The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 22)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(22)
Author: Cora Seton

He didn’t stop at all. He didn’t even beep his horn as he passed. Just like he said back at Carl’s house, he kept on going now that he’d seen her home safe.

Rose felt a dip of disappointment, but brushed all thought of the sheriff aside as she faced the carriage house and dug in her purse for her key. Letting herself in, she shut and locked the door behind her, taking a moment to lean against it and close her eyes. What a day of ups and downs. What a night. She hadn’t exactly gone a date with Cab, but it sure felt like she had.

And she hadn’t even broken up yet with Jason.

Opening her eyes again, she refused to think about that anymore. Time enough to talk to Jason when she’d found a job and apartment. She hung up her coat, took off her boots and made her way inside. Instantly she knew something was wrong. Emory had been here in her absence; the place had all the signs. A twist of dread tightened her gut. She hated when he came around when she was gone. It gave her the creepiest sensation to know he’d been in her private space. She passed through the carriage house, taking note of what he’d done.

The kitchen counter, already scrubbed to a shine, had been washed again. She knew that because she had lined up her appliances—the toaster, blender and microwave—in the center of the counter and now they were at the far end.

In the living room, the few magazines she’d stacked carefully on the coffee table were now fanned artistically as if inviting her to sit down and read. Indents in the carpet told her the easy chair had been moved half an inch.

Then she caught sight of her bedroom door.

Her open bedroom door.

She’d closed it this morning, like she always did, because as much as she was willing to accommodate the intrusive, OCD elements of her fiancé’s father’s personality, she could not bear the thought of him pawing through her clothing, jewelry and makeup.

If it was open, Emory had been in there, something she’d expressly forbidden him to do. Of course, she’d forbidden him to muck around with the rest of her house, too, and he regularly broke that rule. She crossed to the bedroom, anxiety tightening her stomach. If he was still in there, she would scream.

More than scream.

She pushed it open slowly and scanned the room.

No one was there.

Rose let go of the breath she was holding, entered the room fully and scanned it for changes. Emory had been in here all right; her brushes and combs were lined up on the dresser and—had he cleaned them? The thought of the man pulling hair from them and scrubbing them under the bathroom tap made her skin crawl. She crossed to the dresser in two steps, gathered them up and threw them in the trash.

She’d made her bed and it didn’t seem disturbed, although perhaps the comforter was a tiny bit straighter. The closet door was closed. Good. But when she crossed the room and opened it, Emory had definitely been in it, too. Her clothes were now categorized by type of item and by color scheme within the type. Pants, skirts, shirts… He’d touched and rearranged them all.

She swung around and pawed through her desk. He’d straightened the top drawer where she stored pencils, pens, erasers and all the odds and ends one accumulated. Everything now sat neat as a pin.

One look in the bathroom made her want to throw up. He’d scrubbed and neatened everything there, too. All the porcelain gleamed, the tile floor shone and the mirrored cabinet door over the sink didn’t even harbor a single piece of lint. She opened it and clapped a hand to her mouth. Everything from her hand cream to her toothbrush to her birth control pills stood in careful lines equidistant from each other.

Emory was sick. He was totally sick.

Rose’s skin tingled and her stomach hurt. She felt like she’d separated from her body, or that her mind was losing itself in her utter shock. Emory had never done this before. Her bedroom with its en suite bathroom was the one place she’d felt almost safe. Almost able to be herself.


Now any illusion of privacy she’d ever had was gone.

She was shaking as she approached the second bedroom, the one she used to use as a painting studio before she gave up painting at the house. Emory couldn’t possibly have done anything in here—he’d already invaded this room multiple times, putting her paints away, cleaning her brushes, scrubbing her palettes down to the bone, destroying carefully mixed colors she’d been saving for her next session. She’d given up and already packed most of her supplies in preparation for the move to her tree house when she built it. What could Emory do?

She pushed open the door to the studio and cried out in shock. Nothing was where she’d left it, not even the carefully packed boxes. In fact, they were all undone. The wide table she’d disassembled was put together and back into place. The boxes were gone and all her supplies sat out in pristine rows. The paints grouped by color, the brushes by size.

At first Rose didn’t understand where the piles of paper placed neatly around the floor of the room had come from, but when she did she had to bite back a scream. He’d gone through her sketchbooks—all of them, and there were dozens—ripped out the pages and arranged the drawings by category. He’d divided her landscapes into those that contained buildings and those that didn’t, those that contained animals, but no buildings and those that contained both. Her sketches of people were separated into men, women, children, and combinations of the three. Her animal sketches categorized by mammal, reptile, bird, or fish.

Even her canvasses had come under Emory’s organizing powers. He’d hung every single one on the walls, until there wasn’t an inch of space left. A chill touched her spine when she realized her canvasses couldn’t possibly all fit on the walls of this small room.

Where were the others?

She spun in a circle, but the room offered up no other clues. She raced back out to the living room and looked high and low through the rest of the carriage house. They were nowhere to be seen.

She’d have to confront him. Right now. Before the crazy old man did something unthinkable. Throwing her coat back around her shoulders, she slammed the front door behind her, clattered down the stairs and raced across the yard to the main house.

Only then did she notice the remains of a bonfire in the stone outdoor fireplace that stood halfway between the two buildings.

Rose stumbled to a stop, nearly tripping over her own feet. The glow of the embers revealed that the paving stones around the fireplace were swept clear of fallen leaves in typical Emory fashion. The patio furniture that normally sat here had already been put away for the season. Emory was nowhere to be seen, but a pail of water stood at the ready in case of emergencies. A large pile of glowing ash was all that remained of the fire.