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The Sheriff & The Amnesiac
By Ryanne Corey
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJenny Kyle was getting a headache. This particular headache began with a capital "T," as in trapped. Quite simply, she couldn't stand being constrained in any way, shape or form. Especially when it wasn't her fault.
At least she was an optimistic claustrophobic. As soon as she had everything sorted out with the strong arm of the law, she would leave this unfriendly town of Bridal Veil Falls - Bride Falls on Her Head was more like it, she thought wryly - in the dust. Her headache would be only a memory. One SOS call to good old Lawyer Dearbourne would solve everything. He knew she wasn't a criminal, at least not a deliberate criminal. It was simply her poor luck that she'd lost her wallet, cash, and credit cards. Although she had no doubt she would get a stern lecture when her attorney heard about Jenny's spur-of-the-moment cross-country motorcycle trip.
"He's here." The waitress stuck her finger beneath Jenny's nose and pointed out the window. "That's the sheriff. You're toast."
Jenny turned her head, dark brown eyes widening as she watched a shiny black police car pulling up in the parking lot. Her headache kicked into high gear. Her palms began to sweat. The door swung open and a pair of dusty cowboy boots hit the ground. Jennyhad hoped for a kindly soul, someone who would say, "Golly, shucks," and have a good chuckle at all these misunderstandings.
Instead, she got the Gladiator of Bridal Veil Falls. He stepped out into the fading sunlight, a full six-foot four inches of masculine intimidation wrapped up in a slim-fitting beige police uniform. His shoulders went on forever, his hips were narrow, his stomach tight and flat. She couldn't see much of his face; he wore a cowboy hat pulled low over his forehead. He also wore dark glasses. Jenny had never seen a jaw so square or a chin so intimidating. And those straight lips could have been chiseled from marble.
Jenny dropped her head into her arms on the table. "This is not my day."
The front door opened and closed. Jenny heard slow, measured steps growing louder and louder ... until they stopped right in front of her. She couldn't bring herself to look up.
"Is this the one?" His deep voice had a no-nonsense tone. There wasn't a trace of a friendly country accent. Jenny's optimism shriveled up like a grape in the sun. She wondered how old she would be before she got out of jail.
The waitress started spilling the whole story from the beginning. She concluded with a disdainful, "Funny thing, sheriff, how she didn't notice her wallet was gone until after she ate enough food for ten people."
"I resent that." Jenny looked up, glaring at the waitress. She couldn't bring herself to look at the sheriff quite yet. "I ate a well-balanced meal. You try hanging on to a runaway motorcycle for eight hours and see how hungry you get."
Came the unsympathetic voice of the sheriff: "So that Harley outside is yours?"
She took a deep breath, forcing herself to meet the sheriff's sunglasses squarely. "Maybe. At this point, I'm taking the Fifth on everything."
For a long, uncomfortable moment, he didn't say anything. At this close range, Jenny could see the manly dent in his manly chin. His slanted cheekbones were perfectly molded, his nose perfectly straight, his posture everything a Marine Corps recruiting poster could ask for. It must be true, she thought glumly, what everyone said about the healthful benefits of fresh country air.
The Gladiator pursed his lips and whistled softly. "What do you know? It's you."
Jenny frowned at him, wondering what he was trying to trick her into admitting. "No, it's not. I don't know what or who you're talking about, but I didn't do anything wrong. I'm just an innocent traveler who happened to lose her wallet. Believe me, I would have taken a detour if I'd known you people in Bride Falls on Her Head were so paranoid and unfriendly."
"Bridal Veil Falls," he corrected, a faint smile curling his lips. "You know, the minute I saw your red hair, I knew I was looking at trouble."
Jenny glared at him, then slid out from the booth, brushing tortilla crumbs off her jeans as she stood up. It was time she adopted a defensive attitude. She felt at a distinct disadvantage sitting. Still, at five foot two she didn't gain much height. If he put his arm out straight, it would go right over her curly head. "Let's talk about trouble. I was hungry, so I decided to stop and get something to eat. Before I know it, I'm being accused of all kinds of things I didn't do. At least, I didn't do them intentionally. I'm not some career criminal who travels from town to town on her motorcycle ripping off Mexican restaurants -" she threw the waitress a dark look "- despite what she seems to think. And I'll tell you something else."
"Oh, boy," the sheriff drawled. "She's not done yet."
"This town has trouble written all over it. Everyone here is hostile." She paused, then added grudgingly, "Well, that's not true. That sweet white-haired lady crocheting in the corner booth has been very friendly. She keeps smiling at me. I like her, but otherwise, I can't wait until I see the last of this place."
Obviously listening to their conversation, the whitehaired lady waved her crocheting needles at the sheriff. "Hello there. You're looking very handsome in your new hat."
"Always the sweet-talker, Ella," the sheriff called out. Then he exchanged a speaking look with the waitress. "You didn't tell me my grandmother was in here today, Sunny. That kind of puts a new light on things, if you know what I mean."
"Sunny?" Jenny blurted out incredulously. "Her name is Sunny? She is the least friendly waitress I've met in my life. And that lovely lady is your grandmother? How weird is that?"
The sheriff took off his sunglasses, swinging them in slow circles from his finger. The blue-eyed gaze he leveled at Jenny was heavy-lidded, thoughtful and penetrating. He had Baryshnikov eyes, luminous and startling against the smooth, golden-brown tint of his skin. Far more beautiful than she had expected. And much more human.
"Her name is Sunny," he told her conversationally, "and that lovely lady is indeed my grandmother. My name is Sheriff Cook, but you can call me Tyler. You see? We're actually a very friendly town, so you don't have anything to worry about. Now do me a favor and be quiet for a minute. If you're capable of it. Sunny, how long has Ella been here?"
"Well ... most of the afternoon," Sunny replied, looking uncertain. "I never thought about ... well, Dr. Wetzel told me she was doing better. Said she took up crocheting instead."
The sheriff ignored her, continuing his conversation with Sunny. "Something tells me Ella has had a little relapse. She looks too happy."
Jenny slapped her forehead with her hand. "What is going on here? Am I going crazy? Or is everyone in this town crazy except me? Why won't you let me go outside and look for my wallet? What does that nice little lady have to do with anything?"
The sheriff looked sideways at her. "Don't you ever do anything you're told? I said to be quiet."
"I don't have to be quiet," Jenny said. "I'm in deep trouble, anyway. What are you going to do, arrest me for using up too much of your oxygen?"
Excerpted from The Sheriff & The Amnesiac by Ryanne Corey Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.