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By Heather Graham
Center Point Large PrintCopyright © 2006 Heather Graham
All right reserved.
At first it seemed that the sound of the siren wasn't even penetrating the driver's mind.
Either that, or the Lexus intended to race him all the way across the lower portion of the state to the city of Naples, Jesse Crane thought irritably.
It was natural to speed out here — it felt like one of the world's longest, strangest drives, with mile after mile of grass and muck and canal, interspersed by a gas station or tackle shop here or there, the airboat rides, and the Miccosukee camps.
But after you passed the casino, heading west, traces of civilization became few and far between. Despite that, the road was a treacherous one. Impatient drivers trying to pass had caused many a traffic fatality.
He overlooked it when someone seemed competent and was going a rational number of miles over the limit.
But this Lexus
At last the driver seemed to become aware that he was trailing, the siren blazing. The Lexus pulled over on the embankment.
As Jesse pulled his cruiser off on the shoulder, he saw a blond head dipping — the occupant was obviously searching for the registration. Or a gun? There were plenty of toughs who made it out to this section of the world, because there was enough godforsaken space out here for all manner of things togo on. He trod carefully. He was a man who always trod carefully.
As he approached the car, the window came down and a blond head appeared. He was startled, faltering for a fraction of a second.
The woman was stunning. Not just attractive. Stunning. She had the kind of golden beauty that was almost spellbinding. Blond hair that caught the daylight. Delicate features. Huge eyes that reflected a multitude of colors: green, brown, rimmed with gray. Sweeping lashes. Full lips, colored in shell-pink gloss. Perfect for her light complexion and hair.
"Was I speeding?" She sounded as if he were merely a distraction in her important life.
Yeah, the kind of beauty that was almost spellbinding. But there was also something about her that was irritating as hell!
The soft sound of a splash drew his attention. Her head jerked around, and she shuddered as they both looked toward the canal. A small alligator had left its sunning spot on the high mud and slipped into the water.
Then she turned back to him and gave him her full attention. She studied him for a moment. "Is this a joke?"
"No, ma'am. No joke," he said curtly. "License and registration, please."
"Was I speeding?" she asked again, and her seriousness was well done, especially after her earlier remark.
"Speeding? Oh, yeah," he said. "License and registration, please."
"Surely I wasn't going that fast," she said. She was staring at him, not distracted anymore, and frowning. "Are you really a cop?" she demanded suddenly.
She twisted around. "That's not a Metro-Dade car."
"No, I'm not Metro-Dade."
"Then — "
"Miccosukee. Indian police," he said curtly.
"Indian police?" she said, and looked back to him. His temper rose. He felt as if he might as well have said play police, or pretend police.
"This is my jurisdiction," he said curtly. "One more time. License and registration."
She gritted her teeth, staring at him, antagonism replacing the curiosity in her eyes. Then, every movement irate, she dug into the glove compartment. "Registration," she snapped, handing him the document.
"And license," he said politely.
"Yes, of course. I need to get it."
"Do you know how fast you were going?"
"Um not that far over the speed limit, surely?"
"Way over," he told her.'see that sign? It says fifty-five. You were topping that by thirty miles an hour."
"I'm sorry," she said. "It didn't feel like I was going that fast."
She dug in her handbag, which was tightly packed and jumbled, in contrast to the businesslike appearance of the pale blue jacket she wore over a tailored shirt. He began writing the ticket. She produced her license. He kept writing. Her fingers, long, elegant, curled tightly around the steering wheel. "I don't know what's waiting for you in Naples, Miss Fortier, but it's not worth dying for. And if you're not worried about killing yourself, try to remember that you could kill someone else. Slow down on this road."
"I still don't believe I was going that fast," she murmured.
"Trust me, you were," he assured her curtly. He didn't know why she was getting beneath his skin to such a degree. She was passing through. Lots of people tried to speed their way through, east to west, west to east, completely careless of their surroundings, immune to the fact that the populations of Seminoles and Miccosukees in the area might be small, but they existed.
And their lives were as important as any others. "Fine, then," she murmured, as if barely aware of him, just anxious to be on her way.
"Hey!" He demanded her attention.
She blinked, staring at him. She definitely seemed distracted. And yet, when she stared at him, it was with a strange interest. As if she wanted to listen but somehow couldn't.
"Slow down," he repeated softly and firmly. She nodded curtly and reached out, accepting her license and registration back, along with the ticket he had written.
Then she shook her head slightly, trying to control her temper. "Thanks," she muttered.
"I'm a real cop, and it's a real ticket, Ms. Fortier."
"Yes, thank you. I'll pay it, with real money," she said sweetly.
He forced a grim smile in return. Spoiled little rich girl, heading from the playgrounds of Miami Beach to the playgrounds of the western coast of the state.
He tipped his hat, grateful that she couldn't know what he was thinking. His sunglasses were darkly tinted, well able to hide his thoughts. "Good day, Miss Fortier."
He turned to leave. "Jerk!" he heard her mutter.
He stiffened, straightened, turned back. "Pardon? Did you say something?" he asked politely. She forced a smile. "I said good day to you, too, Officer."
"That's what I thought you said," he told her, turning to go. "Bitch," he murmured beneath his breath.
Or, at least, he thought he'd murmured beneath his breath.
Excerpted from Suspicious by Heather Graham Copyright © 2006 by Heather Graham. Excerpted by permission.
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