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Matt rolled over and groaned as pain shot up through his back. Splitting wood for two days in a row was definitely a lot harder on his body than most days as a police officer in Spencer Valley. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to splitting wood. It was that he usually did it in smaller spurts, not two days straight. But what else did he have to do until the investigation into his incident with Gabe was over? He’d already cleaned out the fridge and Alex’s messes, picked up his deer from the butcher and loaded that in the freezer, and been to the gym every day this week, despite hating every second of working out.
Eventually, he was going to have to accept the fact there was a very good possibility he wasn’t going to be a cop much longer and start looking for a new job. Looking out of the area wasn’t an option now since it would mean leaving Liz and Bella, unless, of course, they wanted to go with him.
He sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched his arms over his head, wincing as muscles he’d forgotten he’d ever had protested their overuse the day before.
Even answering his phone when it rang sent pain shooting up through his biceps and shoulder. “Yeah?”
“McGee. Got a problem.”
Dan. Great. Now what?
“Your buddy Bernie took off on us when we tried to question him about the drug cave.”
Matt rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes to chase away the sleep. “Took off? What do you mean?”
“Took us for a run in the woods, jumped in some old junker, and took off. He was gone before we could get back to our cars. Any idea where he might have gone?”
“Keep an eye out for him, will you? Because we got a search warrant and found about five kilos of heroin in a shed on his property. It’s clear he was trying to throw you off the scent by implicating Martin.
Matt pressed his hand against his forehead. No way. Bernie couldn’t be that stupid. “It could have been planted.”
Dan let out a breath. “Listen, bud, I know you want to think this guy turned his life around. We all wish that would happen with the guys we arrest but more times than not, it doesn’t. Just let me know if he contacts you, okay?”
“I definitely will. Anything more on Gabe?”
Dan sighed. “Not yet, but we’ll keep looking. Did you find out who owns that building through your real estate friend? I haven’t had a chance to get over to the register and recorder’s office.”
Matt stood and opened his dresser, pulling out a T-shirt. “No. Not yet.”
Dan took a sip on the other end of the phone and Matt imagined it was coffee he was sipping since he was an avid coffee drinker, which reminded him how much he needed some coffee right now. “I know you have your heart set on it being Gabe, but all the evidence is pointing toward Bernie. Why else would the drugs be in his shed, for one, and two, why else would he run?”
Matt trapped the phone between his shoulder and chin while he pulled a pair of jeans over his boxers. “Afraid of going back to jail for one. He’s married now with a couple of kids.”
“He should have thought of that before he stored all those drugs in his shed. The running makes him look even guiltier. Just call me if you see him.”
The line went dead, and Matt tossed the phone on his bed.
He needed coffee if he was going to be able to tackle the rest of this day.
A lot of coffee.
Ginny’s hands shook as she poured coffee into a travel mug. It wasn’t helping her situation that her mind was racing and causing her heart to do the same, or that she hadn’t slept more than three hours the night before. The bed had been cold and lonely. Physically this time. For years it had been cold and lonely emotionally but having it cold and lonely both physically and emotionally had been almost too much to bear.
She’d considered calling Liz more than once, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Liz was in a place of happiness at the moment, swept up in newly discovered love, or more accurately newly admitted love. Calling to dump all her emotional baggage on the poor young woman seemed cruel.
“I really need to get some friends my age.” The words came out of her softly, even though she knew no one else would hear her. Stan had kept true to his word and spent the night away from home, hopefully at the Blueberry Inn. Olivia was most likely still asleep and even the cat had chosen the warmth of the comforter on her freshly made bed over watching her mope around the kitchen this morning.
“Having friends your own age is highly overrated.”
Ginny jumped and almost screamed at the sound of her daughter’s voice behind her. “Olivia!” She swung to face her. “Where did you come from?”
Olivia walked past her on the way to the refrigerator, turned her head and winked. “Your womb, my dear lady.”
Ginny shook her head, laughing. “Very funny, young lady.”
Olivia snatched up the cream cheese and a carton of milk. “What’s all this menopausal depression this morning? All this worrying about not having friends your age?”
Ginny smiled faintly and returned to packing her lunch. “Oh, just lamenting the loss of friendships over the years, I suppose.”
Olivia took a bagel out of the bread box, broke it, and slid it into the toaster. “But you have Liz. It shouldn’t matter she’s not your age. Having friends of different ages, sexes, and backgrounds gives you different perspectives on things, right?”
Ginny zipped her bag closed. “Well, that’s an interesting way to look at it. I was just thinking that sometimes we are in different stages in our lives so sometimes we might not be able to relate to each other.”
