Rubicon Ranch: Secrets ~ Chapter 23: Monica “Nic” Bryan — by Claire Collins

Sunday, December 23, 6:15pm

“Nic? What the hell were you thinking?”

Seth paced the kitchen, running his hands through his hair in a rare show of impatience.

Nic watched him while working hard to look contrite. Letting him think what he wanted was much better than telling him the truth.

Seth placed both palms on the table in front of her and bent down to look in her eyes.

“What were you doing in Rubicon Ranch? I told you to stay away from there.”

She returned his stare. “How about if you tell me what Lydia is doing in Rubicon Ranch?” She stood abruptly, pushing the oak chair back from the table. It fell to the floor with a crash but neither of them moved.

“Listen to me, Nic. I didn’t know she was here until I saw her on the same video where I saw you.”

Nic balled her hands into fists. She leaned closer. “And why would I believe you? I thought you wanted me here so we could work on our marriage and then I find out the woman who ruined our lives is right here in your backyard?”

Seth took a breath, his gaze changed from fierce predator to endangered prey. He spoke slowly. “Nic, I didn’t know she was here. I do want to work on our marriage.”

“Sure you do.” Nic controlled her voice so she didn’t scream. “You had Nancy and Lydia both right there together. What would you need me here for when you already have two willing bedmates?”

His face went stony. “Well it’s not like you’ve been a willing bedmate since you got here.”

“Well it’s not like you’ve spent any time with me since I got here,” she shot back. “You’ve spent all of your time in Rubicon Ranch!”

Seth leaned forward. Their noses were almost touching. “Two people have been murdered in Rubicon Ranch since you arrived. As the Sheriff, it’s kinda my job to investigate. Investigations take time.”

“So do marriages!” She was almost to the boiling point.

“Nic,” Seth calmed his voice. “Let’s go back to why you were in Rubicon Ranch.”

She controlled her breathing, bringing down her heart rate. She didn’t back down or back up. She didn’t reply either.

Seth leaned back away from her face. He tapped his fingertips on the table then stepped back. He walked around the vibrating form of his wife, who hadn’t moved a muscle, and picked up the chair from the floor. He set it back on its legs.

“Nic…”

She sat in the chair. She really wanted him to stop saying her name so calmly. She wanted him to get excited and respond. She wanted emotion.

“I know you are interested in the circus at Rubicon Ranch,” he continued. “But it clearly isn’t a safe place for anyone, much less the Sheriff’s wife.” He sat in the chair to her left and put his arms on the table. For a moment, she thought he was going to take her hand. The perception passed quickly as he pulled his hands back to rub through his hair.

“It seems to be just fine for his girlfriends.” She almost wished she had kept her mouth shut. Almost.

Seth sat back in his chair.

“For the last time,” he spoke calmly although it seemed he was gritting his teeth. “I didn’t know Lydia was here.”

“What about Nancy?” Nic couldn’t seem to keep her mouth shut and she wasn’t sure why she cared so much about who Seth slept with while they were separated. Yes you do, she thought. You wanted him to be sincere about reconciliation. How sincere could he be while the nasty little realtor was keeping him company?

Seth frowned. “What about her?”

Nic nearly bit her tongue. She clamped her lips together.

Seth watched her intently. “What would you know about Nancy?”

“I know someone killed her and left her body under the Santa in Rubicon Ranch. It was all over the news. You don’t have to tell me about your cases for me to know what’s going on.”

Seth was shaking his head. “No,” he remained maddeningly calm. “You know what I mean. How do you know about me and Nancy?”

Nic stood up again, the legs of the chair and table both squealed on the tile floor as she pushed off the table. “It’s not hard to figure out, Seth.” She had to make him believe her, but she wasn’t nearly as good at lying as he was. “You spent a lot of time in Rubicon. She’s just your type. Easy on the eyes and gullible for a man in uniform. I didn’t have anything except assumptions. I’m not as gullible as I used to be.”

Nic wanted to look away from Seth’s intent gaze and get out from under his inspection, but she forced herself to stay still and meet his stare. Any movement would show him that she was as weak as ever. She was tired of being weak. She stared at him with her jaw set and her lips firm.

“Nice try,” Seth nearly grinned, the corners of his mouth quirking up and cleanly and quickly coming back under his control. “You wouldn’t specifically pick her to make assumptions. She really wasn’t my type but a lonely man can’t be picky. She wanted a real relationship and I just wanted to relieve stress.”

As Nic broke eye contact and let her gaze fall to her hands, Seth leaned in and lifted her chin with his hand.

“Nic.”

There was that damn fatherly tone again.

“If you don’t start blabbing, I’m going to arrest you for impeding an investigation and lock you up in my jail until you tell me what’s going on.”

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