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Montana Mine: A Small Town Romance - Book 5 by Vanessa Vale (1)

Chapter 1

"Ma'am, I'm Detective McCade. I need to see your license and registration."

Detective McCade? Make that Detective McHottie. Yeah, it wasn't his name, but it fit and so did his jeans and black t-shirt. He was tall, tall enough where I could only see a very specific portion of his body from my vantage point—a very nice portion of a pair of well-worn jeans molded in all the right places. I shouldn't get a hot flash at this point in my life, but yup, this guy was working for me. I licked my lips.

He had to bend at the waist, a forearm resting on the roof of my car, to look at me through the open window. His hair was cut short, but I could see how it would curl if it grew out a bit. His jaw was square and clean shaven, his nose had a slight crook in it, which could mean he had a little bit of fight beneath the law enforcement. His eyes were shielded by mirrored sunglasses, so I dreamed that he had blue eyes. A little Black Irish to go with his Scot name. A service pistol was clipped to his belt along with a badge which made the whole snug jeans thing even hotter. He pretty much looked like a GI Joe action figure minus the army fatigues.

"Hey, you're Silky Tangles." He grinned, and it was his turn to lick his lips.

I frowned. "Excuse me?"

"Silky Tangles, the um...film star."

I handed over my license. "Yeah, um...no. No Silky Tangles here, unless you're referring to my hair which sometimes does get tangled, the curls and all. Silky? I guess that's a compliment, right?"

He looked at my ID. "Daphne Lane," he read. "Not very catchy. I guess you do need a better name than that for your line of work."

"Hey!" I felt slightly insulted, but I was too confused to know how to retort. Who the heck was Silky Tangles? "Look, how do I know you're a real police officer? You don't really act like one with the tangled hair comment and all."

He had a Kojak light on the dash of his SUV, not a police cruiser, but I was law-abiding enough to know when to pull over. Perhaps not law-abiding enough to keep to the speed limit. Sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. And I had to catch my flight.

"Ma'am?" he asked, his eyebrows going up above his sunglasses.

"I've seen on Dateline where women are taken and cut up into little pieces by a man who pretends to be a police officer." I wouldn't mind being taken by McHottie, skipping the cutting up part.

"Ma'am, it's ten o'clock on a Tuesday in Montana. Not four in the morning in downtown Detroit. I pulled you over because you were going ninety in a forty-five."

He did have a point. I had been going fast. I leaned across the center console to reach the glove box for the registration. "Look, Officer—"

"Detective," he countered.

"Detective," I repeated, blowing hair out of my eyes. "I'm trying to make a flight. I've got an hour until it takes off." I turned back to face him, held out the paper for him to take. He lifted his chin a few inches. Had he been checking out my ass?

"Where are you headed?" His t-shirt afforded me a very nice view of tanned forearms with corded muscles sprinkled with dark hair. No wedding ring. A thirty-year-old woman noticed these types of things even when the man was keeping her from her next assignment. It wasn't like I planned to linger and have his babies. Men were the antichrist at the moment, even hot ones, but that didn't mean I didn't take a moment to ogle.

"Thailand."

He shook his head as he looked at my license photo, then at me. It was not the best picture—whose was? I'd had a moment of inspiration and cut my bangs, but seeing the photo at the DMV only confirmed I'd made a serious error in judgment. My brown hair was too curly for bangs and I could only imagine what McHottie thought.

"Look, Miss Lane, I've heard a lot of excuses for speeding, but Thailand? You couldn't come up with something better than that? Besides, I thought films like yours were now done in the valley."

"The valley? Gallatin Valley?" Bozeman was situated in a flat, open plain between three sets of mountain ranges, also known as the Gallatin Valley. What was he talking about? I narrowed my eyes. He doubted me? "Oh. You don't think I'm going to Thailand? What should I have said instead?"

"Going into labor is used frequently." His gaze raked over my body with that revelation. "Yeah, that one won't work for you. You need to keep your body in tip-top shape." He waggled his eyebrows and actually grinned. Of course, he had a dimple.

