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Authors: Katherine Allred

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

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BOOK: Sweet Revenge
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She leaned over and snatched up one of the throw pillows they’d knocked to the floor. “Well for your information, I don’t want or need a husband. A nd if I ever do, it sure as hell won’t be you.” The pillow hit the side of his head with a muffled thud. “Now get out of my house!” He had lifted his arms to block another assault with the pillow. “Jess, please. Let me explai—”

“Out!” She roared the word, swinging the overstuffed pillow like a two-handed sword. From her left, Bubbles yowled and dived under a chair.

“Fine. You can put the pillow down. I’m going.” He stood and tucked his shirt in. “We’ll talk about this tomorrow after you’ve calmed down.”

“I’ll calm down when hell freezes over.” She drew back again and he held up a hand.

“Okay, okay.” He stopped in the back door, one hand on the knob. “I guess this means you don’t want me to kiss you goodnight, huh?” The pillow sailed through the air and slammed into the hastily closed door. “Bastard,” Jessie muttered. She’d get him back if it were the last thing she ever did. Suddenly she smiled as an idea flitted through her mind. Oh, yes. The sheriff was about to learn a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget.

* * * * *

Chase kicked himself every step of the way home. Yeah, he’d panicked when he realized what had happened, but he should have kept his mouth shut when Jessie told him she was on the Pill. Instead of holding her and telling her how wonderful she was, how he’d never experienced anything like that before in his life, he had hurt her. One look at her face had told him he’d gone too far.

He went through the darkened kitchen praying A my was in bed. If there was one thing he didn’t need right now it was the third degree from his daughter. Before he started up the stairs he glanced at the clock on the living room wall. Damn. Only eight-thirty. A nd sure enough, A my’s light was still on.

He rapped twice on her door. “I’m home, Pum’kin. Thirty more minutes and lights out. I’ll be in the shower.” Keeping his fingers crossed, he continued down the hall. He’d almost made it to his room when her door opened and she poked her head out.

“So what did you do?”

Guilt shot through him all over again and he shifted from one foot to the other. “Nothing much. Talked.”

“Did you ask her for a date?”

“No, as a matter of fact, I didn’t, Miss Nosy Rosy.”

“Dad!” Her tone was disgusted. “You were supposed to ask her. That’s why I left you there.”

“Well, I’m not a mind reader. Next time, wiggle your ears or something.”

“In your case, I think I’d better spell it out on flash cards. Night, Dad.” She sighed and closed her door.

“Hey! Did you just call me stupid?” There was a muffled giggle from her room but no other response. Maybe she had a point, he mused.

It was a pretty sorry state of affairs when your ten-year-old daughter started meddling in your love life. On the other hand, he sure hadn’t handled it very well on his own.

To say Jessie had surprised him was the understatement of all time. For the last few days he’d only needed to think about her and he was half-erect. But it hadn’t occurred to him that she might be feeling the same way. He’d hoped she would, of course. Eventually.

Slowly, he sank onto the side of the bed and ran a hand through his hair. He felt like the victim of a flash flood. Everything had happened so fast he was left stunned and reeling. There was only one thing he was sure of. It had been the most amazing thing that he’d ever felt in his life. He already wanted her again, even more now than he had before. A nd not just for thirty minutes on her couch. He wanted to take his time, make love to her all night long. Hold her while they talked about everything under the sun.

With a sigh he stood and headed for the shower. Somehow, he was going to have to make her listen to him.

Chapter Nine

For the first time in memory, Chase overslept on a workday. It was Jessie’s fault, of course. He’d lain in bed, wide awake for most of the night, remembering what it had felt like to love her. The need to see her, to just hold her for a few minutes, was a dull ache in his middle.

Surely she had calmed down enough to talk to him by now.

He turned onto Main Street and immediately slammed on his brakes. A huge crowd was gathered in front of the sheriff’s office, spilling into the street and blocking traffic. What the devil was going on?

