Calley Regan only wants to get through her cousin’s bridal shower without anyone discovering her secret—she’s pregnant. Her sanctimonious family would never understand. Then the one person she confides in happens to tell the incredibly handsome, but seriously uptight, sheriff, Riley Owens—who’s just given her a speeding ticket! How can she trust the brooding, inflexible lawman when he’s everything she’s not? Riley Owens is instantly attracted to Calley Regan, but it won’t come to anything. For years, he’s lived mired in guilt, and carefree Calley is his polar opposite. But, when someone attacks Calley, Riley is determined to protect her no matter what it takes, and when her family deserts her, he takes Calley into his home. Years ago, he couldn’t save the woman he loved. He’s not about to let that happen again.
Calley Regan stared at the woman who leaned against the building across the street. She glanced at the store every few seconds. Her jacket was different but the cap was the same, and so were the suede boots. Calley swore the stranger was the same person she’d seen earlier. Besides, with the temperature in the upper eighty’s, why wear a jacket unless you were trying to hide something? Like a gun. Calley’s heart pounded in her chest.
“You noticed her too?” Her boss Eva Martinez placed her coffee mug in the microwave. She walked up and looked over Calley’s shoulder. “I spotted her when I got here this morning. You don’t think she’s planning to rob the place or is a lookout for someone else, do you?”
“Not with those Cesare Paciotti boots.” She hated anxiety. Why did so many people have to make other’s lives miserable?
“Maybe she stole them.” Eva’s red lipstick almost disappeared with the tightening of her lips.
Her tone cast a hint of fear which only added to Calley’s concern. She wasn’t about to tell Eva she thought it was the same person outside her apartment that morning. Eva was already over-protective. This would only make her worse.
“It doesn’t matter what she wants,” Eva said. “There’s no way she’s getting in that door.” After a kid high on drugs robbed the store several months ago, she bought a state-of-the-art alarm system complete with locked door and buzzer to allow entrance.
Most burglars didn’t bother with their small shop. The E. Martinez Gallery of Fine Used Art sold paintings on consignment and not from any world-renowned artists. They kept only a small amount of cash in the drawer. The guy who’d robbed the store months before walked away with a whopping sixteen dollars, ten of which came from Calley’s purse.
Calley turned back to the window. Nothing about the woman’s appearance stuck out except the expensive boots which Calley knew ran over five hundred dollars. Similar Brave’s baseball caps were owned by thousands of women in the area, and the jacket was something you could pick up at any local department store.
The stranger looked up and her eyes met Calley’s. The woman seemed unfazed that Calley was aware of her presence. The woman’s lack of concern unnerved her. The microwave dinged, causing Calley to jump.
“She has an evil stare.” Eva walked back to the kitchen area. “You know what they say. The eyes are the window to the soul. Hers tell me she’s not a happy lady.”
Calley’s belly fluttered like small wings of an angel. She patted the growing lump at her midsection. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you. Not even six months old and already active. Just like your father.” She joined Eva in the back.
“Too bad most of his activity involved screwing around.” Eva poured liquid creamer into her instant coffee. The aroma of almonds covered the small kitchen space.
The moment Peter Jameson found out about the baby, he announced he was married and wanted nothing more to do with her or their unborn child. Calley lowered herself into a rolling chair behind her desk a few feet from the small refrigerator. Tears formed at the rim of her eyes. She had to stop this. She’d cried way too much for a man who turned out to be such a loser.
“I’m sorry. That was cold of me.” Eva pushed her wavy brown hair over her shoulder and walked to the desk near Calley. “You’ll be fine. And you’ll make a great mom.” She took a sip of her coffee and sat on the edge. “I could have finished up on the Nelson sale. You didn’t need to come in.”
“That’s okay. It’ll take just a minute. I also wanted to check on the shipment to Monterey before I left.” Calley didn’t particularly want to go to Lydia’s bridal shower. If she hadn’t found a couple of shirts to cover her belly, it would have been out of the question.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’re not only a good worker, but you did the one thing I swore I’d never allow.” She paused. “You became more than an employee. You’re a friend. And as such, I want you to know that I plan to buy a crib for that baby of yours.”
“That is so nice of you.” Calley rose and gave Eva a hug. Her closeness to her boss helped Calley’s longing for a stronger relationship with her own sister. Eva kept her from feeling alone.
She sat back down while Eva returned to the kitchen for a snack.
“Would you like something?” Eva said.
“No thanks.” The nausea from earlier had finally dissipated so why take chances?
“You’ve heard absolutely nothing from Peter on getting his medical history?”
“Nothing. I even tried his cell, but it’s been disconnected.” Calley sighed. “I’m not sure it’s worth worrying about.”
