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IAN SQUINTED against the sun, the glare from the wind-shield piercing his head like a sharp knife. He'd spent the previous evening with his brothers, drinking far too much beer. It wasn't really a problem since it was Saturday, and as police chief of Bonnett Harbor, he was off the clock. Still, he had to keep an eye on things, at least until he got a cup of coffee and made plans for the rest of his day.
He glanced toward the back of the Mustang, its ragtop neatly folded behind the backseat. A little shade would probably help to get rid of his headache, but riding around with the top up was sacrilege on a beautiful June day like today. He pulled up to the light at Main and Harbor and waited to turn right, knowing it would take precisely thirty-two seconds to change.
"He's doing it again."
Startled, Ian jumped, then glanced over at the elderly woman leaning into the passenger's side of his car. He groaned inwardly and rubbed his forehead. "Mrs. Fibbler. How are you today?"
"You said you'd talk to him," she snapped. "But he's still putting his trash on my side of curb."
The pounding in Ian's head intensified by a factor of ten. "Mrs. Fibbler, technically the land between the sidewalk and the curb isn't yours. It belongs to the town. That's why we can plant trees there without having to ask your permission. I know, you mow the grass there, and by doing that, you believe it's part of your... domain. But I can't stop Mr. Cuddleston from putting his garbage out where he wants. As long as it's on the curb on Tuesday morning then we're all happy."
She frowned, her little flowered straw hat sitting crookedly on her head, giving her a slightly crazed look. "But you promisedyou'd talk to him."
The light turned green and Ian stuck his hand out and waved the cars behind him ahead. "Did you ever think Mr. Cuddleston does this because he knows you're going to come over and yell at him? I think he likes you, Mrs. Fibbler. And I think, if you were a little nicer to him, you two might..."
She gasped. "Chief Quinn! How dare you think that I would--"
"Become better neighbors," Ian finished. "That's what I was going to say."
She stood up and smoothed her hands over her flowered housedress. "It's only been five years since my Sherman passed on. I'm still in mourning."
Ian sent her a disarming smile, one he'd used so often in his work as police chief. "You're an attractive lady, Mrs. Fibbler. A man like Mr. Cuddleston would have to be blind not to see that." He congratulated himself when a tiny smile crept across her stern expression. It was a wonder how little he used his police training here in Bonnett Harbor and how much he relied on his charm.
"Do you really think he's--" She paused and pressed her palm to her chest, her cheeks coloring with a modest blush. "I--I suppose I could offer an olive branch. Perhaps invite him for dinner?"
"As chief of police, I'd have to say that's a brilliant course of action, Mrs. Fibbler. Brilliant."
The elderly lady bustled off down the sidewalk, a wide smile now beaming from her face, her shopping bag clutched to her chest. She turned back once and gave Ian a little wave and Ian returned the gesture with a weak smile.
"Another damsel in distress rescued from certain danger," he murmured.
When he'd moved back to Bonnett Harbor from Providence two years ago, he'd never expected his social life to take such a hit. It had been easy to date in the city, the available women in endless supply. But here, everyone knew him. If he chose to date someone in town, the entire population knew the details within a day or two. The out-of-town affairs had been satisfying, though short-lived, since his work seemed to consume most of his free time. In the past year, he'd dated three women for a grand total of thirteen weeks.
Hell, he could almost imagine himself as Mr. Cuddleston in a few years, fighting over garbage simply to get a woman's attention. He looked up at the light as it turned red again, then tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, impatient to get his coffee and escape before any other problems arose.
A small sports car pulled up beside him and he looked over at the Triumph Spitfire. Racing green, he mused. Ian had always appreciated vintage cars and this one was one of his favorites. He glanced at the driver, ready to nod his approval, but his breath caught in his throat and suddenly he felt as if he'd been run over by a truck.
Her long dark hair whipped in the breeze, the sun shining on a perfect profile. She tipped her face up and it caught the light just right and Ian continued to hold his breath. She was beautiful. No, more than beautiful. He searched for the appropriate word, but he'd never been much of a poet. Ravishing didn't seem to fit. Stunning wasn't descriptive enough. He swallowed hard. "Breathtaking," he murmured to himself. It was the best he could do.
She wore a dress made of some fabric that clung to her body like a second skin. Tiny straps held it up, but the neckline dipped low, revealing the tops of perfect breasts. He craned his neck to look more closely, his gaze drifting down to where the dress revealed a long length of leg.
Ian glanced down at his lap, stunned to see he'd become aroused. The woman continued to wait for the light to change. And then, as if she'd felt his eyes upon her, she glanced over at him. They stared at each other for a long, intense moment and the air between them seemed to buzz and crackle, as if a lightning bolt had just struck the space between their cars.
She brushed her hair back from her face, then, slowly, lifted her sunglasses, the smile still twitching at her mouth. Her lips were painted deep red and her eyes were as dark as her hair and ringed with thick lashes. She pursed her lips slightly, as if to blow him a kiss, then let her glasses drop back down.
