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Mountain Darkness (Wild Mountain Men 1) Vanessa Vale 2022/7/22 14:36:52

“What’s the man’s name?”

“Kurt something. He was in my Econ class at the community college, but that was a few years ago.”

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“You said you were working a wedding at the Red Barn.” The detective looked at her papers. “What time did you get home?”

“Around eleven thirty. On the way home, I stopped at the gas station on South Fourth to get my mom her lottery ticket.”

“Is this something you usually do?”

Nodding, I said, “Yes. My mother is agoraphobic. She hasn’t left her house in years. She hopes to hit the mega millions, although because she doesn’t leave the house, it’s not like she’ll buy a boat or something.” I sighed. “Anyway, yes. I’ve been getting her a ticket every day, even when I lived in Billings.”

She wrote something on her papers, then looked up at me. “How long have you been back in town?”

“Anyone else in particular?”

“She mentioned a few guys. Shane Nickel.”

Her eyes widened. “Eddie Nickel’s son?”

“Eddie grew up in Cutthroat,” Nix told the detective. “His kids grew up here. I went to school with Shane.”

“Okay, so Shane Nickel,” Detective Miranski repeated.

“I don’t know much about it because I think she kept me out of the loop.”

I remembered her saying they’d been hanging out. I wasn’t sure if that meant they’d slept together or if they’d gone bowling. With Erin, I had no idea. I just knew it had been casual since he hadn’t been the only guy.

She arched a dark brow. “Why’s that? You worked together, were even roommates.”

I bit my lip. The list—and the short time frame—made Erin out to be kind of slutty. I didn’t care what Erin did with guys. I was a little envious of her boldness, of her ability to put herself out there, but I always wondered if she were lonely. In the time I’d been back in Cutthroat, Erin and I hadn’t been all that

close. We’d worked together, but she went out every night. Partied. We hadn’t done our nails together while watching movies. Nothing girlfriends did. It was clear, even though I had been staying in her house, we’d drifted apart while I’d been gone.

“Because I was gone for a year, maybe. She’s always been more extroverted than me. Loved to go out. Have fun. Before I left, I worked too hard to date much. She was, well, gorgeous and could have any guy she wanted. Definitely out of my league.”

Nix moved then, crossed his arms.

She offered a small smile, like girlfriend to girlfriend and pushed a notepad to me. “Here, you said she mentioned some guys. Write the names down.”

I scribbled down the few names I knew. One or two I remembered from high school, but hadn’t seen much of them after graduation. And not since I’d been back.

“Since you didn’t hear an argument, or anything else the other night, she must have known her assailant.”

I stared at the detective, then at Nix for a moment. “I have no idea.”

“You lived in Billings for the past year?”

“Why did you leave Cutthroat in the first place?”

I didn’t dare look at Nix. “I took a job at a hotel there in their events department.” It wasn’t a lie, just not all of the truth.

“Right, Erin’s company is Mills Moments,” she said, picking up her pen and making a notation on the pad in front of her. She glanced up at me with her piercing green eyes. “Did you and Erin always want to do event planning?”

“I did. I like to be organized.” An understatement considering my mother. Nix knew about her. Most people I went to school with knew about her. It wasn’t a secret, but I wasn’t going to share my mother’s anxiety and hoarding to the detective. It had no impact on the case.