Home > Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(2)

Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(2)
Author: Lucy Lennox

“Not all men deserve respect even if they demand it. Why does that man think his problems are your fault?”

Truman frowned and looked down at his feet. The yellow tights he wore ended in a pair of black Converse that looked as clean as they could be for the mileage they seemed to have on them. I regretted asking the question as soon as it caused his cheerful smile to disappear.

He flapped his hand in the air. “It’s a long story and would probably bore you to tears. We should get you to Mr. Browning’s place before he closes up for the day. I’ll show you where it is.”

He spun on his heel and started walking down the side of the highway. The fuzzy black stinger on his butt wiggled back and forth as he moved away from me. How could someone that innocent and sweet possibly be responsible for an asshole’s personal problems?

I followed him for a while in silence before I couldn’t stand it anymore. Maybe I could let Truman be my business for as long as it took to get to the mechanic.

“I don’t mind long stories,” I said.

He turned his sunny smile on me again. “Then you’ll love this one. Did you know that Indian Paintbrush—that red flower there—was called ‘Grandmothers Hair’ by the Chippewa and was used to treat women’s diseases? The Navajos used it as a contraceptive, and the Menominee used it as a love charm. Obviously, it was used to make red dye also, but I find it fascinating that the stories of its name vary from place to place. One story tells of a Blackfoot maiden falling for a prisoner, helping him escape, and then becoming homesick. The story goes on to describe her using her own blood to paint a picture of her old camp that she could never return to again. Where she dropped the picture, a flower bloomed, thus becoming the plant we know today. Then another story describes a Native American painter—tribe unknown—frustrated by his lack of the perfect colors to depict a sunset. He asked the Great Spirit for guidance and was given paintbrushes with all of the richest colors. He ran up into the hills to paint his sunset and left the brushes in the grass where they lay when he was done. The brushes blossomed into the plants we now know as Indian paintbrush.”

I noticed as he talked, Truman became more and more comfortable in his skin. He used his hands to gesture wildly as he spoke, and the subject matter was clearly one close to his heart. Before today, I’d had no interest in learning about local flora, but hearing Truman weave his stories made me wonder for a hot second if I’d been missing something valuable.

It wasn’t until we came upon the motorcycle shop that I even realized he’d never told me the story about the drunk who seemed to have it out for him.

“Anyway,” Truman said happily, “here you are. Aster Valley’s premiere mechanic.”

I stopped and looked up at the arched sign above the garage, but before I had a chance to thank Truman for leading me here, the familiar whoop-whoop of a police vehicle sounded right behind us. I instinctively grabbed Truman and shoved him behind me, wondering if the local drunk driver was nearby and ready to take out his frustration on the adorable fuzzy bumblebee.

Last December, Mikey and another man had been involved in a hit-and-run that had landed Mikey in the hospital with a broken arm. Since the driver had never been identified, it was safe to say being a pedestrian in this small town wasn’t without its risks.

The memory of Mikey’s accident suddenly tweaked something in my brain. “Truman… are you the man with the spice shop?” I asked. Mikey had been on his way to see Truman when the car had swerved in their direction and knocked them down.

“Oh! Uh, yeah? I mean… yes. Yes, that’s me. Spices.” He bit his lip and blinked rapidly at the emergency vehicle.

The officer behind the wheel of an SUV marked as a Rockley County Sheriff’s Deputy seemed to be staring right at me from behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses.

“Jesus,” I muttered.

“Did you know that name is actually a variation of Joshua?” Truman’s soft voice said from behind me. “Bible trivia is unnecessary, Truman,” he muttered.

I wanted to laugh, but the sheriff’s deputy stepped out of his vehicle and stared me down. He was fairly young with a slim frame, but his jaw was set like he was trying to appear tougher than he was. “You there, in the biker jacket. Hands where I can see them.”

Truman made a little squeaky sound and pressed into my back.

“It’s okay,” I said quietly, raising my arms in the air. In a louder voice I called out, “I’d like to report a drunk driver as well as harassment and deliberate damage to personal property.”

The deputy’s forehead crinkled in confusion. “We’ve already had a report of those same things. What’s your name, sir?”

“Sam Rigby. I’m a Texas resident, just in town visiting some friends.”

The deputy tried to glance behind me without coming any closer. “Truman Sweet, is that you back there?”

“Cripes,” he whispered without removing himself from where he was plastered against my back. “How did he recognize me?”

“Come on out here and tell me what happened.”

I saw the antennae bounce into my field of vision before the rest of him. “Um… well, you see, there was a misunderstanding with—”

I cut him off. “No misunderstanding. Local resident Patrick Stanner as identified by Mr. Sweet here was physically harassing Mr. Sweet on the side of the highway. I pulled my bike to the side of the road to intervene when Mr. Stanner shoved Mr. Sweet, got into his vehicle, deliberately smashed my bike into an old billboard, and fled the scene.”

By this time, several shop owners and customers from storefronts nearby had wandered out to see what the excitement was, no doubt alerted by the deputy’s obnoxious and unnecessary siren.

“Now, calm down, sir,” the deputy said, moving his hand to his service weapon. I wanted to roll my eyes, but I didn’t dare make a move showing any disrespect. I was already the outsider, a biker who’d gotten into a scuffle the minute I’d arrived in town. What were the chances they’d take me at my word?

I looked over at Truman, expecting him to verify my version of events. Instead, I saw him practically chewing his bottom lip off with nerves. His face was pale, and his antennae had begun to wobble again.

“You okay?” I asked quietly.

“Not so much,” he answered breathlessly. “Forgot to tell you that Erland Stanner, Patrick’s uncle, is also the sheriff. I’m gonna probably pass out.”

Even though he’d given me a warning, it took my brain a minute to process it. Within seconds, he was tipping forward toward the pavement. I lurched into action, grabbing him around the waist to keep him from breaking his face. But I must have spooked the deputy because suddenly, I was surrounded by two deputies with their weapons drawn, one of whom was shouting into the radio on his shoulder while various shopkeepers and customers screamed bloody murder and ran around like headless chickens.

When I straightened back up with the man-sized bee in my arms, I caught the eyes of an older, white-haired gentleman sitting at an outdoor cafe table a few yards away. He was sipping daintily from a porcelain teacup and had an overgrown purse dog curled up at his feet. His eyes sparkled as he looked me over.

“Oh good,” he said in a lazy drawl. “We could use some excitement around here.”

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