I didn't know if I should be flattered, annoyed or grossed out. "I don't have time for this," I snapped. I could feel my anger building. Patience had never been one of my strong suits, perhaps stifled from dealing with Aunt Velma all my life. One would think I'd become more patient because of her antics, but no. Definitely not. I didn't have a patient bone in my body. That's why I was a travel journalist and didn't have to wait for anyone. Except for Officer, no, Detective McHottie, to hand me my ticket so I could speed even more to get to the airport in time. "I really am going to Thailand, although if I miss my flight, I won't even make it as far as Salt Lake and will miss the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival. Can you please give me my ticket so I can be on my way?"

"Wait here." He stood up and looking at my side mirror I watched him head back to his car. Yeah, the pants fit him just fine. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, the impatience building with every second. I'd only returned to Bozeman for Aunt Velma's birthday as I'd had a week off between assignments. Montana wasn't on the way to anything, so the flight choices to Thailand were limited. As it was, I had to go to Salt Lake City, then Chicago, then Narita, Japan, to connect to Bangkok. It would take over twenty-four hours to get there and missing one flight would mean I missed them all. And I'd lose my assignment. If I lost the story, I didn't get paid. I was freelance, which meant the next job wasn't guaranteed. Since Roger turned out to be a little shit and decided to shack up with someone else, someone who liked Shalimar perfume and red patent fuck-me heels, I needed the cash to find a new place to live. At least, a new place to crash. Travel journalism didn't allow for Home Sweet Home.

I watched the clock on my dash. Fiddled with the radio. Dug out twelve cents between the seat and the center console. Five, ten minutes and the man just sat in his car. He was looking down, but he could have been doing anything from writing up my ticket to playing a game of Solitaire on his cell phone. Come on!

When I had twenty minutes left to get on the flight before they gave my seat away, I'd had enough. I climbed from my old VW Rabbit to tell the man to get a move on. As I approached, he glanced up from his seat, opened his car door and stepped out. He was a few inches over six feet and must have eaten his Wheaties for breakfast to turn out like he did.

"I'm not exactly sure what you're doing in there, but it can't take that long to write a ticket." I just shook my head in disappointment. My friend Violet was a first-grade teacher and I'd seen her use the look before. It worked on six-year olds and adults alike.

Not this guy. I could tell from his stance and how he had one hand on top of the gun at his hip while holding some weird black thing in his other that I may have done the wrong thing. "Ma'am, you need to get back in your car."

I held up my hands in the 'don't shoot' position. "Just give me my ticket and I'll go."

"Ma'am, you need to get back in your car now or I'm going to have to cuff you. You know what it's like, from your third film, Cuffed and Stuffed."

My hands dropped, so did my mouth. "Are you kidding me?" Cuffed and Stuffed? It sounded like a porno. What was wrong with this guy? "You're going to cuff me? If you hadn't taken so long, I wouldn't be standing here right now. I need to get on that plane. It's not like I tried to talk my way out of the ticket. I've even asked for it."

I could see one eyebrow raise. "Thailand? Seriously? You're dressed for yoga class and let me tell you, all that stretching pays off on screen." He may have winked, but the glasses hid it well.

I think my head exploded then because his eyes widened—I could tell even through the mirrored glasses—and he took a half step back. His hand clenched around the butt of the gun.

"Do you know what it's like to come back here? Do you have any idea what I've been through this week? What will happen if I miss that flight? And you're standing here discussing my flexibility?"

"Ma'am, I need you to turn around and place your hands on the roof of your car." He stepped closer. I stepped back. "A police cruiser will be here in a few minutes to give you your ticket."

"A few minutes?" I started waving my arms around as I spoke. "No. I'm going to Thailand. I need to go to Thailand. I can't spend another night as a designated driver for a bunch of senior citizens. I can't fill in again for league bowling just to get my ass pinched by Frank Zajik. And if I have to spend another night listening to a borderline geriatric couple getting it on when I'm in the Sahara Desert of a sex life, I might do something crazy. Give me my stupid ticket."

I might have seen his lip twitch in amusement, or it could have been a nervous tick.

"Sahara Desert? Yeah, right. I thought you said Thailand. Ma'am, have you been drinking?"

I screeched so loudly birds flew off out of the field beside the road. The last thing I remember about Detective McHottie before the world went black was that he had a little scar in his left eyebrow.

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