Roses (Melinda Michaels)
$4.99 – $16.99
Golden Book II
When Poppy Pruette comes home for the summer after her first year at college, she expects it to be just like every summer before it: filled with cookouts, nosy neighbors, town hall meetings and long, hot days.
She never expects a murder. Not in Miner’s Way, Virginia.
But the sanctity of her small town is shattered when Poppy’s widely beloved grandmother, Rose, is brutally killed the night of a neighborhood barbecue. No one knows what to make of it or who might be responsible, least of all Poppy—until Detective Owen Peirce arrives from out of town with strange questions and a family history far more sinister than Poppy ever imagined.
Owen believes Poppy was the intended target, not Rose. Now, to save herself, Poppy must go into hiding and learn the truth about her family legacy. What she uncovers will change her life forever.
A grim and delightfully plausible fairy tale retelling, Roses is the story of a young woman contending with the question: what do we owe to our ancestors?
ePub (Nook), Mobi (Kindle), Paperback, PDF (Other)
Read The First Chapter
Snow fell lightly all around Poppy as she gazed about the cemetery. She was small, much shorter than usual. A warm hand held hers tightly, engulfing her tiny fingers. When she looked up, she smiled. It was her grandmother.
She looked around and saw that they were the only two people in the cemetery. It was winter. She knew then that she was dreaming not just a dream, but a memory, and one she dreamt of often. She didn’t mind; this memory held comfort, and she let herself be taken by it.
“It’s all right, Poppy,” her grandmother’s rich voice washed over her, warming her. “Don’t be afraid.”
She wasn’t, but she gripped her grandmother’s hand as they walked among the headstones. They stopped before a familiar grave and Poppy stared solemnly at the spindly letters that carved out the name: “Phoebe Pruette, Loving Wife, Devoted Mother.”
“Grandma,” she heard her young voice say, unable to control the words. “What happens when we die?”
“We turn into flowers, darling,” her grandmother said softly. “That’s why we are put into the ground. So we can grow into beautiful flowers.”
They stared in silence for a moment, watching the snowflakes fall across the cold bare stone.
“There aren’t any flowers here,” Poppy said suddenly. “It’s because it’s too cold, right?”
Her grandmother squeezed her hand.
“Come spring, I’ll make sure to tell the caretaker to let her flowers grow.”
For some reason, that answer made Poppy angry. Her mother’s flowers should be able to grow whenever they wanted, not just when it was warm enough or when a caretaker decided not to trim them.
“I wish that Mom was still here,” Poppy said bitterly, tears forming in her eyes.
Her grandmother sighed and knelt to look her in the eye.
“Oh, Poppy. I know.” She wiped a tear from Poppy’s cheek with a wrinkled finger. “You must be careful, though. Wishing is a dangerous habit.”
Poppy sniffed, taking in the features of her grandmother’s gentle face.
Her grandmother smiled and cupped her cheek.
They looked back at the headstone.
“Grandma? What flower is Mom?”
“A rose, dear. Why?”
“Can I be a rose too, like my real name?”
“Of course, darling. Everyone in our family will be roses.”
Raindrops slid down the bay window looking into the kitchen nook where Poppy Pruette sat, as still as the day was wet. Last night’s dream seemed magnified now as she replayed the memory of it over and over in her head. Her phone pinged again with another news update. The headline from the local news site read, “Murder in Miner’s Way.” Just a few minutes earlier, her father had brought in the actual paper. There on the front page a picture of an elderly woman with a gentle smile and caring eyes gazed at her. She knew the face well—had known it all her life. Even now, the woman watched over her from the black-and-white print as she had done for twenty years.
This is the worst day of my life, Poppy thought.
She had experienced the death of loved ones before, but nothing had ever felt this damning. The sour taste in her mouth, the feeling of suspended time, the breaking of her heart. It was a struggle to breathe, to think. Her world was over; life as she had always known it had stopped. The only person who loved her shamelessly, more than anyone else, was gone.
A man’s voice drifted into the room. “Poppy?”
Poppy looked up and saw her father standing in the kitchen doorway. He looked deathly pale and unsettled, his eyes red with emotion. Standing behind him was Samantha, his longtime girlfriend. She looked even worse than he did.
“The detectives are here.”
Poppy nodded, unable to say anything as her father turned away. She brushed a few red strands of hair out of her face, unsticking them from the paths her tears had left.
