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Val reached across the counter and grabbed the sleeve of Sheriff Roy Lee's blue uniform. "I swear on all that's holy, Roy Lee, if you called the ranch and told my daddy, I'm gonna kick your butt from here to Helena."
"Calm down, Val. You know me better than that." Roy Lee pried her fingers off his shirt and stepped back out of harm's way. "Besides, what you and Sam have together is none of my business."
"There is no Sam and me!" Val squealed, clamped her mouth shut and glared at Roy Lee. "How could you bring him here?"
"I didn't. He came back on his own."
She whipped around and stomped to the end of the bar. "Sometimes I hate you, Roy Lee."
"Aw, Val. You don't mean that." Roy Lee chuckled and glanced at the door where Sam, Val's ex boyfriend and the one true love of her life, was going to walk through at any moment. "I did come over to warn you he was back in town, didn't I?"
Val scrubbed at the barbeque sauce dried onto the counter. Sam Turner. The man she compared everyone else to. The guy who told her to grow up before hopping in his truck and driving away from his home, her and everything they had together. She used her fingernail to lift the stain. It had taken her two minutes after the dust settled for the truth to hit her upside the head and leave a hole in her heart the size of Montana.
Sam's "nine month" stint riding the Albany circuit, busting broncos, lasted two long years. Twenty-four months andshe tapped her finger on the barthirteen days. Her stomach tightened and she wasn't sure if she wanted to run off into the bathroom and throw up, or hit someone hard. She turned her head and glared at Roy Lee.
"Oh no you don't, honey." He threw his hands in the air and stepped back from the bar. "You can't hit the messenger. Besides, I'm wearing my uniform. That'd be assault on an officer and land you in front of the county judge."
She stormed back to his side. "What's he want? Why's he coming here?"
"Relax." Roy Lee sat down on the bar stool. "He hasn't mentioned your name at all. I don't even think he realizes this place is yours yet."
Roadkill. She was a possum in the middle of the road, and Roy Lee just drove his patrol car over her again. Thump. Thump. "You just had to make sure I was dead, didn't you?"
"Huh?" He scratched the short hair under his hat.
"Nevermind." She tossed the rag under the counter and washed her hands. "Will you do me a favor?"
"Depends. It doesn't involve stealing Janice's cow again, does it?" Roy Lee popped a handful of peanuts in his mouth and grinned. "What's it been five years since I helped you get back at her for nominating you for homecoming queen?"
"This is serious, Roy Lee." She leaned forward. "Watch the bar for me for a couple of minutes, 'kay?"
"You're not skipping out, are you?"
She shook her head. "I need some fresh air."
He lost his smile and nodded. "Sure, darling. You've got five minutes tops. If you don't come back, I'm putting an APB out on you."
Val patted his cheek and escaped out the door to the kitchen. "Cute, Roy Lee. Real cute."
The normally relaxed atmosphere of the bar kept her nerves on even ground most days, but from the second Roy Lee walked in and announced Sam Turner was on his way over, she'd morphed right back into being the heartsick fool she was two years ago.
Letting the back door close, she leaned against the cold brick. Snow fluttered from the sky, and she tilted her head back letting the little specks of ice land on her overheated skin. Maybe the freezing temperatures would tamp down the warmth growing inside her at the mere mention of Sam. Damn Sam.