Family Jewels: Rose Garder Investigations #1(8)

By: Denise Grover Swank

She shook her head. “You did the best you could.”

He grimaced and looked over his shoulder, as if he might get lucky and find Ronnie right behind him, before turning back. “If I’d only looked sooner . . .”

“No. Joe. It’s not meant to be.”

Worried Neely Kate would feel down, I changed the subject. “Why were you upset with Carter Hale?”

“When am I not upset with him?” Joe asked. “His passion in life seems to be undermining my work. He represents sleazeballs. And he often wins.”

Neely Kate lifted her chin in defiance. “Which is why I hired him.”

Joe sighed. “For the umpteenth time, let me hire you an attorney from Little Rock.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. “Carter’s doin’ just fine. Besides, you know I can’t afford a hotshot Little Rock lawyer, and I’m not letting you pay for it.”

Joe looked like he wanted to dig his heels in, but he shook his head. “I like how you tried to deflect my question about Raddy Dyer.”

Neely Kate cocked her eyebrow. “I think the real question is what do you know about him? I went to high school with Raddy, and he’s never been one to stir up trouble.”

Joe gave her the side-eye. “I’m pretty sure he’s a good five years older than you.”

“So he’s a bit slow.”

“How recently have you had contact with him?”

Neely Kate shrugged. “I see him from time to time.”

“Well, steer clear of him. We’ve been called out to his property and his estranged wife’s house multiple times over the last month for domestic disturbances. His wife kicked him out, but he keeps trying to get into the house. He seems to be becoming more desperate and more violent in his attempts, so I don’t want you anywhere near that nonsense.”

I turned to Neely Kate, my mouth gaping. The look on her face told me she already knew about Raddy’s trouble with the law. Great.

“Innocent until proven guilty, Joe,” she said.

His gaze held hers and the muscle on his jaw twitched. “Stay away from Radcliffe Dyer.”

Huh. This was a change. Joe was usually barking the orders at me. I couldn’t say I minded one bit that he was barking them at my best friend instead.

She lifted her hands in surrender, and a soft smile covered her face. “I hear you.”

“Oh, I know you hear me,” he said in exasperation. “I’m asking you to please do as I request.”

She rolled her eyes. “Joe . . .”

“What can I get for you?” the girl at the counter asked. We’d been talking so long we’d made it to the front of the line. The clerk, who didn’t look more than twenty, had on a bright, cheerful green apron embroidered with the name Bernadette.

Neely Kate took a deep breath, then said, “I want a medium white mocha, but I want it warm—not too hot and definitely not cold. And instead of three shots of white chocolate syrup, I’d like two. Add a shot of raspberry syrup for the third shot.” Neely Kate paused. “You got that so far?”

“Got it.” Bernadette’s shoulder-length brown hair brushed against her shoulders as she wrote the instructions on the cup.

When she started to set the cup down next to the espresso machine, Neely Kate stopped her. “There’s more.”

Bernadette’s face lifted in surprise. “Okay.”

“What kind of soy milk do you have?”

When did she start drinking soy milk?

The owner, Vance Rankin, a man in his forties, leaned around from behind the espresso machine. “You know good and well what brand of soy milk we use,” he growled. “It’s the same damn stuff we used yesterday.”

Neely Kate gave him a look of annoyance. “Then I want almond milk.”

Bernadette still seemed unfazed. “Anything else?”

“No. That’s it.”

“I’ll take a medium nonfat latte,” I said, suddenly feeling boring compared to Neely Kate.

Joe reached over my shoulder to hand Bernadette some cash. “And I’ll have a large Americano. It’s all on my tab.”

Neely Kate started to protest, but a harsh look from Joe stopped her.

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