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Mountain Darkness (Wild Mountain Men 1) Vanessa Vale 2022/7/22 14:36:49

I sighed because he was stating the obvious. It was my job to find and collect evidence, discover motive and means, then find a fucking killer. It was his job to see they were found guilty and spent the rest of their life behind bars. The case was in my hands now, but would—hopefully—be in his soon. He was the one with the pressure of having the mayor for a father. I was content for my dad to be a plumber.

Climbing from the vehicle, I took the phone off speaker. “Getting there. First, I’ve got to get our girl, keep her safe. I’m out front of her office now.” I looked up at the second-floor windows. “Light’s on.”

“I’ll meet you there in a few minutes,” he said.

“I want to put a ring on Kit’s finger and get her in my bed. Get her between us. The way it’s looking”—I ran my free hand over the back of my neck—“I might have to put cuffs on her and stick her in a jail cell.”

“As you said, fuck no. She’s got us now. I want to put the cuffs on her and secure her to my bed.”

Everyone in Cutthroat had heard about Erin. With twenty thousand people, it was big enough that I didn’t know everybody, but everybody knew Erin Mills, or at least the Mills family. Word traveled like a wildfire in a summer drought. Everyone was trying to get the inside scoop, the gossip. From me. They didn’t care that it was gruesome, that Erin was my friend, that she’d had her head bashed in.

After I’d been cleared from the hospital and taken to my car—with the stern instructions not to leave town until the detective was able to take my official statement—I’d gone to the office.

I had nowhere else to go. Living with Erin had been temporary. I’d wanted to save up a little money, since almost every penny I had would go to a deposit and first month’s rent. I didn’t have much stuff; my mother’s hoarding nature had taught me to be the opposite, keeping only what was vital. I had a TV and couch, even a bed, but they were in a storage unit until I found my own place. That wasn’t going to happen now, at least not anything halfway decent or safe.

“It’s all over the news.” Mom was anxious and that was not good. Her voice, usually wound up, had a shrill quality to it through the phone.

“Yes, I know,” I replied, pacing the space as I let her talk. I’d called to let

her know I was fine, that she shouldn’t worry. Oh, she worried, but not about me.

“You don’t think they’ll come here, do you?”

I frowned. “Who? The murderer?”

She gasped. Shit, wrong thing to say. “I hadn’t thought of that. I am alone.”

I rolled my eyes. She was intentionally alone. Her mental illness didn’t allow for anything else. Her meds were balanced, but like a teeter totter, one tip in the wrong direction and she’d be in trouble. Her hoarding had gotten to the extreme where no one would even attempt to harm her since there was barely any way for someone to get to her. I didn’t worry about a crazed lunatic bent to bash her head in. I worried about fire.

“You’re safe. Really. It had to be someone who knew Erin and they had a fight.”

That’s what I was hoping for.

“The police won’t come here, right?”

“They have no reason to.”

“But you were there, you said.”

“Yes, I was.” I dropped onto the couch, tried not to let the image of Erin dead on the floor fill my mind. “Mom, nothing for you has changed, or will change.”

“Did you get my lottery ticket? What about the electricity bill?”

I blew out a breath as silently as possible. “Yes, to both. I’ve got to go. I’ll check in with you tomorrow.” I ended the call, dropped my phone on the cushion beside me. Wondered how I was going to pay mom’s light bill without a job.

Obviously, I couldn’t stay with my mom. It hadn’t been an option since just after high school. Her anxiety was too great to have me in the house, and her hoarding had buried my bedroom in junk. I couldn’t risk setting her off. If a murder didn’t bring out her motherly instincts to have me stay at the house, then nothing would.

Reaching into the desk, I found a hair tie and pulled my hair back into a ponytail, sighed. Hell, would someone even rent to me? I hadn’t been questioned more than the few minutes with Nix at the house, but it was coming. I’d been just down the hall when she’d been killed. Why hadn’t I heard anything?

The ER had taken samples from me for DNA. Photos taken. I’d been looked over to ensure I really hadn’t been hurt beneath all the blood, then a kind nurse had led me to a shower and given me clean clothes. I looked down at the basic white t-shirt, sweats and flip flops. It wasn’t stylish, but it was blood free.

The office phone had been ringing all day. At first, I’d worried one of our events was in trouble, but quickly discovered it was everyone from Erin’s hair stylist to the city paper’s crime desk trying to get the salacious details.