Whipping the patrol car into the first parking space he came to, Chase climbed out, his eyes on Harley’s hat as the deputy tried to maintain some sort of crowd control. Fred and Jake were there too, when they should have been on patrol by now. Even as he stalked down the sidewalk, more people arrived. The noise level was deafening and a feeling of dread worked its way up his spine.

Jake spotted him first.

“Chase! Thank God you’re here. We were just about to call you.”

“What’s going on?”

The deputy shook his head. “I don’t think I can explain it. You’ll just have to see for yourself.” He gestured toward the sheriff’s office and Chase began to push his way through the mob.

The murmur of voices increased, sweeping through the crowd as people recognized him. A head, there was a surge of movement and bodies began to move aside, parting like the Red Sea until he had a clear view of the front of the building.

The first thing he saw was the banner. It stretched all the way across the brick above the plate glass window. The printing was in huge black letters and loudly proclaimed, “Never leave home without it.”

Puzzled, he lowered his eyes and came to a screeching halt as shock rippled though his body. He barely registered the clicking sounds of a camera as he stared in disbelief. Someone had blown up what appeared to be a couple hundred condoms and stuck them on every square inch of the window.

His eyes narrowed. Not someone, he realized as shock gave way to anger. Jessie. It was the only possible explanation. Jaw clenched until his teeth were in danger of snapping, he turned to face the crowd.

“Okay, folks. Show’s over. I want you all cleared out of here in two minutes or I’ll run you in for blocking traffic.” His heated gaze landed on Harley. “Get them down,” he snapped. “Now.”

Hands on his hips, he watched the crowd disburse then glanced across the street. The “open” sign was hanging on the door of Jessie’s studio. No doubt she’d watched the whole thing and was even now having herself a good laugh. The thought fueled his anger into a raging inferno.

Lowering his hands unconsciously into the position a gun-slinger adopted, he stalked across the two lanes, hitting the studio door hard enough to set the overhead bells clanking with alarm. His steps never faltered until he saw Jessie. A t first sight of her, his heart stumbled and his feet mimicked the action.

She was standing at the barre on one side of the room doing warmups, her shapely body encased in a skintight black leotard that left nothing to the imagination. Pink leg warmers covered her from knee to ankle, and the calf they held so lovingly was extended along the barre as she stretched to touch her toes.

A s soon as he started breathing again, he continued across the floor, desperately holding onto his anger.

Without looking up or stopping what she was doing, Jessie spoke. “If you’re here to apologize don’t bother. I’m not interested.”

“Neither am I.” He took a deep breath and pulled his handcuffs out. “Jessie James, you’re under arrest. Please exercise your right to remain silent.”

Her head snapped up and she glared at him as she removed her leg from the barre. “You can’t arrest me!”

“The hell I can’t.”

“On what charges?”

“Vandalism. Defacing public property. I’ll think of more later.” He glared back at her. “What did you do, stay up all night taping those things on?”

“Well, you know what they say, Sheriff. Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Bridget came to a sliding stop beside them. “Oh, my God. You did that, Jess?” She groaned. “I should have known.” She turned to Chase.

“You can’t arrest her! She’s got a class in twenty minutes!”

Chase ignored her, his gaze locked on Jessie’s as he opened the cuffs. “Hold your arms out.”

“No.” She promptly put her hands behind her back. “You wouldn’t dare arrest me.”

“Watch me.” Feigning a calm he was far from feeling, Chase returned the cuffs to his belt then started forward. For every step he took, Jessie took one backwards.

“Just stop right there, Martin,” she snarled. “You know damn well you deserved it.” Bridget looked from one of them to the other. “He deserved condoms all over his office? Why would he -“ Her words stopped abruptly as her eyes widened and her mouth formed a perfectly shaped “O” of surprise. “Uh, I think I’ll just wait in the office.” He continued to stalk Jessie across the room until her back was to the wall.

“I’m warning you, Chase. Not another step clos—”

A disgruntled squawk erupted when he scooped her up and tossed her over his shoulder. Without a word, he headed for the door.

