Julia Cartwright uncrossed her legs and set her teacup on the breakfast table. Life didn’t always turn out the way she wanted it to. Drawing her sheer housedress around her shoulders, she stood and strolled to the bay window that overlooked the train station and Greta’s bakery. The glow from the street’s light posts dimmed as dawn gave way to the morning. Passengers milled about, some clinging to love ones, while others stood in line for a taste of Greta’s scrumptious pastries. If nothing else, she would miss the endearing scene below. Lowering her eyes, wet lashes rested against her cheeks. So many wonderful memories now tainted by the stabbing death of Mrs. Monroe.
A shudder raced through her as she turned from the window and surveyed the cardboard boxes lined along the brick wall. Considering her neighbor’s horrific fate two nights before, her unemployment and move to a smaller place paled in comparison. What weighed most on her mind was doing something for the old woman’s family, even if it was just to sit and comfort them. Maybe she could purchase something from the bakery and take it to the family this afternoon. Yes, that’s what she would do.
“Excuse me, Julia. Do you have a moment?”
The baritone voice brought her out of her reverie. Julia looked up to see the detective assigned to Mrs. Monroe’s case in the doorway. “Sure, come in.” When his dark gaze moved down her chiffon, silk gown, her stomach fluttered, as it did whenever he was near. Instinctively, she drew the satin sash tighter.
He cleared his throat. “Your sister let me in, but I can always come back later.”
Julia’s warm cheeks matched her tinted hair. “No, please make yourself comfortable while I change.” She hurried from the room. Her sister had stayed over to help with her move, and she planned to strangle her as soon as he left. How dare she allow him to come back while she was indecent? Having met the detective on two previous occasions, she couldn’t deny her attraction to him. His jet black hair and inquisitive eyes left her nearly breathless. Fanning herself, she browsed through her closet several minutes before deciding on a soft, blue cotton dress. She changed and returned to the sunroom.
“Can I get you coffee or tea, detective?” Julie asked, not missing his appreciative glimpse at her dress.
“No, I’m good. Please call me Will.”
She sat in a chair across from him, noticing for the first time the dry rose which fell from her fireplace mantel, now lay in the center of the table. It was a gift she’d bought herself last Valentine’s Day. She chose to ignore it. “Okay, Will, how can I help you?”
With pen and pad before him, his expression turned serious. “I wanted to go over this again. You said you heard a scream at two o’clock, Tuesday morning. Is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct.” With his head inclined, he scribbled notes. Her gaze followed the movement of his strong hand.
“How can you be sure of the time?”
“My favorite television show came on when the scream rang out.”
He cast a curious glance in her direction. “And what show is this?”
How embarrassing. At twenty-five, she not only bought herself roses but carried on a romance with the television. “The Dating Game.”
His full lips tilted at the corners. After a few unspoken moments, he continued. “I know you called the police. What did you do after that?”
“Just as I’ve told you on two other occasions, I ran to the window, and that’s when I saw the guy on the fire escape.”
“You were adamant about him being a black male. How can you be sure when it’s night?”
She wrapped her slender fingers around the teacup she’d left on the table earlier. Lifting it to her lips, she sipped the lukewarm liquid and set the cup back on the saucer. “The area was well-lit, and he wasn’t wearing a face mask. You’ve asked me most of these questions before. Are you hoping I’ll change my story?”
He closed the notepad and folded his hands on the table, drawing her attention to his well-defined forearms.
“You’re the only witness who has come forward, so I’m trying to get as much information as possible.” He smiled, showing even, white teeth.
Warmth swept through her lower abdomen. What was it about him that affected her this way? Looking away, she sipped her tea.
The sound slid over her skin like oil. She looked up into his midnight eyes. “Yes?”
A sigh resonated throughout the room as he leaned back against the chair. “I have to be honest about why I’m really here. I remembered that your movers were coming today, and I wanted to see you before you left. I would like to stay in touch.”
Trying to steady her hands so he wouldn’t hear the cup clinking against the saucer, she let him continue.
“I would like to take you out. Is that possible?”
“Won’t this compromise the case?”
“Absolutely not. You’re not a suspect.” His gaze still held hers. “Maybe I’m moving too fast, but I’m totally taken by you.”
Since fainting was not an option, Julia took a much needed breath. “I would like very much to see you again.”
“Is the offer still good for a cup of coffee?” Will asked.
“Yes, I’ll be right back.” She stood and turned to leave.
“Before you go. Is there a story behind this rose?” He twirled it between his fingers.
“Not one you’re going to hear from me, detective.”
Julia could hear his laughter behind her as she went into the kitchen. Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms around her waist. Although she’d lost her sweet neighbor and job, better days were ahead. From now on, she would focus on the positive and look for the silver lining.
Learn more about Cassandra Roberts-Jones at her SHOWCASE PAGE.