Calley opened her top drawer and pulled out the picture. She ran her hand over the cold glass of the photograph. A dark-haired man smiled back at her. “Peter, why did you have to be such a jerk? Worse yet, why didn’t I figure it out sooner?”
“Now, don’t blame yourself.” Eva sat at her own desk on the other wall of the shop. “My husband had an affair, and I never knew it until the woman called me. It took us years of therapy to regain that trust.”
“It’s just hard to have new dreams when the old ones died out the way they did.”
Calley returned a glimpse out the window. Their watcher looked up and down the road. What could she want? Calley prayed when she headed to Lincolnville in the next hour, the woman wouldn’t follow her.
Riley Owens sat in the sheriff’s cruiser parked along the side of the old highway. Why’d he agree to be best man? He’d have to give the toast which meant getting up in front of all those people. The blank paper stared at him. Maybe he should try for something funny. “Like I’ve got a sense of humor. I’ll just make more of a fool out of myself.”
He tugged at his collar. June had just arrived, and the air was already stifling. He could only imagine how hot summer would be.
A blue Nissan Versa whizzed by. According to the radar it was doing sixty-five in the fifty-mile-per-hour zone. Riley, thankful for the distraction, switched on his lights and siren and pulled out behind it. Less than a mile up, the car jerked into the parking lot of Fred’s Diner, the local greasy spoon. It pulled into a spot at the front of the building. Riley used his car to block the vehicle from backing up. A dark haired woman jumped out of the driver’s side door.
“Stop right there.” Riley placed his hand on his holster holding the Glock he carried as he emerged from his vehicle. The brunette didn’t look dangerous, but you couldn’t be sure.
“I need to use the restroom.”
“You’ll have to hold it until I get finished.”
“I can’t.” Her hands trembled when she wiped her forehead.
“Too bad.” He wrote down her plate number and called it in. The name on the registration information read Calley Regan of Atlanta, Georgia. From the DMV photo, she was the brunette. There were no warrants out for her. Riley figured there was nothing to worry about from the lady, but he’d keep his guard up just in case.
“Good morning, Sheriff. What’s new?” Dolly Swenson strolled up behind him. Dolly, a waitress at Fred’s, must have been arriving for the opening shift. The diner was opened for lunch and dinner during the week. It opened for breakfast on the weekend. She lived just a block down and usually walked to work. “Oh, she’s a pretty one.”
Riley’s jaw tightened. “Doesn’t matter how pretty they are if they’re breaking the law.” He pulled his ticket pad from the console in his car.
“You really need to learn how to have fun, Riley. A smart man would find out if she’s married, and if not, ask her to lunch.” She headed to the woman standing beside the car. “Don’t let the old curmudgeon bother you. He sees everything in black or white.”
Calley Regan nodded her head and glanced to the road she’d been on. The concern on her face redirected Riley’s attention to the street, but no one came or went.
“I need to see your license.” He walked up and joined both women. A glance in the driver’s side door showed a bottle of water in the console and a pack of opened saltines on the passenger seat.
“Can you write the ticket while I go inside?” Calley handed the license to him. “I promise I won’t crawl out the bathroom window.”
“This’ll take just a minute,” he said. Riley wrote up the ticket for speeding. “Sign here.” He passed her license back. Dolly continued to watch, obviously disapproving, if her hands on her hips were any indication.
Callie let out a heavy breath and swallowed hard. Her face was pale and sweat covered her forehead. Her hands shook as she signed her name.
“Are you on something?” That would explain her almost paranoid search of Plaskett Drive.
She rolled her eyes. “Prenatal vitamins. And if you don’t let me go in, I’m going to throw up all over you.”
“I suggest you listen to her, Riley,” Dolly said with a laugh. “I know how bad morning sickness can get, and when you need to hurl, there’s no stopping you.”
Riley looked into Calley’s hazel eyes. “I would think if it were that bad, she’d have stopped sooner. Besides, what kind of a mother drives like a maniac and puts her unborn child at risk?”
Calley took a step toward him. “Why you patronizing son of …” She lurched and turned to the side. Not far enough. She threw up on Riley’s polished black boots.
“She warned you.” Dolly placed an arm around Calley’s shoulder. “Come on, dear. Let’s get you out of this heat.” She paused and turned to Riley. “If you need her, she’ll be inside with me. I can’t imagine at this point you’d have a problem with that.”
Dolly didn’t wait for an answer. She led Calley into the diner out of Riley’s view. He shook his left boot. The smell was rancid. He almost thought she’d gotten sick on purpose. That was fine with him. He tore the hefty ticket from the book and slapped it on her windshield.