I thought we’d start at the library and just make our way around the circle until we get back here.” He didn’t move for a moment, not wanting to rush her. She squinted at the nearby building, shielding her eyes from the sun. “The library it is.”
They found it closed but a middle-aged librarian spotted Nikki through the glass and rushed over. “Nikki, you know we don’t open until 10:00.”
Nikki explained that they just had a couple questions, and she let them come in. The visit resulted in no leads but Josh enjoyed the conversation. Nikki and the woman talked like old friends and it was nice to see her distracted for a while. When they left, Nikki seemed lighter and more at ease.
They ticked off the shops one by one, first visiting Dee Love at her fabric store and then popping in at the bakery. They hit more dead ends but, once again, it was time well spent. They chatted and laughed with the owners and staff. A few times, Josh spied some whispers being passed between the Saturday morning shoppers when folks thought they weren’t looking, and it thrilled him. Perhaps people saw them as a couple and Josh was content to pass away the hours wrapped in that day dream. Maybe one day Nikki would make it a reality.
After they stopped by the doctor’s office and the little one-screen theater, Nikki started dragging. “Is this getting too much?” He motioned to the town center. “Let’s go and sit down for a bit.”
She cradled her side. “Maybe just for a minute.”
They crossed the street toward the nearest bench.
After getting settled, Nikki let out a long breath and rubbed her sleeves with her hands.
Josh fingered the collar of his thick, flannel shirt. “Are you cold?” He dropped his hand to the buttons, ready to take it off.
“No.” She waved him off. “I love the fall. Now, come winter, I’ll be bundled like we’re in Antarctica.”
Josh laid an arm across the back of the bench. “Well, when it starts snowing, you let me know if you need help keeping warm.”
Her cheeks grew redder, and Josh suspected that it wasn’t just because of the chill in the air. When he saw her nibble on her bottom lip, Josh wondered if it would be as sweet as the glaze on her doughnuts, then came to a realization. “I’ve never seen you eat a doughnut.”
She cocked her head. “Huh?”
Josh twisted on the bench so his knees were pointing to her. “In all the mornings I’ve gone to your shop, I’ve never once seen you eat one of your doughnuts.”
Nikki ran her finger along the neckline of her sweater. “Hmm. I suppose that’s probably true. Don’t think that I don’t eat my fair share, though.” She patted her abdomen. “Because I do. But it’s always been about the process to me. I disappear into my work.”
“Have you always wanted to do this?” He gestured across the circle to her shop.
“No…” Her eyes got misty. “When I was nine years old, I was in a bad foster home. One day, the police came in and arrested a lot of people that were there.” She glanced at him. “I don’t know why. I was too young to realize what was going on.” Nikki shifted in her seat. Was she not comfortable talking about this? “So, after that, they put me in a respite home. Those placements are only for a short term but try explaining that to a little kid. Anyway, I loved where they put me. This old woman—who always had a pen clipped to the side of her reading glasses—cooked with me every day for three days. I fried my first doughnut that weekend.” She swallowed as her eyes fell to her lap. “They carried me from that house kicking and screaming.”
Josh let his hand fall from the bench and onto Nikki’s back. He rubbed the smooth spot between her shoulders with the pads of his fingers. “Do you want to go home?”
She shook her head. “No. I think I’d like to just sit here.”
While the sun moved in the sky, Nikki sat on a bench perfectly at ease until her stomach growled and she covered it with a hand.
“You hungry?” Josh snickered.
She pulled at a lock of her hair. “I guess so.”
Josh reached his arms forward to stretch out his back. “Well, it’s way past lunch time, so how about we walk over to Bieler’s and continue our investigation?”
Nikki’s mouth watered at the thought of the Amish Kitchen’s chicken and noodles and bread pudding. “Absolutely.”
Josh held out his hand to help her to her feet. She let her hunger lead her the rest of the way. Paul Bieler greeted them when they walked in but said he wouldn’t have time to talk for a little bit. He invited them to have a seat at the counter and order.
When their waitress brought their plates, Nikki registered the door bell ringing to indicate a new patron had a arrived. A disheveled-looking young man slid onto the stool next to her. While Josh questioned the waitress about yesterday morning, Nikki glanced at her neighbor. He flopped his hands on the counter. His nails were nearly black and looked skeletal under his thin skin. He couldn’t be that old, but the skin on his face hung loose, aging him. Did this man have an addiction? His eyes flicked toward her and she turned away, pressing her eyes closed. What if he thought she was judging him? Nothing could be further from the truth.
She locked her eyes on her food and didn’t look up again as Josh finished his conversation with the waitress. It hadn’t sounded like she’d revealed anything he hadn’t already known. When their server went back to the kitchen, her neighbor leaned forward over the counter top and looked at Josh.
“I saw your girl, man.”
Josh’s hand slid around her back as he met the man’s gaze. “Yeah? What girl?”
“I heard you guys asking around about some 911 call. Well, I saw a chick making a call.”
Josh narrowed his gaze. “You did, huh?”
“Sure did.” He stuck out his lips. “I was hanging out back of the movie theater with some friends all night and I saw some chick using that old pay phone they got outside.”
His arm stiffened around her. “What did she look like?”
The newcomer ran his eyes up and down Nikki. “Well, she kinda looked like her.”
Nikki gasped. “It wasn’t me, Josh. I swear.”
She heard a snort beside her. “I didn’t say it was you. I said she looked like you.”
Josh leaned closer to him. “Could you testify that it definitely wasn’t her?”
The man’s features fell flat. “You a cop?”
Nikki wondered if Josh was allowed to lie about his job.
Josh sighed. “Yes.”
I guess not.
The man slid off his stool, stumbling backwards towards the door. “In that case, I said nothin’ and saw nothin’, either.”
Josh reached out a hand. “Wait. At least tell me your name.”
But he was gone. Nikki spun her knees toward Josh. “We have to find out who that was.” A chance at proof she hadn’t made the phone call had slipped through their fingers.
“You two still need to talk to me?” Paul Bieler appeared, wiping his hands with a towel.
Josh smoothed his napkin onto the counter. “Yes, if you have a second. Do you know the guy we were just talking to?”
Paul’s eyes scanned the dining room. “Is he still here?”
“He just left.” Josh nodded to the door.
“I see. Don’t think I saw him then. What did he look like?”
Josh cleared his throat. “Thin. Maybe 5’10. Poorly fitting clothes. He… uh, looked like he might have a drug problem.”
Paul leaned in close, elbows on the counter. “Sadly, that could be a lot of people I see come in here.”
Nikki laid her fork on her plate. She wasn’t hungry anymore. Why hadn’t she realized how many people were struggling?
Josh drummed his fingers on the counter. “I understand. Thanks for your time, man.”
Paul returned to his hungry customers and Nikki lowered her voice. “How are we going to find out who the caller is?”
Josh’s gray eyes locked on hers. “By finding out who she’s not.”
Like what you read?
Read chapter 11 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