Ryan pulled back the bow and lifted the box open. She shoved the tissue aside, then gasped, staring down at a single dead rose with a note that read “I’ll get you, you bitch.”
Jared grabbed the box. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it on that table.” Penny pointed across the room with a trembling hand. “Who would do such a thing?”
Shaken, Ryan stumbled backward.
“What’s going on?” She heard her brother’s voice behind her.
“Someone just threatened your sister. I’ll get the locals down here. For now, make sure no one leaves this bar.” Still clutching the box with the single dead rose in his hand, he started bellowing orders at everyone at the party.
“Penny?” Ryan whispered.
“Right here, girlfriend.” Penny guided Ryan to a chair. “Some idiot is just playing a stupid joke.”
“My stepfather said those exact words to me the day he tried…he almost…”
“Your stepfather’s in jail. He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Ryan wasn’t so sure about that. George McIntosh might be in jail for murder, but he wasn’t dead. And that meant he could someday get out.
About an hour passed while Jared and a local sheriff questioned everyone in the bar. No one knew where or how the box had shown up. The bar had been open to the public, with only the back room closed off for Ryan’s party. Anyone could’ve snuck in and left the box.
“Hey, babe. How are you holding up?” Jared asked after the majority of the guests were allowed to leave. He knelt down in front of her, holding both her hands in his.
She cleared her throat in an absent gesture to achieve calm. “Do you think George could’ve somehow sent that to me?”
“That’s what I’m thinking.” Jared pulled her to her feet. “Let’s get you home.” He placed his hand on the small of her back and pressed his lips to her cheek. “I didn’t drive, did you?”
She shook her head. “He’s never tried to contact me before. Why now?” Her hands clenched into tight fists as if ready to strike back at any moment. She took a deep cleansing breath in through her nose, then exhaled slowly. No way would she give that man any power.
“Let me worry about George.” Jared opened the door for her, then looped his arm around her.
“He didn’t try to rape you.” She leaned in close to Jared as they made their way down the road. She glanced over her shoulder as a car slowed, then drove by.
He tugged at her, turning toward the driveway. “Nope, just put a bullet hole in my arm.” He lifted the sleeve of his T-shirt. “Bullet went in there and came out over here.”
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