Bel wants safety.
Sheriff Quincey Yarborough wants peace and quiet.
The stalker wants to kill Bel.
Someone’s going to get what he or she wants.
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Sheriff Quincey Yarborough leaned against his cruiser and surveyed the three blocks of downtown San Remo. Just another hot almost-summer day. Peaceful. Quiet. Just the way he liked it. No choppers, no gunfire, no bombs.
Except...he straightened as he caught sight of the woman window-shopping along the other side of the street. No bombs, but a definite bombshell. She stood out like a gleaming Thoroughbred in a herd of mustangs. While he watched, she paused at the bookstore, looked at the window display and darted inside.
He relaxed against the car again. “Tourist season, for sure,” he said to his deputy.
“Cowabunga. She must be lost, dude.”
“Hanson, how many times have I told you—”
“Not to call you ‘dude’. Sorry, sir. She must be lost, sir.” Hanson grinned. “She isn't one of those fancy yuppies from The Haciendas, and if she's a tourist, she must be lost. We don't get epic babes like that. Not in San Remo.”
Too true. Quincey sighed. He could use an epic babe about now. Even a short-term one. Especially a short-term one.
“Woman looks like that, she does all her shoppin' in—in—Paris. Or New York,” Deputy Hanson said. “Or in one of those fancy boutique stores in Santa Barbara,” he added with a sneer. “Ain'tgonna be nothin' in any of our real stores she wants, that's for sure.”
Quincey didn't care where she shopped. “I expect not.”
“Maybe she's lost. I could go ask her—”
“Maybe you could get on over to Etta Mae's and find out what she's upset about today. And don't piss her off again.” He gave Hanson his best I-am-the-boss stare, holding it until the deputy grumbled off down the street toward Etta Mae's little frame house and the complaint du jour. Ah, the joys of small-town law enforcement. No murders, no robberies, no kidnappings...he mentally knocked wood. The blood and violence in the various war zones he'd been 'privileged' to visit had been enough for three lifetimes.
He turned his attention back to the bookstore, waiting for another look at the woman. In spite of Hanson's words, she wasn't really beautiful. Eye-catching. Expensive looking. Impossible to ignore. So what was she doing in his town? As sheriff, he ought to find out. It was his duty. He heaved himself upright and started across the street.
Before he reached the book store, she came out, clutching one of Halley's brightly flowered shopping bags, and headed toward the post office.
He turned to watch her. The rear view pleased him every bit as much as the front one. And she smelled good. Kind of light and flowery.
When he reached the bank door, it opened right in his face and she came through it, almost bumping into him and still not making eye contact. “Sorry,” she murmured in a voice like stroking velvet, and strode off as though he'd been a potted palm. A whiff of that scent, all barely-there flowers and spices and temptation, stayed, swirling around him like little stars in some kind of animated film.
He turned to follow her. As sheriff, he had every right to talk to her, find out what she was doing in his town.
“Hey, Quince,” the teller called. “Shut the door, you're letting all the air conditioning out.”
“Sorry, Betsy,” he said, walking over to her window. “Uh, that woman who was leaving as I came in. She a customer here?”
The inch-long eyelashes fluttered as though he'd suggested a wild weekend. “You know I can't—”
“I'm not askin' for details. She open an account here or is she only passing through town?”
“Keeping the town safe is my job. I always check out strangers. Now answer the question.”
“Don't be mad at me, Quince. I'll tell you anything you want to know.” She gazed up at him, big brown eyes limpid and pleading. Geez. She'd gotten the guilt-trip thing down like an expert.
“Fine. This year maybe?”
“She opened a checking account and a savings account. She's not a tourist.”
Well damn. “Guess I'd better go talk to her. See you later, Bets.” He turned and headed out the door.
“Wait. I want to—”
The door closed behind him, cutting off her voice. He looked up and down the street. No sign of the stranger. Great. Just perfect.
But he’d find her. No one could hide in a town as small as San Remo. Not for long.