“I thought Dad could work out in front of CNN. It’ll be good for him.”
Sorrow crossed her arms at her chest. Anything to keep it from exploding. “You mean, you thought you could work out.” She walked a circle around it. “You know Dad’s never going to use a treadmill.”
“It’s not a treadmill. It’s an elliptical trainer. They’re better for your knees.” Her sister continued to use that overly chirpy tone, and it was infuriating.
“Try walking. It works for the rest of us.”
Laura shook her head. “It’s not the same as cardio. You could use it, too—you need to get your heart rate up.”
“Are you kidding? Chasing down problems is all the cardio I need.”
Laura’s expression said she disagreed. “If you say so.”
Did her sister just give her figure a once-over? Sorrow sucked in her belly, feeling outraged. The snug saloon-girl dress wasn’t helping matters. “What are you doing here really?”
“I told you. I’m rearranging the den. Since when did that become a federal offense?”
“No, Laura. I mean, why are you here? Home. Don’t your minions need you back in San Francisco? If this is just a visit, then why are you installing an elliptical machine?”
Doubt flashed in her sister’s eyes, and Sorrow wanted to exclaim a-ha. Her sister avoided the subject, as expected. “Speaking of rearranging furniture, I can’t believe you all still have that stuffed bear.”
Sorrow rolled her eyes. The black bear had adorned the foyer since they were kids. And yeah, it was disgusting. But she chose her battles, and her dad’s prized bear wasn’t one of them. “It’s a hunting lodge,” she said flatly.
“It’s disgusting is what it is.”
“Of course it’s disgusting. But you’re nuts if you think Dad will let us deep-six his bear. His name is Bear, after all.” Sorrow crossed her arms. Her sister was a master at changing the subject, but she wouldn’t be deterred. “Would you please stay on topic?”
“You tell me,” Laura said. “What’s the topic?”
“Maybe if you’d eat once in a while you wouldn’t have such trouble paying attention.”
“The topic,” Sorrow interrupted, not wanting to know what her thinner, fitter sister was going to say, “was, why are you here?”
“To visit,” Laura said, but she’d replied too quickly. “What’s wrong with a simple visit?”
Her big sister had fled Sierra Falls the moment she graduated from high school. There was never a “simple visit” where she was concerned. “You never just visit. So tell me: why’s the big-deal VP taking a so-called sabbatical? What do you want?”
Laura’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I don’t want anything from you. Jeez, Sorrow. Why do you always feel so put-upon? No wonder Damien hasn’t sealed the deal with you yet.”
Sorrow practically shrieked. “What? What the hell does that mean?”
“You know exactly what that means. It’s time for Damien to put a ring on it, but why would he when you’re such a nag?” Laura’s face became the picture of calm.
Sorrow recognized her sister’s expression. She’d known it from their youth—it was the look of battle. Well, she could play this game as calmly as Laura. Mastering her emotions, she kept her arms crossed tight, curling her fingers into her biceps. “Who says I want Damien to put a ring on it anyway?”
Saying the words, Sorrow realized the thought of a ring and Damien made her feel more alarm than anticipation.
Laura tipped the movers and shooed them out the door. “Don’t tell me you’re into that sheriff.”
“I’m not into anybody.” Sorrow began to put the den back to rights, shaking out a throw blanket with a sharp snap, folding and smoothing it probably more than was necessary. But her stomach gave a little flip-flop at the thought—was she into the sheriff?
“Oh, God.” Laura gaped. “You are into him. He’s kind of old for you, isn’t he?”
How was it her pesky sister was always able to read her mind? Sorrow straightened, facing Laura head-on. “Billy is not old. He’s in his thirties. Since when is that old?”
A slow smile spread across Laura’s face. “You want some sisterly advice?”
She continued anyway. “Go for someone your own age.”
“I told you, I’m not going for anybody.”
“I’ve told you before, Damien is cute and rich,” Laura insisted. “Keep your head in the game, kid. Eyes on the target.”
“I’m not a kid.” Sorrow was feeling trapped in this conversation—she didn’t feel like discussing either man. How did Laura always manage to get the upper hand? “And what’s with all the bad sports metaphors? Some people aren’t in it to win something. We’re not all as ruthless as you are.”
