Authors: Laura Drewry
Accidentally in Love
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Drewry
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
eBook ISBN 9781101886663
Cover design: Seductive Designs
Cover photograph: annabaek/iStock
“You are in direct violation of Penal Code 1.13, Section 9.”
“License and registration, please.”
Before Ellie could respond with her usual grunt and eye roll, her friend Jayne leaned way over from the passenger seat, straining against her seat belt until she was lying straight across Ellie’s lap and peering out the driver’s side window.
“Hey, Brett—how’s it going?”
“Hey, Jayne.” Dudley Do-Right lifted his chin at Jayne in one of those man-type greetings, then turned his attention back to Ellie as he tucked one arm of his sunglasses inside the pocket of his vest. “License and registration, please.”
Standing on the side of the road in his perfectly starched uniform, his hand extended, palm up, Constable Brett Hale exhaled a long, slow sigh and repeated the same sentence he’d said to her so many times since she’d moved to this small B.C. town over four years ago.
“You were observed operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed higher than the posted limit.”
Why couldn’t he
just say she was speeding?
“Gimme a break.” Ellie barked out a short, harsh laugh. “I couldn’t have been doing more than eighty-five kilometers an—”
” she scoffed. “Eighty-
. And you’re going to write me up for going seven clicks over the limit?”
“Normally, the answer to that would be no.” Hand still out, Brett’s jaw tightened ever so slightly, but other than that, his expression remained stony as ever. “But this here’s a seventy zone.”
? No, it’s not!” Ellie craned her neck around, seeking out the nearest speed limit sign, which was a good couple hundred meters back, and, of course, all she could see was the back of it. Not helpful. “It’s eighty. I’m sure it’s—”
Of course now she wasn’t sure at all.
“I can walk you back to look for yourself if you’d like.”
“Told you,” Jayne muttered, making a point of digging her elbow into Ellie’s thigh as she pushed forward again to look up at Brett’s face. “Are you going to make it to ball practice tonight?”
Ellie gaped at Jayne, who didn’t so much as blink back at her. No one had said anything to Ellie about the cop playing on the team. Not that she could have done anything about it, but a heads-up would have been nice.
“I’ll be there. Which field did you book?”
“The fastball diamond at six.” Her elbow jabbed deeper as she shifted a little to the right. “It’s all we could get tonight, but we’re on the slo-pitch field next week.”
“Ow!” Ellie tried to shove Jayne off her lap, but Jayne was a hell of a lot stronger than she looked, and the harder Ellie shoved, the deeper Jayne dug in.
“I’ll be there.”
Ellie glared at Jayne, who shot her a quick wink, then shuffled her body back to her own seat. Cocking her jaw to the side, Ellie shook her head slowly and waved her hand between Jayne and Brett.
“Do you two need help with the batting order, or can I get on with my day now?”
Brett blinked down at her, clearly unamused. “License. And. Registration. Please.”
The last time he’d spoken to her in that tone, she’d wound up in the back of his police cruiser for almost half an hour while he took his sweet time running her license through the system. While she’d steamed back there on the molded plastic seat, Dudley Do-Right sat in the front seat plunking away on his computer and completely ignoring her. For all she knew, he could have been leveling up on Candy Crush or updating his Facebook status. The only time he acknowledged her was when she told him she could tap out Morse code faster than he could type.
And even then, his only response was a slow turn of his head and his usual flat stare.
Not wanting to end up in that backseat again, where God only knew what kind of bodily fluids had been overlooked at the last cleaning, Ellie hesitated for a second before huffing out a breath.
“Relax, Poncherello, don’t get your Kevlar all in a bunch.” Lifting her wallet from between the front seats, she waved a finger toward the glove box for Jayne to dig out the registration.
“Surprised he doesn’t have all your info memorized,” Jayne muttered as she rummaged under and around the owner’s manual, tire pressure gauge, various maps, and Ellie’s stash of red Swedish Berries.
“Thank you.” Brett took the papers Ellie handed him, then bobbed his head toward the back of her old Beetle. “Turn your engine off, please. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Take your time.” She let the sarcasm drip slowly as he ambled back to his cruiser, then she turned and called out her window: “Just remember we have ball practice in a couple hours!”
“Stop it,” Jayne warned. “You were the one speeding, Ellie; he’s just doing his job.”
“Give me a break—it’s not like I was all over the road or anything. They should spend less time worrying about stuff like this and more time tracking down murderers and drug dealers.”
“Murderers?” Jayne snorted. “There hasn’t been a murder here since…I don’t even know. Before I was born.”
“What about drug dealers? You can’t tell me we don’t have any of those kickin’ around this town.” Ellie shut the car off and turned the subject back to the ball team. “And what’s the deal with him joining the team? I thought we had a full roster, so what do we need
“Because he’s Nick’s best friend, he’s a hell of a ballplayer, and it’s a beer league, Ellie, which means not everyone’s going to make every game, so why
bring him in? Besides, next to you, he’s the most competitive person I know, so maybe he can help us win a game or two.”
“Oh, really?” Jayne snorted. “So it wasn’t you who tried to rip the handle off the foosball table last week?”
