Carnal Innocence

Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts

Book: Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nora Roberts
reflex.” With an arm draped around her waist, he began to lead her toward the house. “Jose, not that I’m in any position to question your veracity, but we haven’t played gin in weeks.”
    “That so?” She tucked her tongue in her cheek. “Well now, the days just seem to blur together, don’t they?” She pulled back to study him. “Seems better that way. Simpler.”
    “Maybe.” Cautious, he took her face in his hands. He had a way of looking into a person when he had to—and he needed to see into Josie now. “You don’t think I killed her.”
    “Sweetie pie, I’ve lived with you most of my life, and I know you just about choke with guilt if you have to squash a beetle. You’ve got too much heart, even when your temper’s up.” She kissed both his cheeks. “I knowyou didn’t kill anybody. And if it makes it all go away quicker, what’s the harm in saying we were at cards that night? We were at cards some night or other anyway.”
    He hesitated. It didn’t seem quite right. Then he shrugged. Right or wrong, it was easier than the truth, which was that he’d fallen asleep while reading Keats.
    What the hell would the boys down at the Chat ’N Chew say if they found out he read poetry on purpose?
    And who’d believe him?

c·h·a·p·t·e·r 5
    L ike fire through dry brush, news of Edda Lou Hatinger’s murder had spread like dust from the bayous to the levees, from town square to farm, all the way from Market Street down to Hog Maw Road, where Happy Fuller discussed the event with her dear friend and bingo partner, Birdie Shays.
    “Henry wouldn’t talk about it,” Birdie said as she cooled her face with a Church of Redemption paper fan. “Burke Truesdale called him on down to the McNair place ’bout two o’clock, and he didn’t get back till five.” The fierce-eyed Jesus painted on the fan blurred as she waved it. “He came home all pale and sweaty, told me Edda Lou Hatinger was dead and to cancel all the appointments this evening. Said she was murdered just like Arnette and Francie, and wouldn’t say another word.”
    “Lord love us.” Happy looked out over her trim backyard, satisfied with the backwash of Birdie’s fan. “What’s the world coming to? A woman’s not safe walking the streets.”
    “I passed by the diner before I came out.” Birdie gave a knowing nod. Her lacquered hair, which EarleenRenfrew colored every six weeks with Bombshell Beige, sat still and stiff as a helmet with its two rigid curls like question marks on either side of her forehead. “Heard that Burke’s called for the FBI, and maybe the National Guard.”
    “Hmph.” Happy made a sound between a snort and a grunt. She was fond of Birdie, mighty fond, but that didn’t stop her from seeing faults. Birdie had a tendency to be gullible, which in Happy’s opinion fell just behind laziness on the top ten list of sins. “We’ve got us a homicidal maniac, not a riot, Birdie. I don’t think we’re going to see soldiers marching down Market Street. Now, the FBI maybe, and I expect they’ll call my boy in to talk since he found poor Arnette back in February.”
    Her handsome face set into thoughtful lines. She’d yet to forgive Bobby Lee fully for hooking school—and damn near flunking out again—but it was hard to resist the prestige of being the mama of the one who’d found the first body.
    “Bobby Lee’s carried that sadness with him ever since,” Birdie put in. “Why, you can see it in his eyes. Just this morning when he filled up my tank down to Sonny’s, I thought to myself, that Bobby Lee, he’s never going to be the same.”
    “Had nightmares for weeks,” Happy said with only the faintest trace of pride.
    “Only natural. I know Henry’s heart’s about broke. And I’ll tell you, Happy, it’s worrisome. Why, it could’ve been my own sweet Carolanne—not that she’d be wandering around somewhere alone when she’s got a husband and two children to tend to. But it makes you worry.

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