Julia looked in her rearview mirror. Red and blue lights flashed in the night sky behind her. “Fuck.” This was all she needed. How the hell was she going to explain to brother-in-law that she got a ticket on her way home after the party, in his wife’s car? He’d assume she was being stupid no matter what the circumstances really were.
She pulled to the side of the road and turned the interior light on before leaning over and opening the glove box. She searched for the registration and insurance information, muttering to herself all the while. What the hell was a cop doing in the middle of nowhere Missouri on a road to a bunch of sparsely placed farmhouses? She hadn’t been speeding. Well, at least not too much. She hadn’t lived here for long, but she’d learned wildlife presented one hell of a problem to a speeding vehicle.
. If she’d only stayed at the party for a bit longer or left when she’d originally intended, she would have skipped this. Hell, if she hadn’t missed the turn to her sister’s house, she wouldn’t have been on this part of the road to get stopped. Oh, shit. The beer
. She put her hand up to her mouth and breathed. Dammit, she was in trouble.
She sat up, the information in her hands, and waited for the cop to walk up to her window. She opened the window, hoping maybe some fresh air would help her calm down.
Jim was gonna be livid.
She watched in her side mirror as the cop got out of his car. She wondered who would have stopped her. Jim was a sheriff’s deputy, and everyone at the department knew one another’s vehicles. Not to mention the damn thing was covered with law enforcement stickers. She should have been safe from nuisance stops. Unless this guy behind her really was a state cop; then all bets were off.
Even with a full moon, the darkness of the night combined with the bright lights behind her kept her from identifying anything about the cop approaching her. She squinted, hoping to see something.
He wasn’t wearing a hat.
And it didn’t look like he had on a uniform either. No outline of gun belt with all its equipment. Just the menacing shadow of a large man approaching her.
She glanced in the rearview mirror and realized the lights weren’t typical bar lights, but ones in the grill of the car. She tried to remember if it was possible for a civilian to buy those but couldn’t come up with an answer.
Visions of news stories and incidents shared on Facebook about women stopped on the side of the road by men pretending to be police officers ran through her head. Quickly she locked the doors and rolled the windows back up as she reached for her phone. She’d never been so grateful than she was now for her brother-in-law’s paranoia and insistence that she plug in the sheriff’s office as speed dial 1. She’d be damned if she was going to go down without a fight. She was living with a freaking cop; this asshole was in for a heap of trouble if he thought he’d picked just any old girl.
The teenage fan of slasher flicks in her screamed to put the car in gear and take off now, but the flashing light in her rearview mirror made her wait. One long press of her thumb and the entire sheriff’s department would be out here within minutes. Thank God for cell phones and GPS.
Julia continued to watch in her side mirror as the man walked up to her door. He kept his hands away from his body and moved slowly. When he stopped, he was at least three feet away. He waited.
She rolled down the window a few inches, still unable to ascertain if she knew him. The silhouette of a large D-cell flashlight had her heart jumping into her throat. It would only take one or two strikes of that to shatter her window.
“Ma’am? Is everything okay?” His voice was beautiful. All smooth and chocolatey, making her want to melt in her seat. Shit, here she was scared out of her pants, and now she wanted out of her pants for an entirely different reason. He stepped forward and bent down slightly.
“I’m fine, officer. Why did you stop me?” Julia tried to keep the nervousness out of her voice. She had been right. He wasn’t wearing a uniform; he had on jeans and a button-down shirt.
“Ms. Sharp? Is that you?”
Julia jumped at hearing her name. She angled her head and peered more closely at the man. He shone his flashlight on his face.
“Officer Gordon?” The tension ran out of her body at the sight of the man’s face. Julia let her head fall forward onto the steering wheel. The horn blared into the night, and Julia jumped with a squeal.
The laughter that escaped her throat was shaky with nerves. She took a couple of deep breaths to help her relax.
“Julia? Are you okay?”
She looked at the cop. She didn’t know how she ever could have forgotten the sound of this tall and scrumptious man’s voice. Or the shape of his body.
He was nearly six feet tall with short brown hair. Just long enough for her to run her fingers through. His body was firm, his torso large and muscled. And his ass. Well, she’d had to keep herself from slapping it more than once the first time she’d met him.
Yup, definitely the man from Jim’s barbecue she had the hots for.
Jim and Carrie had coerced her to attend their annual Fourth of July cookout. They’d argued if she was going to be living here, she needed to learn how to be social with the locals. She hadn’t minded the socializing; she had minded being told what to do. She was an adult, not a child.
