The Copycat Killers(3)

By: Paula Millhouse

Vermonters would never take the time to spin words like her people from down south. It was too damn cold up here to waste a syllable.

Matthew smiled, mirth dancing behind his eyes. She still didn’t understand why he loved to pick her brain like this, but she loved playing along.

He handed over her packages with a nod. “You got something here from New York City. Is that what I think it is?”

The priority mailbox in his hands bore Jennifer Bailie’s return address stamped all over it. Evie took in a gasp. The package was from her literary agent, and inside lay her new novel, first edition, hardback. It was also the first book written under her new pen name.

She held the box to her heart and thought about its meaning. If it hadn’t been for Nick and his family, the book wouldn’t exist, and neither would she. She’d dedicated it to them. Her hands trembled. “Thank you, Matthew.” She peered into his curious eyes. He didn’t mean to pry. His expression told her his excitement was barely eclipsed by hers.

He motioned toward the package, his face eager.

She peeked back from under rapidly fluttering eyelashes. “You know I have to show Nick first,” she said. “Then Meg.”

She watched Matthew’s face fall.

“Besides, you already know what happens.” She’d found a writing friend in Matthew, and he read over pages for her before she sent them to her agent back in Manhattan. He’d also introduced her to a local writing group which met every week.

He tapped the box with an intent index finger. “Yeah, but the cover’s in there, right? And it’s different when it’s in hardback. When do you unveil it?”

“Saturday night, at the music hall. I’m doing a private book-signing before open-mike. I tell you what—let’s make a trade. Read these pages and give me some feedback while you wait?” She reached into her bag and handed over a folder containing six new chapters she’d written early that morning. “Oh, and I brought some brochures about our snowmobiling expeditions. Meg said you’d put them out for us?”

He exchanged her pages and brochures for another thick brown envelope. “Fair trade. Oh, and here. A certified letter came for you. Looks official. I’ll need a signature.”

“Thanks.” She looked at the return address: Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York City.

Evie’s heart danced rapid high kicks in her chest, but she scrawled her new signature on the document for Matthew, forcing her hand steady as she wrote. “See you Saturday.” She put the letters in her bag and strode out of the post office for her waiting Jeep.

She drove the seven miles through rural Vermont, up and over hills, and onto winding gravel backroads which led to the Franklin Hundred Acre Wood. It seemed to take forever until she found her way back to the magnificent prow-front log cabin she shared with Nick Franklin.

He came outside when her Jeep sped up the long driveway. Tall, broad and handsome, her hero strode toward her. With short blond curly hair and periwinkle blue eyes, he took her breath away every time she saw him.

She frowned, though. She didn’t know what was waiting for them inside the letter from the FBI, but it couldn’t be good. Could it? As far as she was concerned she’d be fine if she never had to hear from them again. She carried the box of mail up to the cabin. He cocked his head, furrowed his brows. She didn’t speak, and she diverted her eyes.

She set the box with her new book down on the steps, sat down, and tore off her gloves. The diamond engagement ring on her left fourth finger threw prisms back at her eyes, dancing in the sunlight.

Evie peeked up at his handsome face. Nick leaned over her shoulder, giving the priority box a once-over, then his blue eyes went wide at the return address on the letter she clasped in trembling hands. They both held a breath of silence.

She tore open the thick package. An official court document, bulging and newly drafted with multiple notarized signatures came out first. Evie read the title. “Non-disclosure agreement?”

She flipped a couple of pages and narrowed her brows while her heart raced. She handed the legal-speak papers off to Nick and peered over the remaining contents. Inside waited another letter. She gasped when she saw it. “Son of a bitch. I’d recognize that woman’s handwriting anywhere.”

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