“Put me down this instant, you Neanderthal!”

Chase paid no attention to the kicking, screaming and spewed obscenities as he carried her across the street. Other than tightening his grip on her thighs when she started beating on his back, he forced himself to show no reaction at all. A t least the condoms no longer adorned his office window.

Harley looked up when they entered the sheriff’s office, a grin spreading across his face. “Hey, Jess. Nice to have you back. Looking good.” He gave her rear end a thumbs-up sign.

“Shut up, Harley.” Jessie and Chase snarled the words in unison and the deputy’s grin widened even more.

“Here, let me get that for you.” Harley opened the door to the cellblock. “Looks like you’ve got your hands full right now, Chase.” A chuckle rumbled from his chest. “Oh, and Jess? Next time you might want to yell a little louder. I think a few folks in Dallas missed it.”

“This is police brutality,” Jessie spat, giving Chase’s back another whack with her fist. “I want my lawyer!” The metal door clanged shut behind them as Chase carried her into an empty cell and lowered her to her feet. Before she had time to react, he stepped out and slammed the bars shut. Jessie grabbed them while he retreated down the hall.

“Damn it! I know my rights. You have to let me make a phone call.” She tried to shake the bars without success. “Chase, you come back here!”

Silently, he made his way to his office, closed the door carefully behind him, then collapsed into his chair. A grin played at the corners of his mouth as he shook his head. Even in here the sounds of her outraged yells were audible. The woman had a set of lungs on her. A nd that wasn’t all she had. By the time he’d carried her across the street, the feel of her squirming body against his back had him hard as the Washington Monument.

He’d give them both a couple of hours to cool off, he decided, then go talk to her. A t least she couldn’t ignore him this time.

* * * * *

Where the heck was a tin cup when you needed one? Jessie glared around the bare cell. The only thing in it was a bunk with a dirty mattress, and it didn’t even have a leg she could break off and use to rattle the bars. Instead, it was supported by chains so the bed could be raised and fastened to the wall.

For a second she eyed the seatless commode, wondering if she could flush it fast enough to get it to overflow. There sure wasn’t anything to stop it up with.

It felt like she’d been here for hours, and she’d yelled until she was hoarse. A s far as she could tell, she was the only occupant on the block.

Hopefully, she looked up when the door at the end opened, but it was only Harley, carrying a covered tray. He slid it through the slot in the bars.

“Thought you might be hungry so I brought you some lunch. Hope you like meatloaf. It’s the special at the diner today.”

“Where’s Chase?” she croaked.

“He had to go out on a call. Should be back soon. Want me to tell him you’d like to see him?” Jessie stared at the deputy. Was the man deaf? Hadn’t she just spent the morning screaming that very thing at the top of her lungs? She bared her teeth in what she hoped looked like a smile. “Please.”

He nodded. “Sure thing. Sounds like a nasty sore throat you’ve got there. I put a cup of hot tea on the tray. Might help.” She barely restrained the urge to kick the tray across the cell as Harley left. She was thirsty, and right now anything liquid would help.

Sitting down on the floor, she lifted the lid from the tray. Thirty minutes later, when the door at the end of the hall opened again, she was still there. Without raising her head, she watched the booted feet stop outside her cell, saw the bars slide open, and then close again.

Chase squatted next to her, his hands dangling from arms he’d crossed loosely over his knees. “A re you ready to talk now?”

“A m I still under arrest?”

“Officially, you never were.”

Jessie unfolded her legs and stood. “In that case, let me out of here.”

Chase also stood. “Not until we talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“Then you’ll listen. I’m not letting you out until you do, Jess.”

She turned her back to him and covered her ears with her hands. “You deserved it,” she muttered. Damn it, she would not break down and cry.