Jim, of course, had done his man-of-the-house thing, cooking on the grill and ignoring anything else that needed to get done. So she had helped Carrie with everything else.
Not that she’d minded. Despite how she felt about her brother-in-law, Julia loved her sister and her three nieces. Living with them was definitely an adventure.
She hoped she was more of a blessing than a curse to Carrie. She had a full-time job and was the primary caregiver for all three kids, so Julia tried to help wherever she could. Although if Julia was to give the guy credit, Jim did make sure the kids got to their sports events and attended their school activities. Julia just didn’t like him.
But it wasn’t her place to judge. Carrie was happy and so were the kids.
Realizing she’d let her mind get away from her again, Julia shook her head and lowered the window.
“I’m sorry, Officer Gordon. You startled me. I noticed after I’d stopped that you aren’t driving a standard-issue vehicle and don’t have your uniform on.”
“It’s Dennis, remember?” His smile sent her heart racing. God, she was a sad woman. “Actually I’m off duty, but I saw Carrie’s vehicle and knew she was out of town this weekend. How have you been? Any luck with the job hunt?”
“Yeah. In fact, I’ve been working for parks and recreation for the last month. They needed help at the main office. It’s only temporary, but there’s a chance it might become permanent.”
He leaned in the window. The scent of his cologne wafted into her car. A deep, manly scent that made her think of illicit--and probably illegal--acts. “That’s awesome. It sucks moving into a new town and having to look for a job and place to live, not to mention friends.” His voice was all soft and friendly sounding, sending tingles running between her legs.
He’s only offering friendship, Julia. Get a grip.
He continued, his smooth baritone calming her battered emotions like a flood of chocolate. “I can’t imagine it’s easy living with an entire family when you’re used to your own place. You need somewhere you can just unwind and be yourself.”
Julia laughed. “Isn’t that the truth? I love Carrie and the kids, but sometimes I would kill for a nice hot bath uninterrupted by a little one needing to go potty.”
The look on his face changed, his smile turning into a frown. He leaned back and his whole demeanor changed. “Have you been drinking, ma’am?”
. She wasn’t about to lie. She had been. She knew she wasn’t drunk, but she also knew after the two beers she’d had earlier in the evening, the smell was still on her breath.
“Could you please step out of the vehicle?” He stood and backed up. His voice was no longer so friendly. Now, it was formal and professional. Cold, almost. Disappointment ran through her. She unlocked the door with a sigh. “I’m not drunk. I promise you.”
She knew he had to be suspicious after smelling her breath. Julia shut off the engine and opened the car door. She swung a leg to the ground. Between the low-riding car and her high heels, she should have known better than to move so fast. One minute she was pulling herself out of the car. The next, flying into his body.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tight against him. Breath flew out of her lungs in a rush. Immediately her body responded to the closeness of his, melting against him, boneless with desire.
“Shit! Sorry!” Julia pulled herself back, but when she put her weight on her right foot, she immediately stumbled into his arms again.
“Not drunk. I promise.” She groaned in frustration at her stupidity and clumsiness.
She looked at him in surprise.
“Damn, woman, you don’t do anything halfway, do you?”
Before she could respond, he picked her up at the waist and set her down on the trunk of her car. He stepped away, and immediately the cool evening air embraced her. She shivered.
“I’m not drunk. I swear.” She knew her voice sounded plaintive, but dammit, she had no idea what the hell was wrong with her.
“I hope these weren’t very expensive.” Warmth enveloped her ankle.
She looked at the foot he now had in his hand and saw one of her new heels in two pieces. Well, what did she expect? She’d paid two bucks for them at the local thrift store.
“Oh, dammit. They were the only slut-red heels I had.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Slut-red?”
“Yeah, well, they went perfectly with this dress.” She smiled, feeling way more comfortable with him than she should have, given the situation.
His gaze ran over her body at her words. A shiver ran down her back. She could have sworn a look of appreciation spread across his face. Oh, God, what she wouldn’t give for it to be authentic and not just a figment of her imagination. She’d love to jump his bones. Change of subject was in order, definitely. “What was I doing?”
“What was I doing? Why did you stop me? I didn’t think I was speeding.”
“You weren’t. I recognized the car but knew Carrie wasn’t driving it.”
Julia glanced behind her. Earlier she’d been wondering why he hadn’t recognized it. Now she wasn’t so sure it wouldn’t have been better if he hadn’t.
