“It was nice to meet you, ma’am.” Officer Raeder held his hat to his chest and bowed his head like a real, live gentleman, a gesture she’d only seen done in movies or by her new friends’ husbands.

“Close your mouth. You’re drooling,” Charlotte whispered before gliding to the front doors with the others.

Great. Her two friends had become matchmakers.

Officer Raeder held the door open for everyone, then put his hat on and gave her another nod. She almost smiled back before she caught herself. The last thing she needed to do was encourage the man.

She grabbed the bottle of cleaner and sprayed the back part of the u-shaped front desk. For ten minutes, she distracted herself by cleaning every surface then moved to the double doors, wanting to wipe away any blemish. This was a place for fresh starts and new beginnings, for clearing away the past and looking toward a brighter future. Blemishes weren’t allowed.

Wiping the glass panes of the front doors clean, she noticed a man standing on the other side of the road, staring straight at her. His cap was pulled down, hiding his face, and his hands were in his pockets. He probably looked bored to a passerby, but Helen knew that stance. He was waiting.
For her?

A wave of adrenaline shot through her with super-charged torque, and she jerked, stumbling backwards. She heaved in two breaths, trying to steady herself before she collapsed on the floor. No. It wasn’t true. The cartel swore they’d leave her alone in exchange for her putting her husband away. The man had turned Cartel business with his drug induced antics. They would’ve offed him if it wasn’t for him taking the fall for the Cartel. A sacrificial move to save his own life. Yet there the man stood in a strong-arm stance. He lifted his head, revealing a glare that screamed death.