One More Time (Paradise Bay Book 2)(2)By: Ella Linden
He crossed his arms over his chest and turned to look at their broken window.
All he wanted was to be out in his fields in the peace and quiet, not dealing with waitresses or customers or tourists or, worst of all, women who hated his guts and still managed to make his heart pound.
The crap he put up with for his brother.
Iris stepped out of the bookstore and glanced to her right. Even if she hadn’t already seen him out there, she’d recognize those broad shoulders, those lean hips, anywhere. Carter Freaking Daniels.
She glanced around to see if any of the other officers on the scene were available to take over for her, but they were all busy either talking to business owners or taking photographs. After taking a deep breath and rolling her shoulders, she walked toward Carter.
“Where’s Scott?” she asked as she stepped back and took a photo of the front of the brewery. That window was not going to be cheap to replace. She remembered Carter trying to talk Scott out of the huge plate glass, years ago. She shook the memory away and snapped another photo.
“He’s out of town,” he said, and she tried to ignore the effect his voice could still have on her, that deep, rough, quiet tone that could either make you feel like you’d died and gone to heaven or like you were the biggest disappointment on the face of the planet.
She started filling out the incident report. She already knew Carter’s name, address, phone number. She filled it all in.
“So what can you tell me?” she asked, keeping her gaze on the tablet in her hands.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, and then she heard him sigh. “I got a call around six-thirty that something had triggered the alarm here at the brewery, that one of the windows had been breached. Since we only have those big windows, I knew that had to mean that one of them was broken. So I came out here to see what was going on.”
“What time did you arrive?”
“A little after seven.”
Of course he had. Carter would have been on the move immediately. He’d probably already been up for hours. She knew that during the summer, he tried to get as much of the farm work done early in the day as possible.
“And when you got here?”
“Kind of hard to miss the gaping hole in the front of my building. So then I called the police and they told me to stay outside and wait, and I did that, and here we are.”
“Any idea who might have done it?”
Iris nodded. Many of the other business owners had gotten annoyed by that question. It was a standard inquiry, but they’d looked at her and the other officers like they were stupid or annoying when they asked it.
“We have one camera that points toward the front of the store. I’m wondering if maybe we caught something,” he said, and she glanced up at him. He was looking toward the front of his brewery, and she drank him in, all that strength, short light brown hair and a beard to match. As usual, he was wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball hat, a t-shirt, and jeans. Carter’s standard uniform.
He turned his head and caught her looking at him. Iris jerked her gaze back down to the tablet.
“We can look at that when we go inside.” She spent a little time looking over the front of the building, as she had with the rest of them, and then she walked toward the door. Carter pulled it open, waving her through, and she did her level best not to look at him.
She felt ready to lose her mind. How could he stand there looking so calm, so relaxed? Three years since they’d spoken a word to one another, and Iris felt like she was drowning in memories of them, just standing there with him. And he wasn’t affected at all.
But she knew how he could be so calm. That’s just how Carter was. Calm, laid back, a man of few words. A man nearly impossible to goad or rile up.
And she’d tried. Many, many times.
Iris took a few more photos from inside the brewery, and then she followed Carter back to the office. He sat down at the computer and clicked around, pulling up the camera view he was looking for. Iris stood behind him and looked over his shoulder. The camera he’d focused on was located above the long oak bar at the side of the brewery, pointing toward the front door and window. He was currently scrolling through the feed, trying to get back to earlier that morning.
Once he got there, he let the feed run. She leaned forward and watched, trying to ignore the way her stomach fluttered at his nearness, the clean, soapy, masculine scent of him.
She hated this man.
That was a lie. Once upon a time, she would have done anything, given anything for him. If he’d been even remotely interested in doing the same, in meeting her halfway, things maybe would have been different.
Still. She kind of hated him. It was wrong, but there it was.