Highball Rush (Bootleg Springs #6) - Claire Kingsley

1

GIBSON

The air in Sheriff Tucker’s office was too close. Hot and stuffy. Resisting the urge to tug at my shirt collar, I sat staring at the table in front of me. Waiting.

Jayme, my family’s scary-as-hell lawyer, stood behind me. Dressed in head-to-toe black with a pair of heels that looked like they could puncture a guy’s nuts, she was a force in the small office. Not much intimidated me, but Jayme came close. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the business end of those heels.

At least she was on my side. Sort of. I could see her out of the corner of my eye, and by the glare she was giving me, she was none too pleased with this turn of events.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, we’d all been celebrating Bowie and Cassidy’s wedding. People dancing, eating, drinking, having a good time. Then Misty Lynn had lost her shit in front of everyone. I’d publicly rejected her—not for the first time—and she’d gone and stolen my damn wallet.

Then turned it in when she found what was inside.

“One more time. You got something you need to tell me before Sheriff Tucker comes back?” Jayme asked, her voice quiet but sharp.

“No.”

“Gibson—”

The door opened and the sheriff came in. His snow-white mustache twitched on his upper lip. I didn’t look up. Didn’t trust myself to meet his eyes. I was too fucking angry. And I knew this wasn’t his fault. The problem was, I never should have kept the pictures. That was on me.

Sheriff Tucker—I couldn’t think of him as Harlan right now, not under these circumstances—took his seat across from me. I flicked my eyes up for half a second. He looked uncomfortable. Maybe even apologetic.

“Gibson, I take it you know why I asked you to come in here?”

“Yeah.”

He took out my wallet and pushed it toward me. “Do you recognize this?”

“It’s my wallet. Misty Lynn stole it and I assume she’s the one who gave it to you.”

He nodded. “She found something inside that had her rightfully concerned.”

It was my turn to nod.

He pulled out the strip of photos. Four of them. We’d jumped in a photo booth and made silly faces. In the last one, we were laughing. They were thirteen years old, now, and faded with age. Bent from being kept in my wallet all that time.

“Can you tell me who’s in these photos?”

My eyes skimmed over them. Although I’d carried them around with me for years, I hadn’t looked at them in a long time. Hurt too much.

“They’re me with Callie Kendall.”

“When were these taken?”

“The day before she disappeared.”

Sheriff Tucker took a deep breath, his eyes on the photos. I could practically feel Jayme holding herself back from telling me—for the millionth time—that I didn’t have to answer his questions. She made a throaty noise that sounded an awful lot like a growl.

“And what was the nature of your relationship with Callie Kendall?”

There it was. The real question. Or one of them, anyway.

“We were friends.”

“Just friends?” he asked. “You look awfully cozy in these pictures.”

I shook my head. Of course he’d think the worst. Everyone would. “I was twenty to her sixteen. We were definitely just friends.”

“But Gibson—”

I slammed my hand on the table. “I never touched her. Not once. This town might think I’m a piece of shit, but I would never have crossed that line with her. We were friends. That was all.”

Sheriff Tucker crossed his arms. “Gibs, I’ve known you your whole life. I know you ain’t a piece of shit. But you seem to have been carrying around photos of you and Callie all