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Mountain Darkness (Wild Mountain Men 1) Vanessa Vale 2022/7/22 14:36:48

“No. This is all hers.” I lifted my hands, then dropped them. “I… went to help her, but… but there was nothing to do. I called 9-1-1.”

I wanted to run into his arms, have him hug me tight and make all the bad stuff go away, but he wasn’t here as a friend, or even past almost-boyfriend. He was working. I was his job.

“I didn’t know you were back in town,” he said.

I bit my lip, glanced away from his scrutiny. “Um… last month.”

“You’re staying here with Erin?”

“Yes. I’m working with her at Mills Moments.” He looked confused. “Her event planning business.”

“I was saving up some money to get a place of my own. We’ve been really busy though, handling a few smaller events—like a wedding last night. Most of our time lately has been on a big client, handling all of the catering, the parties and

marketing events for Eddie Nickel’s new movie. We were to meet him this morning.”

Eddie Nickel was a famous movie star, but had a house in Cutthroat. Had two kids. Shane, was a few years older than me, but Poppy had been in my high school class. Both of them grew up here with a nanny while Eddie had been in Hollywood or on location filming.

I shrugged. “They work every day when on location.”

“I’ll have someone get in touch with him,” he replied. Obviously, I wasn’t making that meeting. Neither was Erin. I swallowed hard, realizing how awful that was. Tears threatened, but I willed them back.

He walked toward Erin’s body, but not too close, squatted down, took in everything. I knew he was seeing things I couldn’t.

After a minute, he stood and turned to me. “Tell me what happened.”

“I don’t know what happened to her. I… was sleeping and came out to make coffee. Found her, then called 9-1-1.”

“Where’s your bedroom?” He glanced around the space. The huge kitchen was open to the great room, a curving staircase was to the side of the fireplace.

I pointed down the hall and to the back of the house. “Behind the kitchen. Erin’s room is upstairs. The second floor is pretty much a huge master suite.”

He glanced the way I’d indicated, then back at me. “Why are you covered in blood?”

I looked down at myself, turned my hands palm up and saw how they were completely covered, then told him how I’d settled her on my lap, wondered how she’d hit her head, all of it. Which wasn’t much, the first responders quietly listening. Only the walkie talkie voice cut through the silence.

I shivered, crossed my arms over my chest when I realized I was standing in front of Nix and five other men in just a skimpy tank top—without a bra—and little sleep shorts. Glancing down, I saw my nipples poking against the stretchy cotton, but then I saw all the blood on me. The yellow color was stained, my hands were covered, my arms smeared. There was even some on my blue striped shorts and thigh.

“When was the last time you saw her?”

I glanced up from my BFF’s blood. “Last night, at the Red Barn. At the wedding we planned.”

It was a familiar reception spot that was out of town on ten acres of land, a beautiful old barn renovated for a variety of functions.

“I left before she did, said she had plans after,” I added.

I shook my head. “I don’t know. She didn’t share, but I’m guessing a guy.”

“Was the front door open?” He angled his head toward the currently-open entry. The morning was cool, like every summer morning in Montana, but it would heat up as the sun climbed higher.

I frowned. Thought. “No. I opened it when I heard the sirens.”