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Bucking Bronc Lodge 04(10)

By:Rita Herron



Gave her all the things Miles couldn’t.

“So let’s find him and see what he says.”

“I’ve tried to locate him, but the only number I have for him is a cell with a message that he’s out of the country on business.”

Dammit.

“It’s worse,” Blackpaw said.

How could it get worse? “What are you talking about?”

“Hammond...some of the guys at the sheriff’s department, they’ve even mentioned the possibility that you could be implicated, Miles.”

He slammed his fist against his thigh. “Because I was jealous of Marie and this man?” He exploded into a tirade. “Hell, I didn’t even know they were dating.”

“I believe you, Miles. But you have to see where they’re coming from. You have had it in for Dugan for months. He gets free. You’re a head case. You find out your wife has a lover, so you kill her in a rage, and maybe kill this other man, then make it look like it was Dugan so we’ll put him back in jail.”

He closed his eyes on a groan, pinching the bridge of his nose where a headache threatened. Jesus, God. Hammond couldn’t believe that nonsense.

Dragging in a calming breath, Miles forced himself to lower his voice. “I still believe it was Dugan or an accomplice. He could have paid someone to kill the Kelly woman, then either one of them could have murdered Marie.”

“True, but so far we’ve found no paper trail.”

“For God’s sake, he was in prison. All he had to do was cut a deal with one of his prison mates.” Miles heard Brody’s truck door slam and watched him climb from the pickup. “Find this other man, Paul Belsa. If he had anything to do with Marie’s death, I want him to pay. If not, maybe he can clear my damn name.” He wheezed a breath. “Better yet, I’ll track down the bastard.”

“The hell you will,” Blackpaw muttered. “I don’t want Hammond on my butt because we talked and you went off half-cocked—”

“I’m not going off half-cocked,” Miles growled. “But I need to do something besides sit here and let Dugan get away.”

“You are doing something,” Blackpaw said. “You’re taking care of your child. That boy needs you. So trust me to work the investigation.”

Miles’s chest ached. “Timmy needs his mother’s killer in jail.”

A heartbeat passed, the tension rippling between them.

“Yes, but he needs you, too. I’ll clear you of suspicion if you let me handle it.” Blackpaw lowered his tone. “Besides, you’re forgetting that Timmy may be the key to locking Dugan away.”

The memory of Timmy’s drawing taunted Miles. He felt so damn helpless.

“I’d like to nail him without using my own little boy,” Miles said. And spare him the pain of confronting Dugan.

Brody strode up the steps to the porch, and Miles gestured for him to wait.

“Keep me posted.”

“I will. And don’t worry, I’ve pulled all the files on the previous investigation into Dugan to see if we missed anything. Maybe he had a family member or an old acquaintance that owed him, and they killed the Kelly woman to get Dugan off.”

He’d made a copy of the file himself. “I’ll look over them, too, along with all the evidence from the other murders. It’s possible Dugan had a partner all along.”

“All right,” Blackpaw agreed. “But remember, your first priority is your little boy.”

Miles bit back a curse. Didn’t Blackpaw think he knew that?

Blackpaw hung up, and Miles let his anger go. Blackpaw was right. Timmy was the only witness that could identify Marie’s killer. If Dugan knew that and found him, he’d kill him.

And if by chance he was wrong and this Belsa guy had dated Marie and killed her, then Timmy might even be more traumatized because it had been someone he’d trusted.

Staying close to his son was the only way to keep him safe. And Miles would die before he lost him.

* * *

JORDAN’S HEART ACHED as she joined Timmy at the small table. Miles hadn’t given her all the details she’d wanted, but he’d said enough.

She had also read the police and doctor’s reports, and seen the story in the news—Timmy’s mother had been an attractive brunette, a working mother who had been raising her son alone.

It was so sad for all of them. Especially for Timmy, to grow up without a mother.

“Timmy,” she said gently. “I know you’ve had a hard time lately.” She unfolded the crumpled drawing. “Can you tell me about your picture?”

His big dark eyes looked up at her with a tortured expression, eyes just like his father’s, then he shoved the drawing away and shook his head.

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