The Gargoyle Gets His Girl

Page 32

“Oh, Nick. I’m so sorry.” Her throat worked up and down like she was trying to swallow a sob. “You must think I’m an idiot to run away from perfectly good parents and a perfectly good life.”

He looked at her. “Didn’t sound perfectly good from what you told me.”

“You know what I mean.”

He shook his head. “You did the right thing. The fae court would have changed you. Might have even turned you into a weapon.”

She bent her head to one side. “Isn’t that what the military did to you?”

“No,” he smiled wryly. “I was already a weapon. The military gave me a place to do what I was best at. But you? I’ve seen the work in your shop. You’re an artist.”

“Thank you.”

He raised her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles. “Let me protect you, Willa. Let me do what I’m best at. What I was designed to do.”

She nodded, her voice almost a whisper. “Okay.”

“Does that mean you’ll come back and stay with me?”

She hesitated.

He pulled away a little. “If things went too fast for you, I totally understand. We can go right back to the getting to know each other phase.”

“I think we’re past that, but maybe we should slow things down a little.”

“I’m cool with that.” He shrugged. “Really, I just miss Jasper.”

She laughed. “You were so good with him.” A soft sigh and she conceded. “I’ll come back.”

“Good.” A lightness filled him. “I’ll feel better being able to keep an eye on you in case this creep comes around. Where did you go, anyway?”

“Pandora Williams’. She’s an old friend.”

He nodded. “My real estate agent.”

“Funny story, she wanted to introduce me to you after you moved to town, but I wouldn’t let her set me up because of how busy I was.”

He let out a moan. “You mean Jasper and I could have been hanging out for months already? Sad.”

She laughed again. “Yeah, well, clearly I don’t always make the best decisions.”

“You’re doing fine.” He stood. “Ready to give your statement?”

“Yes. Ready to put all this behind me, too.”

While Nick went to get the sheriff, Willa did a few cleansing breaths to rid herself of the uncomfortable feelings her bad memories had dredged up. Sharing everything with Nick like that had definitely made her feel better, she just hoped they could move past it. They were both coming into this relationship with a lot of baggage.

And baggage was something she liked to avoid.

Sheriff Merrow walked in with Nick behind him. Both men sat, Nick beside her and the sheriff at his desk.

He pulled out a recording device and set it on the desk between them. “I hope you don’t mind. It’s easier if I record these things and then have Birdie transcribe them.”

She waved a hand. “No, it’s fine.”

“All right.” He switched the device on. “Tell me everything you know about the man you believe to be stalking you.”

She took a breath. “His name is Martin Burnside. He lives in Coulder, Arkansas. He’s a troll, specifically a rock troll from what I’ve been able to gather. He contacted me through my shop’s website. He wanted a ring to bring him a second true love. His first wife died, and after a period of mourning, he decided he’d been alone long enough.”

Sheriff Merrow nodded. “You agreed to make him this ring?”

“I did. Explained how much it would cost and what I’d need from him. He paid and supplied me with the item necessary. All done through emails and regular mail. After his payment went through, I ordered the materials and made the ring.”

She frowned. “Unfortunately, in the course of making it, I cut myself. I thought I cleaned the ring up, but I now believe that a trace of my blood was left behind and it corrupted the magic used to finish the ring. I think my blood is why he became fixated on me. Why he thinks I’m the only woman for him now.”

She sighed. “At one point, I thought it was all over. He emailed to say he was sorry and that he wouldn’t contact me again, but it wasn’t twenty-four hours later that the emails started up again. I think what probably happened was he took the ring off. As soon as he put it back on, the feelings about me returned.”

“You have copies of those emails?” the sheriff asked.

She nodded. “I’ve saved them all. It was harmless stuff, or so I thought. Love poems, links to love song videos, stuff like that.”

“Nothing actionable,” Sheriff Merrow said. “But not necessarily harmless.”

“Then he sent me flowers. I almost came to see you then, but sending flowers isn’t a crime.”

“No, it’s not,” the sheriff agreed. “Were they from Marigold’s?”

“Yes. They were pretty, but I ended up tossing them out the next morning.”

Sheriff Merrow wrote something down. “I’ll confirm with her that Burnside sent them.”

“When was this?” Nick asked.

She looked at Nick. “That was the first night I went to the fountain. I just wanted Burnside to leave me alone. I didn’t wish him any ill will, but I didn’t know the extent to which he’d take things.”

Nick made a gruff noise. “And now we know he’s in town.”

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