I rang the bell. Seconds later, a male voice, buttery and warm, greeted me from the speaker.


“Hi.” I waved at the camera. “My name is Simone Marsh. I came about the housekeeper ad. I was wondering if the job was still available.”

“I’ll buzz you in.”

The gate unlocked automatically, and I stepped into the portico. The sight of a well-tended garden to my right grabbed my attention. An old cherry tree stood in a corner. Half of the trunk had been neatly chopped, but the lower part still had branches. That brought back memories. The oldest of the cute Cody brothers used to climb that tree to hide from doing chores. I remembered I always looked at that tree first whenever Luke Cody had suddenly gone missing.

The door to the house swung open and a stunning young man dressed in a rather preppy ensemble came out.

“Hello,” I said, offering a handshake. “I’m Simone Marsh.”

The man looked astounded for a second. “Miss Lisiewicz?”

It was an eternity since someone had called me that. “Lisiewicz” was my maiden name. “Yes?”

“Oh my god!” He laughed. “What a coincidence. It has been a while.” He shook my hand enthusiastically.

“I’m sorry,” I faltered. “Have me met?”

“It’s me… Nate. Nate Cody. You used to babysit me all the time, remember?”

“Nate Cody?” I gave the young man a once over. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The last time I saw him, he was a cute boy who liked to cling onto my skirt and follow me around. And now he was a tall, dark, and absolutely yummy.

“Is that really you? My Lord, you’ve gotten so tall! Do you still hate eating vegetables?” We laughed together. Nate and broccoli were sworn enemies.

“Ah, where are my manners?” Nate stepped aside. “Do please come in.”

“Thank you.”

Nate led me into an open kitchen, adjacent to the living room. It became evident that they’d torn down the old house and rebuilt it into a Zen-like pad. The interior was lush with masculine colors and minimalist monochromatic furnishings with a strong Asian influence. Dark bamboo flooring gave the space a luxurious ambience. Expensive draperies rivaled those at high-end boutique hotels. For a few seconds, I thought I was strolling down a chic Soho loft in New York, not a place in the heart of a backwater farming town in the Midwest.

“I love what you did with this place,” I complimented. “When did you decide to remodel?”

“Last year after Dad passed away. And I wouldn’t say ‘remodel.’” Nate cast me a shy-boy smile. His cornflower-blue eyes twinkled. “We totally tore the old house down and started from scratch.”

I paused. “Mr. Cody passed away?”

“Right after Luke came home from Iraq. Lung cancer. You know how the old man loved his smoke.”

“I’m terribly sorry. My condolences.”

Nate shrugged. “Dad got worse in his later life. He wouldn’t give up smoking even though he had emphysema.”

“Oh, no.”

“Yeah. That stubborn old fart. But please, do have a seat.”

I pulled out a chair and parked my weary ass on the comfy cushion. “You said Luke was in the service?”

“Yeah. Not anymore though. He joined SOCOM after he graduated from high school. Did six tours in Iraq then a couple of years as a private contractor. He’s the sheriff now.”

My eyes widened. “Luke is Bellwood’s sheriff?”

“Hard to believe, huh? Dad was sure he’d end up in prison one day. Good thing he turned around. Luke changed a lot after you left.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Luke Cody was a hyperactive boy and was always getting in trouble. Their dad, Al, was a widower who raised three boys on his own. I helped the Cody household a lot when I was a teenager. Their mom, Charlene, died in childbirth. Fortunately, the youngest, Jamie, survived. I remembered how my mom fussed over Mr. Cody about taking care of baby Jamie after he was brought home from the hospital.

“How about some iced tea?” Nate suggested. “You look flushed.”

“That would be wonderful. Thank you.” Suddenly I realized I was parched. August wasn’t a nice time to be driving an old Chevy with dying air-conditioning.

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