Looking for Trouble

Looking For Trouble
by Victoria Dahl
Book 1 in the Jackson: Girls' Night Out series!


This was so humiliating.

Sophie Heyer slid a little lower in her seat, then considered continuing the slide until she was underneath the conference room table and could crawl out of the library meeting room. But that might draw attention. After all, there were only four others in the room, and they each kept shooting side glances at her, as if waiting for her to break.

She suspected someone had purposefully scheduled this meeting on Sophie’s day off, but she’d ruined the plan by picking up an afternoon shift from Betty, who had a sick baby at home. Well, Sophie was here now. She wasn’t going to cower.

She made herself sit a little straighter and raised her chin, then ruined the confidence by nervously adjusting her reading glasses.

“I think that’s about it!” Merry Kade, the curator of the Providence Ghost Town, finished her presentation with a big smile. “I can’t thank you enough for providing space in the library to commemorate the dedication of the Wyatt Bishop Providence Trail. It means so much to the family.”

Jean-Marie, the library director, nodded sternly. “We’re honored. They’ve played such an important part in the history of Jackson.” Her eyes cut briefly to Sophie, then she cleared her throat and forced a smile. “The display will be a great educational opportunity for people who’ve never made it out to Providence. Thank you for loaning us the items.”

The curator gathered up her presentation papers and offered a friendly goodbye to everyone. She seemed to be the only person unaware of the tension her talk had caused.

Jean-Marie clasped her hands tightly together and cleared her throat one more time, looking solemnly over her employees. “I’d love to have the display done by tomorrow afternoon as the dedication is coming up this weekend. Lauren, would you be willing to—?”

“I’ll do it,” Sophie interrupted.

All eyes turned toward her. No one said a word. She willed her cheeks not to burn as she raised her eyebrows. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Jean-Marie said quickly. “Of course not. I just thought…”

Sophie tipped her head in what she hoped looked like innocent bewilderment.

“I mean…” Jean-Marie cleared her throat. “Of course. If you’d like to take on the project…”

“It only makes sense,” Sophie said. “I’m working until seven and you know how quiet it’s been. I should be able to get it finished before I leave.”

They all sat in awkward silence for a few more beats before Jean-Marie stood. “Wonderful. As you know, the Providence Historical Trust is considering sponsoring a new local history section in the library. I’d like them to be pleased with this display, so let me know if you need anything from me or from the Trust. I’ll be happy to contact them for you. We don’t need any drama.”

Jean-Marie left the room, followed by her loyal administrative assistant Yolanda. Sophie and Lauren stood, too. Lauren closed the door. “Are you okay?”

“I’m great,” Sophie said, lying to her friend without any guilt at all.

“Are you sure? I was a little surprised you volunteered to work on it.”

“It really doesn’t have anything to do with me, so no big deal.”

Lauren watched her for a long moment, doubt written in every line of her face, but she finally shrugged. “All right. It’s your family scandal. As long as it doesn’t affect our girls’ night out tonight, you do whatever you want.”

That actually made Sophie laugh, but she still made a quick escape, grabbing the box of artifacts and heading for the small lobby of the library.

Her family scandal. God, she’d thought it was finally behind her. But she should’ve known better. It had been part of her life for as long as she could remember and it always would be if she stayed in Jackson. But she knew how to deal with it. The same way she always had: by defying everyone’s expectations. By being a good girl and not losing her cool. By not giving them anything to talk about.

She hadn’t quite maintained that cool this afternoon, but Mrs. Bishop was pushing Sophie to the brink. The woman had made Sophie’s childhood a nightmare, and now she’d picked it up again twenty-five years later like a returning plague of locusts.

When Sophie had moved into her uncle’s vacant house on Fair Street a year ago, she’d had no idea that Rose Bishop lived a few houses away. She hadn’t thought of the woman in years. That part of her life had seemed as far away as it could be.

The first time she’d caught sight of Mrs. Bishop coming out of her house, Sophie almost hadn’t recognized her. She looked like a harmless old woman now instead of the threat she’d represented to Sophie as a child. But harmless old woman was just a disguise, apparently. Rose Bishop had lain in wait, pretending to only give Sophie the cold shoulder at first. But now it was full-out war. Sophie had awoken this morning to find two dozen flyers about the dedication ceremony taped to her front door. Unbelievable.

She finished adjusting the shelves of the glassed-in display nook, then carefully placed the artifacts that Merry Kade had brought over. An old rolling pin, some woodworking tools, metal toy soldiers a child had played with long ago. There were also pictures of the town and printed descriptions of each item. Sophie really wouldn’t have to do much work at all, but the display would look too bare without more.

She stepped back and eyed the start of her work. She’d have to pull the shelves back out, but the display would look really nice with a big, faded picture of the town of Providence set behind it as a backdrop, along with some of the rusted barbed wire they’d used for an earlier historical display.

The door behind her opened, and Sophie glanced over her shoulder with a smile and said, “Good afternoon.” For a moment the patron was silhouetted by the slanting sunlight and she was reminded of the man she’d nearly run right into an hour earlier, but when he got farther in and offered a cheery wave, she saw that it was only the postal carrier.

But too late. Her heart had already skipped a few beats, remembering that momentary panic. First, of looking up and finding someone in her path. Then of registering his height and the width of his shoulders and the menacing shadow of the stubble on his face that matched the stubble on his head. And then those bright blue eyes.

She’d realized who he was then. Mrs. Bishop wasn’t the type of person who inspired people to visit, after all, so Sophie might’ve suspected anyway. But that angled jaw and those blue eyes looked like Shane Harcourt’s. His long-lost little brother was home.

Not so little, though. Not little at all.

She’d never met him before. The brothers had been too old for her to have known them in school, and she would’ve avoided them regardless. But living in the tiny town of Jackson, there’d been no way to avoid Shane Harcourt as an adult. Luckily, he’d never treated her with anything more than polite calm.

Alex Bishop didn’t look like the calm, polite type.

She couldn’t guess how he would’ve responded if he’d realized who Sophie was. After all, it wasn’t every day you met the woman whose mother had disappeared with your father. That terrible and permanent connection had been made even more awkward by Rose Bishop’s simmering hatred. For all Sophie knew, Alex Bishop shared the feeling.

She decided to go the long way around the block on her way home from work tonight, just in case. If the Providence dedication had inspired a Bishop family reunion, Sophie didn’t want any part of it.


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