Would he really come back? Could this be happening to her? Men who looked like Tate just didn’t go for women like her. Well, not without an ulterior motive, so she’d discovered.
I can’t just stand here like a love-struck cow, she thought. If he wants to talk to me again, he’ll come and find me. She strolled away from the crowd, finished off the rest of the soda, and found a garbage can to toss the bottle into.
The sheriff was talking to an attractive older woman now, she noted. The woman was in her fifties, reed thin, wearing a tailored business suit. Wolf shifter. She shot dirty looks at the sheriff’s fiancée. The sheriff said something that made the woman angry, and the woman turned on her heel and stalked off, climbing into a Lexus. She drove off with a screech of tires.
“Well, hello there. I haven’t seen you here before. Friend of the bride, or the groom?” a handsome man said to her. He looked to be in his thirties or early forties, a coyote shifter, with wavy brown hair that made him look like a matinee idol. He had an oddly sensual air about him, and brown eyes that bored right through her with an unnerving intensity. She caught a whiff of expensive cologne. He wore the same brand as her father, which surprised her. At two hundred dollars a bottle, it didn’t seem like the kind of brand that would sell in Blue Moon Junction.
He was attractive, but in a completely different way than Tate Calloway. Tate was earthy and masculine and genuine. This man was smooth and polished and moved with a kind of practiced charm. Lainey suspected that he was the kind who flirted with women automatically, for his own ego as much as theirs. Not that it was unpleasant; he was easy on the eyes.
“Neither,” Lainey said. “I’m staying at a boarding house. Just came here for some peace and quiet. I actually didn’t know there was a wedding going on.” She glanced over at the Lexus as it drove away. “What was all that about?”
“Oh, that’s Aurora Sinclair. She’s had a running feud with the sheriff ever since he chose to propose to that redheaded witch instead of Aurora’s niece. Aurora used to be a member of the Shifter’s Council, and she blames the sheriff’s family for getting her booted off. It wasn’t really his fault. The fact was, she’d made a lot of enemies, and she was easy to defeat.”
“Wow. All this intrigue and drama,” Lainey marveled. “It’s like I walked onto the set of a soap opera.”
“Yes, there’s a lot more running underneath the surface here than you’d think. If you would like a guided tour of the town, do let me know. I’m Hamilton Hooper. You can find me at the jewelry store, once all of the excitement dies down.” At her surprised look, he added, “My father owned the store, and now I’m doing my best to fill his shoes. So far, obviously, my best isn’t near good enough. Well, I hope I see you a lot more of you.” He winked at her and walked off.
Well, that was about as direct as it gets. She wasn’t interested, but it was nice to be flirted with, at any rate.
“Good heavens, isn’t it just too much?” one of the women in curlers said to her. She was an older woman, in her seventies at least, a panther shifter with golden eyes.
“What’s that?” Lainey said.
“That poor bride’s wedding tiara being stolen like that. Wasn’t that what the deputy was asking you about?” The woman glanced over at Tate, who was still talking to the sheriff. The sheriff turned and walked into the jewelry store, and Tate followed him.
Lainey’s heart suddenly turned into a leaden fishing weight that slowly sank in her chest. He hadn’t been interested in her as a person; he’d been interrogating her as a potential suspect. Of course, it made perfect sense he’d be suspicious of her, since she was a stranger in town, and she wasn’t there for the wedding.