She grimaced. “Yeah, it’s kind of noticeable, isn’t it?”
She thought for a minute. “They could have changed their minds and decided to leave in the morning. Carrie could have been driving, you know?”
“I hope not. I’m working Jim’s shift tonight.” He smiled. “At first I thought maybe they had, but when you didn’t take the turn, I got suspicious.”
“I’m not used to these roads in the dark yet. I was going to turn around up a bit farther. There’s that little inlet where the statewide bike path crosses the road.”
He frowned. “I thought you had your own car.”
“I do. It’s in the shop. That’s what I decided to use the first month’s pay on. I figured if this job isn’t permanent, I needed to make sure it was up to snuff if I had to drive around half the state on interviews. Better use the money now that I have it than need it later on and not
“Okay now, let’s get to proving I’m not drunk.” She kicked off both heels before hopping off the car. She expected him to take a step back. Instead, she ended up sliding down his body as she continued her unstoppable movement off the car.
She closed her eyes as every inch of his hard body pressed against her. Oh my God, is that an erection?
She didn’t have the courage to reach down and check. Hell, she couldn’t even make herself look.
Eyes opened again, she looked up at him. “Sobriety test?”
“Which you have assured me you don’t need three times now.” He stepped back, leaving his hands on her waist. God, she really needed to keep her mind on the situation and not on her body’s reaction to him. She took a deep breath and pulled her attention back to the conversation at hand. Calm down.
“I know. I know. But the evidence is stacked against me. One, I panicked before you came up to my car.”
“Rightfully so. Deserted road, no bar lights, no uniform, late at night.”
“Okay, well then I stumbled out of my car, right into your arms, then again, breaking my shoe. So far if I were you, I wouldn’t have much confidence in my sobriety.” She kicked her shoes out of the way, trying to pull her attention to something other than his body. Relax
. “So I figure I might as well do all those roadside tests you always see on TV and get it done with. Do you need me to take a breathalyzer?”
“How much have you had tonight?”
“Two beers. One before dinner and one after...which I nursed for almost two hours.”
“Which test first?” She pushed herself away from the car and stood ready to do whatever he wanted. Anything
he wanted. She shook her head. Hell, maybe she was drunk after all. What the hell was this urge she had to get all naughty with him? She really needed to keep her mind on the issue at hand or she’d be doing or saying something she would probably regret as soon as it happened. “Do you want the balance test? Or the nose test?”
“Nothing. I believe you.”
“Just like that?”
He laughed, and her body tightened again. God what she wouldn’t do to get the man in bed with her.
“No, not just like that. I’ve talked to you for a couple minutes. I’ve assessed your condition. You don’t present as even mildly inebriated. “
“Phooey.” What are you doing, Julia? Stop this right now. Before you get yourself in trouble.
“Yeah, I was hoping to coerce you with my womanly wiles.” Oops, and there it went. Exactly what she was afraid of: her mouth getting out of control of her brain. And she couldn’t even hope he thought she really was drunk, ’cause that would open a whole ’nother can of worms.
“Womanly wiles?” He reached out and brushed back a curl of hair that had fallen across her eye. Tiny sparks of electricity shot through her at the touch.
In for a penny, in for a pound
. She was so going to kill herself later when she had time to think. “Yeah, you know, a wink here, a touch there. That kind of stuff.”
“All in an attempt to get out of a traffic ticket?” His eyebrow arched and lips twitched as though trying to keep back a smile.
“Of course. With the car being in Jim’s name, I’d do practically anything to keep a traffic stop off the record.”
“And what does practically anything entail?” His voice was low and deep. Rumbling. Excitement curled in her belly.
Julia leaned into him and fiddled with the top button of his shirt. “What woman hasn’t wanted to play bad cop and innocent motorist?”
He didn’t say anything for what seemed like an eternity. When a frown crossed his face, she felt it in the bottom of her stomach.
“Miss Sharp, could you please get back into the vehicle?”
What the hell? Shit
. She’d gone too far. She knew it. She should have shut up minutes ago. As soon as he’d said he didn’t think she was drunk, she should have said thank you and gotten in the car and left. But no, her freaking libido had to take control of her mouth and fuck it all up. Maybe a DUI would be the better option. Maybe a hiccup?
“Really, I prom--”
Before she could go any further, he cut her off. “Ma’am, I asked you to get back into the vehicle. Please pull up to the inlet you mentioned earlier and shut your car off. This road is not very wide, and I would prefer to continue this traffic stop where it is safer.”