Home > A Hard Day for a Hangover (Sunshine Vicram #3)

A Hard Day for a Hangover (Sunshine Vicram #3)
Author: Darynda Jones

 


1


When life hands you lemons, hand them back.

You deserve chocolate.

—SIGN AT THE SUGAR SHACK

 

Normally, Sheriff Sunshine Vicram would’ve been alarmed at the sight of a knitting needle sticking out of a guy’s neck. At the very least, she would’ve been concerned for the horrified man’s well-being. Yet, there she stood. Unmoved. Unshaken. Unstirred. Much like the forgotten bottle of dirty martini mix in the back of her cabinet. At the tender age of early-thirty-something, Sun realized she had seen it all. The world held no more surprises. No more magic. It just was.

“Stop it,” the man standing beside her said.

She turned to her chief deputy, the blond bank vault door known as Quincy Cooper, and asked, “Stop what?”

“That.” He circled an index finger, outlining her in midair. “That thing you keep doing.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She crossed her arms over her uniformed chest and went back to staring at the knitting needle and the impaled man behind it.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re pining.”

“I’m not pining.”

“You’re pining.” He leaned closer and lowered his voice. “Worse, you’re pining for a man who clearly doesn’t want to talk to you.”

The accuracy of his words stung like lemon juice on a paper cut, and she had to give it to her bestie. He never missed an opportunity to be brutally honest. “Please,” she said, lifting her chin and forcing her poker face to hold fast under fire. “You’ve been pining after that same man’s sister for months. You have no room to talk.”

“Touché.”

“Besides, it’s not that. It’s just…”

Wait. What was it? The pit of despair she’d fallen into? The black hole of melancholy to which she’d succumbed? The bottle of Patrón she’d finished off at two that morning?

“It’s just?” Quincy prodded.

She rubbed her temple. She always forgot how horribly tequila affected her until the morning after, then it all came rushing back. And up. She wrapped a protective arm around her queasy stomach, squishing her memo pad in the process. “It’s just … this has been a really long week.”

He checked his watch. “It’s eight thirty-seven—a.m.”

A questioning brow rose of its own volition as she looked up at him.

“On Monday.”

“Your point being?”

He lifted a heavy shoulder, giving in. “They say the first five days after the weekend are the hardest. Hang in there, cupcake.” He nudged her with his elbow.

She nudged back, then returned her attention to one of Vlad’s distant cousins, Doug the Impaled.

Their assault victim, an older man wrapped neck-to-kneecaps in a trench coat, lay on a gurney, cradling his neck with both hands. He stared up at them, panic rounding his lids, but he didn’t dare speak. Probably because of the knitting needle protruding from one side of said neck. Doug, their resident flasher, had apparently flashed the wrong person and ended up in the emergency room as a result.

“My first question,” Quincy said, tilting his head for a better view, “is how did someone get the capped end of a knitting needle so far into his neck like that?”

“Right?” Sun grimaced at the metallic object. “The pointy end is sticking out.”

“Maybe both ends are pointy?” he guessed. “Do they make knitting needles with dual pointy ends?”

“Maybe.” Sun tilted her head, too. “That makes so much more sense than what I was thinking. Wouldn’t it have hurt the assailant’s hand, though? To jam it in there like that?” She made a stabbing gesture with her pen, trying to imagine the scene in her head. The needle had been embedded far enough to remain stationary when Doug breathed. Undoubtedly a good four inches, if not more.

Quincy tossed a questioning gaze to the nurse. “Any hand injuries today?”

The nurse, a pretty brunette who looked like she’d graduated from nursing school thirty seconds before walking in the door, shook her head. “Not that I know of.” She scanned the area, worry scoring lines into her forehead. “The doctor should be here any minute.”

Sun leaned closer to Doug and said loudly, “Do you know who did this?”

Doug glared at her, then shook his head. Just barely, obviously afraid to move.

Quincy cleared his throat from behind her. “Yeah, I don’t think Doug’s hard of hearing.”

“Right.” She straightened. “My bad.”

She was off her game. She’d been off her game since she told Levi Ravinder—aka, the man she’d been in love with since conception—they had a lot more in common than he might think. They both liked pepperoni pizza. They both loved sunsets and long walks on the beach. They both had a fifteen-year-old daughter named Auri.

Weird.

“You know Auri is yours,” she’d said to him, sitting in the back of Quincy’s cruiser. Well, Levi was sitting, handcuffed and more than a little miffed. Sun was straddling. Not miffed in the least.

He’d stilled at her words, his inscrutable and impossibly handsome face even harder to read than normal. And she was an above-average reader.

Instead of joy or amazement or elation at finding out he had a daughter he never knew about—all the emotions she’d naïvely hoped for—he just sat there, staring at her, his expression guarded. Cautious. Almost calculating.

Sadly, before Sun could ferret out what lay hidden beneath his stoicism, she got called to the scene of a traffic accident, and the first chance he got, Levi ditched the protective custody she’d forcefully placed him into. He vanished, and in the process, he’d stolen Quincy’s cruiser.

Sun understood. Not the car-theft thing but the running thing. It was a lot to lay on a guy. Especially since, five minutes earlier, she and her deputies had also informed Levi that his uncle Clay was trying to kill him—hence the protective custody—and take over his very successful distillery.

She’d blindsided the poor man with those five words, sent him running, and now she could concentrate on little else. They’d found the stolen cruiser at his house an hour later, as was his intention, but no Levi. And, possibly even more concerning, no Uncle Clay.

In her dreams, the scene in the back of Quincy’s cruiser had gone very differently. She’d imagined Levi’s expression morphing into one of shocked happiness when he learned the truth about their daughter. She’d imagined his mouth covering hers, grateful and eager. Kissing her until her toes curled. Until the oxygen fled her lungs.

“Who’d you piss off, Pettyfer?”

Sun blinked up at Quince, snapping back to the present, and nodded. “Right?” she said, recovering quickly. She had to get a grip or Levi Ravinder was going to cost her more than just her ability to drink in moderation. He was going to cost Del Sol’s newest sheriff her job. “Who did you piss off? Knitters are usually so laid back.”

“Exactly,” Quince agreed, making the word sound like an accusation as he stared Doug down. “They hardly ever stab people. Statistically speaking.”

The nurse managed to pry Doug’s hands off his throat for a better look, but she was afraid to touch anything. “I don’t think your windpipe has been punctured, Mr. Pettyfer.”

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