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Mountain Darkness (Wild Mountain Men 1) Vanessa Vale 2022/7/22 14:36:56

A pang of sadness hit me. “It was good.”

“We weren’t that close, she and I,” he admitted. “Not since I came back. She was… different.”

I knew what he was talking about. While she hadn’t had tons of responsibility because of her money, she’d turned… reckless in the past few years. Lots of men. Partying. I hadn’t been able to keep

up. I hadn’t wanted to. I knew Lucas, at least the younger version. I’d heard he’d been deployed to Afghanistan and had been injured. Had a rough go of it for a while before founding his non-profit. He’d been quiet and introverted before, but if he struggled with his deployment, he probably couldn’t keep up with Erin either.

“It doesn’t make it easier,” I offered. “She was special to a lot of people.”

It was true. Every word. I just didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t do it wasn’t going to work. His sister had been murdered. It wasn’t about me.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” I asked, remembering why he was here.

I turned and grabbed a cup and saucer and the fresh pot. I was pouring it when the entry door was flung open. “Lucas!”

It was Keith Mills. Fuck.

He stalked over to his son. “What are you doing here?”

Lucas lifted his cup. “Having coffee.”

“With her? Are you insane? She killed Erin!”

You could hear a cracker snap in the restaurant. Everyone was staring.

“Mr. Mills, I didn’t—”

His gaze lifted to mine, filled with a hatred I’d never seen before. He looked as put together as ever with his pressed pants and golf shirt, but he had a wildness about him. I knew people who lost their children went out of their minds with grief. Some went a little crazy. But this? All of his grieving and frustration at Erin’s murder seemed directed solely on me.

“I don’t want to hear it,” he shouted. “It’s lies, all of it. You’ve got people believing your sweet and innocent act, but I won’t.”

Lucas slowly stood, put himself between me and his father as if the counter wasn’t enough.

“She didn’t kill Erin,” Lucas said.

Mr. Mills flashed his anger at Lucas. “You don’t know that!”

“You don’t know she did it,” he replied calmly. His back was to me, but I could easily compare his calm stance to his father’s tense one. “If you did, you’d have told the police and they would have arrested her.”

“She’s been a menace to our family for years.”

Lucas shook his head. “She’s been a friend.”

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“Friend? You’re one to talk.” Mr. Mills pointed at him. “She had you panting all over her, had a tight grip on your balls until you went overseas.”

“Yes, Dad. I had to go to war to get away from her ruthless clutches.”

Mr. Mills wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “She’s a money grubbing—”

“Don’t say it, Mills, or I’ll have you arrested for slander.” Detective Miranski stood behind Mr. Mills, hands on her hips. She was tall for a woman, but not as big as Keith Mills. But, if I had to put money on who’d win a fist fight, I’d back her. And the service pistol on her hip.

“She—” Mr. Mills began.

“She didn’t kill your daughter,” Miranski said, loud enough for everyone in the diner to clearly hear. She wasn’t from Cutthroat. She was close enough in age that I would have come across her often enough. Still, she knew how small towns worked, that the best way to get accurate information out was to spread it yourself, and the diner was the perfect place to do so. Because of his outburst, Keith Mills had given her the perfect opportunity.

My eyes widened at her statement. She’d been by the books until now. Making such a statement meant—