Antiques can be a dangerous business. Especially when you’re dealing with a desperate politician, a sexy ex-cop, and a couple of “spirited” companions.
Anna Yesterday owns Yesterday’s Antiques in small town USA. When she finds an old newspaper clipping lining the drawer of an antique dresser, she realizes she’s never heard the heart wrenching story of abuse and suicide detailed on the yellowed newsprint. So she starts to dig, and her sleuthing exposes an ugly cover-up that casts the residents of Crocker, Indiana into danger and intrigue, and leaves them with a corpse.
Tatty Baker crouched down behind a large rock and watched the two white men argue. The big man was wearin’ a smooth white shirt under his ’spenders and dark pants that had a crease in ’em sharp as a butcher’s knife. The other man was dressed far less grand, in dingy pants with uneven cuffs and a yellowed shirt that was smudged with something dark. He seemed to be getting’ the worst of the arguin’. The little guy just stood his ground while the other man poked a thick finger into his scrawny chest over and over, and he didn’t punch back. Tatty would have. In his opinion there was nothin’ worse than somebody pokin’ that bone. Tatty knew from experience. He had brothers.
Tatty was too far away to hear what the men were arguing about. The big man had his face close to the other guy’s and was talking real low. Tatty could just hear the rumble of his deep voice as he gave the other guy what for.
Tatty had seen the men before, downtown. They worked in the red brick building on Main Street and had somethin’ to do with tellin’ stories. Least that’s what Tatty’s mama told him. Tatty always thought it would be a fine way to earn your supper…tellin’ stories. He got lots of practice doin’ that every day when his mama asked him where he’d been when he was s’posed to be doin’ his chores.
Tatty figured someday he’d wear a smooth white shirt and fancy pants and tell stories to earn his keep. In the meantime, he wanted to know what the two men was doin’ out in the middle of nowhere. And he really wanted to know what those big stacks of paper was. The small man had unloaded ’em from a dented pickup truck and dumped ’em in the middle of the mayor’s field.
Tatty knew he shouldn’t be there. His instructions was to just leave the jar of peaches with mayor Bethesda’s maid, Wilma, and get on back home, fast as ever. But Tatty had a natural curiosity and when he spotted the truck and the two men he’d just had to hunker down and check it out. Mama always told him his nosiness was gonna land him right in the devil’s lap some day. But Tatty liked to think he had a nose for trouble. He of a certain created enough of it himself.
That’s why Tatty knew them men was doin’ something bad out there.
So he crouched behind that rock and watched. A few minutes later the big man gave the little guy a final poke and turned away. He headed toward the truck and stopped, turning to call out, “…and make sure it all burns. Or we’ll both be out of a job tomorrow.”
Tatty’s eyes widened. They was gonna burn the stacks of paper. Damn but he wished he had a stick and a frankfurter with him. His mouth watered on the thought as the man lit a match and dropped it onto the stacks of paper. He waited and watched for a minute, until the stacks flared into a hardy flame and a dense coil of smoke slipped silently upward, toward a cloudless sky lit by a near-full moon.
Tatty’s nose twitched on the scent of burning paper and he sighed. His brother Will would have loved to see the fire. It was a dandy. The men climbed inside the truck and drove off, bumpin’ and rollin’ on the uneven turf of the freshly turned corn field.
After a minute, Tatty gave in to the urge to move closer to the fire. He picked up a long stick and carried it with him, hoping to have some fun pokin’ at the burning embers to make ’em flare. But as he approached, a soft wind slipped across the field, spicy with the scent of rain, and a hunk of the paper broke loose and flew in his direction.
Tatty dropped the stick and caught the paper, swearing like he shouldn’t as the smoldering edge burned the top of his arm. The words on the paper were small and black and perfect, and Tatty had never seen anything so wonderful in all his life.
He clasped the slightly charred treasure to his chest and started to run, determined to take the stories home to Mama. She liked to read ’em after dinner at night. The thought made Tatty’s smile widen, showing a full mouth of white teeth as he ran through the dark night.
Brilliant white, like the big man’s shirt.
“You want me to move this to the back?”
Anna Yesterday looked up from her pile of receipts and nodded. “Thanks Pratt. I need to clean it out and repair that one drawer before we put it on the floor.”
Pratt Davies was Anna’s new assistant at Yesterday’s Antiques and they were still dancing around each other, trying to find a rhythm that worked. Anna hadn’t decided if he was going to work out. It wasn’t that Pratt was inept, lazy, or even annoying. In fact, he was as far from all of those things as a person could get. But Pratt was new in Crocker, Indiana, and nobody knew much about him. And Anna couldn’t quite shake the idea that Pratt was almost too perfect. At well over six feet, with dark brown hair that he wore military short, golden brown eyes, thick lashes, a strong nose, a broad jaw, and full lips, Anna found his presence in her antiques store more than a little discomfiting. He was smart and intuitive and she had to wonder why he’d settle for an assistant’s position in an antique store, in a tiny town in the Midwest.
Pratt strapped the small dresser onto a hand truck and pulled the strap tight, the muscles in his arms bulging enticingly as he tilted it back to move it. Anna’s chin fell off her hand and she straightened guiltily.
“That boy’s trouble you know.”
Anna jumped and turned at the sound of the husky drawl. Josselin Zebediah was perched on the bookshelf behind her desk, his sexy, dark blue gaze fixed on her with more than a little irritation. She glared at him. “What have I told you about sneaking up on me?”
Joss straightened his long, long legs and stood, tipping the well-worn cowboy hat down on his forehead. “I don’t sneak.” He moved across the store in large, scuffed boots and stood watching Pratt roll the antique dresser into the back room. “The boy’s a grifter. He’ll hornswoggle ya faster’n I can spit tobacco into that pan over there.”
Anna sighed. They’d had the very same conversation at least a dozen times in the week since Pratt had started working at Yesterday’s Antiques. She was growing weary of it. “You don’t chew tobacco.” Turning back to her paperwork, Anna tried to ignore Joss. “We’ve had this discussion several times, Joss. I refuse to have it again.”
Joss didn’t give up easily. “You know nothin’ about that boy. He could kill ya cold as a wagon tire in your sleep.”
“I don’t sleep in the store.”
“That wouldn’t stop a varmint like him.” Joss was as overprotective as a well trained dog, only with a bigger bite. But above all he was a friend and he cared for her.
“I know what I need to know about him. He’s from Missouri. And he used to be a cop.”
“A puke. Figures.”
A cool breeze wafted past and Anna reached for the sweater on the back of her chair without looking up from the receipts. The sweater settled over her shoulders without her ever touching it. She looked up with a smile. “Thanks, Joss.”
He smiled back and Anna felt the familiar twang of desire low in her belly. Joss Zebediah was an old fashioned man, with a cowboy’s manners and an old world way of looking at things. With his craggy, down-on-the-range good looks and husky voice, he was also sexy as hell.
If he were alive Anna would jump his bones in a heartbeat.
Kobo Books: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/book/yesterday-s-news-cozy-paranormal-mystery