With my hand still in a soft cast, I’m scrambling to put this bad boy to bed before it’s release next Tuesday. It’s going to be a shorter story than I had hoped (so I might be dropping the price), and so far, it’s very, very sexy. So if that’s not your thing—be warned! 🙂
Opening scene from Lawless…
Ty Nolan ignored the nudge against his shin. Last thing he wanted to do was open his eyes. From the already harsh glare burning behind his eyelids, he knew opening them would be damn painful.
“Ty, come on. Wake up,” came a harsh whisper. “Sheriff’s here.”
Sheriff? What the hell? And what was Tank doing in his bedroom? Another moment passed before he realized his mattress was damn flat. Where the hell was he?
“Ty,” came another voice, this one louder and with an irritated edge. “Hate to interrupt your beauty sleep, but I’d like a word.”
Fuck, it really was the sheriff. Which answered the question of why his bed was so damn uncomfortable. He peeked in the direction of Sheriff Josh Penske’s voice—bars stood between them. Oh hell, I’m going to hear about it now.
With his head pounding, he accepted Tank’s hand up.
His buddy grinned. “Never knew you were such a lightweight, bro.”
Ty grimaced at Tank’s wisecrack—and his crushing grip. Tank was built like a…well, a tank. Ty had played football for the defensive team in high school, so he wasn’t exactly puny. It took a few seconds to stuff his shirt back into his jeans, wincing as his bruised knuckles brushed denim. Before he turned toward Josh, he raked a hand through his hair. Josh stood beside the open cell door, shaking his head.
Good Lord, was he about to lose his job? Be suspended?
Josh turned and led the way down the corridor to the station’s bullpen door. Ty was glad he was still too hung over to blush as he completed the walk of shame past his fellow deputies, whose mouths were crimped, no doubt to hold back their laughter. Josh led him inside his office then waved him toward the vacant chair in front of his desk.
Ty slumped into the chair. He was going to be fired, he just knew it.
Josh sat back in his chair and turned his chair to the side, his gaze going to the window. “You know, I thought it was a simple assignment.”
“To be fair, I had the night off—”
Josh held up a hand to cut him off. “No matter whether you’re in uniform or not, your duty is to keep the peace, not start the dang fight.”
At this point, Ty knew better than to try to correct Josh’s impression of what had happened the evening before. He’d only piss him off worse than he already was.
“I don’t know what to do with you…”
Ty wished he’d framed that statement as a question, because he would’ve offered suggestions—short of firing him, of course. He liked his job.
And he needed it. He needed to succeed if he ever wanted to put in his application to join the Texas Rangers. He sat straighter in his chair. He’d take his lumps and move on. Figure out what was next in his life. Life after the Army wasn’t turning out to be the cakewalk he’d expected.
“Can you imagine my surprise when the mayor called to inform me she’d seen you hauled off in handcuffs, along with a dozen other ‘miscreants’—her word?”
The mayor hadn’t been so keen on this weekend’s festivities. He’d had a bird’s-eye view of just how unhappy she was when she’d marched into the station the morning before and asked Josh to lock the fairground gates.
She’d changed her mind about allowing bikers to gather there. “Yes, I know I approved the club’s permit, but have you seen how many bikes are parked all up and down Main Street? Caldera will not be another Waco!” she’d said, tapping her foot.
Ty had grimaced at the mention of the infamous shootout between members of two rival motorcycle clubs, that had spilled out into a restaurant parking lot where cops had violently ended that shit. Ty’s Veterans Posse Club wasn’t like that. Not involved with drugs or criminal activities. Opposed to violence, they did however get pissy about disrespect from any other club. Composed completely of former vets, the club gave its members a safe place to be, with people who had shared similar experiences that most folks couldn’t empathize with or even conceive of.
What had happened last night at Ruby’s Roadhouse had been…his fault. One too many beers and a sneering, snide comment from another club’s snarky member, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and he’d waded right into a fight.
“Look, I got the down-low from Ruby at the bar,” Josh said. “She said that guy from the club was being a dick to one of the waitresses, and that when you approached him, he insulted your club…”
Ty opened his mouth, and Josh gave a curt shake of his head, again cutting him off.
“Ruby Tackett’s bar got trashed. I asked her what she wanted to have happen.”
Here goes… Ruby was a hardass. She’d turned off the jukebox to read the riot act to all the bikers who’d filled her bar last night—before shit had gone down. “No fights,” she’d said, her arms crossed over her ample bosom. “No hassling my girls. When I say you’re cut off, you’re cut off. No fights! Got it?”
He and his buddies had all grinned and nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” they’d answered.
And still, all hell had broken loose.
“She expects your club to clean up the mess.”
Ty nodded. “Of course.”
“She’s closing the bar for the duration of the convention. But she already has a booth set up at the fairgrounds where she’ll be serving beer in the campground area—to keep the visitors off the road and out of her place. She wants you behind the bar with her.”
“What?” Ty sat straighter. He’d thought the last thing she’d want to do was spend more time looking at his face.
“For the duration,” Josh said with a firm nod. “In the meantime, your buddies are cleaning up her place. And she’ll have a bill you can all divvy up to pay for the damages.” Josh was silent for a long moment.
Ty’s brain was still swimming in tequila, so he was slow to realize Josh was waiting for something. He pushed up from his chair. “That’s it?”
One brow lifted. “Do you want it to be more?”
Ty cleared his throat. “I still have a job?”
Josh rolled his eyes. “Think you’re the first deputy in Caldera to get shit-faced and start a fight?”
Ty rocked back on his heels. “Won’t happen again, Sheriff.”
“I’m counting on that, Ty. Keep the fucking peace out there. Now, get home and get cleaned up. She needs you there by two.”
Ty left the sheriff’s office and strode back through the bullpen, this time feeling as though a weight had lifted off his shoulders. He still had a job and his badge. Things could have gone down so much worse—if Ruby had pressed charges. He had a lot to make up for to get back into her good graces.
“So, buddy,” Tank called out from a desk. “Couldn’t help hearing… You’re gonna be spending time with Ruby?”
Ty aimed a scowl his way. “I’ll be keeping the peace.”
“She’s gonna expect you to be helping her out. You’ll be handin’ out beers and mixin’ Cosmos.”
Ty huffed a breath. “I’ll be protecting her.”
“From behind the bar. Think she’s gonna let you just stand there when her staff is back at her place putting everything back to rights?”
“I’ll do whatever the woman wants. She wants me to mix a damn martini, I’ll figure it out.”
Deputy Roman Perez sat on the edge of the desk Tank occupied. “Sounds like Josh really laid the hammer down—you providing protection to Ruby.” He chuckled. “Maybe the job’s too hard for you, buddy.” He waggled his eyebrows. “If you need someone to show you how it’s done…”
Tank snorted. “Ruby’s hot. How hard can it get?” Then his eyes widened. “Oh.”
Perez laughed. “Yeah, I recommend baggy pants, man. The woman’s built like a brick house.”
Ty narrowed his eyes, not liking the deputy’s sly tone. “Maybe you should keep your comments to yourself…buddy.”
“Yeah,” Tank said, smacking Perez in the belly. “Be respectful.”
“I’m just sayin’…” Perez said, holding up his hands in surrender. “Keeping the peace might be hard when all those guys start crowding around to get a peek at her tits.”
Ty stiffened. “The only one who’s gonna peek at her tits…” He didn’t finish the sentence because he just realized what he’d said and his friends were busting a gut laughing at him.
Yeah, he was toast. And he’d have to look hard to find a pair of jeans loose enough to hide his attraction to the pretty bar owner.