“Blindsided,” Chapter 21

Sure gotta love shopping with a fast, efficient man who knows exactly what he wants, when he wants it, even if we are stuck in the last bit of Nashville’s lunch-hour traffic some three hours later, each lost in our own thoughts. At least we got through the worst of the traffic in the city and almost are finally free of Nashville, which means we’re not far from Kentucky and our dreaded destination of Perrysville.

I, for one, am SOOO happy that we got in and out of the mall much faster than I initially expected.

I hate having to shop for clothes — for anything except books and music, really — particularly since I put on weight, but Dickhead actually made the experience almost enjoyable.

Of course, he took over immediately, making a beeline for a lightweight printed fit-and-flare dress on the clearance rack in Belk. Department store dresses tend to run smaller than what the actual size says, I always find, but we were fortunate enough to snag an extra large that fit both my ample bosom and wide hips without stretching the flouncy material all to hell.

It’s as if the dress was made specifically with my ultra curvy body in mind. It has a tie-dye look to it, with the bottom a dark midnight blue shooting up into lighter hues of the same color. Which just so happens to be my favorite. It has cap sleeves and a small keyhole front that thankfully doesn’t plunge straight into the girls for everyone to see. The bottom reaches just past my knees.

Dickhead then ushered me to the shoe department, where he picked out a pair of oh-so-comfy black slide sandals with memory foam and a slight wedge in the heel — also on clearance — that complement the dress and are made for walking.

I feel pretty.

Oh, so pretty.

Dammit, now I can’t get the West Side Story song out of my head!

But I can’t help it. I do feel pretty. For once.

“It’s nice to see a smile light up your face,” Dickhead observes with a hint of one on his own.

I self-consciously attempt to cover my mouth, but he grabs my hand before I can get to it.

Until yesterday, he never struck me as the touchy-feely type. I’m not complaining because I’m really enjoying this particular side of him, let’s be for real here, but Dickhead is so damn reserved that the shock of it never quite wears off.

“Don’t,” he says, interrupting my thoughts. “It’s just good to see you smiling after that heart-to-heart talk with your parents got you so down this morning.”

I tug my hand free of his grasp to run it through my now-wildly frizzing hair in a losing attempt to tame it.

“I wish this traffic would start moving already,” I say as I flip my visor down and the mirror cover back to see if my efforts are working.

They’re not, so with two deft double flips, I abandon the task.

Curls be damned!

“Do you really think the cops will buy into your story enough to do a welfare check on Bob?” I ask, suddenly having serious doubts about going to Perrysville to talk to Mrs. Gallant regarding Bob’s state of mind and possibly tracking him down so we can hopefully rule them out — or not — as suspects in Coach Smith’s murder.

“Second thoughts?” Dickhead wryly counters.

“Yes,” I answer truthfully, deciding that to be contrary at this point is childish.

And very probably suicidal.

“I will keep you safe,” he reiterates for what seems like the gazillionth time. “The local bobbies are equipped to handle dangerous situations, should any arise.”

“You’re only doing this to humor me, aren’t you?”

He doesn’t answer, instead concentrating on the traffic that finally is moving.

“Yes and no,” he says cryptically as he pulls into the busy welcome center shortly after crossing the Tenne-damn-ssee state line into Kentucky.

Twenty minutes later, we’re on the road again.

Dickhead is wearing his usual penguin suit, having grabbed it out of the trunk — or the “boot,” as he likes to call it — right after we pulled into the welcome center to use the facilities. He didn’t waste any time rolling the long sleeves of his shirt up because of the heat of the day already bearing down on us. It’s still hard for me to believe that someone who dresses so predictably boring has such an amazing eye for fashion, but we have more important matters to discuss than clothing right now.

“Cut the cryptic crap and give it to me straight,” I snark without preamble.

He raises one of those sexy but imperious brows of his and grins.

“So we’re going to be at odds again, are we,” he says matter-of-fact, not really posing a question. “Of course, I’m doing it to humor you, but only because — and we’ve already been over this — you’d do it anyway as soon as you’re out of my sight. And that’s not going to happen. You’d not only be dealing with my wrath, but that of your parents, as well. I take my promises very seriously. You’d do well to remember that.”

He pauses long enough to maneuver around a jalopy not unlike my own car going well below the speed limit. The only difference is, had I been driving that clunker, I’d have been enough of a bitch to floor it so he couldn’t pass me, or I’d make him really have to work for it. Yes, I know the highway isn’t a race track, but I still believe it’s human nature — mine, in any case — not to let anyone get the best of you, even if it’s just in a vehicle.

“But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that Bob could be involved in Lester Smith’s murder. Perhaps his mum, too, but we won’t know anything until we get there, so there’s no point in beating the subject to death with what-ifs and getting ourselves worked up into a frenzy over all kinds of scenarios that could prove to be false. You need to be prepared for that, Piccolo.”

That’s about as good an answer as I’m going to get, I suppose.

“Besides, I love a good mystery.”

On that, we can both agree.

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