Austin wasn’t surprised Bubba knew about the birth. It was hard to keep secrets in such a small town. A fact he needed to keep at the forefront of his mind, especially around Paige.
“Yeah. He’s a cute little glutton, always nursing on Rumor like it’s his last meal. That’s why I came in to get those.” Austin nodded toward the vitamins as he pulled out his wallet.
Bubba didn’t mention Paige again as he rang up the supplements, but Austin was still uneasy. Not because he didn’t trust the man to keep his word. He totally did. He was simply annoyed. His carelessness could have been catastrophic. It was time to keep his hormones on a short, tight leash.
After stepping out into the late-March sun, Austin headed for his truck when he caught sight of Emmett Hill—Haven’s resident World War II vet and Bigfoot hunter—hobbling down the sidewalk with his trusty rifle slung over his shoulder.
Rumor had it that after his wife, Dotty died, the old man had lost a few marbles and begun hunting the hairy ape. Austin chose to believe that instead of rattling around in an empty house full of the memories he’d made with his wife and mourning her death, Emmett had set out each day at sunrise and searched for Bigfoot.
He was glad his dad had the ranch to keep him busy and him and his brothers to keep him company. The residents of Haven barely tolerated one Sasquatch hunter. They’d rebel if there were two.
Emmett paused and pressed a bony hand to the small of his back before twisting with a grimace.
“You all right, Emmett?”
“Fine as frog hair. I just slept wrong last night and got a catch in my git-along. I’ll get it worked out eventually.”
“I hate it when that happens,” Austin commiserated with a scowl.
“Sixty years from now, you’re gonna hate it a whole lot more.” Emmett chuckled, then leaned in close. “You in town to find a wife?”
“What?” Austin barked. “No. I came to get some vitamins for my horse.”
“You’d better get on the stick and start looking, young man. From what I hear, your brother Dallas is determined to snag that prize money. Five million dollars can buy a whole lot more than vitamins, if you get my drift.” Emmett grinned.
“I don’t have time for that nonsense.”
“Colton’s found time. You can, too. Have met his new woman yet?”
“No. I’ve been…busy.”
“You should take the time to meet Jade. Not only is she a beauty but she’s also a sassy little spitfire. She’s gonna keep Colton on his toes, all right.”
She might at that, but Jade’s timing sucked. Before she came to Haven looking for Colton, he’d been all-in and ready to take down Hale with his bare hands. Now, the man rarely returned Austin’s calls. It was time to nip that shit in the bud. He needed Colton to step up and deal with Nelson, if only to block Austin from being around Paige.
You mean the same Paige you invited to meet in the barn tonight to see the colt?
Biting back a curse, Austin nodded. “I’m sure I’ll meet her soon.”
Maybe when I stop by his place on my way home.
“I best be goin’. Give my best to your family.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know.”
“When I find you a wife.” Emmett cackled.
Inwardly groaning, he forced a smile and nodded, then climbed into his truck. There were times, like now, Austin hated living in such a small town. He was grateful Emmett didn’t say a word about him dancing with Paige last night. Maybe the gossip guild hadn’t gotten wind of it…yet, but Austin wasn’t holding his breath.
A quarter mile out of town, he spotted Sheriff Jasper Straub’s cruiser parked on a side road. Figuring he was running radar, Austin lifted his hand and waved as he passed. A split second later, the sheriff was on his ass, lights flashing. Austin scowled and glanced at his speedometer.
“What the fuck? I wasn’t speeding,” he muttered, pulling to the side of the road.
Since he hadn’t broken any laws, and had known the guy for years, Austin didn’t bother pulling out his wallet. He simply watched from the side mirror as Jasper exited his cruiser and strode toward his window.
“Everything all right?”
“It is now,” Jasper cryptically replied. “And you’re welcome.”
Totally confused, he pinned him with a quizzical stare. “For what?”
“I got a call, bright and early this morning, from Swat-Team Evelyn.”
The mere mention of her name made Austin’s heart skip.
The reclusive woman was more than the eyes and ears of Haven, she was also the epicenter for every string of gossip that knitted the town. Visions of guiding Paige into the darkened alcove last night flashed in his mind. There was no way the nosy old hag could have seen him. She lived above the grocery store—which allowed a bird’s-eye view of the comings and goings on Main Street—that was on the same side of the street as Budding Memories. Evelyn would need to have X-ray vision in order to see into that alcove.
“I can tell by the look on your face you’re trying to figure out what that phone call has to do with you.”
“I think you know, but I’ll spell it out for you.” Jasper smirked. “Evelyn is a private person. Always has been, always will be.”
That was common knowledge. Most everyone knew that Jasper and Doc Knight were the only two people in Haven who’d ever seen or talked to the woman.
“A few people know Evelyn’s agoraphobic…she doesn’t like to leave her house. But from time to time she gets cabin fever and grows a bit restless. She had a bout of that last night.”
Austin groaned and closed his eyes.