Enjoy this bonus scene from Paula Altenburg’s latest release, The Montana Sheriff!
Sheriff Dan McKillop hung up the landline, kicked back in his chair, and dropped his bootheels on his desk so he could stare at the stain on the ceiling of his office in comfort. He liked to do that when he was thinking, and right now, he was thinking he wouldn’t want to be in his friend Zack McGregor’s shoes. Posey Davies was pretty enough, but a pretty heiress with a small child and a greedy ex-husband came with baggage no sane man would want.
The greedy ex-husband was currently recovering from a slight concussion in one of the jail cells. He was making noise about pressing assault charges against Zack, but he could make as much noise as he wanted and it wouldn’t get him far. He’d swung at Zack first. The guy got the concussion when his head hit the ground. Dan, and Zack’s oldest brother Jake, had witnessed the whole, short-lived fight. Dan would give him a few hours to cool off, then he’d explain to him how the law worked in Montana and advise him it might be best for his health if he never came back.
That was the thing about money—it brought out the worst in people, especially those who’d never had it. Dan was happy enough with his paycheck. It paid the bills.
The landline rang again. He checked the number. Unknown.
“So. Dan,” a sensual, very feminine, voice said when he answered. “For a sheriff, you’re a hard man to track down. Did you really mean to let me deploy without saying goodbye?”
Dan’s heart leaped a track field full of hurdles. Talk about baggage. Talk about something—or someone—that brought out the worst in a man.
Talk about trouble. He’d ignored the fluster of unknown calls coming in on his cellphone the past week. He couldn’t ignore them at work.
“Yeah. I did,” he replied, once he started breathing again. Andy’s idea of saying goodbye generally involved getting naked and dirty and always left him wanting a whole lot more of her than she was willing to give.
He was done.
They’d been having casual sex since they were fourteen. Correction. The sex had been casual to her. Dan had been waiting fifteen years for her to get that wild streak out of her system. And he’d finally accepted that it wasn’t likely to happen.
“Where are you?” he asked, because he was stupid.
There was a bit of a delay and a whole lot of crackle on her end of the line. “Doesn’t matter.”
He hadn’t really expected an answer, other than that he’d hoped she was somewhere safe, which was highly unlikely. She was a weapons expert and sharpshooter who traveled all over the world, mostly to places the military didn’t discuss. What she lacked in self-awareness she made up for in balls. He’d give her that.
“So, sheriff. What are you wearing?”
He had to laugh, even though every inch of him reacted to the blatant sex in her tone. “Really, Andy? Phone sex? That’s why you’ve been trying to call me?”
“You can think of a better reason?”
He could think of a dozen. Tell me you’re safe. Tell me you miss me. Tell me you’re coming home… None of those things were going to happen.
“I guess maybe I should have taken the time to talk to you when you were home,” Dan said. He took a deep breath and stared hard at the ceiling. “If all I’m after is sex, I can get that from dozens of women.”
“Someone thinks a lot of himself.”
“That’s just it, Andy. I do. And I wish you thought more of yourself.”
Her voice gained a sharp edge that scraped across the airwaves from wherever she was. “I like who I am. I like what I do. You should try taking a few risks and live life a little.”
He was the county sheriff. He took plenty of risks in his line of work. But he took them to save lives, not for fun. “The difference between you and me is that the greater the odds are against you, the better you like them.”
“There’s no talking to you when you’re like this. I’ll find another bump buddy. One who doesn’t get all sentimental on me. Call me the next time I’m home. Or don’t. I don’t care.”
He closed his eyes. She was exciting. Mysterious. Unattainable. And finally, he’d had enough. A bump buddy was all he’d ever been to her and ever would be. She’d never change. She loved nothing and no one, not even herself. Right now, Zack McGregor’s problems with Posey and her baggage looked pretty damned insignificant. At least Zack stood a chance.
There was no way to sweeten this. “I’m not interested in being a bump buddy to you. I want more. I want a family. I’ve loved you since we were in first grade and I want you to love me back. But you don’t.”
The silence went on for so long he wondered if they’d lost their connection. When she finally spoke, she was impatient. “Why did you have to go and complicate things? Why couldn’t you leave it alone? I never asked you to love me.”
A tight knot inside him broke free. “You’re right. This is on me and I’ve let things go on long enough. Too long. Take care of yourself,” he said, and he meant it, even though he was wasting his breath. “But don’t call me again. I’m moving on.” He meant that too. He wasn’t waiting for her any longer. She’d never wanted him to. At least he now knew for certain.
“Bite me,” she said, before hanging up.
He set the phone receiver in its cradle, then returned to examining the stain on the ceiling.