We are excited to share the final 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.
<< Chapter 27
“SHERIFF? HOW DID YOU KNOW where to find us?” Nikki raised her head off Josh’s shoulder and glanced his direction. They had gathered on the steps leading up to the bank, having just watched two deputies drive off with a scowling Vaughn in the back of the department cruiser.
“Ask him.” Gary nodded his head at the bank manager.
The middle-aged man flashed a half smile and then pulled something from his pocket. It was a small, white plastic box with a button on the top. “I carry this silent alarm with me while I’m at work, in case of a robbery. I usually lock it up in my desk before I go home, but I guess today I forgot. As soon as Vaughn surprised us, I pushed it and prayed that the batteries weren’t dead. I haven’t exactly checked them in a while.”
Nikki pulled herself from Josh’s arm around her shoulders and hugged Tom warmly. “Thank you so much. You saved us all.”
Tom was blushing when she pulled away. “Well, I’m just glad I remembered I had it. And now, I think it’s time I got home to my wife. Do you think that would be okay, Sheriff?”
The sheriff stroked his chin. “I do need you to give your official statement. But I think it can wait until tomorrow. I’m sure Margret’s worrying herself sick.”
As Tom’s minivan pulled out of the lot, a little sports car zipped in to replace it and Lizzy jumped out of the driver’s side door. She was running, her long, beautiful hair flying around her face as she stared daggers at Koby.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Crud.” Koby groaned. “I forgot to call her back. She must’ve heard what happened.”
Nikki and Josh both took a nervous step back, not daring to get in the lawyer’s way as she charged forward.
Koby looked like he was waiting for a slap but instead she grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him into a hug. “You were supposed to call me back, you idiot.” She scolded, but her voice sounded more relieved than irritated.
“I know.” Koby patted her back. “I’m sorry. I was a little busy.”
Then just as quickly as she’d embraced him, she pushed him away. “Well.” She pulled herself together and turned to the others. “It seems like you’re all fine now, so I guess it’s okay.”
Koby chuckled and Nikki knew that, no matter how much they fought it, things weren’t really over between them. Josh wrapped her in a quick bear hug before turning back to the sheriff. “What about us? Are we free to go now too?”
“Well, I don’t think either of you are in any more danger. Bill’s not getting out of lockup any time soon. So, I see no reason why you all shouldn’t sleep soundly tonight and then come in tomorrow to give your statements.”
“We’ll be there.” Josh gave him a salute. “I think we’re all ready to move on with our lives.”
“Then you should also feel free to come back to work now if you want. I know you only took vacation to work on the case.”
“That may be why I took it.” Josh pulled Nikki tighter into his arms. “But now, I’ve got an even better reason to take some time off.” He leaned down and kissed her lips, sending tingling shocks down her body.
“So be it. Just let me know when you’re ready to come back.”
Looked like she hadn’t cost him his job after all.
“Thank you, Gary.” Josh held out a hand. “For everything.”
“And thank you, too.” Nikki knelt down in front of Charlie and gave him a scratch behind his ears. He happily licked her face in return. “You’re my furry little hero.”
She stood and turned to Josh, taking his face in her hands. “And you are my God-sent hero.”
JOSH COULDN’T BELIEVE THE DAY had finally arrived. Construction on the brand new doughnut shop had gone faster than any of them had imagined, and now, dressed in a bright yellow dress, Nikki stood beaming beside the front door. Josh loved the way her hair was pinned up off of her neck and wished he was standing beside her to catch the scent of lavender that her shampoo always left behind.
Today was the grand re-opening and everyone was in on the celebration. The local news cameras were already aimed at her, covering the event. After Vaughn’s arrest, the story had been all over the news, and helpers poured in to assist with the clean-up and offer their apologies for believing Vaughn’s lies.
Overall, it had been a busy couple of weeks after their near-death experience at the bank. After giving their statements and turning over Ryan’s phone as evidence to the marshals’ office who would hand it over to the DEA, Josh enjoyed his vacation time getting to know Nikki better. There were still questions that had gone unanswered. Like the mystery woman who called 911, what happened to the black sedan, and who was the ‘monster’ Vaughn referred to during the standoff. But Josh had faith that the truth would come out. For now, they were out of danger.
He had eventually gone back to work at the Sheriff’s Department, and in addition to helping with the construction projects, Nikki had also given Ryan a small funeral since he’d had no other family. It was a quiet affair, and while only four of them had attended, Josh understood her need to honor the man who’d died while trying to save her in the end. But now, it was Josh’s turn to support her as they moved on to the next chapter of their lives.
In spite of Nikki’s concerns that their feelings were the result of their shared traumatic events, their new relationship flourished even more once the suspense was over. Every day, Josh thanked God that she’d finally opened up to them both. She’d been attending church with him every Sunday and it was such a pleasure to watch her listen to the sermons and sing to the music.
But he wanted more and didn’t see the need to waste another second. Making his way through the crowd, Josh moved towards where Nikki stood with Roger, Beverly, and her newest employee, Andy Trumple.
They were currently posing for a picture in front of the large, red ribbon that had been stretched across the shop’s front door. In Nikki’s hands were the oversized pair of scissors she was going to use to cut the ribbon and signal to everyone that Apple’s Fritters was once again open for business. But first, Josh needed to say something.
He stopped beside the microphone that had been set up for Nikki to use to thank everyone who had helped with the rebuilding process. “Excuse me, everyone.”
As many eyes turned to him, he nodded to the St. Claire High School Band who he’d asked to attend and they started to play a romantic ballad.
Josh faced a very confused looking Nikki and smiled. “Before we all get a taste of the doughnuts we’ve been missing, there’s something I need to say.” He pulled the mic out of the stand and walked over to Nikki. Then, he took a knee in front of her. Her eyes went wide and her hand covered her mouth.
“Nikki?” Josh swallowed hard as he pulled the small, black box from his jeans pocket. “When I lost my wife, I wasn’t sure I’d ever love again, but from the minute I saw you, I knew that God is good. Because He was giving me another chance at love. A chance to be with you. And I don’t want to wait another second to start our lives together. Honey, will you marry me?”
Josh wondered if the crowd’s hearts were beating as fast as his.
The word came out with a sob. “Y-Yes.” And then Josh was back on his feet, pulling her in for a kiss. The band played louder and everyone cheered, and Josh knew he’d been blessed.
The next few hours went by with a blur. The ribbon was officially cut. The shop was opened. And everyone was able to pick out their favorite pastry.
Things didn’t slow down until it was time to clean up. Once the last customers had trickled out, Josh made his way to where Nikki stood behind the counter. She looked tired and was holding her neck like it ached, so he stepped behind her to rub her shoulders.
“Mmm. Thank you.”
“It’s the least I can do for my fiancée.”
She giggled. “I can’t believe we’re engaged.”
Turning her to face him, he slid a hand around her waist and pulled her close. “It shouldn’t be that surprising.” He used his other hand to cup her cheek. “I’ve been in love with you since the first day I walked in here.”
“Same.” She smiled and then she lifted herself up on her toes, her lips reaching for his. It was nearly the same thing she’d done the morning of the break-in but this time he wasn’t going to back away or turn her down. This time, he was going to kiss her and keep kissing her because finally she was his. And nothing had ever tasted so sweet.
Like what you read?
Check out book 2, DUNKED IN TROUBLE
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