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Keith was a nice guy, but throw a leather jacket on him and he'd still only be a nice guy. He lacked that charisma, that swarthy charm, those vibrant amber-gold eyes of a man like Caelan Harlowe.

To be honest, I was actually relieved that the doorbell had rung exactly when it did. Keith had had his arm draped over my shoulder, his lips about two inches from my own. I'd eased as far down the couch as I could to escape my date (it was a mistake, I knew it the second I agreed to let Lisa set me up) and had run out of room, and time.

We'd been watching the Notebook. Keith was bored with watching. He curled a strand of my brown hair around his finger. "So...," he said in his mellow, book-on-tape voice.

"So," I replied, squishing the popcorn tub between us as he leaned. "This isn't—"


"Ignore it," Keith murmured, unaware how close I'd been to falling over the couch arm to dodge the lips of a man about as exciting as pea soup. 

Since he walked through the door, I'd done everything to discourage him: picked my braid into a frizzy knot, snorted my pizza like a wild hog, hell, I'd even slipped into the kitchen to crunch a garlic clove. This was the problem with agreeing to a little date at home: you had no escape, especially when your roommate and her boyfriend ditch you to go to a real movie after you've already ordered pizza.

Bzzzt. Bzzt.

"Sounds important," I insisted, flinging myself off our shared cushion. Straightening my baggy sweatshirt while Keith grunted a disappointed, "Hey!" from the couch, I headed for the entryway.

I opened the front door and came nose-to-chest with the sort of man I'd been hoping Keith would be. Tall. Muscular. Tan. Hair as dark as a raven's wing. Svelte. The rangy sort of handsome that makes you think hard to find words like 'svelte.' He wore a brown leather jacket, a dark button-down, and a pair of jeans somewhere between fitted and loose. In a smooth motion he shifted his jacket back to reveal a gold badge. With a ballpoint pen he tipped a non-existent hat to me. His other hand gripped a small notepad. 

"Sorry to bother you, Ma'am," he said. A drop of the honeyed South sweetened the typical New Englander tone.

His eyes locked on mine. Even though it was a warm spring night down in the Connecticut valley, I felt myself melting into a puddle of mush. "Ah, um. It's cool." I laid my hand against the door frame and rested my head against the white paint gently, admiring the view. "I'm a mess."

He flashed a brilliant smile, one that quickly tipped into a confused frown. "If this is a bad time...?"

I smiled back at him, too caught up in that dazzling grin to immediately catch on to my mistake. 

"You're a mess?" he prompted after a polite moment. 

"Oh! No. I'm a miss. A Miss. Miss Davins." Blushing, I dusted crumbs off my shirt and ran a hand over my ratty braid. "Not a ma'am. I'm not old. I mean, old enough....But you know, I am in a bit of a pickle."

He raised a dark eyebrow.

"Marcy? Who's there?" Keith's shoes squeaked across the tile as he came to stand at my back.

I looked from the man on my porch to the one behind me. "This is..." 

"Sheriff Caelan Harlowe," the handsome stranger supplied, offering his hand to each of us. 

"This is my date, Accountant Keith."

As Keith laid his pasty palm on the sheriff's, I glanced down at my date's shoes. They were on. Reaching behind him, I grabbed his coat. This was possibly my one and only chance to ditch Keith, even if I came across like a jerk. I wasn't trying to impress Keith, anyway, and I hated making people upset, which led to bad, lagging relationships whenever they soured because I felt too horrible to breakup. 

"He was just leaving," I added, shoving his coat into his arms.

"There's still like half an hour left—"

Sheriff Harlowe tapped his notebook, passing on an apologetic, "If it weren't important, I would happily let you two lovebirds nest, but I need to speak with Miss Davins in private."

I glanced at Keith a little too triumphantly than was appropriate. "Maybe some other time," I said joylessly. When Lisa was home to sit between us.

Keith, bless his boring, clean-shaven soul, wasn't the sort of man to stand up to a mall security guard, let alone a sheriff.  He collected his keys. I dodged his kiss and wound up with an awkward peck on the forehead, after which Sheriff Harlowe and I watched Keith get into his car and pull out of the driveway.

"It's not private-conversation important," he said to me as the white Chevy putted down the street. Turning, he glanced beyond me to the living room at the end of the hall. "But I do need to speak with you, if that's alright?"

"By all means," I said, nervous and giddy all at once. I stepped away from the door, watched him duck his head to enter. He was the sexiest thing to set foot inside our home since we'd rented Magic Mike on blueray dvd. 

The moment the sheriff crossed the threshold his nose wrinkled. He stopped, stiffened, then sneezed. "Do you—?"

"Two Maine Coons," I said, searching the hall for sign of either cat. "We can talk on the porch if you'd prefer. You're standing in the middle of suburban utopia. My neighbors only come outside to water flowers, cut their lawns, and barbecue. Private enough."

"Here is fine," he said, sneezing again. I shut the door. "Do you know a Mr."—he consulted the notepad—"Stephen Vilkas?"

"He lives on the end of the block, there." I gestured down the cul-de-sac, to the  yellow, two story classic colonial with the high backyard fence. "I can't say I've seen him much. He in trouble?"

"Possibly," the sheriff mused. "You say you haven't seen him much. Do you know what he looks like?"

I shrugged. "Everyone does. Big guy. Tattoos. Lots of muscle. He's the only one who didn't put Christmas decorations out last year. The neighbors had a fit. Tammy does a light show every year. The news came. His house was all blacked out." I didn't want to stereotype, but if someone was causing trouble around these parts, the mysterious, wife-stealing, hunky motorcycle dealership owner seemed the best fit.

"And when did you see him last?"

I shook my head, discreetly trying to smooth my hair into less of a disaster. "Wednesday night, maybe? He doesn't speak to any of us. Keeps to his crew."

"A crew?"

"He's a motorcycle dealer. Far as I know, he also rides along with some guys."

The Sheriff removed a small business card from his pocket, which he pressed into my palm. "If you see he's home, call this number. If you see him out tonight, lock your doors and call immediately. That sound alright to you?"

Nodding, I asked, "What'd he do?"

The sheriff shook his head. "Thank you for your help, Miss Davins. You have a good evening now." With a sneeze and another tip of his invisible hat, the man of my dreams (well, I hoped he'd be in them when I went to sleep) walked out the door.

I glanced down at the card in my hand—no sheriff's office or country district listed. Just a phone number in black ink.

Samson, the larger of my two cats, padded quietly to my feet, sat down, and mewed for the dinner I'd forgotten to serve him and his adopted sister. Setting the card on the hall table, I headed for the kitchen.

But not before locking the door and peeking through the shades at my quiet, cozy neighborhood.

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