How in the world could this be happening, she thought as fresh tears fell on the newspaper, and why? Who in the world would want to murder her grandmother?
It had to be a mistake, she tried to tell herself. Roseanna Pruette was loved and known by everyone in the quaint hamlet of Miner’s Way, Virginia. She was the mayor’s mother and took great pride in everyone’s accomplishments. It was more like she was the entire town’s grandmother instead of just Poppy’s, which made her death all the more shocking.
There was a gentle knocking at the doorway. Glancing up, she saw the familiar face of the sheriff. He had a white mustache that curled at the corners and bright green eyes, though today they were clouded with blatant pity. Poppy had known Sheriff Roberts her entire life and she wasn’t surprised to see his red-rimmed eyes. He was younger than her grandmother, but Sheriff Roberts and Roseanna Pruette had been friends for as long as the Pruettes lived in Miner’s Way.
“Hello, Poppy,” he said as he came into the room. He was followed by two young men she’d never seen before. The first man was somewhat handsome, but looked uncomfortable, dressed in a cheaply made suit. The one behind him had large, sympathetic eyes and a mop of curly hair. “This is Detective Peirce and Detective Fields of the Michigan State Police. Detectives, this is Poppy Pruette.”
Poppy nodded as she returned to look at the paper, ignoring her own curiosity as to why the Michigan State Police were here. She didn’t want to answer any questions. It had only happened a few hours ago.
No, she corrected herself. It had been the night before, sometime after her grandmother’s birthday party. A neighbor found the body just before eleven o’clock.
Just enough time for it to make the press, she thought bitterly, tossing the newspaper
A sinking feeling hit Poppy in the stomach as she remembered her grandmother’s request to have lunch the next day. Poppy had said she’d already made plans to go shopping with a friend who was visiting town. She’d known her grandmother was disappointed but had shrugged it off, knowing she’d make it up to her.
I’ll never make it up now, she thought, guilt weighing on her shattered heart.
She spun the ruby ring her grandmother had given her when she graduated high school. It was her favorite stone, almost identical in design to a rose quartz ring her grandmother wore.
Used to wear, she corrected herself again. The rose quartz ring was a family heirloom and had been passed down for almost a dozen generations. She turned her thoughts back to the present as memories of her grandmother retelling the old story threatened new tears.
“These men would like to ask you a few questions, Poppy,” Sheriff Roberts said. “Do you think you could answer just a few?”
Poppy nodded slowly, not looking up. Her mind was suddenly busy replaying everything she’d ever done that had made her grandmother upset with her, like the time she cut all the prize-winning roses in the garden and put them in vases around the house. She’d only been seven years old, and her grandmother had forgiven her long ago, but Poppy couldn’t stop the fresh waves of guilt from washing over her.
The younger detective pulled out a chair from beneath the table and sat down.
“I’m Detective Peirce,” he said.
Poppy looked up at him through blurry eyes and shifted instinctively back in her chair. She hadn’t really looked when they’d walked in, but now that he sat directly before her, she could see a familiar translucent glow around him. She was used to noticing the auras of their kind, but she’d only ever seen them around blood relatives, not complete strangers. They lasted a few moments before fading away to nothingness, and even as she watched Detective Peirce, his was fading slightly.
His eyes narrowed as he noticed her reaction, but he said nothing of it. “This is my partner, Detective Fields,” Detective Peirce said in a gentle voice, nodding to the curly-haired man who stood behind him.
She shot a quick glance at the other detective and, seeing no aura, relaxed a little. So, it’s just you I have to worry about, she thought, settling into defense mode. Her grandmother had always warned her to be cautious of those with visible auras, regardless of who they said they were.
“How are you feeling?”
“Destroyed,” Poppy said harshly, hoping her message to him was clear: I don’t trust you or your partner, so back off. “I’m feeling destroyed.”
“Uh, Poppy,” Sheriff Roberts chimed in, obviously taken aback by her attitude. “Detective Peirce is just trying to help.”
“It’s all right,” Detective Peirce said, not taking his eyes from her. He patted his pockets. “Roberts, I seemed to have left my cell phone in the cruiser. Can you grab it for me?”
Sheriff Roberts looked confused, but nodded.
“Sure thing.” He paused before he left the room, adding, “Try to be nice, Poppy.”
“Teddy, do you mind helping the Sheriff?”
Detective Fields barely nodded as he followed the sheriff out of the kitchen. Poppy didn’t acknowledge either of them and continued to stare daggers at the detective before her.
