“I’ll go and show King through to the business suite,” Dale said. “It might be better if he uses that room, away from the prying eyes of the guests. Can you bring us through some coffee, please?” Dale let go of Daisy and turned to look at his sister. “You didn’t happen to bake any of your delicious pumpkin and wattleseed scones today?”
“No, sorry. You’ll have to make do with the chocolate-chip cookies I made yesterday.”
Dale frowned at her. Then he walked around the large island bench and draped an arm over her shoulders. Skylar didn’t really like to be touched. Dale was the only person she allowed this sort of liberty. And perhaps Julie, and now Daisy. Everyone else knew to keep their distance. “You okay, sis? That whole thing last night was pretty fucked up. Maybe you should take the day off.”
“I don’t need to take the day off,” she countered, lifting her knife and waving it in his face. “And I don’t need my little brother telling me what to do.”
Daisy knew better than to interfere, but Skylar could tell she was judging her with her eyes.
“I’m just worried about you,” he said, raising both hands in surrender.
“I know.” She screwed up her mouth and looked at the ceiling. “I’m sorry. But I’m fine, really. Now, go let Nash…Senior Constable King in. I’ll bring the coffee soon.”
She was fine. If she kept telling herself that, then it’d become true, sooner or later. At least the tell-tale tremble in her fingers this morning when she’d first picked up the frying pan to cook breakfast had subsided. She could do this. She could conquer this thing. She’d done it once; she could do it again.
“I can take the coffee, if you like,” Daisy said.
Skylar had to clamp her mouth shut to physically hold back the words,stop treating me like an invalid. I’m fine.Everyone was only trying to help. But why couldn’t they see that she just needed to get on with life? Last night was a distant memory. Well, it would be, if the bloody senior constable wouldn’t keep making her rehash the events.
Skylar gritted her teeth, and answered as calmly as she could, “No, it’s fine, I’ll take it.”
Five minutes later, she pushed the door to the business suite open with her toe and placed her tray of coffee and cookies carefully down on the large meeting table in the center of the room. Dale and Nash were seated at one corner of the table.
“Morning, Skylar.” Nash’s voice was deep and mellow. She steeled herself before she turned around.
“Morning, Senior Constable.”
He raised an eyebrow at her official greeting. “How are you feeling today?”
She should probably tell him the truth. Something told her that if she didn’t, he wouldn’t drop the subject until she did. “My ribs are a little sore from where he kicked me. And I’ve got an impressive lump on the back of my head.”
Dale half-stood. “You didn’t tell me that. I’ll—”
“Sit down, you big oaf. I’m fine.” She cast her brother a quelling glance. “I talked to a nurse over the health hotline last night, and she agreed that nothing was broken.” At Daniella’s urging, Skylar had rung the hotline. It was a godsend for people who couldn’t get to a doctor quickly.
She almost told Daniella that she knew her ribs weren’t broken, because she was familiar with what that felt like, and this was nothing in comparison.
“She also said I should watch out for concussion, but Daniella sat up with me for half the night to make sure I was okay. So, all in all, I’m in pretty good shape, considering.”
“Yeah, considering I burst in when I did,” Dale said darkly. “Things might’ve been a lot worse for you, if I hadn’t.”
“Yes,” Skylar sighed. “And I’m eternally grateful, little brother.” She didn’t mean to sound sarcastic, because she was a little afraid of what Dan Sanders might’ve done to her if Dale hadn’t appeared. Dale told her later that Bindi was fretting over dinner, not sure what to do next, and so she’d asked Dale to call his sister in from the garden. When he couldn't immediately see her amongst the raised vegetable beds, he’d gone down to the orchard, where he’d heard the commotion in the Sanders’ cabin. Peering through the window, he’d seen Skylar on the floor and rushed to her aid.
Before Skylar could say any more, the door opened behind her, and Daniella and Steve filed in.
“Daisy told me you were here,” Daniella said, in a clipped tone. “If you give me a list of people you want to talk to, I’ll organize the staff to come in one by one.”
“That would be great,” Nash replied.
Daniella hesitated, but her mother was hardly ever subtle. “Ah…any news on this guy? Is his wife going to lay charges?” she blurted. “I’m sorry, I know you probably can’t tell us anything, it’s just that…”
Nash’s face softened, and he smiled sympathetically at Daniella. Skylar was almost jealous, wishing she could be the recipient of such a smile. His lips curled enticingly up at the corners, his blue gaze direct and unwavering. What was such agood-looking man doing out here, working as a cop in this tinpot town of Dimbulah?
“It’s okay, I can tell you quite a few things, actually.”
Steve and her mother took a seat opposite Nash, but she remained standing. Belatedly, she thought of the coffee. Moving the plate of cookies onto the table between them, she handed them each a mug. As Nash reached for his mug, an appreciative smile playing on his lips, the short sleeves of his dark-blue uniform rode up, and she noticed scarring on his upper arms. It was subtle; they were clearly old scars. Burns, by the looks of them. Most of the time, the scars would be hidden by the sleeves of his uniform. She’d noticed them last night, as well, but hadn’t been in the right headspace to pay them much heed. Where had they come from? Had he got them on the job, rescuing someone from a burning building, perhaps? In her imagination, she could see Nash rushing into a collapsing house, broad shoulders barging through the doorway, blue eyes fierce and determined.
“Mm, good coffee,” Nash murmured, after taking a sip. “I needed that.”