“He’s a deputy? He’s not in uniform.” She tried to make her voice sound light and casual.
“Oh, he owns a landscaping business with his family, but he’s also a volunteer sheriff’s deputy from Anhinga County. Next county over. They’re such a small county, they don’t even have a full time department. He’s the Alpha of his pack, you know.” The woman spoke in the confiding tones of a seasoned gossip who was delivering some juicy secret.
“He’s a real looker, isn’t he?” the woman continued. “I think he was a little sweet on you, in fact.” She winked at Lainey.
Or a little suspicious of me, Lainey thought. She forced cheer into her voice. “He sure is a looker. By the way, I’m staying at Imogen’s Boarding House. Could you give me directions? I need to check in. I’m…I’m Kat, by the way.”
All the women from the salon were staring at her now, although not in an unfriendly way. They were looking her up and down with unabashed interest. They probably didn’t get a lot of new people in town.
“Her and Tate…funny, you don’t usually see cats and dogs getting together, but I could see it, I sure could,” said the older panther shifter to one of her friends.
Lainey found herself blushing again.
“Imogen’s is two miles further down this road, then you turn left at rural route 332 and go another mile,” one of the other women said, patting gently at her curlers, which were covered with a disposable plastic cap from the salon. “It’s the big white farm house on the right. There’s a rooster weathervane on the roof.”
“Thank you! See you around, then,” Lainey said, and hurried to her car without a backward glance.
As she climbed in and pulled away, she couldn’t stop herself from glancing in the rearview mirror. Tate was staring after her and…writing on a pad of paper. He was writing down her license plate number.
Well, good luck with that, she thought irritably. She’d had Katherine book the rental car under her name as well, and reimbursed her for it. She was going to do everything that she could to avoid letting her family track her down.
Yep, he was definitely interested in her as a suspect and nothing else. She felt surprisingly deflated as she headed down the road. What difference did it make? I’ll be gone in two weeks, anyway.
Tate walked out of the jewelry store, frustrated. Whoever had stolen the wedding tiara, an heirloom that had been in Ginger’s family for generations, had sprayed the air with a concoction made from the scentsbane herb, which interfered with his shifter ability to pick up any identifiable scent he could track. He and Loch and several of Loch’s deputies had tried anyway, shifting into wolf form and running through the store, exploring every nook and cranny, but the scentsbane clogged their nostrils and thwarted their task.
He’d accomplished nothing, and the luscious brunette had left before he’d had a chance to chat with her any more, to breathe in her heavenly cinnamon scent and enjoy the way she made his pulse race in a way he hadn’t felt in years.
Ginger was standing near the store, chatting with several of the older women who’d come out of the beauty shop. “I’m sorry, Ginger,” Tate said to her. “I’m sure we’ll find it. Something as distinctive as that tiara – the minute someone tries to pawn it, it’ll be flagged.”
“Thank you, Tate, I appreciate you trying,” Ginger said, with a sigh. “My mom’s flipping out, of course. I hope they find it before the wedding.”