Insatiable Page 1

Author: Melanie Harlow

Series: Cloverleigh Farms #3

Genres: Romance



Her name was Dottie, her age was somewhere north of ninety, and she was what we at the sheriff’s department called a “frequent flyer.”

It was nearly seven P.M. on Friday night as I pulled up in front of her house. It had been a slow shift so far, mostly routine traffic stops and a few non-emergency calls, but in a small town like Hadley Harbor, that was the norm.

Dottie was definitely a non-emergency.

She’d called 911—this time—because she was positive someone had broken into her home this afternoon while she was grocery shopping, and while the intruder hadn’t stolen anything, he had switched her living room furniture around. I hadn’t even bothered with the lights on my vehicle.

“Be right back, Renzo.” Leaving my faithful Belgian Malinois in the back of the Explorer—and the expression on his face told me he wasn’t happy about that—I got out from behind the wheel and headed up the walk. From the window, Renzo watched me like a hawk, as he always did, but there was nothing dangerous about this call.

Still, it was good to know he had my back, no matter what.

I knocked on the front door of the traditional, two-story brick home, and less than ten seconds later, Dottie Jensen opened it and beamed at me, her dentures on full display. She’d probably been peeking out the window. “Oh, hello, Deputy McCormick. I was hoping it would be you.”

“Hello, Mrs. Jensen. It’s me.”

She looked over my shoulder toward the street, where my K-9 unit was parked. “Didn’t you bring your doggy with you?”

The same questions every time. I took a breath for patience and answered them. Again. “Yes, he’s always with me. But he’s in the car.”

“Won’t it be too warm for him in the car?”

“It’s a cool evening, and we have temperature control in the unit.”

“Wouldn’t he like to come inside?”

“Why don’t I come in and look around, and then once you’ve told me what happened and I have all the info, I’ll let him out so you can say hello.”

“That sounds lovely,” she said eagerly. “Please come in.”

“Thank you.”

She pulled the door open wider and stood aside as I entered the front hallway. The house was silent and smelled like a combination of furniture polish and whatever she’d made for dinner.

“Can I get you anything?” she asked. “A lemonade? Some cookies? Or how about dinner? I got some beautiful pork chops at the butcher this afternoon and fried them up for supper. Do you like them with applesauce?”

“No thank you, ma’am.” Although hunger was gnawing at my belly, I had to stick to routine. Lonely old Mrs. Jensen would keep me here for hours if I let her. I felt sorry for her—her husband of sixty-plus years had died only a few months ago—and I always gave her a little extra time if I could, but I was off duty in about twenty minutes and wanted to get home in time to watch game three of the World Series.

From the front entryway, I glanced into the living room on my right, then the dining room on my left. Each room looked exactly the same as it had the last time I’d been there. “I understand you believe someone broke in?”

“Oh, yes. I’m just sure of it.” Mrs. Jensen clasped her gnarled fingers together and opened her eyes wide. Her forehead wrinkles multiplied.

“Want to tell me what happened?”

She nodded and smiled as if I’d just crowned her Queen of England. “Yes. You see, I was in town shopping for groceries—I was picking up a roast because my son George is coming to visit, and his wife, Sue, never did learn to cook a pot roast like I taught her, but Sue was one of those career girls, you know, and I don’t think she cared much about what sort of meals she put on the table at night.” She lowered her voice and spoke conspiratorially behind the back of one hand. “Sue wasn’t much of a housekeeper either, truth be told, but there isn’t much we can do about the people our children choose. Do you have children, dear?”

“No, ma’am.” I braced myself for the inevitable follow-up.

“Why not? Doesn’t your wife want any?”

“I don’t have a wife, either, Mrs. Jensen.” Which I’d told her at least fifty times, and every single time, she reacted the same way.

“No wife?” She recoiled. “Why, you must be close to thirty already, Deputy McCormick.”

“Thirty-three, ma’am.”

“Thirty-three! Mr. Jensen and I had already been married twelve years by the time he was thirty-three. And had four children. We had six altogether, you know.”

“I know.” I thought about the cold beer waiting in my fridge and fought the urge to look at my watch.

“And we were married sixty-seven years before he passed. He died last spring. April ninth.”

I knew that too, because that’s when her calls to the dispatcher had started, with her “emergencies.”

Sometimes she heard noises and thought someone was in her house. Sometimes an item was missing that turned up once an officer arrived and helped her find it. Twice, she’d claimed to have fallen and asked for help getting up, but on both occasions, she’d righted herself and answered the door when the officers knocked. On every occasion, she did anything she could to keep the responders in her house as long as possible, which usually involved offering food, telling her life story, nosing into their personal lives, and giving unsolicited advice.

She was a nonagenarian pain in the ass, and I already had a mother around to give me shit about being a perpetual bachelor—and she gave plenty—but I never much minded coming here and making sure everything was okay, even if it was just to make her feel less lonely. It was part of the job. It was what my dad would have done, and he’d been the most beloved sheriff this county ever had. He understood there was more to serve and protect than making arrests or preventing crime.

“Yes, ma’am, I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Jensen several times. All of us at the sheriff’s office liked him a lot.”

She smiled happily. “He was a dear. And so handsome. All the girls were always trying to catch his eye. Now, isn’t there anyone who catches yours?”

“Not at the moment, ma’am.”

“But don’t you want a family?”

“I’ve got a family. I think you know my mom, Carol McCormick. She’s a nurse over at Harbor Family Practice.”

“Oh, of course.” Mrs. Jensen nodded. “Carol is just lovely. I knew your father too. We just loved Sheriff McCormick. Both Mr. Jensen and I were so sorry when he passed.”

“Thank you. I’ve also got a twin brother, a sister and brother-in-law, two nephews and a niece, and Renzo. Plenty of family around.” I smiled at her and tried to move things along. “So when you came home from town, was your door open? Or unlocked?”

She looked confused for a moment. “Why would I leave the door unlocked?” Then she remembered, snapping her fingers. “Oh! Oh, yes. The front door was open just a hair, but I know I closed and locked it before I left. I’m all alone here, and even though it’s a small town, you can never be too careful.”

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