Dressed in a pale peach dress, garnered with lace, Mia crossed her ankles as she leaned forward in her white folding chair. The warm summer breeze ruffled her curls, the ones she had desperately tried to tame minutes before attending the wedding. And now she was watching the man of her dreams passionately kiss another woman. A woman he had met on what was supposed to be a business trip.
A business trip Mia hadn’t even known had occurred until he had sauntered back into town, glowing in a way she hadn’t ever seen him.
Three weeks later, Anders had discarded her for his new piece, whirlwind wedding in all. Mia bit back a scowl as she watched the woman preen for her ex-fiancé in a dress that was supposed to have been hers.
Mia knew she had dodged a bullet, but it still hurt that she wasn’t good enough or shiny enough. Anders had paraded the relationship in her face for weeks, silently pointing out all the things that his new woman did that Mia hadn’t.
Be a good little pet.
Fuck that. Mia shifted her dress, pulling it down her knees as she kept her attention locked on the loving couple. She had gone to school for too long to play the airhead. Being her town’s coroner hadn’t been her lifelong dream, but it had fallen in her lap after her father passed away. With nothing else lined up, Mia had taken on the responsibility without complaint. Unfortunately, it also dimmed the number of respectable prospects because to everyone in town, Mia was just the girl who played with dead bodies.
Mia absolutely did not play with them, but she felt a little less lonely when she stepped into her office surrounded by those metal cases along the walls.
Anders shared his vows, eyes locked with hers waiting for a reaction. But Mia wouldn’t give him one. She was there out of obligation to her town, not out of courtesy, and definitely not out of any lingering feelings for the man who had twisted her future. That spot beside him had been her spot but telling herself that she shouldn’t want it was harder than she imagined.
A small part of her still wished this nightmare was just that, a nightmare. Mia would wake up and Anders would sweep her off her feet with those kisses that used to make her squirm with pleasure. No, he’s not worth it.
The same damn thing she had been telling herself since she had been so rudely discarded.
Mia bowed her head, unable to stomach much more of the unnecessary romance the new couple put forth as they strolled down the aisle, parading off the richness of the ceremony. My ceremony. She had been appalled when Anders hadn’t changed much when he switched partners, going so far as to ask for her wedding book to finish planning the event.
The moment the couple made it to the reception area, Mia dashed toward her office across the street. There was no point in staying for the festivities to fake nice with people who should have been celebrating her ceremony. Wiry fingers wrapped around her wrist and Mia yanked herself away from the touch, rubbing at the point of contact like she had been stung. Him.
His pine scent stung her nose as she shuffled a step away from him. “What do you want?” Albeit a little harsh, he deserved it.
“Is that how you speak to me?”
Mia fought the urge to recoil and apologize from his thundering tone, realizing how emotionally abusive her ex was. “Anders, I’m no longer your little pet. You made that obvious when you married someone else. Go to her.” She bit out, still rubbing at the section of her wrist that Anders had touched.
“That could have been you, you know. But you never dressed nice and you’re always so… dreary.” Anders leaned back a bit, his dark eyes flashing with amusement as if he were waiting for Mia to apologize, to fall at his feet, to give in.
But the past few weeks had taught her a lot about herself. Sure, she was hurt. She was heartbroken. But she wasn’t stupid. A relationship with Anders would have never worked. “I’m sorry if my drab attire offended you. Have fun at your wedding. It was nice. Really. But I have work to attend to.” Mia meant every word. It was the wedding she had spent nearly a year preparing. It was a gorgeous ceremony.
“You always worked so much. It really put a strain on the relationship.”
Mia squinted at him, wrapping her arms around her chest when she caught his gaze dipping below her neckline. Seriously? Anders was off on business trips half the year, but her stable job in the town they lived in was too much on the relationship. Right. She decided not to dignify the statement with an answer, bristling when one of the bridesmaids shuffled in to drag Anders back to reception.
“Step off, girl. You had your chance.”
