BAD GIRLS DON'T by Cathie Linz
There were plenty of things that aggravated Skye Wright, but seeing a police cruiser in her rear view mirror was right up there.
No worries. She could handle Rock Creek's finest. She'd done it before when Officer Timmy Johnson had stopped her for speeding on her way to give belly-dancing lessons. The bean-pole law enforcement officer was a sucker for a big smile and a little cleavage. Or a lot of cleavage, depending how much over the limit she was traveling.
The halter top she wore gave her ample opportunity to flash a little flesh if necessary.
"Hey, Timmy. You know I was only going a little fast to get your attention..."
Uh-oh. This wasn't Timmy. The Studly-Do-Right glaring down at her and her cleavage was no sucker. She'd heard about sheriff Nathan Thornton, but had managed to avoid him. Until now.
"I need to see your license, proof of insurance, and registration," he barked.
Paperwork. She was so against paperwork. "Is that really necessary?" She shot him a huge smile. Hey, it was worth a try.
Lawman Nathan did not smile back. "License, proof of insurance, and registration."
Skye shrugged. "Okay, but it's gonna take me a while to find all that, because I've got a lot of stuff in my bag. Hold on...my wallet is in here someplace..."
She'd barely started digging in her huge Peruvian woven tote when he gave her another order.
"Take your hands out of the bag and please step out of the car."
His please wasn't a polite one, so he got no points for saying it as far as she was concerned. Frankly, her attention was focused on trying to remember if she'd even put her wallet in the tote.
"Put your hands where I can see them and step out of the car, ma'am," he commanded, his voice gritty with impatience. "What?" Had he just called her ma'am? No one called her ma'am. She was only twenty-five, not ninety.
"Step out of the car. Now!"
"Okay, okay." She shoved open the car door. "But I don't see how that's going to help me find the paperwork you want."
She jingled, but didn't juggle as she slid out of her used Toyota. He didn't blink at her belly-dancing costume -- the black crocheted fringe halter, the purple silk harem pants. She didn't have her chiffon hip scarf on, but did have the harmonious hip belt, with its loops of coins that made such a delightful sound as she moved.
Studly Do-Right wasn't projecting harmonious vibes at all. She saw her own reflection in his mirrored sunglasses, which he didn't bother removing. Skye hated not being able to see his eyes. She judged people by their eyes.
Well, maybe judge was the wrong word to use. She'd made more than her share of mistakes in her first twenty-five years. Who was she to judge others? She read people by their eyes. Yeah, that was a better way to explain it.
Skye had always had strong responses to certain stimuli. And arrogant authority figures like the lawman with the stony expression totally pushed her buttons. But not in a sexual way.
Not that the guy was any slacker in the hottie department. He had all the right physical attributes -- dark hair, broad shoulders, narrow waist.
His face was sharply angular, but his bottom lip was surprisingly sensual and his jaw reflected tons of stubbornness. His voice might have been nice, but was definitely much too bossy for her taste.
"Dump your purse on the trunk."
There he went again. Being bossy. Skye felt like arguing, but she had places to go and things to do besides stand here arguing with an aggravating cop. She dumped her stuff on to the car's rusty trunk, thrilled to find her wallet was in there after all. So were lots of other things -- papers, receipts, unopened junk mail, a few meditation cards, her checkbook with a negative balance, her daughter's missing mini-kaleidoscope, and an unopened box of Trojan condoms.
"Here's my license." She handed it to him. "Hello?" She waved it at him. The man seemed obsessed with the contents of her bag. Hadn't Mr. Lawman ever seen condoms before?
"You appear to have a pile of tickets there." He nodded toward the official-looking documents.
So that's what those papers were. Skye knew she'd stuck them someplace. A sudden breeze blew them off her Toyota, which had already had over 100,000 miles on it when she'd bought it cheap from the friend-of-a-friend months ago.
"I'll get that." He reached down for the tickets, studying them as he handed them to her.
She grabbed them from him. His fingertips were warm against hers. She didn't care. "Is this going to take long? I'm going to be late for an appointment. The football team is waiting for me."
"You doing a little routine for them?" He made it sound like she was planning on giving all the guys a lap dance.
"I'm giving them lessons."
"I'll just bet you are."
