If you missed the first chapter, start here!
“Hey, sexy, can I buy you a drink?”
Penelope smiled but didn’t turn from her perusal of the pre-made sandwiches available at the deli counter. “Sure, but we’ll have to hurry. My boyfriend will be here any minute now.” She turned and looked up. “Oh, it’s you.” Her breath caught as Jake raised her hand to his lips without breaking eye contact. “I thought you had a budget meeting at lunch today.”
He kept her hand as he reached past her to put his own lunch on the counter. “What do you want to eat? I’m buying.”
Penelope regarded him out of the corner of her eye. “It’s not my birthday, we’ve already passed Valentine’s day, and as far as I know today isn’t any sort of anniversary. Yet you invited me out to lunch and you’re buying.” She placed a sandwich next to his and waited for him to pay. “Should I be suspicious?” The hint of embarrassment on his face had her laughing. “What did you do?” Penelope waited until they settled at a table where Jake had a clear view of the doors. “Out with it.”
“First, I promise that this is only temporary.” He unwrapped his lunch. “We’re going to have a houseguest for a couple of weeks.”
“Is that all?” Penelope let out the breath she was holding. “Jake, it’s your house. And I have a few overnight pet sitting jobs coming up anyhow.” She tried to imagine who Jake would be worried about inviting over. “Is it someone I know?”
“In a manner of speaking.” He took a bite of bread and mumbled something.
“Sorry?” Penelope kept her face straight. “I could have sworn you just said Brutus.”
“Well, the mayor had a business trip to East Asia planned, and since he’s not a suspect we can’t force him to cancel the trip, and the boarding kennel doesn’t have space, and he agreed to sign off on my budget, including the allocation for the youth diversion program, as long as I promised to take care of the dog while he was gone.” Jake finished his explanation in a rush and waited.
“And you’re telling me because…?”
Jake’s shoulder’s dropped. “I was hoping you’d be willing to help.” He stopped when Penelope burst out laughing. “What? He seems like a nice dog.”
She nodded. “Oh, he is, but I don’t think you know what you’re getting into.”
“You’re not upset?” His face brightened.
Penelope smiled “I’m not the one who’s going to be sweeping land mines off the lawn for the next two weeks.”
His smile slipped.
After lunch Penelope followed Jake back to his car. “I do need to talk to you about something serious if you still have a couple of minutes.” She’d been trying to figure out how much to tell him about what Anne had said. Brian and Anne were friends and she didn’t want to put Jake in the middle of their marital difficulties, but Penelope couldn’t see any way around it. “I found something out today. It’s a little delicate.”
Jake’s expression became more guarded. “What is it?”
Penelope told him about Anne and the mayor and the men who had broken in. “I don’t know if there’s some way to have it show up as an anonymous tip or something. The last thing I want to do is hurt Brian, but I don’t…” She stopped as Jake held up a hand.
“I’ll think of something.”
Penelope watched him drive away with a heavy heart.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)