Mia turned on her heel and crossed the street, swinging open the door to her office with an anger that she hadn’t known she was holding in. The moment the door relatched, she let out a little scream. Much better.
She flipped on the lights, let out a deep sigh, and then glanced around the silence of her lab and the metal boxes aligned on opposite walls. “Sorry guys. It was the worst wedding. Anders really married that bimbo but still expects me to feel for him.” Her jaw clenched as she stepped farther into the room, shuffling around her tools. There was no reason for her to be here, the entire town having closed down for Anders’ wedding but it was the one place Mia could escape to without anyone following her.
“Who are you talking to?” Well, almost anyone.
Mia paled, whipping around to match the rich baritone voice to a human figure. Speaking with the dead was only as comfortable as it was because they were dead. Two solidly built individuals pushed into her lab, dressed in dark suits. She took in their strangely powerful presence, noticing the way their muscles bulged beneath the thin cloth.
Their suits were absent ties, the top button undone to reveal chiseled collarbones. Mia continued her gaze upward, her neck at an awkward angle to meet their fiery gazes. One sea green and the other one almost black as they stared back at her. The sea-green one’s hair was a mess of blonde curls, shaved on the sides giving him a strange boyish look despite his wide stature. The dark-eyed one’s midnight hair was pulled tight into a ponytail, but not the kind of repulsive rat tail that woman bulked at. The kind of ponytail that rivaled a perfect man bun.
That’s when she realized she was still dressed in peach lace, her hair done up with butterfly clips and snow-white heels that should have never been within five feet of her lab.
“Them,” Mia finally answered, pointing to the metal boxes along the walls.
The green-eyed one chuckled, his entire chest moving with the sound. “They’re dead. They can’t hear you.” His eyes flashed with amusement, but he wasn’t laughing at her.
She managed a small shrug, tempted to follow through with her ritual of chucking the heels and unloading the day’s events to the bodies in her lab. Unfortunately, with these mysterious visitors, that wouldn’t go over well. “Their souls linger and that can be lonely. Not the point. Can I help you?” She angled her chin a little more and then stepped back. Fuck, they’re tall.
The dark-eyed one smiled and nodded. “Yeah, most of the shops are closed, and we just needed to get to the town hall.”
“Oh, yeah. There’s a wedding. Townhall is about half a mile in the other direction.” What do they need there? Mia could see the confusion in their expressions that the entire town had shut down for a wedding. She felt no need to explain. She just wanted them to leave so she could destress.
“If there’s a wedding, why are you here?” The green-eyed one asked as he shoved his hands into his pockets, leaning forward with an unspoken question.
Her breath caught in her throat as she noticed the gentle beauty of his features. “I was at the wedding. It’s over now.”
“Looks like the festivities just started.”
She bit her lip, trying to understand why this conversation was both easy and difficult at the same time. She didn’t know these men, didn’t know why they were here and didn’t even know their names. “Not a fan of the people, alright? Is there something else you needed?”
“What time will the festivities be over? We were supposed to check-in today.”
“Check… in?” Mia took in their attire again, wondering how she hadn’t made the connection before. “You’re the new detectives they hired.” It was the only plausible explanation.
“One and the same.” The green-eyed one shot Mia a wide smile. “I’m Kenn. This robot is Jan.” Mia stared at Kenn, before turning her attention to the dark-eyed one. Kenn, really? He’s a full-on muscle barbie. That’s just not fair.
Jan’s tough exterior wasn’t hard to look at either, both of the men sending her thoughts into wild fantasies. These men were going to be working here with the sheriff and other officers, which meant that she was going to have to deal with them again.
“Mia,” She offered, “What’s so urgent though? It’s a Sunday.”
Kenn raised an eyebrow and then smiled again, “This fucker just gets antsy with nothing to do. We’ll be out of your hair. Thanks for the directions. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you around.”
Mia watched them leave the way they came, that powerful aura dissipating when their presence left the building. More personnel at town hall meant that trouble was on its way. Or it was already here.