Authors: Denise Grover Swank
Tags: #A Rose Gardner Mystery
|RG2 - Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons|
|Swank, Denise Grover|
|Tags:||A Rose Gardner Mystery|
When Rose reports for Fenton County jury duty she figures she’s lucky to get out of a morning working at the DMV. Instead, despite a disastrous encounter with the new assistant district attorney, Mason Deveraux, she’s picked as a juror on a murder case. As the trial progresses, she realizes an ominous vision she had in the men’s restroom proves the defendant is innocent. And there’s not a cotton picking thing she can do about it. Or is there? As if things weren’t bad enough, Rose’s older sister Violet is going through a mid-life crisis. Violet insists that Rose stop seeing her sexy new boyfriend, Arkansas state detective Joe Simmons, and date other men. Rose is done letting people boss her around, but she can’t commit to Joe either. Still, Rose isn’t about to let the best thing in her life slip away.
Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons
Denise Grover Swank
Books by Denise Grover Swank:
Rose Gardner Mysteries
(Humorous southern mysteries)
TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES
TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF REASONS
The Chosen Series
(Paranormal thriller/romance/urban fantasy)
CHOSEN (The Chosen #1)
HUNTED (The Chosen #2)
SACRIFICE (The Chosen#3)
REDEMPTION (The Chosen #4) (October 2012)
The Chosen Shorts Series
Emergence (The Chosen Short #1)
Middle Ground (Will’s story) July 1, 2012
Untitled (Reader’s Choice) August 1, 2012
On the Otherside Series
(Young adult paranormal romance)
THERE (December 2012)
Copyright © 2012 by Denise Grover Swank
Cover art and design by Janet Holmes
Developmental Editing: Alison Dasho
Copy Editing: Jim Thomsen
Proof Reading: Annette Guerriero
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used factiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
Having a boyfriend was supposed to make my life easier.
Instead, I buttoned Joe’s white shirt on Monday morning, forlorn. This was the fifth time he’d left for Little Rock after a weekend with me, and each time was even harder than the time before. I rested my cheek against his chest and sighed. “I wish you didn’t have to go.”
He lifted my chin and leaned down to kiss me, making me want him to stay even more. “You should quit your job at the DMV, which you hate anyway, and come stay with me in Little Rock.”
I sighed again. We’d had this conversation before. “Joe…”
He kissed me again, knowing full well his lips were my Kryptonite.
Muffy, my eight-pound guard dog, whined at my feet. She always did have good timing. “I’ll take you out in a minute, Muff.” I pulled away and looked at the clock. “It’s seven, and it’ll take you two hours to get to Little Rock. You need to get goin’.”
“You still didn’t answer my question.”
I rested my hands on his chest and looked up into his face with a playful grin. “An intelligent police detective such as yourself should know full well that wasn’t a question. And besides, you know my answer. We’ve only been dating a month. It’s too soon. And then there’s Violet…”
“Your sister is a grown woman with a family of her own. You spent twenty-four years living your life to please your mother, Rose. It’s time to think about you.”
“I can’t leave Violet to deal with all the estate stuff from Momma’s death. That wouldn’t be fair to her.”
“You sell the house and divide the assets. It’s not that hard, Rose.”
I took a step back. I didn’t want to sell the house. “That still doesn’t address the length of time we’ve known each other. It’s only been—”
“A little over a month.” Joe ended with a sigh. “I know. How long do you need? Two months? A year?”
“I don’t know, Joe.” I said, frustrated I didn’t know that answer.
He pulled me against his chest and nuzzled my neck. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push you. I just miss you so much durin’ the week and the weekends don’t last long enough.”
“I know.” My stomach flip-flopped in my confusion. I missed him, too. Terribly. Why didn’t I want to move to Little Rock with him? I settled into his chest, the soft rhythm of his heart filling my ear with comfort and reassurance. I needed to soak it in to last me through the rest of the week. Four nights without him—the thought filled me with loneliness, but the thought of moving to Little Rock filled me with terror.
He kissed me again, reminding me of what I’d be missing for the next five days. I knew full well that was his intent when he pulled back and gave me his ornery grin.
“You play dirty,” I said with a grin of my own.
“You better believe it.” Joe dropped his arms and turned away. “Okay, I need to go before I throw you into the car and take you with me anyway.” He rummaged around on the kitchen counter.
“That’s called kidnapping, Detective Simmons. You of all people should know that. What are you lookin’ for?”
“My keys.” He opened the junk drawer and shuffled through the contents. “Here they are.” He clutched them in his fist and pulled out an envelope. “Fenton County Courthouse. This looks important.”
I grabbed the envelope. “Oh crappy doodles! I completely forgot. I have jury duty on the eleventh. What’s today?”
He raised an eyebrow. “The eleventh.”
My stomach twisted. “Oh no! I didn’t tell Suzanne, and I don’t have vacation time left. She’ll never let me off.”
“Suzanne has to you let you off. It’s the law—and it won’t be vacation time either, so don’t worry about that. She’ll understand.”
I wasn’t sure she would understand at all. Suzanne, my coworker and nemesis, had been promoted after our old boss’s extortion arrest. I’d been involved in uncovering the crime, and had suffered some injuries. When I’d returned to work after a week off, sporting a bruised and battered face, Suzanne tried to bond with me, thinking we were sisters in boyfriend abuse. But when she found out I’d gotten beat up in the bust of a sting operation instead, and that Joe was an undercover cop, she hated me again. It didn’t matter that I’d been accidentally dragged into it; all that mattered to Suzanne was that I’d become big news in town and had stolen attention from her. Of course, it didn’t take much to be big news in Henryetta, Arkansas, population 11,000. Before the Daniel Crocker mess, the biggest news had been Samantha Jo Wheaton lighting her cheating husband’s boat on fire in their front yard.
