It Only Took You (Lake Howling #4) - Wendy Vella Page 0,1

her apartment and drink herself into a stupor there. Anything to make the pain go away and snatch some sleep, even if it was only for a few hours.

Sheriff Cubby Hawker walked into the bar wondering what the hell he’d find. Jake had asked him to look up his sister while in LA, and he’d agreed, because he couldn’t tell his friend that he and Katie had argued before she left Howling six years ago, and he hadn’t spoken to her since. Besides, that was water under the bridge now; she’d probably forgotten it even if he hadn’t.

Cubby had been told at the police department where Katie worked that she was on leave. After questioning several people, he’d found one willing to tell him why. Three weeks ago Katie McBride had been involved in a shooting that had left her injured along with two others, and three dead. Ice-cold fear had slithered up Cubby’s spine as he’d heard how close she’d come to being a fatality herself; it sounded like only quick reactions had saved her. He was given this bar as her current location. The sergeant he’d spoken to hadn’t given any more details, and Cubby understood loyalty as well as the next person, but it made things hard, not knowing what he was walking into. Just how had Katie McBride changed from the princess who’d had everyone falling at her feet to the cop who was spending her days in a bar? He guessed he was about to find out.

Jake mustn’t have known his sister had been injured, or he’d have been on the first plane, along with his folks. What the hell was Katie’s deal in not telling them?

Checking his watch, Cubby noted it was 11:00 a.m. and the place had several people already seated on the bar stools. He ran his eyes along the line and found Katie at one end. She was staring at the bottles lined on the shelves behind the bar. She wore a cap, the peak pulled low to hide her eyes, and a gray t-shirt and jeans. Her dark curls were shorter now, and looked lank and greasy, hanging limp on her shoulders, and his heart kicked as he took in the brace she wore on her injured wrist. He didn’t acknowledge anyone else as he walked, his eyes fixed on her.

“Hey, Katie.”

Her head turned quickly, and the McBride brown eyes widened. “Cubby?” The flash of pleasure was quickly blinked away, and when she refocused on him she was scowling. “Wh-what are you doing here?”

“I had a conference, and Jake asked me to check on you because he hadn’t heard from you in a while.”

She dropped her eyes. “I-I’ve been busy.”

“Injuring yourself and drinking too much?” Cubby took the glass out of her hand and slid it down to the bartender, who was running a cloth over the bar.

“Hey, I hadn’t finished that!”

“I’m pretty sure that stuff will rot your insides.”

“I don’t care, and since I’m not in the mood for a reunion, you should leave.” She signaled the bartender, but Cubby gave him a look, so he ignored her.

“Who’d have thought sweet little Katie McBride would be looking all mean and ugly.” Cubby braced himself, knowing his words would get a reaction. Katie may have been sweet natured with most people, but he’d been someone who could always get a fiery reaction out of her.

“That’s right, I’m no longer sweet, Sheriff!” She got to her feet, stumbled slightly, then managed to right herself. “I’m sour as hell now and that little nobody you remember is long gone.”

“You look like hell,” he said calmly, “and you smell worse.”

“Yeah, well I’ve had a rough few weeks.” Her lip curled in an attempted sneer, and his gaze followed the sweet little bow the top one formed. He’d been tempted to taste those lips a time or two, but his respect for her brother and family had held him back; plus the fact that Katie was a take-home-to-mom kind of girl, and he’d decided long ago that marriage just wasn’t for him.

“So I hear. You about done with the self-pity crap?” Cubby had experience with what Katie was going through because he’d been there once, and it had taken someone shocking him out of it to make him see reason.

“Fuck you, Hawker.” Cubby ducked as she swung at him, her temper now sparked. “Go home to your parking violations.”

“To that little town you grew up in? Where your family still lives?” He dodged left