Laura studied her for a second with an annoying smirk on her face. “If nothing’s going on, why so defensive?”
There was a knock at the back door, and the sisters exchanged a withering look.
“Saved by the bell.” Sorrow dashed from the room to get the door, wondering who it could be. Folks usually used the front door and walked right in.
Unfortunately, she heard her sister’s footsteps close behind. She looked over her shoulder, telling Laura in a quick, hushed voice, “Nothing is going on with Billy. Damien and I are just dating. I’m not marrying anyone that I know of, not now, not in the near future. Thanks for your interest.” That should shut big sister down. She opened the door, and it was him.
Stopping behind her, Laura chuckled. “Speak of the devil.”
Evil. Laura was evil. Devil spawn. Sent to torment her.
Billy’s eyes zoomed to Sorrow’s breasts, which were currently popping up out of the low neckline like two plump orbs desperate for air. She did her best to gather her wits, despite feeling very conscious of the cold air on her décolleté. “Hi, Bill—”
But Laura’s chirpy voice cut hers off. “Sheriff! What can we do you for? You here to see Sorrow?”
Billy looked suddenly wary. He wasn’t dumb; he was an intuitive guy. He probably sensed how he’d walked smack-dab into the onset of World War III. “I’m always happy to see Sorrow,” he said slowly, clearly thinking through his words carefully, “but I’m here because your father sent me.”
Laura leaned against the wall, giving him a playfully saucy look. “Aren’t you happy to see me, too?”
Sorrow would’ve kicked her sister had she thought she could do it unnoticed. Instead she glared.
Laura was so easy with Billy, and it irked her. But why? Was she jealous of how good her sister was with men? Or was she jealous that Laura might be good with Billy?
She realized how she’d begun to crave the man’s attention herself. Shouldering in front of Laura, she asked, “What’s up?”
“I just got off duty and was grabbing a coffee when all hell broke loose.” He kept his eyes on her as he added, “I’m afraid they need you at the tavern.”
Of course they do. “Give me a sec to change.”
She forgot her girl trouble and had her jeans back on in no time. What could be going wrong now? Explosion, maybe? Plague of locusts? “What is it this time?” she asked as she grabbed her fleece and shouldered past Laura out the door.
“Oh. Okay.” She wasn’t expecting that one. Not so bad. Her mind flipped through the contact list in her head, deciding who to call to get it fixed. Meantime, they’d need to move the food. “Can’t Sully just transfer the food to the chest freezer? We’ve got one in the garage.”
Her sister piped up, “Weird.” Clearly not in touch with the gravity of the situation.
Sorrow shot her a look, feeling surprised and a little annoyed to find that she’d followed them. “Thanks, Sherlock.”
She felt her sister’s eagle eyes boring into her and the sheriff, scrutinizing every move. Why was she tagging along? The girl was a varsity flirt, and that she was even around for this interaction made Sorrow intensely uncomfortable.
“There’s more,” Billy said. “The food’s all spoiled. The units must’ve been down for a while before anybody noticed.”
That stopped her in her tracks. “Crap.” Hundreds of dollars in frozen patties, chicken tenders, corn dogs…all the junk her dad insisted Sully cook up; not much of it was fresh.
She felt a rock settle in the pit of her stomach. “All that food…that’ll cost us a fortune.” And then something else hit her. There weren’t many lodgers these days, which meant the family relied on the tavern for income. They couldn’t afford to turn people away. “What are we going to feed people?”
“Can you call your distributor?” Billy asked. “Have an emergency delivery made?”
Billy pinned his eyes on her. “What do you mean you don’t have a distributor?”
“Well, stuff like bread gets delivered. But Dad says he doesn’t trust the distributors. He likes me and Sully to pick out the meat ourselves.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Sorrow rubbed her temples and took a deep breath. Just go away, she wanted to tell her sister. Or help out.
Having Laura there to witness this latest crisis, feeling her scrutinize every aspect of this interaction with Billy…it all made her so uncomfortable. And in a way that went beyond the usual sisterly annoyance.
Could that mean she did have a thing for the sheriff?