Blackberry Summer

Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne Read Free Book Online

Book: Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne Read Free Book Online
Authors: RaeAnne Thayne
scraping the bottom of the barrel to drag your sorry ass back.”
    He turned at the familiar voice and grinned as he recognized an old friend. Monte Richardson had once been the star quarterback of the Hope’s Crossing High football team. Now he was balding with a bit of a paunch, a thick brushy dark mustache and the well-fed look of a contented husband and father, at least judging by the sleeping baby in his arms.
    “Hey, Monte.” Somehow they managed to shake hands around the sleeping baby. “I figured next time I ran into you, it would be when I hauled you in for a drunk and disorderly.”
    Monte laughed. “Not me, man. I’ve reformed. Only drinking I do anymore is maybe a beer or two whileI’m watching Monday Night Football in my man cave. You’re welcome anytime.”
    He shook his head. “How the mighty have fallen. Whatever happened to party till you drop? ”
    “Life, man. Kids, family. It’s a hell of a ride. You ought to climb on.”
    That world wasn’t for him. He had figured that out a long time ago. Family was chaos and uncertainty, craziness and pain. In his experience, life handed out enough of that without volunteering for more.
    He would have stayed to talk longer but the two of them were interrupted by Mayor Beaumont, who greeted Monte with a polite if dismissive smile and then proceeded to corner Riley for the next ten minutes about the progress of the investigation into what for him condensed to only the most pressing issue, the desecration of his daughter’s wedding gown.
    “You’ve got to find the buggers and fast,” the mayor finally said, his tone implacable. “Gennie and my wife are out for blood. We all better hope they’re not the first ones who find whoever did this or you just might have a murder investigation on your hands.”
    He took the words to heart. Finally the mayor was distracted by one of the city council members approaching and Riley took blatant advantage of the chance to escape with a wave for the men.
    His progress through the crowd was slow and laborious. He supposed that was another one of those curse-and-blessing things about returning to his hometown. Everybody wanted to talk to him, to relive old times, to catch up on the years and distance between them. Addto that the unaccustomed excitement of the day with four—count ’em four—robberies in town, and everyone gathered at the elementary school for the pageant seemed to want to put in his or her two cents.
    Wearing the title of chief on his badge in a small town wasn’t much different than being an undercover cop whose entire goal had been blending in. The only difference was instead of hanging with drug dealers and pimps, here he was required to be polite, to make conversation, to play the public relations game, something that didn’t sit completely comfortably inside his skin.
    He did have one uneasy moment when he encountered J. D. Nyman, one of his officers who had also applied for the position of police chief. The man had made no secret that he thought Riley wasn’t qualified for the job, which made for some awkward staff meetings.
    “Officer Nyman,” he said. “Any word from the crime lab on those fingerprints?”
    “No,” the other man said with blunt rudeness and turned his back to talk to someone else.
    Riley almost called him on it, but then decided this wasn’t the venue, so he headed out of the gymnasium to the hallway, where he almost literally bumped into Claire Bradford at the coatrack, pulling a charcoal wool coat from a hanger.
    She looked tired, he thought. The big blue eyes he used to dream about were smudged with shadows and tiny lines of exhaustion radiated from her mouth. She smiled. “Hello, Chief McKnight.”
    Her warmth was refreshing, especially after Nyman’s rudeness. “Looks like you finally ditched the good doctor.”
    He gently tugged her coat away to help her into it. Her mouth tightened, at him or at the doctor, he didn’t know. “Holly was tired, so they made an

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