The last time Lyn Coates had spoken with Joe Kendall she’d informed him, in no uncertain terms that if he ever stepped foot on her property again, she’d shove her pistol down his throat and feed him the clip and more than once in the eight weeks since, she’d daydreamed about all the painful, drawn out ways she could kill him.
Which begged the question, why was she speeding through the dismal, wintery countryside straight toward him?
As if to make a point, she eased up on the gas and set the cruise control. The answer was simple: the honorable, and here she rolled her eyes, oh so revered Sheriff Joe Kendall hadn’t become a Texas legend because he was cute. That son of a bitch was wily as a possum and ornery as a rabid Chihuahua. He’d honed in on Lyn’s one fatal flaw—a child in need–and was apparently ruthless enough to use it against her.
Child in need or no, it changed nothing between them, and she’d told him so on the phone. Her number one rule of parenting was kill the hyena that got between you and your cubs and then feed it to your cubs for dinner. And if the Sheriff tried anything funny, she’d do just that.
Lyn snorted under her breath as her Lexus sped past the ‘Welcome to Waite, Texas’ sign. She slowed her compact SUV and eased past the gaily decorated downtown area. She wasn’t ready for what she knew would be a grueling afternoon both mentally and emotionally.
After just a few more turns, she was on Elm Street cruising past a row of post WWII houses until she spotted the Sheriff’s suburban. She parked behind him, shoved her cell phone and keys into her purse, grabbing it and the tote bag she’d hurriedly packed from the passenger seat. The sun was hidden by thick gray clouds and as she made her way up the leaf-strewn sidewalk, the rattle of bare branches overhead reminded her Christmas was just a few short weeks away. Thank God, they’d be in New Mexico then, skiing, snowboarding and reveling in the sight of her youngest son seeing his first real snow. She couldn’t wait.
The Sheriff stepped onto the deep porch, hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. He was tall, barrel-chested and despite his age, still a handsome man—at least, on the outside.
“Thank you for coming.” The arrogance that had radiated from him at their first meeting, in their subsequent phone calls over the last eight weeks, and in every photo she’d ever found of him, was nowhere to be seen. Only something sad and quiet, but was that sadness for the child inside the house whose father had disappeared or the child Joe and Lyn shared?
No, not shared, she reminded herself. Joe had thrown Jessie away, solely to cover his ass—and cover up an illicit affair by leaving her to foster care to deal with after her mother’s death. She’d been four. Seven years later, Lyn and Jessie had sort of stumbled over one another and six weeks later she’d filed the adoption papers.
“I’m not doing this for you,” Lyn said as she climbed the steps. She had no clue why the Sherriff had called her (of all people).
He leveled a pale blue gaze at her, his dark brows drawn together. “I know.”
“So why did you call?”
“Because my daughter Gretchen was out searching and her—” He shook his head, a little of the old Joe peeking through, “—significant other has the flu.”
“You could have just called your local social worker.” She hefted the bag higher on her shoulder.
“It’s more complicated than that.” He glanced over his shoulder, then back at her. “They found her daddy’s body about twenty minutes ago.”
“Jesus,” she muttered, the bottom falling out of her stomach. “What’ll happen to her?”
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