Chase’s hands closed around her wrists and he gently pried her hands away from her ears, holding them as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. “You’re right. I did deserve it. What I did last night was inexcusable, so I’m not even going to ask you to forgive me.” His voice was soft, his breath on her ear warm. “Jess, all I’m asking for is the chance to explain. Will you let me do that much?” He had said she was right. She took a deep breath and nodded. Immediately he released her hands, but kept his arms around her waist.

“Last night was the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me, Jess. I’ve never felt anything that even came close before. But when my brain started working again and I realized we hadn’t used protection, I panicked. The last time that happened was with Becky, during our last year of school.”

He hesitated and then tightened his arms to pull her back against him. “I didn’t love Becky. I can’t even say I thought I was in love with her. The truth is, I was an eighteen-year-old boy and she was available. I had too many plans to let myself get emotionally involved with anyone. I already had a full scholarship to the University of Michigan and after I graduated from there I was going to Quantico and work for the FBI. That’s why I always took precautions. I kept a box of condoms in my car and used them.” He turned Jessie to face him and gazed down into her eyes. “One night I went to take one out and the box was empty. By then things had progressed to the point where I wasn’t willing to stop, so I told myself that it wouldn’t hurt anything just this once. Nobody gets pregnant from just one time. So I didn’t use anything.”

A shudder racked his body and he dropped his forehead to hers. “Three weeks later Becky told me she was pregnant. That last month of school before we graduated was one of the hardest I’ve ever lived through. I knew what I had to do. I gave up the scholarship and all my plans, and I married her. A nd the first time I held A my I knew I’d done the right thing. She was so beautiful, Jess. Maybe I didn’t love Becky, but I did love A my, right from the beginning.”

Jessie pulled her head back and cupped his cheek with her hand. “I know you did. Even a blind man could see how much you love her.

No matter how bad it was with Becky, A my will always be your daughter.”

Slowly he shook his head without releasing her gaze. “That’s just it, Jess. A my isn’t my daughter. Not biologically.” She couldn’t stifle her gasp of shock. “Oh, God. A re you sure?”

“Positive. I didn’t know it myself until A my was about eighteen months old. Becky had gone out to the roadhouse that night and didn’t come home until almost daylight. I waited up for her. By then I’d had enough. I told her I was going to take A my and divorce her. She laughed at me. A nd then she told me the truth. She was already pregnant the night I didn’t use the condom, but the baby’s father wouldn’t have her. She’s the one who took the last condoms out of the box and threw them away. She knew it was the only way to convince me the baby was mine.”

“Maybe she lied to hurt you?”

“No, it’s probably the only time in her life that she ever told the truth, and she only did it then to keep me from divorcing her. You see, I took A my to the hospital in Houston and they did a DNA test. She’s not mine, Jess. A fter that, every time I mentioned a divorce Becky would threaten to take A my and never let me see her again.”

“God, Chase, I’m sorry. Does A my know?”

“No.” He sighed. “I suppose I’ll have to tell her someday, but not until she’s old enough to handle it. Becky and I, and now you, are the only ones who know.”

Jessie leaned her head onto his chest. “Why did you tell me?”

He rested his chin on the top of her head. “Because I wanted you to understand that my reaction last night didn’t have anything to do with you personally. I didn’t lie earlier when I said I think two people should care about each other before their relationship gets serious. I care about you, Jess. I’ve been alone for a long time. Since school, I guess. A nd I didn’t even realize what that big empty hole inside me was until you came home. That’s why I’m asking you if we can start all over. I promise I’ll try not to screw it up. I want to really get to know you.” Silence reigned for a moment. “Then know this, Chase. I’m not Becky. I’ve been on my own for a long time now. I don’t need a husband to take care of or support me. I’m perfectly capable of doing both myself. For a while, the studio is going to be taking most of my time. I’ll have classes not only during the day, but some evenings too. The only day off I’ll have is Sunday.” He sighed. “In other words, you aren’t going to have a lot of time to spend with me. A nd A my complicates things even more. Not only is she going to want part of your time, but I can’t leave her alone and I can’t keep sending to her A unt Ruth’s every night.”

BOOK: Sweet Revenge
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