- Head Over Heels
The thought of it, of having Chloe, was about as crazy as his week had been. She was obstinate, impulsive, trouble with a capital T…and damn. Hot. She was also a walking-talking reminder of a part of his life he’d given up—the wild part. There was a lot of sexual attraction, but no future. Because while he was a permanent fixture in this town, Chloe was just a sexy little tumbleweed blowing through.
The day after the dog-nabbing incident, there’d been an article in the opinion section of the local paper about recent vandalisms and petty theft in the area. The anonymous writer had gone on to include a list of people in town known for trouble seeking, and Chloe had been on it.
Not a big surprise.
He wondered if she’d been disturbed or upset by it. It wasn’t in her nature to worry about what people thought of her. But he bet her sisters had been. They were trying to generate good press for the B&B, not negative.
Of course, if he’d arrested her for trespassing, B&E, and theft, that would have been negative press. And a personal hell for him since Tara and Maddie would have skinned him alive. Which was not why he hadn’t arrested her, he told himself. He hadn’t arrested her because…shit. Because for the first time in his adult life, he’d chosen to look the other way, and it didn’t sit well.
He’d seen her several times this week. Once when she’d been coming out of the urgent care with a Band-Aid on her arm from her tetanus shot, and then again riding her Vespa on the highway, her long, wild red hair billowing out behind her, her helmet and Hollywood-style sunglasses hiding most of her face.
And yesterday he’d run into her at the grocery store just as she was pulling a bottle of vodka from the shelf, which she’d assured him was for work.
He’d laughed. He’d only been in the store to grab a sports drink on the way to his weekly baseball game, but he’d immediately forgotten about that, standing there in the aisle feeling…alive. “Work,” he said. “The vodka’s for work.”
“It cleans glass like nobody’s business. And if applied topically, it works as a great preservative. And did you know that used as a non-topical application, it’s the perfect man cure?”
“A few shots, and you’re cured of wanting one.”
He shook his head now at the memory. How in the hell she managed to make him want to both kiss her and run like hell was beyond him. He stepped out of the shower, dropped his towel, and pulled on fresh clothes before going back out. When he was on duty, he drove a department marked SUV. His personal vehicle was a truck. Both were equipped for whatever came his way, and tonight, going low profile, he took the truck. Lucky Harbor was basically a tiny little bowl sitting on the rocky Washington State coast, walled in by majestic peaks and lush forest. It was all an inky shadow now.
Nick Raybo had ten acres of land out at Eagle’s Bluff, deep into the forest. It was rugged and isolated out there, perfect for all sorts of illegal dealings and a favorite place for partiers.
But that’s not where Sawyer headed first.
At this time of night, his truck was the only vehicle on the road as he headed down the hill into town. The moon peeked through the clouds, hanging low and wan. It cast a pale glow over the Pacific Ocean churning against the rocky terrain off to his left. The pier was dark, the town was dark, and his thoughts were darker still.
He’d been raised here, though he used the term “raised” loosely. It’d been just him and his father, Nolan Thompson, a blue-collar union man who believed in hard work, Jim Beam, and ruling with an iron fist.
Or in Sawyer’s case, a wicked long leather belt.
It hadn’t helped much. Sawyer had been just about as wild as they came, which made it all the more amusing to those who knew him best that he now wielded a badge.
He drove through town and onto the narrow road that led to the Lucky Harbor Beach B&B. The inn was a Victorian, freshly painted and renovated, lit up warm and welcoming for guests. Pulling around to the back of the property, he idled in front of the small owner’s cottage where Chloe lived.
The lights were off.
Sawyer hoped like hell that meant she was sleeping and not up at Eagle’s Bluff with Lance in the middle of another Two Stooges act that could get them killed this time, but his luck wasn’t running that way. A quick swipe of his flashlight didn’t reveal her Vespa.
Exhausted and doing a slow burn at the thought of what Chloe might be up to, he got out of his truck to check around. To his relief, he found her Vespa parked on the side of the cottage.
On the way back to his truck, he flicked his light to the front door, taking in the potted plants thriving there and the yoga mat leaning against the wall. When she was in Lucky Harbor and not working at a spa somewhere around the country, Chloe liked to do yoga on the beach at sunrise. He’d seen her on that very mat, lit by the morning sun glinting off the waves, her tanned, toned limbs bent in impossible ways that made him think of other, better ways to bend them. Chloe on her mat was not only a huge turn-on, but an anomaly. She was blithe and breathless, literally, both from her free-spirited nature and from her severe asthma—the one exception being when she was doing yoga, the sole thing in her life that required a deep, calm stillness. Most likely that was what drew her to it.
