Family Jewels: Rose Garder Investigations #1(6)

By: Denise Grover Swank


Still, I had no desire to put myself through it again.

I groaned. “Fine.” When she started to get excited, I held up my hands. “We’ll talk to him. That’s all. Then you and I will talk about it and decide where to go from there.”

Her head bobbed as she nodded. “Sure. Of course.”

I’d seen that look before. I suspected she’d already texted Raddy Dyer and accepted the case.

My phone began to ring, and I pulled it from my jeans pocket, surprised to see the initials SM—Skeeter Malcolm—on my screen. I shot Neely Kate a glance before I answered.

“James, I haven’t heard from you in a while.” A couple of weeks, to be exact.

“Lady,” he said, his voice tight. “We’ve got a problem.”





Chapter 2





James Malcolm had become head of the Fenton County criminal underworld six months ago, and ever since he’d assumed that title, people had been trying to snatch it. While I’d met him the previous summer at the pool hall he owned, we hadn’t become better acquainted until November. Several peculiar twists of fate later, I found myself using my visions to help him maintain his position in exchange for his protection of my assistant district attorney boyfriend. My confident, powerful alter ego—the Lady in Black—was born to keep my true identity a secret. I may have worn sexy black dresses, heels, and a veiled black hat to disguise my appearance, but the persona had sunk roots into my soul and changed me. Some days I thought James was the only one who recognized how much.

Although I’d retired the Lady in Black in February, my friendship with James had survived. We still met up weekly at the spot where I used to meet him and his right-hand man, Jed. James would tell me about the latest issues he was struggling to resolve, and I’d offer advice and sometimes force a vision to make sure he’d survive to show up the next week.

I was sure part of him longed to give up his position in the underworld, but he worried what his successor would do to the people of the county. He had a strict code of ethics, and from the multiple attempts at his crown, he was well aware there were far more ruthless and unconscionable men waiting in the wings. So he stayed.

About a month and a half ago, he’d caught wind of a new challenger. He’d told me about a guy named Wagner who was stirring up trouble, but James had refused to discuss him the last couple of times we’d met. I’d hoped he was no longer a threat, but the fact that James had been dodging my calls for the past two weeks had me more than a little worried. It looked like my concern had been justified.

I had all kinds of questions to ask, but I didn’t dare ask any of them in front of Neely Kate. “What’s goin’ on?”

“Can you meet me in three hours?”

I snuck a quick glance over to Neely Kate. I wasn’t sure how I’d explain leaving to meet him, but then, we’d skirted where I went every Tuesday night for the past three months. This time we’d be meeting much earlier than usual, which meant she might ask more questions, but I’d figure it out. “I’ll make it work.”

“Good,” he grunted. “I’ll meet you at our usual place.” Then he hung up.

Neely Kate put her hands on her hips. “What was that about?”

“Nothin’.”

A scowl covered her face, but she wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of our meeting with Raddy Dyer. She sucked in a deep breath and blew it out in exasperation before she said, “Are you ready to go?”

Stuffing my phone into my pocket, I squatted down next to Muffy and pulled the white flower petal collar over her head. I tossed it onto Neely Kate’s desk, then grinned. “Fine. But we’re getting coffee from The Daily Grind first.”

She tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “I was the one who suggested we go there in the first place.”

I scrawled a quick note to Anna, apologizing in half a dozen different ways, and then kissed Muffy goodbye. We closed the door to the disaster zone behind us and locked it, although any potential burglars would take one look at the mess and assume someone had beat them to the place. Anna had a key.

The rain had turned into a light drizzle, but my hair was pulled into a ponytail and I’d given up fighting the weather today. I saw no reason to worry about how the rain might affect my appearance, but judging by Neely Kate’s long strides, she didn’t share my sentiment.

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