“Your full name is Rose Poppy Pruette, but everyone calls you by your middle name, Poppy,” he said matter-of-factly, pulling out a notepad from his pocket. “Why’s that?”
“I would get confused when I was younger. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother so whenever anyone would call her Rose, I thought they were talking to me. I’ve been called Poppy since I was four.”
“Interesting name, Poppy. Family name?”
Poppy glared at him before answering.
“It was my great-grandmother’s name.”
“Nineteen years old—oh, no, twenty. You just had a birthday.” Poppy remained silent, so he continued. “Honors student and graduate of Miner’s Way High School, member of the Junior Science Squad. The only child of Phoebe and Peter Pruette, mayor of Miner’s Way, and only grandchild of Roseanna Pruette. When you were four, your mother passed away in a car accident and though your father has dated, he’s never remarried. He has a long-time girlfriend, Samantha Gomez, whom you get along with, I assume?”
Detective Peirce had watched her the entire time without looking down at his notes. Poppy nodded, feeling increasingly uncomfortable that he had memorized so much about her.
“You attend Washington and Lee University and have plans to go back there sooner than the fall semester because you’re taking some summer classes, correct?”
She nodded again.
“You’ve had two serious boyfriends, one of which you’ve recently parted with, and the only person in the whole town who has anything negative to say about you is the retired janitor, Mr. Barr.”
“Mr. Barr?” Poppy interjected, momentarily distracted. “He’s senile and he’s never liked me, not since the third grade.”
“Because you knocked over several paint cans in the hallway.”
“That’s wasn’t me . . . wait.” Poppy stopped suddenly. “Why do you know all this?”
“I’m a detective, Poppy. It’s my job to know all this.”
“To know that I spilled a couple of paint cans a hundred years ago?” she retorted sarcastically. “Don’t you think that’s excessive?”
“You said it wasn’t you who did it.”
She fell silent, scowling. The hint of a smile played over Detective Peirce’s face, and her eyes narrowed. She decided she didn’t like him at all.
“Is there something you wanted to ask me about my grandmother or are you just here to recite my life story?” she asked coolly. His smiled vanished.
“Who wants you dead?” he asked frankly.
Poppy was taken aback for a moment. It was her grandmother who was dead, not her.
“No one,” she said quietly, confused by the question.
“No one that you know of,” he said. “But I don’t believe your grandmother was the intended victim last night. I don’t think she was supposed to die—at least, not first.”
Poppy stared. “What do you mean, ‘not first?’”
“I think you were.”
The growing knot in her stomach twisted. Why would he think she was supposed to be the victim? His aura had finally disappeared completely, making her even more uncomfortable. It was easier to stay on her guard when his aura was visible . . . without the reminder, he could be just any normal detective. She changed the subject and spoke directly, as she usually did when she was nervous.
“Why are you here?”
“To investigate this murder—”
“No, why are you here?” she interrupted. “You two aren’t detectives in this town. Why does my grandmother’s murder matter to you?”
Realization passed over his face.
“So you know who I am?” he asked slowly.
“I know what you are, not who you are,” she corrected. “But it wouldn’t matter if you told me or not. You could lie to me, which I would expect from someone like us. You could tell the truth, though it wouldn’t matter since our kind are never what they seem.” She paused, looking down at her grandmother’s picture, amazed that she seemed to remember every little detail of her words now that she was dead. It was like every conversation they ever had was under a magnifying glass.
“Do you know who you are?” Detective Peirce asked, tilting his head in a surprisingly condescending way. “Who you’re connected to?”
She bristled at his tone. “I know which story involves a grandmother being attacked,” Poppy said, doing her best to give him an “I’m-not-an-idiot” look, but as she said the words, her confidence faltered. “We’re from the Hood line, or that’s what my grandmother called it at least. She told me this wouldn’t happen, though. That we had an arrangement and this wouldn’t happen.”
That got Detective Peirce’s attention.
“You’ve got protection?” he asked. His face was stern and serious, which only added to his naturally handsome features. His dirty blond hair was cut and styled to perfection; his strong, square jaw and bright green eyes reminded her of a generic good-looking guy, but the severity of his disposition made him look every bit the authority figure.
Being a detective suited him.
“You didn’t tell me who you were,” she said, ignoring his follow-up question.
“Who did you receive protection from?” he countered.
