The Sheriff's Plus One - Marquita Valentine


Archer Kincaid sat on one of the ancient back steps of Star Falls Baptist Church, his shoulders slumped in utter confusion and in quite a bit of embarrassment. He was a groom without a bride. A man without a wife. A fiancé without a clue. A yes to every upcoming function without a plus one.

Basically, he was a fool.

Worse than that, Archer should have seen it coming from a mile away. After all, he was a cop, the county’s duly elected (and youngest ever) sheriff. Yet. Somehow, it had escaped his notice that his fiancé was cheating on him.

Oh sorry, according to Liz’s note: she was in love with another man and needed to do what was right for them. Somehow that was supposed to make it a-okay, he guessed. Except hadn’t they been in love? Hadn’t she been the first to say it? Maybe he hadn’t told her enough? Maybe he wasn’t enough?

Forget confused and embarrassed, he was royally pissed off. How dare Liz do this to him— by announcing it in a cowardly note of all things.

He ran a hand through his hair, or attempted to, with all the product in the way. He shook his head, blowing out a breath. It could be worse. It could always be worse.

The door behind him opened with a slight creak.

Now it was worse. Somebody finally felt like it was their duty to check on him.

“Don’t feel like talking,” he said, turning his head slightly to glare at the intruder. Instead, he found his best friend or rather the hem of her dress in his line of vision.

“Don’t mind me,” Molly said as she sat beside him. “I needed some air.”

“In the June heat?” he asked, finally aware of the sweat plastering his shirt to his back under the coat of his tux. “

She smiled, raising her brows. “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

He forced his gaze away from her, staring at the ancient live oak tree in the center of the overflow parking lot. “I’m still not talking.”

Archer felt rather than saw Molly’s nod. He knew her mouth was drawn, had caught a glimpse of fire in her green eyes earlier when they’d all realized Liz wasn’t showing. At least he knew she wouldn’t pretend to care just to get some juicy gossip out of him.

“I didn’t know Liz wasn’t going to show,” Molly said a beat later. “If I had, I’d like to think I would have spoken up and told you.”

“Don’t know if I would have appreciated your honesty.” He would have believed her, though. Molly had been telling him nothing but the truth for the past twenty years. Now at the age of twenty-seven, she was still the same.

“Eventually, you would have.” She grabbed his hand, giving it a gentle, friendly squeeze before letting go. “You’re a reasonable man.”

“Don’t feel very reasonable.” He muttered, hating the shortness of his tone, the brevity of his words directed at the one person he didn’t have to pretend to be anything but himself with.

Hell, he’d thought he’d found that with Liz. She had Molly’s approval, after all, and his family’s, too.

“I can’t believe I was wrong about her,” Molly said as if reading his mind. “She had me fooled, and you know I can read people like tea leaves.”

He cracked a smile at that, then sat up straighter to get the kink out of his lower back. “I’ve always said you’d make a great detective.”

“I’m a better businesswoman.” Molly picked at the hem of her skirt. “The only people left inside are your family and me. I made them all promise to keep their mouths shut under penalty of law.”

His chest broke open a little, rough laughter finding its way to the outside. Molly was one of the few people his brothers would listen to, and their little sister idolized her. Liz was supposed to be the one making him laugh today. Sharp pain sliced through him.

“I’m such a damned fool, Molly.” He stretched out his legs, the bricks of the step pricking at the fabric of his pants. “The stupidest thoughts are in my head, like the 4th of July party I’m supposed to attend, or the grand opening of Star Fall’s inclusive playground. I’ve been replying to everything I needed to go to, or even wanted to go to, with a plus one for the last year and a half. Hell, I was excited to be able to point out my wife this summer. And now, when