Well, consider that wish granted. Here goes:
Thirty-two miles per hour in a sixty-five zone. Someone was getting a ticket tonight.
Eventually someone was getting a ticket, at least, because if they didn’t get up over forty, Tuck would be sitting here forever. May as well put his feet up and take a nap; rest up for his overnight shift.
And now they were stopping in the middle of the road.
John Tucker put down the radar gun and rolled up the window. Rather than wait for the driver to get to him, he pulled out of his spot and headed toward her, catching a glimpse of blonde hair as he passed. He pulled a U-turn at the wider part of the road and flashed his lights as he came up behind her so she would…
No. No freaking way he was seeing what he thought he was seeing.
He knew that bumper sticker. 5280 Denver.
He knew that GMC—intimately.
He knew exactly how soft all the driver’s long blonde hair felt as he threaded his hands through it.
Because once upon a time—six years back, when he’d been living in Denver—he’d been in that car. Been in the backseat of it, in fact, clothes every which way, watching her throw her head back, her hair cascading over her shoulders as she rode him.
It was one of his favorite memories from his Denver days. Possibly one of his favorite memories, period. And it majorly sucked that he was going to have to slap her with a drunk driving charge.
Now they were both stopped in the middle of the road. This was about to get awkward.
But it was his job, and as the newly promoted Chief of the Inspiration, Iowa, Police Department, Tuck had absolutely no excuse not to do it. He sounded the siren and hoped she got the hint to pull to the side of the road. When she did, he pulled over behind her. A blast of wind hit him as he got out of his patrol car. She rolled down the window as he approached, her bloodshot eyes widening in what he assumed was recognition.
“I need your license and registration, ma’am.”
He caught himself just before he winced. Had he seriously just called her ma’am?
She apparently felt the same way. Her eyes narrowed. “Did you really just…? You made me come four times in three hours and you call me ma’am?”
He, uh… Well, yeah. He was quite proud of that, in fact.
The making her come four times part, just to be clear. The ma’am thing, not so much.
“If you’re going to pull me over,” she was saying, “you could at least call me by my first name.”
Yes. That would absolutely be preferred. Except…
“You don’t remember my name, do you?” Rather than wait for him to confirm or deny, she bonked her head against the steering wheel. “So done,” she mumbled. “I am so done with this day.”
He cleared his throat. Because, no, he didn’t remember her name. Or maybe she’d never given it to him. He’d been too captivated by her mouth and the things she’d said she wanted to do with it for anything else to truly register.
She straightened up and glared at him—as if he were the problem here—before handing over her license and reaching for her registration. She’d also turned on the interior car lights, which was a bit of a surprise since it indicated a basic knowledge of getting-pulled-over SOP. Tuck didn’t think that was a good thing.
Nor was it a good thing when her lips settled into a grim line before she far-too-perkily asked, “Could you tell me what the problem is, Officer?”
Yes, he supposed he deserved that sneer at the end. He hadn’t told her he was a police officer that night. Some women liked the uniform; he generally tried to stay away from them. The problem was that a lot of women didn’t like it, and that was an issue, too.
He looked down at her license. Karen Carmichael. Ames address, thirty-seven years old. Huh. He would have pegged her for younger. She had a bright-eyed, innocent look about her. It was part of what had drawn his attention—not to mention the attention of more than a few other men in the bar that night. She’d come up to talk to him, though. Asked him to dance. Which, incidentally, had been an entirely new thing for him, as he generally did the asking. He was also generally more of a first-kiss-after-the-third-date kind of person. Always that kind of person, in fact, except for that night.
Nope, still didn’t regret it.
Handing the license back, he said, “Could you step out of the car?”
He ignored the glare she gave him as she shut off the car’s light, opened the car door, and stepped out.
“I’m pretty sure you need probable cause to pull me over,” she added, crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned against the door.
He very specifically did not let his eyes drift down past her neck. It was hard enough to concentrate on what he was doing at the moment; remembering how perfectly her breasts fit in his hands wasn’t going to do anything to help matters. “You drifted between lanes, drove well beneath the speed limit, and then came to a stop in the middle of the road. I had every right to pull you over.”
Her glare went nuclear. Took him straight from roasted marshmallow to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. But instead of lighting into him, she let her head fall back, dropped her arms to her sides, and breathed in deeply through her nose a few times. When she straightened up and met his gaze, she was cool and collected. “I’m not drunk.”
No, he’d realized that as soon as she’d opened her window to him, her bloodshot eyes notwithstanding. Something was going on, though; even a rookie cop would have figured that one out. Before he could decide on what approach to take, she snatched the penlight out of his chest pocket and held it out to him.
She wasn’t supposed to do that. No one did that. And if anyone else had, he probably would have…
Well, he had no clue because no one did that. Yet all he could do was watch the way her lips formed the words— “Here. Feel free to check.” —and flash back to the way those same lips had felt on his about-to-burst-into-flame skin.
He pushed the thought back as he took the penlight from her, careful not to make actual contact.
“You want me to do the walk and turn thing?” she was saying. “Stand on one leg? Say the alphabet backward?”
Yeah. Something was definitely going on. Her attitude was still up around DefCon 1 and she hadn’t backed down one bit. So he ran the tests, enough to confirm she was sober—which she was. But as he stepped back so she could get back into her car, he saw her eyes change. And something changed inside him as well. Enough of a something for him to step in closer. He only barely managed not to reach out to her. “Are you okay?”
She stared up at him, no less shocked than he was. Then her lips trembled. Tears spilled over and ran down her cheeks. She shook her head slowly, her voice no more than a whisper. “I had a really bad day.”
Tuck had had some pretty bad days himself. They haunted him regularly, pushed away only by thoughts of much better nights. Thoughts of her, in fact, from time to time. He wanted to draw her to him, fold her into his arms. But he was already dangerously close to crossing that hard line called, oh, professionalism so he resisted, instead asking, “Is there anything I can do?”
Dr. Karen Carmichael prides herself on being capable, optimistic and always in control. But even neurosurgeons have breaking points, especially as the holidays approach. When Karen finds herself on the side of the road, explaining to a cop that her less-than-stellar driving was due to stress and tears rather than too much booze, it's humiliating. When that cop turns out to be a one-night stand from her past, it's icing on the bad-day cake.
Officer John "Tuck" Tucker didn't expect to see Karen again after their night together. The circumstances may not be ideal, but convincing this beautiful, stubborn woman to get to know him with his clothes on is more fun than he could have imagined.
Karen swore she'd never fall for someone who risks his life for his job. She sees enough heartbreak at work without inviting it into her personal life, and she has no interest in becoming involved in the small town Tuck calls home. But despite valiant efforts to keep her walls up, her affection for Tuck is growing into something much stronger. With a life built around work alone looking less appealing by the day, Karen will have to take a leap of faith—and trust that Tuck will leap with her.