Mercy was now alone under the pine, and he headed in her direction. He’d been sitting two rows behind her at the service, watching as she held Rose’s hand and feeling oddly disconnected. He and Mercy had been together almost nonstop since the shooting. He liked it that way.
He approached, admiring her green eyes that’d watched him walk across the graveyard. Her mouth turned up in a smile as he got closer, and he was stunned at how attracted he was to her. They still hadn’t spoken about their situation.
Do we have a situation?
They did. But neither of them had been ready to address it. Instead they’d been silent, leaning on each other as she grieved, rarely leaving each other’s side. He’d wanted to show he would always be there when needed. Even though there’d been no words, he’d seen the understanding dawn in her eyes. He’d spotted the knowing looks from her mother and the other women in town: Truman Daly was off the market.
He’d known it for a while, but Mercy was just catching on.
He held out his hand as he approached, and she took it.
“Can you get me out of here?” she asked.
“I want to climb a mountain.”
It wasn’t really a mountain, Mercy admitted. But the hike up the peak behind Owlie Lake was exactly what she needed.
She and Truman spent the next two hours hunting for bones.
They found nothing.
On a rock overlooking the vast view, they finally took a break.
“I guess we’ll never know the location of Kenny’s body,” Mercy said, turning her face up to soak in the sun.
“Or his last name,” Truman said. “I’ve searched missing person records in the western half of the United States, but short of asking Mike Bevins for employment records from fifteen years ago, I don’t know what else to do.”
“Both of the guilty parties have paid the price.”
“Thank you for keeping my and Rose’s secret.”
He shrugged. “Does it go against my grain? Yes. But more people will be hurt if I speak up. Especially now.” He took her hand. “I don’t mind doing this for you.”
She squeezed his hand and studied his eyes. He was sincere. An old weight slowly lifted from her shoulders, one she’d been carrying for a long time. Was it because Craig was dead? Or from confiding in Truman? Now he carried half her burden.
“What will you do with Jefferson’s house?” she asked.
“I’ll hang on to it for now. I’m not ready to sell.”
“You had your uncle’s killer in your hands at the Fahey house.”
“I did,” Truman admitted. “Looking back, I’m proud I didn’t simply watch him bleed to death. I suspect if I’d had time to think about it, I might have let it happen.”
“That’s not who you are,” Mercy stated.
“No, it’s not,” he agreed. “I’ve changed my mind about a few things over the past week. I even want to take a closer look at my uncle’s backup power system and water supply. Maybe there’s a tiny bit of sense in being prepared in case of an emergency.”
She punched him lightly on the upper arm and he winced. “Watch the ribs!”
“I forgot. Sorry.” She leaned closer and pressed her lips on his, loving the heady rush that ran through her at the touch of his skin. There’d been several intimate moments over the last few days. Enough to make her question her future. He’d become important to her, and now her heart was vulnerable. A feeling she hadn’t experienced in years.
But she wasn’t scared. It felt good.
“When do you go back to Portland?” he finally asked. The question had been floating over both their heads for three days. Her case was done. She’d requested a week’s leave, which had been immediately granted, but its end was near.
“I’ll come visit the following weekend. The drive isn’t that bad.”
“It’ll begin to suck if we’re doing it several times a month,” she pointed out.
“It’s worth it.”
“Jeff told me his Bend office got a budget approval to let him bring on three more agents.” She waited for his reaction.
Truman froze. “Are you serious?” His smile started to widen. “What will you do about that?”
“I’ve already applied.” The joy on his face made her heart happy. “But there’s a catch.”
“What? I don’t care. Just name it.” He took both her hands and pulled her up to stand on the rock, where he hugged her tight.
“Kaylie might be living with me.”
“That’s fantastic. She needs a home and you’re perfect for her.”
“You think so?” Is he joking? “I know nothing about raising a teen.”
“Weren’t you a teenage girl?”
“Well, yes, but my situation—”
“Then you have more experience than half the population.” He grinned at her. “You’ll do great. You’ll be good for each other.”
“I think I might buy a house in Bend.” She looked at their view of the spreading valley. “I need this. I need the wide-open skies and less gray rain. I need to look up and see a long row of white mountains. It speaks to my soul. I’d forgotten until I came back.” She met his gaze. “I want to be closer to you . . . see what develops.” She whispered the last word.
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