A moment later she was gone, the car speeding off down Harbor Street. At first, Ian wasn't sure what to do. Then he quickly read the license plate number, committing it to memory. He yanked the steering wheel to the left, determined to give chase and find an excuse for stopping her later. But he popped the clutch too quickly and the Mustang stalled. With a curse, he tried to start the car again. When it finally rumbled to life, she was gone.
As he pulled onto Main Street, Ian grabbed his cell phone and dialed the station. "Sally, I need you to run a plate for me. It's a New York plate. T-B-7-8-4-1?"
"10-4, Boss," Sally said.
"Pull her registration and get me a license, as well. Anything else you can find. I'm on my way in."
"Mr. Cuddleston called this morning. It seems he found his trash cans emptied on his front lawn. He wants you to charge Mrs. Fibbler with trespassing and vandalism."
"I think I've got that problem solved," Ian said. "Just get me that information."
He drove the rest of the way to the station caught up in a fantasy about the woman he'd just seen. He'd always played by the rules and just the thought of pulling her over for no good reason went completely against his grain. But she was different from the girls he usually found attractive, coy blondes with sexy bodies and healthy sexual appetites. Here was a woman who, while equally sexy, could only be called...exotic. His curiosity was piqued and that so rarely happened anymore.
Ian pulled the Mustang into the parking lot behind the station, then hopped out, his thoughts completely occupied with finding her. But as he turned to slam the car door, he stopped short, a dim memory from the previous night floating to the surface of his thoughts.
The celibacy pact. "Oh, hell," he muttered. He shouldn't even be thinking about women, much less chasing one around town! Just last night, he and his brothers had made a pact to swear off women for the next three months. It had been a silly idea and Ian wasn't even sure why he'd agreed to it. He probably wouldn't have if his love life hadn't been pure crap lately. But it was a serious promise, sworn by all three brothers on the gold medallion that had been a holy relic to them since their childhood days in Ireland.
Maybe the plan wasn't such a bad idea. If he stopped looking for the right woman, the right woman might come along. Not that the woman in the green Triumph was the right woman. From the look of her, she didn't belong in Bonnett Harbor--or in his bed.
Besides, he did have his reputation to protect. Though he was a healthy, thirty-one-year-old male, he might as well have been the town minister. Why couldn't the citizens of Bonnett Harbor understand he was just a regular guy who wore a uniform and badge to work? He wasn't always a paragon of integrity and honor. On occasion, he enjoyed being just a tiny bit bad--and sometimes, on occasion, there was a woman involved.
The interior of the police station was cool and quiet as Ian walked inside. The only sounds came from the ring of the phones and the hiss of the air-conditioning. Sally Hughes, the desk clerk, smiled at him as he strolled in.
"Morning, Chief," she said, holding out a blue file folder. "The car is registered to a Marisol Arantes. Address in Manhattan. Pricey neighborhood in SoHo from what I can tell. No criminal record. She doesn't own property in the county, at least not in her name. So what did she do?"
"Nothing," Ian murmured. "So she's not a local?" Sally shook her head. "Nope. Maybe she was here visiting friends. You want me to dig a little deeper?"
"Thanks," he said, closing the folder. "But there's no need." Ian walked back to his office. Bonnett Harbor was a small town of about 2,500 year-round residents and a full-time police force of eight officers. Nothing much happened beyond a few noisy parties each weekend and the occasional traffic stop. Seeing Marisol Arantes was the most interesting thing that had happened to Ian in at least the past month or two.
He sat down at his desk and opened the folder, pulling out the enlargement of her driver's license photo. Even the DMV had gotten it right. She stared out at him with a sultry look, her lashes lowered, her smile so--He sighed. What would it be like to have a woman like that in his life...in his bed? To have the time to explore her passionate side, to learn every curve and angle of her body, memorize the nuances of her voice and her touch.
"There is one other thing," Sally said, poking her head in the office door.
Ian slammed the folder shut and looked up at her. "It's Saturday. This is my day off, isn't it?"
"You're here, aren't you? I tried to give this to one of the guys on patrol, but they both agreed you ought to handle it since it wasn't an emergency situation and you have a way with people."
"Right," Ian said, standing. He tucked the folder under his arm. "What is it?"
"There's a new tenant over on Bay Street, in that shop with the two little pine trees in front of it. A few members of the biddy brigade have called in to complain there's something obscene displayed in the front window."
"Obscene? Like what?"
"They couldn't bring themselves to say. My guess, a naked breast. They practically died of the vapors when Carmen at the video store put up that poster for that French movie. You know, the one where the lady's dress was half on and half off."
"All right," Ian said. "I'll go check it out, but then I'm done for the day. Understand? Anything else comes in and the boys handle it."
Sally gave him a smart salute as he walked back through the front doors. "You got it, Chief. Enjoy your weekend."