He had no idea what drew him to her.
Okay, not true. She had a sharp mind, an even sharper wit, and used both to drive him up a wall as often as she could.
She was good at it.
He was good at letting her.
Shaking his head at himself, Sawyer turned to go just as someone cried out, the sound cutting through the night. He was at the front door, gun in hand, when the cry came again.
Not a pain-filled scream, he realized. Not one of terror either, but of passion. Loud passion, he corrected as she did it again.
Jesus. Closing his eyes, Sawyer dropped his head to the door, wishing like hell he wasn’t here, listening to Chloe in the throes of what sounded like wild animal sex.
When the scream came a third time, a ridiculously over-the-top porn-star wail of epic proportions, it was accompanied by a low, husky, unmistakably male voice.
Definitely time to get the hell out of there. Sawyer turned on his heel to do just that, but the porch light suddenly flickered on, fully illuminating him to whoever was peeking out the peephole. A second later, the bolt clicked and the front door whipped open.
Grimacing, he turned back. Chloe stood in the doorway, her best friend, Lance, at her side, both fully dressed, thank Christ.
Lance ran the ice cream shop on the pier with his brother, Tucker. He was in his mid-twenties like Chloe, but painfully thin and pale from the cystic fibrosis that had been ravaging his body all his life.
Next to him, Chloe seemed to glow, the embodiment of health and exuberance. Her shiny, dark red hair was in wild waves tonight, loosely flying past her shoulders except for the few long bangs that framed her face. She was beautiful enough to be a model, but missing the compliant gene. Chloe had never met a direction or a command that suited her.
She wore a soft, black hoodie sweater that clung to her breasts and dark, hip-hugging jeans tucked into high-heeled boots that gave off a don’t-fuck-with-me air but made him ache to do just that. There was a wildness to her tonight, hell, every night, and an inner darkness that he was drawn to in spite of himself.
It called to his true inner nature, the matching wildness and darkness within him, which he’d tried to bury a long time ago. Ridiculously relieved that she wasn’t having sex, Sawyer backed up to go. She was home, safe and sound, and that was all he cared about.
“Sawyer? What are you doing here?”
Good question. He opened his mouth with absolutely no idea exactly what he planned to say, but Lance suddenly staggered and put his hand to his head.
Chloe instantly slid an arm around Lance’s narrow waist to steady him. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” Lance said, pushing free. “Got up too fast, is all.”
“Here, sit.” Ignoring his resistance, Chloe gently pushed Lance back inside, to the couch in the small living room. With a hand on his shoulder, she lifted her face to Sawyer, leveling him with her dark green eyes.
A jolt went through him, a zap of something he didn’t care to name.
“What can I do for you, Sheriff?” she asked.
Yeah, Sawyer, what can she do for you? He searched his brain. “You can explain breaking the noise ordinance.”
Lance laughed softly.
“Noise ordinance?” Chloe asked. “I broke the noise ordinance with my pretend orgasm?”
“You did sound like a mule stuck in a tar pit,” Lance said helpfully.
“A mule—” Chloe choked on a laugh. “Okay, no one who’s heard the real thing would ever even think of comparing me to a mule.”
This information didn’t help Sawyer at all. “Is that right?”
Chloe’s gaze locked on his. In the sudden charged silence, Lance cleared his throat. “This is weird. I’m going to the kitchen now, while the two of you finish…whatever the hell this is. Call for me if you’re going to need bailing out, Chloe.”
“Sure,” she said, her gaze never leaving Sawyer’s. “I’ll let you know if I end up in cuffs.”
Lance grimaced. “Okay, never mind. Don’t call me.”
Chloe laughed, but Sawyer was stuck on the mental image of her in his cuffs. If he’d been half the cop he liked to think he was, it wouldn’t, couldn’t, cause such an erotic rush.
Something came into Chloe’s eyes that told him she knew exactly where his mind had just gone—and that just maybe hers had gone there, too. The temperature in the room seemed to shoot up, but the sound of a harsh coughing in the kitchen, hard and relentless, like someone was dying, sent a chill down Sawyer’s back.
Chloe rushed into the kitchen, instantly all soft, warm, caring woman, in a way that Sawyer had never seen directed at him. When he followed, he found her murmuring something for Lance’s ears only, reaching for him.