Heather waited on the front steps, drumming her fingers on her thighs. Billy was still in his squad car, taking his time. He thumbed through a notepad. Then he selected a new toothpick from a plastic dispenser.
She groaned, closing her eyes briefly.
"It's all right," Jean-Luc whispered beside her. "The sheriff is claiming control of the situation by making us wait."
She clenched her fists to keep her hands from fidgeting. She could no longer doubt that Louie was a killer. He had no regard for human life whatsoever.
Robby positioned himself on the other side of her.
"We'll no' let any harm come to you, lass."
She was actually very fortunate. She had two macho men who would fight to the death to keep her safe. Not to mention the other guards and Fidelia. She wasn't alone like poor Mrs. Bolton. The memory of her dead body sent another tremor down Heather's spine.
Billy finally set his hat on his head and exited the car. "Good evening, folks." He slammed the car door shut, then circled the squad car to stand in the middle of the driveway. "Now which one of you called about a dead body?"
"That was me, Robby MacKay."
Billy looked him over. "You're a foreigner, too?"
"Aye, from Scotland. Have ye looked at the body yet?"
"I'll ask the questions around here." Billy removed his notepad and pencil from his pocket. "Now, where exactly is this dead body?" He glanced at Jean-Luc. "It's not another squirrel, is it?"
"It's Mrs. Bolton." Heather glared at Billy. "She's the curator at the Chicken Ranch Museum. You'll find her...in the cellar." Tears crowded her eyes as the gruesome image filled her mind.
"What were you doing at the Chicken Ranch, Heather?" Billy demanded.
She took a deep breath, willing the tears and the image away. "Fidelia sent us there. She had a vision."
"We've been looking for the man who set fire to Heather's house," Jean-Luc explained. "Fidelia thought he was hiding at the Chicken Ranch, so - "
"You went there?" Billy interrupted, his nostrils flaring. "You should have called me!"
"There was no way of knowing if Fidelia's vision was correct," Heather said.
"That doesn't matter." Billy stepped toward her, jabbing a finger in the air. "You don't do your own investigation. You call me." He glared at the two men flanking her. "If anything had happened to Heather, I'd hold you two accountable."
"We are protecting her," Jean-Luc said through gritted teeth.
"That's not your job." Billy tossed his toothpick to the ground. "So you're saying the same guy who set Heather's house on fire just killed Mrs. Bolton?"
"Aye," Robby answered.
Billy made some notes on his pad. "Any idea who this guy is?"
"I don't know his name, but he's killed before," Jean-Luc said. "In France."
"Shit. Another foreigner." Billy scowled at him. "How come the French police let this guy get away?"
Jean-Luc sighed. "No one knows who he is. He has threatened Heather, and we have sworn to pro - "
"Whoa!" Billy held up a hand. "Heather, if you're on his hit list, I need to take you immediately into protective custody."
"And where would you put me and Bethany?" Heather asked. "You're not equipped for this sort of thing."
"I'll think of something," Billy said. "There's always the jailhouse."
"No!" Heather grimaced. "I'm not putting Bethany in jail. We're safe here."
Billy's eyes narrowed. "Are you sure about that? Looks to me like your problems started when you met Mr. Sharp."
"I have five guards, including Robby, and an excellent alarm system," Jean-Luc declared. "I can keep Heather and her family safe."
Billy glowered at him, then turned to Heather. "Is that what you want? You want to trust this foreigner with your life?"
"Yes." Heather felt amazed that she'd answered so easily. Even though there were things she didn't know about Jean-Luc, she really did trust him. She glanced at him and saw the relief on his face.
"I need to talk to you alone." Billy retreated to his squad car and waited for her to join him.
She descended the steps and crossed the driveway. "What is it?"
He glanced back at Robby and Jean-Luc and lowered his voice. "You've only known them a few days. Are you sure you can trust them?"
Billy gave her a dubious look. "I'm not sure you're thinking clearly. Are you here of your own free will? You're not being coerced in any way?"
"No. I truly believe this is the safest place for Bethany and me."
Billy frowned. "Well, that Frog is watching you like a hawk."
Heather glanced back. Jean-Luc was watching them intently. "He cares about me."
"There's something about him I don't trust."
"Billy, you don't trust any foreigners. In fact, you don't like anyone who isn't a native-born Texan."
"Well, yeah, that's true." He turned to a fresh sheet of paper in his notepad. "I'm gonna give you my private cell phone number. You can call anytime night or day, and I'll come running."
"Okay." She accepted the paper.
"I'm serious, Heather. I let you down before. I won't do it again."
Tears returned to her eyes. "Thank you."
"I've gotta go check out this dead body, but I'll come back later with more questions."
She nodded. "I understand."
He laid a hand on her shoulder. "Take it easy."
"Thanks." Heather turned back to the house while Billy circled his squad car. By the time she reached the porch, his car was peeling away.
"Are you all right?" Jean-Luc touched her elbow as he escorted her back into the foyer.
"I'm tired." Heather rubbed her eyes. "But I'm too nervous to sleep, and Billy might come back with more questions."
"Would you like to see my office? We could be alone there to talk."
Talk? He'd end up kissing her again, and as lovely as that sounded, she didn't want to throw herself at him to take her mind off a dead body. "No, not tonight. I - I'd like to be alone for a while. I think I'll get some work done." She headed for the design studio.
"I'll let you in." He walked beside her. "Heather, I don't want you to feel...trapped here. I know this is the safest place for you, but if you wish to leave..."
She touched his arm. "I'm staying here."
She wondered if he'd overheard her conversation with Billy. If so, he had excellent hearing.
He punched the keypad and opened the door for her. "I'll be in my office if you need me. And Robby's in the security office."
"I'll be fine, thank you."
With a sad look, he touched her cheek, then walked away.
Heather meandered to the worktable and looked over her sketches. She took a few deep breaths and tried to push all the wretched memories away. For just a little while, she needed to escape. She needed to create something beautiful.
She selected the design she wanted to make first and the fabric, a royal-blue silk chiffon. Then she went to work making the pattern. After a few hours, she had one she was happy with. She cut out the material.
"Mrs. Westfield?" Robby peeked in the door. "Yer daughter just came down the stairs. Jean-Luc took her into the kitchen. I thought ye'd like to know."
"Yes. Thank you." Heather rushed into the hallway and accompanied Robby across the showroom.
"I saw her pass by the camera outside Jean-Luc's office," Robby explained. "I called him, and he helped her down the stairs and into the kitchen. I hope ye doona mind."
"No, not at all. I'm glad someone was awake to take care of her."
"If ye need me, I'll be in here." Robby let himself into the security office.
"Good night." Heather continued on to the kitchen and eased open the door silently. She heard Bethany's voice.
"I'll be Barbie, and you can be the crocodile."
"Very well," Jean-Luc answered quietly.
"What's he doing?" Bethany asked.
"He's bowing. 'Good day, milady.'"
Bethany giggled. "Crocodiles don't bow."
"They should when they meet a princess."
Bethany laughed some more. "You bow like that when you see me."