Putting Out Old Flames (Pineville #1) - Allyson Charles

Chapter One

On a good day it could take a backhoe to pry Jane out from beneath her soft cotton duvet. The goose down bedspread in a faded blue paisley had been an indulgence, but one that was worth every penny. When she snuggled into bed at night, the duvet kept her cozy through the long Michigan winters, but was light enough to breathe through the warm summers. Sleeping under her duvet was like being cocooned in a cloud. It usually took her three rounds of hitting her snooze button in the morning before she could drag herself out from its inviting comfort.

And that was on a good day. Not a day when her head pounded like the drum section of a marching band and her limbs ached with fatigue.

Jane kicked the twisted sheets from her feet, and cocked her head. There it was again. The knocking was definitely coming from her front door, not her head. She groaned. Couldn’t a girl get a sick day to herself? She wasn’t asking for much. The last time she’d taken time off work due to illness, a different president had been sitting in the Oval Office.

Looking into one disgruntled green eye, she sighed. Cyclops didn’t approve of visitors almost as much as he didn’t approve of her sleeping the day away. The orange tabby circled three times on his pillow before turning his back on her and coiling himself like a garden hose.

Message received. Her ornery pet couldn’t have said Get your lazy butt out of bed more clearly than if he’d written the message on a whiteboard.

Crawling through a sea of used tissues to the edge of the mattress, she swung her legs over. Whoever was at the door was persistent, she’d give him that. Stumbling, she took two steps to her closet, pulled a cotton robe on over her boxer shorts and T-shirt, and headed for the front door to her apartment.

Before opening the door, she gave one more solid blow of her nose, happy to discover she’d mostly dried up while she’d napped. Her face felt altogether too crusty for her liking, but considering her head was so congested it just might explode, Jane didn’t care. Even if that hunky Thor actor stood behind her door, he was just going to have to deal with how she looked.

Concerned blue eyes and wind-blown tufts of white hair greeted her across the threshold. “Jane, are you all right? When you didn’t answer the door right away, I thought maybe you’d forgotten about our meeting.”

Her head fell back on her shoulders. “Judge Nichols. I did forget. I’m sorry.” She stepped to the side and swept an arm toward the living room. “Come on in.”

The older man paused, his eyes narrowing as he studied her face.

“It’s okay. Dr. Murphy said I’m not contagious.” She coughed into her sleeve. “He said it’s just a twenty-four-hour bug and my time’s almost up.”

With another sidelong glance at her head, the judge of Crook County, Michigan, entered her small apartment and took a seat on her couch. Catching her eye, he rubbed a hand through the hair at his left temple and frowned. “If you’re not feeling well, we can reschedule the meeting. The charity ball for the Pineville Fire Department isn’t for another month, so we still have lots of time to plan.” Leaning back on the sofa, he shifted his softly rounded belly and pulled a cell phone out of the front pocket of his trousers.

Jane laughed. “I’m glad you asked me for help with this fundraiser. Only a man would think a month was plenty of