Swamp Spook (Miss Fortune Mystery 13) - Page 96
“She says that every year,” Ida Belle said. “Then inevitably, she ends up yanking her teeth out on one of those apples and scaring the heck out of a bunch of kids.”
I laughed. It was good to be back to semi-normal.
“Hey, there’s Carter and Emmaline,” I said, and pointed toward the funnel cake booth. “And that must be her new man.”
Midfifties. Six foot one. One hundred ninety pounds. Silver and black hair and a nice smile. The only threat to me was if I got between him and Carter.
“I’m dying to meet him,” Gertie said, and we made a beeline for them.
Emmaline saw us approaching and waved, giving us a huge smile. “I’ve been watching for you. Carter assured me you wouldn’t miss tonight but I’ve been worried you might have taken a break from all this. You know, given what happened.”
I gave Emmaline a hug and she pointed to the man standing next to her. “I’d like for you to meet Carlos Morales. Carlos, this is Fortune Redding, my son’s girlfriend.”
Carlos clutched my hand between his and smiled. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“That’s sorta frightening,” I said.
“Only for me,” Carlos said. “Between the Special-Forces-turned-cop son and the CIA-agent-turned-PI girlfriend, I’m the one who should be frightened.”
“Good call,” Ida Belle said, and extended her hand. “I’m Ida Belle and this is Gertie. We’re Fortune’s partners in crime fighting.”
“Ha!” Carter said. “And sometimes just in crime.”
“The crime only occurs when crime fighting,” Gertie said, and shook Carlos’s hand. “Sometimes things require a more artistic approach than the police are allowed.”
Carter raised one eyebrow. “Artistic? Is that what we’re going with?”
We all laughed.
Emmaline squeezed my arm. “I’d love it if you’d come for Sunday dinner tomorrow. I know you usually dine with the Sinful Ladies, but I was hoping they could do without you and banana pudding for one Sunday.”
“I’d love a day off from running,” I said. “Should we invite Carter?”
Everyone laughed again and I felt my chest tighten. This was it. This was what I’d been missing in my life and never knew. Not until I had it. A place to live that I loved. Friends and family who cared about me and would put themselves at risk for me. Whom I would die for.
Carter and I finally broke away and strolled hand in hand through the festival, checking out the baked goods and craft booths. Chuckling at the kids doing the pumpkin walk and playing cornhole. And it occurred to me as we went that a feeling I’d never had before was present.
I was comfortable.
No anxiety about a mission. No worry over red tape. No neighbors complaining about me running on my treadmill at 3:00 a.m. No alarm to set. No debriefings. No traffic. No subway. I’d traded it all for a small town wi
th the weirdest people I’d ever met, alligators who loved casserole, and weeklong Halloween festivals.
I looked up at the full moon and thought about just how awesome this night was.
Then Ida Belle yelled.
“Come quick! Gertie’s stuck in the apple-dunking barrel.”
I grinned. Now it was perfect.
* * *