Olivia poured a glass of juice and took a sip. “What can’t Liz relate to that’s going on in your life right now?” She turned away from the counter and leaned back against it, her eyebrow cocking like a revolver. “Tell me, Mom. What’s going on right now that you’re worried to talk to Liz about?”
Ginny smiled, shook her head twice, and reached for her jacket. She couldn’t tell her daughter what was going on. Not yet anyhow, not unless Stan demanded a divorce. Then, of course, she’d have to tell her. But for now, she simply couldn’t let her daughter know what she’d done, the horrible mistake she’d made. She looked at Olivia, who was looking at her and took a deep breath. Olivia was so young, so beautiful, so bright. She had her whole future in front of her. Maybe she did need to know what mistakes her mother had made over the years, including last week. Maybe then she wouldn’t make the same mistakes.
She told her quickly, the words rushing out of her as if by saying them faster they wouldn’t hurt as much. “Keith kissed me last week when we went out to dinner. I didn’t want him to, didn’t expect it, and I told him I didn’t appreciate it. Your father found out before I could talk to him and was very upset. That’s why he wasn’t here last night for dinner and why he hasn’t been home all night.”
Olivia’s eyebrows rose in unison this time. She let out a quiet gasp, her mouth dropped slightly open, and she leaned forward as if she hadn’t heard correctly. “Excuse me? Are you serious?”
Ginny sucked in a breath. Maybe this had been a bad idea. “I wish I wasn’t, but yes, I am serious.”
Olivia’s eyes stayed wide as she slumped back against the counter, her arms at her sides. “Wow. Okay, well, I knew something was going on, but I did not expect that.” She whistled and looked at the floor for a moment before looking back at her mom. “So, what’s the deal? Do you still love Dad or what?”
“Of course, I love your dad!” Tears filled Ginny’s eyes. “More than I ever have.” She touched a fingertip against the corner of her eye to catch a tear before it ran and messed up her makeup.
Oliva bit her lower lip for a brief moment before asking, “He’s been ignoring you lately, hasn’t he?”
Ginny’s lower lip quivered in a silent answer as she looked away from her daughter. She shrugged a shoulder. “He’s been busy.” Her gaze drifted out the kitchen window, into the neighbor’s yard where a hummingbird was hovering at a feeder under the edge of the porch roof. She looked back at Olivia. “But that is no excuse. I never should have been alone with Keith or swept up by his charm and sweetness. Or the way he noticed my hair when your father didn’t. Or how he seemed to be excited about going out to dinner with me.” She rolled her eyes. “When your father wasn’t.”
The bagel popped up and Oliva turned and began to spread cream cheese on one side, her back to Ginny. “Mom, listen. I understand. You felt neglected. It makes sense how you lost sight of who you are for a few moments.”
It was clear Oliva was missing the point. Ginny needed to be sure she didn’t miss the point.
“But it doesn’t matter if I felt neglected. I made a commitment to stay with your father through it all — the good and the bad, sickness and health. All of that. Liv, look at me.” Olivia looked over her shoulder to look at her mom and Ginny took a step toward her. “I made vows with your father. That’s important, okay?”
Oliva set the butterknife down and turned to face Ginny. “Yes, Mom. I do. Really.” She walked to Ginny and slid her arms around her, pulling her into a hug. “I know. I’m sorry. I just want you to know that I understand. I know you made a mistake. You know you made a mistake.” She leaned back, placing a hand on her mom’s shoulders. “Dad should understand that too and listen to you. Did you tell him how much you still love him? That you didn’t want the kiss from Keith?”
Ginny nodded. “Yes, and he still walked away.”
Olivia sighed. “Give him time. That’s all he needs. If he can just see that part of this is his fault, then maybe he’ll realize he’s also part of the solution.”
Ginny slid her coat on and began to button it closed. “I hope so. For now, though, I need to head to the library. I have to meet Liz and brainstorm plans for the new story hour we’re going to start and finish the final details for the fundraiser and — oh!” She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh, my goodness! I forgot to order the cake for Clint and Tiffany’s homecoming party.”
Oliva walked over and buttoned the top button on Ginny’s coat. “Mom, calm down. I’ll order the cake. What am I ordering? Who am I calling? Give me all the details and I’ll handle it.”
“Oh, honey, thank you. I would appreciate it. I’ll text you the details when I get to the library. I need to go unlock it so Liz and Sarah can get in.” She blew out a breath. “And hopefully no one else.”