"Yoga lessons and belly dancing. To improve their balance and karma."
"Yeah, karma is real important in football," he drawled. "Right up there with a tough defense and a running game."
"If you don't believe me, call the coach. He's the one who hired me."
"For a little light entertainment."
"No, for enlightenment and physical improvement."
"Not that you'd know anything about enlightenment. Your mind is so closed I'm surprised it even functions. Are you done with my license?"
"No. Where's your registration and proof of insurance?"
She rolled her eyes. "How should I know?"
"You're supposed to have them with you when you drive. And you're not supposed to drive over the posted speed limit."
"Who decided on thirty-five-miles-an-hour, anyway? That's totally insane. This isn't a residential area and there's hardly any traffic -- probably because of the speed trap you've got set up here."
"If you don't have your registration and proof of insurance, I'm going to have to take you back to the station."
"I don't have time for this!" The coin belt around her hips jangled as she stomped her foot. "I can't believe you're being so anal! What's your next step? Handcuffing me? Go ahead!"
Nathan couldn't believe how rapidly she launched herself into an impassioned rant about police states squashing personal freedoms.
Fearing she'd hurt herself as she vehemently waved her hands around and narrowly missed smacking him in the face, Nathan had no choice but to restrain her after she ignored his repeated requests to calm down.
Naturally, that's when another car pulled up. A big Lincoln Town Car.
"What's going on here?" elderly funeral director Owen Dunback asked.
"Police brutality! The man has a handcuff fetish!" Skye declared.
"She's hardly a threat," Owen said.
Nathan disagreed. Skye had threatened his peace of mind before he'd even met her. Rock Creek was a small town. He'd heard all about her and her mishaps.
"There's no need to handcuff her," Owen added.
"She was speeding."
"Then give her a ticket."
"She has a habit of not paying tickets. Has a pile of them in her bag."
Owen's wrinkled face reflected his concern. "Nate, she has a small child at home." Nathan made no comment. He felt the pulse jerking in his neck as emotion coursed through him. Here was a woman accustomed to breaking the rules and not caring about the consequences. And she had a child.
No, he couldn't go there. He couldn't relive the searing pain of loss.
Slamming the door on those dark emotions, Nathan kept his focus on the present.
"How fast was she going?" Owen asked him.
Nathan had to unclench his jaw to reply. "Ten miles above the speed limit." "I think he's just got something against belly dancers." Skye swayed in front of him. Her arms might be restrained behind her back, but those hips of hers were making moves that should be illegal. "That right, Mr. Lawman? Do you feel threatened by a woman's cosmic power?"
"Not unless she's carrying a gun."
"I'm not into guns."
"Glad to hear that."
Owen interrupted them. "What do you say, Nate? Issue her a ticket. Or give her a warning, but don't take her to jail."
"Authority figures are always threatened by free spirits," Skye stated.
"Only if they're speeding and driving without the required documentation," Nathan retorted.
She stunned him by handing him the handcuffs. Somehow she'd freed herself. She shrugged. "A little trick I learned from a friend."
Okay, now he was really getting pissed. "You've just added resisting arrest to your charges
," he growled.
"I wasn't resisting," she denied. "I just politely returned your handcuffs to you." "That's true," Owen agreed.
"Trust me, when and if I start resisting, you'll know," Skye added with a satisfied smirk.
"That's it. Get in the car." Nathan slapped the handcuffs back on her and stuffed her in the back seat of the squad car.
"Call my mom," Skye called out to Owen. "She's at my place babysitting. Tell her what happened and ask her to gather the gang."
"Sheriff, you're making a mistake," Owen said.
That wasn't the way Nathan viewed it. He knew trouble when he saw it and Skye was trouble with a capital T. She'd been stirring things up since she'd first sauntered into town a few months ago. Nothing illegal that he knew about. Until today.
She drove him nuts singing "Revolution" all the way to the police station. "I picked an old protest song because I figured you wouldn't know any of the newer ones," she said.
Nathan ignored her potshot at his age and pulled in front of the station. He knew from her California driver's license she was twenty-five, five-foot-five, 135 pounds. She had spiky Goth black hair in the photo. That had changed. Her hair was red now. He suspected she was the type always making some weird statement with her appearance -- purple hair, mohawks, nose rings, tongue piercings. He'd seen it all, even in a small town like Rock Creek. He'd noticed Skye had a navel ring when she'd twitched her hips at him earlier, but there were no other visible piercings or tattoos.
