First date fiasco: Reid resents murder accusation

(Told from Vincent’s Point of View)

It was eerily quiet onboard the Sutherland.

The riverboat was empty, and everything was still. The only sound was the gentle lapping of the river against the boat’s hull. The lounge area was deserted, no conversations or footsteps coming from the deck above.

Even the great paddlewheel was silent, its usual grinding sound now absent.

I turned left and walked into the banquet room, which had been a scene of utter chaos two nights ago with frantic party guests, swarms of police officers, and intense spotlights sweeping through the windows, courtesy of the police and news helicopters.

Tonight, however, the room was lighted by the pale orange glow of a single lamp on a table near the window.

“Hey, Reid,” I said as I entered the room. “It’s kind of late for dinner, don’t you think?”

Reid barely looked at me as he shoved a forkful of chicken into his mouth, but motioned me to come over with a tilt of his head. “Want some food? I can grab you something from the kitchen.”

I pulled a chair out from under the table and sat down. “I ate about three hours ago like a normal person. You always eat so late?”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “Only when there are evening events.” Grabbing a forkful of roasted corn, Reid eyed my plain white T-shirt. “Why are you up so late? Aren’t you usually in bed at this time?”

“I knew you’d still be here. I wanted to see how you’re doing after Sunday’s disaster.”

“Considering your crew guy almost killed us, I’m doing alright. More importantly, I haven’t had a dip in ticket sales. Guests either don’t know or don’t care about what happened.”

My shoulders relaxed. After all the TV news footage of Sunday’s incident on the Sutherland, I’d worried it would hurt Reid’s business.

Leaning back in the cushioned chair, I glanced around the banquet room. Even without fancy decorations and centerpieces, it was still impressive and full of old-world charm. The dim light from the table lamp illuminated the intricate molding along the ceilings and the large gilded mirrors hung on the wood-paneled walls.

“I can’t get over how incredible this boat is. Mom and Dad would be so proud of you. I know how corny that sounds, but they would.”

“Thanks.” Reid took a bite of vegetables, his body tense and posture rigid.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.


“Something is. Most people don’t stab the life out of a Brussels sprout. Are you mad I brought trouble onto the Sutherland? I had no way of knowing Josh was a crazy—”

“It’s not that. It’s Hadley.” Reid worked his jaw angrily. “I was starting to like her. Thought maybe she felt the same way. But then, out of nowhere, she accused me of killing your neighbor and pushing you off your balcony.”

“I wouldn’t hold that against her.”

His eyes shot open with surprise. “She almost pepper-sprayed me! It’s not the best way to start a relationship.”

“It’s my fault she started asking questions about Willy’s death,” I admitted. “In a moment of panic, I begged her to help.”

“Why would you ask her? She’s not a private investigator.”

“I figured she could put all her gabbing to good use. It was a stupid request and I didn’t think she would actually try to solve the homicide. The only reason she helped was because she’d lose her job if I went to prison.”

Reid’s face remained stony, his brows set in a scowl. His eyes were dark with emotion, making it clear he wouldn’t easily forgive Hadley’s accusations.

“She’s a smart woman, Reid, but that doesn’t mean she always gets things right.”

“Clearly,” he scoffed. “I hope she’s a better designer than sleuth.”

“Oh, she’s the best. That’s why I hired her. And the only reason Josh is behind bars right now is because Hadley pieced it all together. You should give her another chance.”

“Nah. I’m more into women who don’t accuse me of murder.”

I grunted. Dang, he was stubborn. I wished he could see how his face lit up when Hadley was around. After what happened with Claudia, I owed it to Reid to help him find someone who would make him happy.

I was certain Hadley was the one. 

Back when Claudia ran into my arms, she swore Reid wouldn’t be upset since he only cared about his boat, and never made time for her.

Boy, was she wrong. 

Sometimes I sensed Reid still missed Claudia, though I knew he wouldn’t admit it.

“Hadley’s a good person,” I said. “She’s loyal, trustworthy, and a friend to everyone.”

“Then why don’t you date her?”

“She’s not my type and she works for me. More importantly, you had eyes on her first. I won’t do that again. It was the biggest mistake of my life.”

“I already forgave you for that.” 

“That doesn’t mean I’m done apologizing. If Claudia walked in here tonight, I would step aside and direct her to you.”

Reid kept his eyes on his dinner. “That won’t happen. Claudia is history.”

“Exactly. Which is why you need to move on.”

“I will move on—to someone who won’t see me as a killer.”

“No relationship is perfect. Look at ours! It was tested when Claudia came along, but wasn’t broken.”

Reid gave me a look. “Not broken? We didn’t talk for over a year.”

“Okay, it was bent,” I conceded. “Is that better?” 

Severely bent.”

“Whatever. My point is, we made amends. You forgave me for something much worse than what Hadley did.”

“Because I’ve known you longer. You deserved it more than she does.”

“Okay, but what if your relationship with Hadley is worth saving? You won’t know unless you try. To do that, you’ll have to put aside your pride.”

“I have no pride. She killed it two nights ago.”

This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Maybe it wasn’t my business who he dated, but I wanted to see him happy again. 

I gripped his shoulder and locked eyes with him. “Come on, don’t be stubborn. You need to give her another chance. I haven’t met anyone so full of energy and life since—”


“No. Since Mom.”

Reid finished his last bite and set down his napkin before leaning back in the chair. “When she wasn’t threatening me with pepper spray, I did enjoy hanging out with her.”

“Go after her,” I pressed. “Women like Hadley don’t stay single for long, and she won’t accuse you of any more crimes—I promise. It’s not like she’ll get involved with another homicide case. She’s a talented interior designer who has better things to do than run around solving crimes.”

A faint smile formed on Reid’s lips. “Alright, you win. I’ll give it another go.”

Don’t miss the next book in the Hadley Home Design Mystery Series, Berry purple betrayal!