Home > Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(4)

Sweet as Honey (Aster Valley #2)(4)
Author: Lucy Lennox

It wasn’t the first time someone had asked me that, but it was the first time it made me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. “No.”

“Your boyfriend?”

I glanced around at the people standing nearby. Barney always said it was in my best interest for anyone associated with the Stanner family to think I wasn’t alone, that I had protection. “Um…”

Sam let out a breath. “None of my business,” he said gruffly like he was reminding himself of something. “Forget I asked.”

I winced. “I’m sorry about all this. You shouldn’t have stopped to help me.”

He stepped closer, and the deputy’s grip tightened on his arm. Sam lowered his face so he could meet my eyes. “Do you wish I hadn’t stopped?”

I thought of what Patrick would have done to me if Sam hadn’t run him off. As much as I didn’t want Sam to be in trouble with the law, I couldn’t lie and say I wished he hadn’t stopped. I shook my head.

He studied me for another second before nodding and stepping back again. “I’d be grateful if you’d give Mikey a call.”

Once the sheriff finished typing into his computer, he got out and walked over to me. “Would you like to press charges?”

I met his eyes and tried to be brave. “Against Patrick? Yes, please.”

Sheriff Stanner’s eyes narrowed. “Against this man right here,” he said, pointing to Sam. “For assault.”

“He didn’t assault me. But your nephew did.” I swallowed and tried to maintain eye contact. And there were witnesses this time.

Unlike the last time when Patrick and his brother, Craig, had assaulted me in the alley behind my shop one night after closing. When I’d reported the crime to the sheriff’s department, they’d informed me it was a “he said, he said” situation with no evidence or proof of the identity of my assailants.

Which was true. But there was proof of the myriad injuries I’d sustained.

Sheriff Stanner made significant eye contact with me. “I think that part was a misunderstanding, Truman.”

I took a bracing breath. “It wasn’t. Patrick chased me, grabbed me, and then purposefully crunched Mr. Rigby’s motorcycle with his truck. And I think he was drunk. If you find him and do a blood alcohol test, you’ll have proof.” I gathered up my courage for the big push. “Or… or, you could let Mr. Rigby go and we can forget about Patrick’s assault.”

Sheriff Stanner glared at me with flared nostrils. Behind him, Sam’s voice came out low and controlled. “Truman, you don’t want to do that.”

I didn’t dare look over at him. It was taking all of my guts just to confront the sheriff. If I saw Sam’s dark expression, I’d lose my nerve and probably cry a little.

I tried again. “If the Patrick thing was a misunderstanding, then so was the Sam thing.”

The sheriff turned around and faced Sam. “And you? Are you dropping your accusation of willful property destruction?”

Sam’s face took on a dangerous, slightly amused glint. “No.”

The air seemed to thicken before the younger deputy opened up his stupid mouth. “You don’t need Truman’s account, sir. We all saw it with our own eyes. The suspect grabbed Mr. Sweet and held him like a human shield as we attempted our arrest.”

That was all Sheriff Stanner needed. He nodded and said, “You’re right, Dodge. Book him and write up your report. I’ll be back at the station in a few minutes.”

They shoved Sam into the deputy’s vehicle as the sheriff turned back to me. “I’ll need you to make a statement.”

I shook my head. “I don’t have any statement to make. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Barney came up to stand beside me, reaching for my elbow. “Then there’s no harm in telling the truth.”

I shrugged off his grip. “I am telling the truth.”

The sheriff studied me for another moment. “What exactly were you doing out on the side of the highway, Truman? That’s government property.”

Well, heck.

“I dropped my spade and had to go look for it,” I said as innocently as I could. “It must have fallen out of the car on my way home from the shop last night.”

All of us knew that was a lie. I’d been trying to restart the highway wildflower program for years, and every time I brought it up at the county council meetings, it was shot down. It didn’t help that the sheriff’s wife was head of the council. The fact the sides and median of the highway were currently blooming with a riot of color indicated someone had taken it upon themselves to make it happen despite the county council’s decision.

“And you’re wearing a bee costume because…?” he asked.

“It’s my shop mascot,” I said as if it was a well-known fact instead of something I’d made up on the spot. The truth of the matter was that I loved costumes, and I loved spring. I thought Aster Valley was a magical place and wanted to add to the whimsy.

It was easier to be whimsical in disguise.

The sheriff glanced over my shoulder to where my shop sat on the corner of Main and Heath. The historic brick building that currently housed the Honeyed Lemon had once been the home of my great-aunt’s herbal remedy and spiritual healing business. It had thrived back in the time when tourists had flocked to Aster Valley to take advantage of its popular ski resort. But after the resort had shut down… well, it hadn’t thrived any longer.

I pushed down the familiar guilt that always accompanied those memories. It wasn’t your fault, I told myself. But being told it was my fault so often over the years had clouded my memories until even I sometimes blamed myself.

I cleared my throat and made a mental note to schedule an extra therapy session with Greta. “Anyway,” I said, “I’d better get to work. Have a good day, Sheriff.”

I didn’t wait to be excused, I simply waddled my way across the street to the shop and fished my keys out of the fanny pack I wore under my costume. As soon as I was alone in the store with the door locked behind me, I let out a breath and tried not to freak out. Instead, I scrambled for my phone and dialed Mikey’s number.

“Hey, Truman,” he said in a friendly voice. “I’m glad you called. I’m out of that smoked cinnamon already and wanted to see if I could come in and grab some more.”

“Yeah, fine. Of course. But… you and Tiller need to get down to the sheriff’s office. Your friend Sam was arrested.”

There was a long beat of silence on the other end of the line. “Sam Rigby? My Sam?”

My heart did a little half beat of protest at his claim. It made me wonder, not for the first time, if he and Mikey had ever been more than friends to each other. Not that it was any of my business because it definitely was not.

“There was an unfortunate situation out on the highway. He was trying to help me, and… it was all a misunderstanding really. But the sheriff didn’t think so and now…” Just retelling it made me feel horrible, like I’d inadvertently pulled poor Sam into my long-running Aster Valley drama. I felt terrible about it. “He didn’t do anything wrong. Please help him.”

My chin was wobbly, and I knew I was going to start crying any minute. The stress was too much. I’d tried so hard to stay under the radar since moving back to Aster Valley, but this was going to put me smack-dab in the middle of drama again. Which was only going to make the Stanners even angrier.

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