*previously published as Double the Trouble)
Available from Amazon
“Where’s Emma?” The tall, blond, muscular man yelled, before Kate had a chance to ask if she could help him.
Kate didn’t like his tone or the deep scowl, causing his eyebrows to almost meet above his icy blue eyes. “Excuse me?” Who did he think he was stomping in here like this? She took a step toward him.
“Emma’s supposed to be at the church for rehearsal. And don’t tell me she’s not here, her car’s in the parking lot. Why is she hiding out? Does she have cold feet?”
Kate pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, took a deep breath and counted to ten. She couldn’t lash out. This was a potential customer, although at that moment, she didn’t want to sell him anything, but no use riling him up further.
“I’m sorry, Mr...” Kate paused to let him fill in the blank. Surely this wasn’t Emma’s fiancé. He didn’t act anything like the way Emma described Doug Johnson.
The man didn’t answer, just glared at her.
Something about him struck her. Attractive, self-assured. Something else. Something tugged at her heart. A feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. She ignored it.
Okay, that went nowhere. “Emma left almost...” Kate looked at her watch, “well over an hour ago, but she left her car keys.” Kate took the keys from the desk drawer and held them out to him but quickly drew them back.
She didn’t know who he was, and his attitude left a lot to be desired. She wasn’t about to give the keys to a complete stranger. For all she knew, he could be the guy who was following Emma. How did she know if Emma’s car was really in the parking lot? “Excuse me, Mr...” This time Kate refused to continue until he told her who he was.
He glared at her for a minute. “What do you mean she left? Her car’s still in the lot. And why do you have her keys?” He reached out to grab them, but Kate put her hand behind her back.
He stared at her.
No way was she giving this man more information. Gripping the keys tighter, she folded her arms across her chest and stared back at him, matching him glare for glare.
Who did he think he was? How dare he come into her shop and accuse her of hiding Emma? That was just plain ridiculous.
The stranger took a deep breath. Obviously he realized anger and yelling weren’t getting him anywhere. Not that Kate cared much what he thought. She wasn’t saying another word until he told her who he was. She could stare just as long as he could. She’d learned stubbornness a long time ago.
Spreading his hands out in front of him, in sort of an ‘I surrender’ mode, his eyes softened to a dusty blue. He let out his breath.
“Listen, I’m sorry. Let’s start over, okay? I’m Mark Westfield, Emma’s brother.” He extended his hand, but Kate ignored it. “She’s supposed to be at church for rehearsal and hasn’t shown up. I’ve retraced her steps, and no one has seen her. I saw her car in your lot.” He let his hand fall to his side.
“This may sound like a strange request, Mr. Westfield, but may I see some identification?”
He looked at her as if she asked him to undress. “Yes, ID. I don’t know you. How do I know you’re telling me the truth?”
“Fair enough.” His lips moved just enough to hint at a smile.
He took out his wallet and handed her his driver’s license.
Kate stared from him to the license. Not bad looking, same fair coloring as Emma. Mark Westfield–thirty-seven. Only a few years older than her. Now what made her think that? She shrugged off the thought.
“Okay.” She handed it back to him. “Emma was here about an hour or so ago, like I said. She paid for the flowers and left, said she had a lot to do. A few minutes later, I found the keys. By the time I got out to the parking lot, she was gone. I figured she had another set, or someone picked her up.”
Mark ran his fingers through his short cropped blond hair and paced in front of her desk. “I don’t understand it. If she left her keys, and her car’s still here, what happened to her? Doug’s at the church beside himself worrying that she stood him up.”
“I’m pretty sure she didn’t. She was all excited this afternoon. Couldn’t wait. Maybe a friend picked her up?” A shiver ran up Kate’s spine. What did Emma say about being followed? Still Emma shrugged it off as her imagination. As excited as she was, no way she stood Doug up. Should she mention it?
“Most of her friends are in the wedding. Hell, the rest of them are at rehearsal. No, I can’t think of anyone. Besides, Emma wouldn’t leave her car and go with someone. She might have followed them and met them somewhere. No...that’s not like her at all.”
“Maybe you should call the police.”
“Call the police? Are you nuts? I can hear it now. Bride disappears two days before wedding, family panics. You know they’ll say she had cold feet.”