(CK#4) Christian’s Hunt Excerpt

Winters Residence: Honeyville, Caron

Today was a brisk morning. Fall brought cold winds and burned the olive leaves changing them to brown. Mrs. Winters loved this weather.

She spent the morning resting on a porch swing drinking her morning coffee. Always lively, the street she lived on was great for people watching. Her deck was her favorite place in the house.

When she spotted a pair of police walking up the road, she watched them. If they were here, something bad was going on in the neighborhood. One had light blond hair styled in a surfer boy fashion, highlights of white hiding within the locks. Heavyset, he reminded her of a security guard.

His tight uniform outlined his muscles and made her blush. She had never met him before and guessed he was new.

She knew the fellow with him, though. Officer Hogan isn’t much to gawk at. He was in his late fifties and covered in cuts and bruises. Poor guy. She wondered when he’d retire.

Even though her boy, Josh, had run-ins with the neighborhood cop, she respected him. He protected the neighborhood. It made him good in her book.

Josh. The thought of him made her fume. As a kid, he caused trouble regularly. From skateboarding in the freight yard, spray painting buildings, and doing many nasty drugs, he did it all. It astonished her he wasn’t in prison.

His dad said Josh would give him a heart attack and maybe he succeeded. He passed years ago, and she had since remarried. The kids hated their stepdad, and it caused tension between them.

Her gaze narrowed as the officers entered her lot. This was unexpected. She stood and forced a smile.

Last time Hogan came, he notified her of her daughter, Kelly’s, death. She swallowed the sad image. It happened two weeks ago, and it hadn’t sunk in she was dead.

“Good morning, Officers.” She spoke in a chipper tone even though she felt the opposite.

“Mrs. Winters,” the blond addressed her as he withdrew his sunglasses and exposed a pair of striking green eyes. “May we talk inside for a few minutes?” He gestured to the house. He had a thick Sarvonese accent, his tone gruff and deeper than most. It added to this handsome rogue’s charm. On top of being gorgeous, he was foreign.

“Certainly,” she answered. She signaled for the men to follow as she picked up her coffee mug. She sought to open the front door, but the blond beat her to it.

“After you.” He held the screen door open and suggested with his hand for her to pass through first.

“Oh, what a gentleman.” Shying, she stepped into her home. He may be a policeman, but his mischievous grin was criminal.

She searched the room and realized she was unprepared for guests. Her spouse’s empty beer bottles from last night’s binge littered the table.

She dashed in ahead of them, set her coffee on the table, snatched the bottles, and whisked them to the kitchen.

Her Pomeranian barked at them, hopping off the ground and cornering the police near the front door. She had a loud, piercing bark, one hurting her ears. Unphased, the officers were likely used to dogs by now.

“She’s friendly, so she won’t bite.” Mrs. Winters swooped up the pooch. “Please, sit. I’ll put her outside.” She pointed to the couch. When they had sat, she took the dog outside and returned to the living room.

She parked next to the blond on the couch. He smelled marvelous, and it made her blush. She kept her hands in her lap and acknowledged Officer Ken Doll and Officer Hogan. “What can I help you with? Is this about those missing girls? I heard those Santo girls down the street are gone. If you ask me, they’re fine. They just left with boys.”

“First, let me introduce myself. I’m Officer Valentine.” The blond held out his hand, and she shook it. His palms were rough and calloused. They were working man’s hands. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Winters.”

She clutched his hand, her voice giddy. “And a pleasure to meet you, too, Officer Valentine.” She checked his left hand for a ring but didn’t see one. “What can I help you with?” She cupped her knees as she sat on the edge of the couch.

“Do you know where your daughter, Addison, is, Mrs. Winters?” Valentine’s brow creased, but his approach was professional. He placed a lot into his image, his teeth a shining white and his skin tanned. He likely spent hours at the gym a day. To keep that massive build, he had to.

“Addison?” she spat out, irritability in her voice as she sought to guess where this would lead. She grabbed her coffee and took a swallow. It was lukewarm. “Why are you searching for her? She never gets into trouble.” Mrs. Winters put a fist to her breast, concern in her tone. “Oh, my god—nothing happened to her did it? My baby’s okay, right? I lost a daughter two weeks ago, I can’t lose another.”

“It’s what we’re checking on.” Valentine interrupted her hysterics. “Do you know where she is?”

“Um…” Mrs. Winters paused. Since her daughter, Kelly’s funeral, she hadn’t communicated with Addison. The pair wasn’t close, and she had no idea where her child was. So, she responded as best as she could. “If I had to guess, she’s with that husband of her’s jet-setting around the country.”

“Husband?” Valentine’s jaw dropped, his eyes wide as headlights. The news floored him.

“She’s married? There is no document of her being wed.” Hogan gestured with his hands, his gaze bouncing between Valentine and Mrs. Winters. “How long has she—”

“Who’s her husband?” Valentine’s words wobbled as he butted in.

“Christian Vallore,” she responded as she gushed and bit her lip. “You know, the gazillionaire guy.”

She informed everyone who her daughter wed, but most didn’t believe her. Addison was a shining star, and it was clear she’d marry rich. But because her mother told fibs from time to time, her friends didn’t trust her. Not having a picture of the pair didn’t help, either. But these were the police, so they’d have to trust her.

“Christian Va-va—” Valentine attempted to speak, but couldn’t push out the words.

“Are you all right?” She checked Valentine over further. He was fixed to keel over, his skin pale and his breathing rapid.

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