Sheriff Merrow nodded. “We haven’t turned up a Martin Burnside staying anywhere within town limits, so he’s most likely using an assumed name. Which just makes me think he is our guy. If he’s harmless, why not use his real name?” He looked at Willa. “You’re at Nick’s, right?”
She shot Nick a look. “Yes.”
The sheriff tapped the recorder off. “Willa, it’s not a secret that the Ellinghams want you protected. Besides the fact that they consider you a very important member of the community, they don’t want any harm to come to you.”
“Or the town’s reputation,” Willa added. “After Delaney Ellingham’s abduction and Ivy being poisoned, I’m sure they don’t want any more bad press.”
“It’s not just that, Willa. Nocturne Falls is supposed to be a haven for our kind. If supernaturals can’t feel safe here, then the town isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.”
She nodded. “I get it. And I’m okay with it.”
“Good, because until this situation is resolved, Nick has been assigned as your personal protection duty.”
The sheriff’s brows knit together. “You understand I’m talking round the clock protection.”
“Sure, I—wait, Nick’s not going to lose his job at the fountain over this, is he?”
Sheriff Merrow snorted. “Hardly. If anything, I’d say he’s gotten a promotion. I’m sure he prefers spending time with you over sitting on the fountain stage entertaining the late-night crowd.”
Willa laughed. “I wouldn’t say he was exactly entertaining the late-night crowd. He didn’t say a single word.”
“Hey,” Nick said. “I can be entertaining.”
“One on one,” Willa mumbled.
The sheriff pulled a face. “About this ring. Is there a way to…break the magic you put into it?”
She sighed. “I don’t know. I’ve never had to do that before. But I did talk to Pandora Williams about it, and she said she’d research it.”
“Good. You find out anything, you let me know. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for Burnside.” He glanced at Nick. “Keep her safe.”
“Will do,” Nick said.
The sheriff stood. “Burnside’s prints haven’t come back yet, but once we have the proof he was the one who broke into your apartment, I’ll put out a bulletin. We’ll get him picked up.”
Willa stayed seated. “You mean if you find him.”
“He’s a rock troll. He won’t stay hidden long.” Sheriff Merrow lifted a finger. “That reminds me, we think there’s a good chance he’ll come to the shop.”
“I can’t afford to close it. Not with the crowd in town for Red, White and Boo. I can’t afford to let the brownies run it by themselves either. They’ll give everything away.”
“We don’t want you to close it, just be on alert. You being there may help draw Burnside out. Of course, if he does turn up, hit the silent alarm.”
Willa chewed her lip. “And if he tries something?”
“Try is all he’ll do,” Nick said.
Sheriff Merrow nodded. “Hardwin has full authority to do whatever’s necessary to keep you safe.”
She stood. “So Nick’s going to work with me?”
The sheriff smiled. “Nick’s going everywhere with you until this is over. Until Burnside is dealt with, Nick is your shadow.”
Nick watched Willa shake her head and sigh as she stared out the shop windows from behind the back counter.
“What’s wrong?” he called out from where he lounged in the office of her jewelry store, behind the two-way glass that looked out onto the shop floor.
“I feel like a sitting duck.”
“You’re not, I swear.” He’d exchanged his T-shirt and jeans for a white button-down and khakis, the closest he came to civilized work attire. His feet were on the desk and Jasper was curled up on his lap. The big orange cat’s purr rumbled with satisfaction every time Nick ran his hand down the animal’s back. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Willa stuck her head in, a gold bracelet in her hand. “I don’t think Jasper’s in any danger, but it’s sweet that you two have bonded like this.”
Nick made a face. “I meant I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
“I know.” Her little half-smile flattened out. “I just feel…I don’t know.”
“We could lock the door and do…other things.” He waggled his brows. “Naked things.”
“There are customers in the shop,” she hissed, but then she laughed, reddening a bit as she leaned in farther to talk to him. “And such dirty talk when my poor innocent baby is right there on your lap. Jasper, don’t listen to the bad man.”
Jasper’s ear twitched, but he didn’t move. Nick grinned. “You want me to come out there and help you? I can unlock cases and show people stuff.”
“You think it’s that easy?” Willa’s brows bent in doubtfulness. “The phrase bull in a china shop comes to mind.”
“I won’t break anything. And if I do, the Ellinghams will pay for it. I’ll just file an expense report.”