"Come on." He opened the car door. "The show's over."
"On the contrary." Skye smiled. "It's just beginning."
A crowd was gathered around the entryway to the police station, waving hastily-made signs scribbled with markers and crayons.
Let the belly-dancer go!
Let my mommy go! This small sign was carried by a little girl. Skye's four-year-old daughter.
Nathan blocked out the punch to his heart at the sight of the half-pint kid wearing a tutu with a pajama top, yellow boots, and a tiara.
Get it together, he fiercely ordered himself. You have a situation here. You need to stay focused on that and not your own demons.
These weren't wacky outsiders protesting. He knew them all. They were locals. Sue Ellen Riley, known as "Our Lady of the Outlandish" when she'd lived in Serenity Falls earlier in the year. Owen Dunback, respected elderly business man and funeral director. Nancy Crumpler, owner of the car parts store a block away. Lulu Malick, Goth teenager. Algee Washington, the big black guy who'd just opened a second Cosmic Comics store a few doors down.
Then there was Angel Wright, in her New Age grove. Skye's mother. She was reprimanding him with some nonsense about releasing negative energy into the atmosphere when Sister Mary joined the crowd.
"I got a report of police brutality," the nun said, "and someone needing my guidance."
"That would be him," Skye replied, pointing in his direction.
Which made Nathan realize she'd taken off the handcuffs and put them on again, with her arms in the front of her this time.
Dammit! First chance he got, he was ordering new handcuffs. These were as old as the hills and clearly defective.
"What's going on here, Nate?" Sister Mary demanded.
"She was speeding."
"So you arrested her?"
"She was driving without proof of insurance or registration. And she's got outstanding tickets in three states out west," Nathan said.
"Which I offered to pay," Owen said.
Sister Mary turned her eagle eye onto Nathan. "In that case, what's the problem?"
Despite being a lapsed Catholic, Nathan almost squirmed before stopping himself. "She resisted arrest." "She knows how to slip out of handcuffs," Owen said. "She wasn't really resisting."
"Of course she knows how to get out of handcuffs. I taught her myself," Sister Mary declared with a touch of pride. "A little something I picked up from my civil disobedience years with the civil rights movement."
Nathan was speechless but not for long. "Move aside everyone!"
Instead they all sat down, blocking the door. Then they linked arms.
"You really should clean the sidewalks better," Sue Ellen noted with disapproval. "The sidewalks in Serenity Falls are spotless. These are cracked and there are dandelions in between."
"You've got five seconds to move or I'll have you all arrested." Nathan's voice was steely.
"The cell won't hold us all. It's barely large enough for one. Besides, think of the paperwork. Do you really want to put yourself through that?" Sister Mary asked him. "Wouldn't it be simpler to just get those old tickets paid?"
"She's got a new ticket."
Owen raised his hand. "I'll pay that, too."
"Come on, Nate." Sister Mary was using her coaxing voice now. "Owen's arthritis is causing him pain here."
"I'm okay," Owen stoically maintained.
"Then my arthritis is causing me pain," Sister Mary stated.
"I can help you with that," Angel said, her curly brown hair bouncing. "I've got some special yoga moves. We'll talk later."
"This is not a joke, people," Nathan growled.
"Of course it's not," Angel replied. "Arthritis is a serious matter."
Nathan glared at her. "I'm talking about your daughter."
Angel beamed proudly. "She's gorgeous, isn't she? A little on the rebellious side, but she has a good heart."
"It's that rebellious side that's gotten her into trouble," Nathan stated.
Skye raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said it was my speeding that got me in trouble. Being rebellious is not illegal."
Maybe not, but Nathan knew the sexual awareness thrumming through him as he held Skye by his side was definitely a very serious offense. He suspected this aggravating, belly-dancing female would shake, rattle, and roll his entire law-abiding world if he wasn't careful.
Good thing Nathan planned on being extremely careful. He'd spent a lifetime following the rules. Skye had clearly spent a lifetime breaking them.
Definitely a bad combination...