Poppy realized that he wasn’t going to answer her until he learned everything he could. Folding her arms across her chest, she leaned back, challenging him. Two could play this game.
After a few moments of staring her down, Detective Peirce relented.
“Prince Charming, from the Charming line,” he said quietly, with a distasteful tone.
Poppy raised her eyebrows, not convinced.
“Look, I don’t care if you believe me or not, but you can Google me if you want.”
“Prince Charming?” she asked sarcastically.
“No, the Peirce family of New York City. I’m all over the Internet.”
“So? Is your family’s popularity supposed to vouch for you?”
Detective Peirce looked surprised and Poppy was amazed at how much younger he looked when his tough exterior was down. Of course, just as quickly as he had dropped his facade, it was back.
“No, but it should serve as a background check,” he said, a hint of something she couldn’t quite place in his voice. “And this isn’t why I’m here.”
“You mean you’d still be here if I wasn’t who I was?” she asked in disbelief. “I doubt it.”
“I would be,” he said.
“Look, I’m here to investigate a murder. That’s my job. If you have an issue with who I am, you’re going to need to get over it, because I have to find out who killed Rose Pruette.” He caught himself as her eyes widened at his bluntness. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”
“Yes, you did,” she answered. “Because like you said, it’s just your job. My grandmother wasn’t anyone to you, but she was someone to me. She was someone to a lot of people in this town, and now you’re rattling her off like some victim in a Law and Order episode?” Poppy stood up abruptly, making her chair scratch sharply across the floor. “Are we finished?”
“Far from it,” he said, standing as well.
She muttered something rude under her breath and walked around the kitchen island to the pot of coffee she’d made an hour earlier. This nightmare had begun at six this morning, when her father woke her with the news. Her grandmother’s body had been found in her driveway by a neighbor who’d been getting up to go to work. Her father had avoided most of the details, but she’d learned enough: her grandmother had been trying to get away, and made it as far as the end of her driveway before collapsing.
Poppy closed her eyes as her mouth began to taste of cold metal, and she tried to fight down the nausea. She’d been sick in the sink earlier after learning that much while her father’s assistant, Rupert Powers, held her long hair back. Rupert had known about the murder before her father—as he usually knew most things first. That’s what assistants were for, she guessed, but Rupert was more than an assistant—he was part of the family, like a close cousin, since she didn’t have any.
She had a ridiculous vision of an awkward Detective Peirce holding back her hair should she be sick again and took a shuddering breath. Absolutely not.
She spun the ruby ring on her finger to distract herself.
“Her ring,” she said suddenly. Sheriff Roberts had given them a bag of everything found on the body, but she couldn’t remember seeing the ring.
“Sorry?” Detective Peirce said, puzzled.
“Was there a ring found—” She choked on the next words before getting out, “. . . on the body?”
He glanced over his notepad and shook his head. “No mention of a ring.”
“It’s a little sterling silver ring set with a rose quartz crystal. She . . . my grandmother never took it off. It should have been there.” She realized she’d rambled that off rather quickly and bit her lip.
Detective Peirce gave her a sympathetic look and she shook her head sharply. She didn’t need his sympathy.
“Never mind.” She turned back to the coffee.
The house had been crowded ever since six and as Poppy made herself a third cup, she realized she hadn’t left the room once. Maybe she hoped that if she didn’t leave this room, she wouldn’t have to enter a world where her grandmother didn’t exist anymore.
“Do you want coffee, Detective?” she asked loudly, trying to quiet her thoughts.
“Sure, thanks. You can call me Owen, by the way,” he said, coming to the other side of the kitchen island.
“Okay . . . Owen.” Poppy poured him a cup of coffee, added a spoon of sugar, and stirred. She handed it to him as she pulled out one of the white stools from beneath the island. Everything in the kitchen was white and stainless steel. Poppy always thought that it was a bit nautical for a country kitchen, but her mother had designed it, and they would never change it.
“How’d you know I take my coffee black with one sugar?” Owen asked, looking at his coffee.
She stared at him a moment. “I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “It’s how I make mine.”
He quirked a brow but didn’t answer. The silence stretched as they stared across the island at one another, drinking coffee.
Finally, she said, “So, you don’t think it’s someone like us? Or you do? I honestly don’t know what you were getting at before, so let’s not beat around the bush.”
Owen tilted his head. “You seem pretty comfortable with all this,” he said, a hint of suspicion in his voice. “I mean, knowing who you’re related to.”