“Just call in and tell her you forgot. Besides, you’ll probably only be at the courthouse half a day and be at the DMV in the afternoon. They’ll hardly miss you.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right…” Other than the crime ring bust, which involved a couple of deaths—my momma’s and a bartender at Jasper’s Steakhouse—and a few break-ins at my house, there wasn’t much crime in Henryetta or Fenton County. Did they have jury trials for jaywalking?
Muffy whined again and Joe reached down to rub her head. “I hear you, girl.” Joe grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. “I gotta go. Walk me out?”
I glanced down at my skimpy pajamas. “And give Mildred, president of the Busybodies Club, something to talk about after she watches you kiss me goodbye? Yeah. I’ll walk you out.”
We stepped into a July sauna, Muffy bolting through the door in front of us.
“It’s gonna be another scorcher,” Joe said. “They say it’s the hottest, driest July on record.”
“Hmm.” I was too busy already missing him to care.
We waited for Muffy to do her business, stalling for more time together. Joe pointed to the house next door. He’d lived there while he was undercover, working as a mechanic and building evidence against Daniel Crocker so the state police could bust his statewide car parts ring. “Any news of who’s movin’ in?”
“Mildred says a family with five boys is moving in this week.”
“In that tiny house?”
“If Mildred says it’s true, it’s gospel.”
Joe shrugged. Even in the short time he’d lived there he knew nothing slipped by Mildred.
We finally reached his car, and he pulled me into a hug.
“You’re not doing undercover work this week, are you?” I looked up into his face to make sure he told the truth.
He smiled. He knew how much his job scared me. It had almost gotten him killed by the Henryetta crime ring. I had no idea if there had been any other near misses. He refused to tell me. “No, darlin’. Not this week.”
“You wouldn’t lie to me to make me feel better, would you?”
He kissed me lightly and murmured against my lips. “No, Rose. I swear I’ll never lie to you.”
“Good.” I gave his chest a light push. “Now go on before I drag you back into the house and lock you up.”
He lifted an eyebrow with a wicked look. “Are you going to tie me up?”
I titled my head. “Would you stay if I said yes?”
Laughing, Joe opened his car door. “My life was utterly boring before I met you, Rose Gardner.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing, Joe McAllister.” I shook my head. “I mean Simmons. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to your real last name. You’ll always be Joe McAllister to me.”
He sat in his front seat looking up at me, the beautiful brown of his eyes accented by scattered dark flecks. It still stung a little that Joe thought I might have been the extortionist and had kept up his cover for so long.
The sunlight caught his brown hair, enhancing his natural coppery highlights. I asked myself for the thousandth time why I wasn’t going with him. He was a good-looking man, all alone in the city. Any woman would kill to be with him. I was crazy. But I was also stubborn.
He grabbed my hand and rubbed the back of it with his thumb. “I don’t want to leave you like this with us rememberin’ the bad times.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want you to go with us like this either.”
He scooted his seat back and pulled me in to sit on his lap.
“Joe!” I squealed.
“Let’s give Mildred something to talk about that will last all week.” He slipped his fingers into my hair and pulled my mouth to his, making me forget we’d been arguing. After a good half a minute he whispered against my lips, “We’d better stop before I take you back inside. I’m gonna be late as it is.”
I sucked his lip into my mouth and he groaned. I should have felt bad torturing him; instead, I took delight in the fact I had the power to do so.
“Maybe I’ll just rip your clothes off right here in the car.”
I grinned. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Darlin’, you keep kissing me like that and I make no guarantees.” His hand slid up under my shirt. I giggled as I tried to jump off his lap, but his arm around my waist kept me in place. He laughed, but the look in his eyes told me he wasn’t completely teasing.
I stared into his face, soaking in the memory, wanting it to last through the week. My breath sucked in with a familiar tingle in the back of my head—the warning a vision was coming on. My peripheral vision blacked out and then an image filled my sight. I was seeing through Joe’s eyes—my
always showed me possible futures of whoever I was physically close to. This time, I was in an office, sitting at a desk, clenching my fist in anger. An older man stood in front of me. “It’s not personal, Joe. If you hadn’t broken the rules in Henryetta, the job would be yours.”
As the vision faded away, I said, “You’re not gonna get the job.” My head fully cleared and I groaned. I’d give anything if I could stop from blurting out whatever I saw in a vision. For some reason my second sight was connected directly to my big mouth, and that thoroughly annoying trait was what got me into most of my trouble.
The smile fell from his face.
“I didn’t know you were lookin’ for a new job, Joe.”
“It’s a transfer, Rose, and it’s not like it matters now.”
I wanted to ask where he wanted to be transferred to, but I knew it had to be closer to me. There’s no way he’d be looking for a job farther way. “You of all people know what I see doesn’t always come true. I saw myself dead. I saw you dead. We both lived. We changed it.”
He looked hopeful. “You really think I can change it?”
Why did I tell him that? “No. I’m sorry. The man said it was because you’d broke the rules in Henryetta.” Breaking the rules had been my fault. Joe had disobeyed orders and helped me escape from Daniel Crocker. He’d saved my life. “I’m sorry, Joe.”
His mouth lifted into a crooked smile. “Hey, don’t worry. It’ll all work out.” He kissed me and looked into my eyes. “I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except maybe trust you a little sooner.”