Publication Date September 11th 2013
Life in Henryetta, Arkansas is turned upside down with the arrival of a televangelist, but it’s the death of a little old lady on Rose’s street that catches her attention. The Henryetta police deem her death natural causes, but Rose suspects foul play and so does an unlikely supporter–-the president of the Busy Body Club, her eighty-two year old neighbor Mildred.
But Rose is in the middle of opening her nursery with her sister Violet, who’s separated from her husband Mike, as well as stalling her boyfriend Joe’s family, rich socialites who are determined to meet her. Along with her multiple encounters with Fenton County’s new assistant DA, Mason Deveraux III, it’s just another day in the life of Rose Gardner–-chaos.
Mason came outside a few minutes later, walking down the steps and toward his car. He caught my eye and shifted his eyes to the side.
I handed the baby back to Heidi Joy and left my post to meet him at the driver-side door of his car.
He stopped in front of me, a soft smile raising his mouth. “Rose, you looked domestic with a baby on your hip.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad one?”
“Neither, just an observation.”
“What happened to Miss Dorothy?”
He looked back at the house before turning toward me. “I suspect natural causes.”
“You mean like Miss Laura?”
He frowned. “That’s why I’m here. But the damn paramedics had already moved her to the gurney by the time I showed up.”
“And that’s bad?”
“If she truly died of natural causes, no. But with all the bungling that’s gone on with the police department since I’ve come to town, I’ve requested that they notify me whenever there’s a death. That way I can investigate the potential crime scene too.”
“Oh.” I couldn’t help wondering if Mason would have presumed that I was guilty of my mother’s murder like the entire Henryetta police department had done. I’d like to think he would have been fair. “Do you really think Miss Dorothy and Miss Laura died of natural causes? Doesn’t it seem suspicious?”
“You know this is official business, and I’m really not supposed to be telling you. But after everything you’ve been through over the last few months, I suspect you need some peace of mind.” Glancing back at the house, he lowered his voice. “I think they both died of natural causes because I’ve got nothing to make me suspect that they didn’t. No break-ins. No sign of stolen belongings. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”
“What did they find in Miss Laura’s autopsy?”
“They didn’t do one. The county is strapped for cash, and it costs several thousands of dollars to ship the bodies to Little Rock and back and pay the pathologists. We don’t do autopsies if it looks like natural causes.”
“Oh.” I’d never considered that.
He leaned his hip against the side of his car. “Congrats again on the opening of your nursery.”
My eyebrows shot up. “So does this mean you’re officially through with ignoring me?”
He studied the ground, a sheepish grin spreading across his face, then looked me in the eyes. “That was quite unlike me. I don’t usually let other people dictate my behavior.”
“So why start with Joe?”
Mason paused. “We have history.” I expected him to continue, but he stared at the baby instead.
“So he said.”
His eyes widened as his gaze shifted to me. “He told you what happened?”
“No” was out of my mouth before I could stop it. I’d probably just blown any opportunity to get information out of Mason, but I wasn’t willing to give up yet. “Why don’t you tell me your side of the story?”
He reached for the handle. “Good try.”
I grabbed his hand and pulled it away from the door, surprised he didn’t resist. “Mason, if this involves me, I have a right to know.”
“With all due respect, Rose, it really doesn’t involve you. If Joe said the only reason he warned me to stay away from you was because of the history he and I have, he’s lying.”
My mouth dropped. “Warned you? As in physically threatened you?”
Mason’s mouth pursed.
“Why would he do that?”
His voice lowered. “Isn’t it obvious?”
“No. It’s not.”
He closed his eyes and inhaled before returning his gaze to me. “I’d rather keep that chapter of my life closed for good.” His face hardened. “But if I was in a serious relationship, I would share it with the woman in my life. She would have a right to know.” He started to say something, then swallowed and pinched his lips.
“What? What aren’t you telling me?”
“The question isn’t what I’m not telling you, it’s what’s Joe not telling you?”
Anger rose in my chest. “That’s not fair.”
Mason leaned closer, lowering his voice again. “It’s obvious how you two feel about each other. Do you know I field at least two calls a week from your neighbor Mildred about your public displays of affection in your front yard?” His shoulders tensed. “But what do you know about Joe’s family? What do you know about his life in Little Rock before you two were together? The man I see with you isn’t the man I knew in Little Rock, but the reality is that he’s still the same guy.”
Before I could get my wits about me to ask about the Joe he knew, Mason had climbed into his car and driven away.
ABOUT DENISE GROVER SWANK:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period. Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks. She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.
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