“I’ve always known,” she said as she shrugged. “My grandmother has been telling the story since I was born. She said there were others, but we had nothing to worry about.”
“Because you were protected?”
“Because she met the Vanns,” Poppy said, sidestepping his question.
It was true. Poppy’s grandmother told her that she had sought out protection when she was a young woman, but that was sort of a family secret. They never discussed it but once, when her grandmother was sick a year earlier. After her grandmother recovered, they never mentioned it again.
“Your grandmother met the Vanns?” Owen asked.
“Yes, years ago. She wanted to meet them since a member of their family murdered a member of ours all those years ago, but they weren’t too interested in bringing up old memories. Grandma said we needn’t worry about them.” She paused for a moment, taking a sip of her coffee, and looked at Owen. “Was she wrong?”
“No,” Owen said. “The Vanns aren’t involved, I can assure you that.”
Her lack of faith seemed to bother him.
“Because I know them personally,” he said, annoyed. “Their son, William, helped me with a case about a year ago.”
“Oh,” Poppy said. “You sure get interesting cases. Why’d you need his help?” She kind of liked doing the questioning and seeing him grow restless.
“Because it was a delicate case for our kind . . .”
“So you do get assigned to cases involving our kind.”
He shifted his weight and scowled. “No. That was special. So is this case. I don’t just get assigned these cases.” His tone went back to one of stern authority. “We aren’t discussing that. I need to know about you.”
“You don’t think the person who did this to my grandmother is like us?”
“No,” he said. “That’s what worries me.”
“Because we’re dealing with someone who’s off our radar. When something happens to someone in our world, we usually know all the facts. This is different. I believe that this person didn’t intend on murdering your grandmother. This person wanted you, and I can’t figure out why.”
A sudden low, buzzing noise filled the room. Owen reached into his pocket and took out a phone. Poppy lifted an eyebrow as he read the name and ignored the call, placing it back in his pocket. Hadn’t he left his phone in the car? He caught her eye and immediately looked away, clearing his throat.
Sheriff Roberts walked in then, followed by her father.
“I couldn’t find your phone in the cruiser, Peirce,” Sheriff Roberts said.
“That’s all right,” Owen said, smoothly. “I found it. In my pocket the whole time, can you imagine that?”
Poppy snorted and all eyes turned to look at her. She sipped her coffee innocently and refused to meet anyone’s gaze. No one else saw how obvious it was that he’d wanted to talk to her alone? This was something she would have to talk about later with her grandmother, and laugh at how mindless some people could be. Another crack split in her heart when she realized that she would never get a chance. She was gone. Loneliness flooded her heart as Owen stood up and spoke with Roberts.
“Honey,” her father put a hand on her shoulder. “How are you doing?”
“Fine,” she said, barely keeping her next words from spilling out. Don’t call me honey. She didn’t want Owen looking at her like a little kid.
What does it matter how he looks at you? she scolded herself silently. What was wrong with her? The man was here investigating her grandmother’s murder, and she was worried about looking mature? She was thankful at that moment that people couldn’t read her thoughts.
“I’m fine,” she repeated. “Where’s Samantha?”
“She ran out to grab some food,” he said. “She’s a bit of a wreck.”
“Well, they were pretty close,” Poppy said, swallowing hard. Samantha had come into their lives about five years ago during Mr. Pruette’s first run for mayor. Her grandmother had taken an instant liking to her, glad that her son had moved on. Poppy had taken longer. Her grandmother was the reason Poppy and Samantha had grown close at all. “Have they learned anything else?”
Her father didn’t answer right away, but looked back at Roberts. It was then she realized Roberts was wearing plastic gloves, holding what looked like a note in one hand and a flower in the other. Owen reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic glove. He put it on and carefully took the piece of paper from Roberts to read it.
“What is it?” Poppy asked, her eyes locked on the flower. It was a rose, blood red and beautiful. She reached for it and frowned when Roberts pulled back.
“That’s from my grandmother’s greenhouse,” she said.
“Yes,” Roberts said, his tone serious. “We just found it with a note.”
“At the crime scene?” her father asked.
“No,” Roberts said, looking a little flabbergasted. His eyes settled on Poppy. “We found it on the property. It was stuck under the windshield wiper of your silver Nissan.”
“My car?” Poppy exclaimed. “What does it say? Who is it from?”
“There isn’t a name,” Owen said without hesitation.
