The Better to Bite(4)

By: Cynthia Eden

Yeah, my dad’s the new sheriff in town. One day he’s a detective with the Chicago PD. The next…he’s been appointed sheriff here in Haven, South Carolina.

I acted like I was happy for my dad, but the truth was…I couldn’t even remember the last time I was actually happy about anything. Maybe before my mom died?

Not sure…

I smiled for my dad, though. I always did that. I figured why should he worry about me? He worried enough as it was.

Back in the day, my dad grew up here in Haven, South Carolina. Funny, though, he’d never told me about this place. I’d thought he always lived in the city.

Then he’d gotten word that his mother—a lady I’d never met, thanks, Dad—had passed away. He’d inherited her house here in Haven. He inherited the house one week and received the appointment of the sheriff’s job the next.

Dad said it was all fate.

I didn’t believe in fate. If I did, then I had to believe that I woke up this morning with no choice but to get clawed by a wolf.

No thanks, Fate.

The gravel crunched as Dad came toward me. He was a good-looking guy, or so I’d heard some ladies say when they didn’t think I’d been paying attention. In his early forties, he had short, blond hair and a face that only had a few lines near his eyes. Laugh lines. Despite the work he did, my dad liked to laugh.

But he wasn’t laughing now.

His sheriff’s uniform was a dull brown, but the star he wore on his chest gleamed in the weak light. He held his hat in his hands, and his jaw clenched as he walked toward me.

I knew that hard look on his face too well.

I rose from the porch swing. “What happened?”

My heart pounded too fast. He’d only been on the job for a few days-four days—and this gig was supposed to be easy. No stress. No fuss. That was the whole reason we’d left the city.

To escape.

A long sigh slipped past his lips. “They found Sheriff Brantley today.”

Not what I’d expected. “The guy who ran off?” That’s why my dad had been called in to Haven. He and the mayor had once been friends, so my dad said, anyway. When Sheriff Brantley cut out of town, the mayor had been desperate. There’d been no one else ready to take the job, and he’d phoned my dad.

Instant new life…so we thought.

“So—what?” I asked, confused and angry. “The guy decided to walk back into town? The job’s yours now, he can’t just—”

He climbed up the porch steps. “He didn’t walk back in any place.” He ran his fingers through his hair. My dad does that move a lot—usually when he’s worried.

I wasn’t going to like the part that came next. But I just stood there, with my toes curling into the wooden porch and my chin up. The wound on my arm seemed to throb.

“Some kids found Brantley’s body in the woods today.” A rough sigh slipped past his lips. “Or they found what was left of it.”

My stomach clenched. There weren’t supposed to be any dead bodies here. This place was supposed to be quiet and safe.

Not filled with wolves and death.

I was starting to think this town wasn’t much of a Haven after all. My hands fisted. “How do you think he died?”

My dad’s eyes, an exact shade of green to match mine, cut toward me. “Hard to say…too much of his body is gone at this point.”

That was just gross and way too much information for me.

“The animals got to him,” he said and all I could picture then was that big wolf, coming at me with his snarls and growls and too-sharp teeth.

I shuddered.

“We won’t know for sure what happened to him, not unless we can find more of his remains.”

I forced my eyes to hold his. I had to say it. “Dad, do you need me to—”

He bounded up the porch steps and pulled me into his arms. “No!”

Great. The very fast, very adamant response I’d hoped to hear.

“I told you, Anna, things are different now. We’re starting over.” My head was against his chest, so I could feel the rapid beat of his heart. “Both of us are.”

A fresh start, with a dead body thrown in.

Somehow, that didn’t seem so different from my life in the city.

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