Finding Us (Pine Valley Book 5)

By: Heather B. Moore

So what if her outlet was reading a romance about a gorgeous cop? Or a fantasy novel with shape-shifters? There were worse vices in the world, right?

Felicity was still sitting in the same place an hour later when he entered.

In her mind, Felicity referred to him as Ben, but she didn’t know his name. All she knew was that he came into the bookshop every few days and never bought anything. He was probably close to thirty, but the hollows beneath his eyes made him look older. His hair was dark, his eyes darker, and his complexion olive.

“Hi, can I help you find anything?” Felicity asked, as she always did, rising from her stool and shutting the book.

“I’m just looking,” he said with barely a glance in her direction.

Felicity watched him browse the new release table, then pick up a book, leaf through it, and set it back down. When he’d first come into the shop a couple of weeks ago, she had thought him homeless, but then she’d seen him climb into a car and drive away. And although his clothing was well-worn, it was clean.

Still, Felicity clicked to the video mode on the company laptop that connected with the security surveillance system so she could watch all the angles of the stores. “Ben” walked down one of the aisles, picked up a book here and there, leafing through pages, then set the book back on the shelf exactly how he’d found it.

Next, he picked up an older Jeff Savage mystery paperback, and instead of putting it back onto the shelf, he lifted his shirt and slipped it into the waistband of his jeans.

Felicity blinked and leaned closer to the laptop screen. Ben picked up a second book, leafed through it, set it back, then walked around the end of the aisle.

Felicity straightened. Ben didn’t make eye contact as he walked toward the front of the store. He was leaving. With the book.

“Wait!” she called after him.

Ben started to run.

“Stop! You can’t steal a book!” She grabbed her phone and ran after Ben. Once she reached the sidewalk, he was near the next corner. She pulled up her camera app with trembling hands and clicked a few pictures.

But Ben had already disappeared, so her pictures amounted to blurry photos of a flower planter on the sidewalk.

“Are you all right, hon?” a woman said.

Felicity looked over at the woman and recognized her as a regular customer at the bookshop. But her name had completely escaped Felicity.

“Someone just stole a book and ran out of the shop.”

“Oh, goodness,” the woman continued, her painted-on eyebrows rising so high they met her dyed-blonde bangs. “Did you call the cops?”

“Not yet.” She took a shaky breath. “I guess I need to.”

“I’ll wait with you for the cops to get here,” the woman said. “I mean, I was almost a witness to a crime.” The woman’s voice seemed way too pleased at the prospect.

“Okay, thanks,” Felicity said, suddenly remembering the woman’s name was Nadine Harris. Nadine was sixty-something, tall, willowy, and blonde. She always dressed well, and she belonged to a local book club. Her son Dawson was an esteemed lawyer in Pine Valley.

Nadine walked into the shop with her. “You look a little shaken up, dear,” she said. “Maybe we should put out the CLOSED sign until the cops get here.”

“Good idea,” Felicity said, although her heart rate was calming down. “Thanks again for being here.”

Nadine waved a manicured hand. “No problem. You make the call, and I’ll browse. Maybe I can look for clues?”

Before Felicity could answer, Nadine continued, “Do you have a coffee machine? It might do us both good.”

“No, Mr. Smithson doesn’t want any aromas in the store that might take away from the new-book smell.” Felicity was rambling.

Nadine laughed. “That Mr. Smithson. He sure is something.”

Felicity couldn’t agree more. She looked up the police department number on her phone, then pressed CALL. A female officer answered, and after Felicity explained about the theft, the officer said that she’d send someone right over.

While they waited, Nadine kept up general chitchat, which Felicity was grateful for. When she saw a cop car pull up in front of the shop, she walked to the front door and unlocked it.

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