“You mean to tell me that a note and a rose cut from my mother’s greenhouse was just discovered on my daughter’s car and no one saw who did it?” her father burst out angrily.
“It could have been there for hours, Peter,” Roberts suggested.
“This is ridiculous,” he retorted. “What does it say?”
Poppy felt goose bumps cover her skin, her eyes locked on Owen. He looked up from the note and held it up for her. She grabbed for it, but he shook his head.
“Fingerprints,” he said.
She took a deep breath as he held the note in front of her so she could read the elegant cursive writing:
Roses are dead.
Fear seized her as she stared at the words. She caught herself as she staggered backward, trying to breathe through the sudden feeling that a hand clenched her throat.
“Poppy?” Her father steadied her, his tone alarmed.
“Roses are red; poppies are too. All save one; that in the forest grew,” she murmured, forgetting the others for a moment.
“What?” Owen asked after a brief pause.
“My grandmother used to recite that to me,” she said dully as her father read the note. The murderer had taken a line from the poem she’d heard her entire life and twisted it into something sinister and ugly.
Poppy felt ill.
“Do you need to sit down?” her father asked, his voice tight.
Poppy shook her head.
“Maybe you should,” Roberts said.
“No. No, I’m fine,” she said without conviction. Owen was staring at her intently when she looked up. “The murderer wrote that.”
“That’s an assumption,” Owen said.
“Her name is . . . was Roseanna. Everyone called her Rose for short. We’re Roses. And you said the murderer was after me.”
“Wait,” her father interrupted. “This bastard is after Poppy too?”
Owen hesitated, struggling with an answer.
Her father glared between Sheriff Roberts and the detective. “Well?”
“In my opinion . . .” Owen paused, giving them a serious look. “And this is not on record, but Poppy may be in serious trouble.”
They all stared at him a few seconds before her father erupted.
“That’s it! RUPERT!” he shouted. “She’s leaving!”
“What?” Poppy said, turning to look at her father.
“Yes, sir?” Rupert said as he entered the kitchen. He was a tall young man, who moved with surprising grace considering he was a little on the heavier side.
“Dad, what are you doing?” Poppy asked.
“Poppy’s leaving town for a while,” her father said, ignoring her. “Arrange it and tell no one.”
“Yes, sir,” Rupert said, a blur of jet black hair weaved effortlessly from the room.
“Dad, I’m not leaving.”
“Yes, you are,” he said.
“No, I’m not. I can’t leave you here,” she argued.
“I’m not arguing it, Poppy,” he spoke over her. “You’re leaving and that’s final.”
Her father turned to face her suddenly, both hands landing on her shoulders.
“I can’t, Poppy—I won’t . . .” he said, visibly choking up. “I’m not going to lose you too. Not after your mother and now your grandmother.”
Owen broke in before she could answer.
“Sir, if I may, I don’t think taking Poppy out of the only home she’s ever known is such a good idea.”
“This isn’t our only home,” Poppy’s father snapped. He stopped himself and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Detective Peirce. I’m going to do what I think is best for my daughter.”
“Which is send me away?” Poppy fumed. “I’m not leaving. School starts in a few weeks and I don’t feel comfortable leaving you here alone.”
“School can wait until September, Poppy. As for now, you’ll go to Windgate—”
“Windgate? I’m not going to Connecticut!”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not,” she said through gritted teeth. Rupert came back in, phone to his ear.
“It’s not up for argument, Poppy. You’ll stay up there with Rupert—”
“Rupert isn’t my bodyguard!”
“I’m not fighting you on this. You’re going to Windgate and that’s final. I’ll be up there in a few weeks. We’ll arrange protection. Rupert? Get on that.”
“Yes, sir,” Rupert nodded.
“This is insane,” Poppy said, frantically trying to come up with a better solution. “I’m twenty years old, you can’t just ship me around—”
Owen interrupted suddenly.
“Sheriff, call the station. I want that note in forensics as soon as possible. Mr. Pruette? Can I speak with you in private?”
Her father glanced between them before nodding and following Sheriff Roberts from the room. With a backwards glance, Owen gave Poppy an encouraging nod. For a fleeting moment, she forgot everything else and trusted that nod. He would talk sense into her father, make him see he couldn’t send her away, not now.
Grandma wouldn’t let him . . .
Poppy squeezed her eyes shut to stop the thought. For a second she’d forgotten, and now she felt the crushing weight of reality settle around her in the empty kitchen.
She was alone. Truly alone.
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