“Wha—?” Her sputter stopped in mid-denial, giving way to a guilty smile. “Regan cheated—she spun her player, and you’re not allowed to do that!”
“Uh-huh. Okay.” Rolling her eyes, Jayne twisted in her seat and stared straight at Ellie. “I wish you’d give Brett a break.”
“I don’t give cops
anymore, Jayne—you know that.”
“Guh,” Jayne snorted. “The whole world knows that, Ellie, but come on, you’ve known him for what, four years now?”
“Thereabouts, but the first couple years, the only time I ever had to talk to him was when he pulled me over. Then you moved back to town and dragged Maya, Regan, and me into your little circle of crazies, so now I’m forced to see him all the time.”
“You’re welcome.” Jayne grinned. “Oh, come on—I mean, obviously he’s no Nick, but he’s a great guy, and you can’t deny he looks damn good in that uniform.”
“Wow,” Ellie grunted. “That
To Jayne’s way of thinking, her husband, Nick, had always been the bar by which every other male was measured, so for her to even suggest that another man might be marginally attractive was saying something.
“Seriously,” Jayne pushed. “Just look at him and try to tell me you don’t think he’s good-looking.”
Unlike Jayne, Ellie didn’t turn around to stare out the back window to catch a glimpse of Brett. She already knew that his eyes, normally crystal-clear blue, were now in cop mode, stormy gray, sharp, observing. He had a thin crooked scar across the bridge of his nose that seemed to get paler as the rest of his face tanned deeper in the summer. He got his dark blond hair trimmed every six weeks, he was always clean-shaven, and when Ellie wore heels, her gaze lined up directly with the seam of his unsmiling mouth.
One time, about a year and a half back, the whole group of them were standing in a storage locker, surrounded by boxes of books for Jayne’s store, when suddenly Brett smiled…and it was like…
Ellie swallowed hard and forced herself to blink. She’d always thought it was a damn shame someone that good-looking had to be a cop.
“See, you can’t do it.” Jayne twisted around again and settled back against her seat. “So spill it: what do you have against him?”
Ellie blinked a few more times to shake the picture of smiling Brett from her mind and cleared her throat before answering.
“Him personally? Nothing.” She wished she could say he was a son of a bitch, but she couldn’t. The truth was, ever since Nick and Jayne had gotten together and pulled their friends into the same social circle, Ellie had gotten to know a little bit about Brett on a personal level, and Jayne was right: he was a great guy. Always happy to help whoever needed it, always polite—even to Ellie when she wasn’t—and despite the fact that he almost never smiled, he was a natural with kids and seniors.
Great guy or not, though, he was still a cop, and that negated everything else.
“Come on,” Jayne said. “What happened to you in Toronto was bizarre, but you can’t keep comparing him to those other cops. They were—”
“I know.” Grinding her teeth together, Ellie chuffed out a laugh. “They were just doing their jobs.”
“Will you step out of the car, please?” Brett’s voice at the window made them both jump.
“What’s going on?” Jayne unbuckled this time before leaning across the seats. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t make me ask again, Ellie.” Brett pulled open her door, then stood with one hand resting on the top, waiting.
Jayne had already scrambled out and around the car before Ellie had her feet flat on the pavement. Traffic was fairly light on this stretch of the highway, but in small-town Newport Ridge, almost every car that went by was driven by someone Ellie knew, and every single person honked and waved as though the flashing lights on the patrol car weren’t even there.
“What are you going to do,” she asked, half-joking. “Arrest me?”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” he said. “But I haven’t ruled it out, either.”
“Brett!” Jayne positioned herself between Ellie and the traffic, as if that would somehow shield her from the gawkers. “What the hell’s going on?”
He didn’t answer, just waited until Ellie was out of the car, then clicked the door closed behind her and directed them to the front of the car, out of the way of traffic, before holding out her registration papers. Her license, on the other hand, he kept tucked against his open notebook.
“Do you know your license has been suspended?”
“What?!” Jayne’s eyes just about bulged out of her skull. “Ellie!”
“No, it hasn’t.” With an exaggerated sigh, Ellie half-nodded, half-shrugged. “They sent a letter a couple months back saying something about me being on probation, but it never said I couldn’t drive.”
“And then you were cited six weeks ago for operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed higher than—”
“I was speeding!”
“—the posted limit. And any violations incurred while you’re on probation subject you to an automatic driving prohibition. The letter was mailed a couple days ago.” He turned slightly, spoke quietly into the squawking mic clipped near his shoulder, then turned back to her. “We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that you haven’t received the notification yet—otherwise you’d be looking at a twenty-three-hundred-dollar fine and another ten points.”
“Did you get this letter?” Jayne’s jaw hung open, making her look like one of those freaky giant orange fish down at the pet store.
“Of course not!” And then, to reinforce it, Ellie stared straight back at Brett. “Check my mailbox if you’d like.”
For a second there, she almost thought he was going to take her up on it, but then he quirked his left eyebrow. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Great. Can I go, then?” Flashing her most exasperated “what the hell” look, she started around the car, but he shifted over and pressed the side of his thigh against it, blocking her way.
“If the letter hasn’t arrived, then I haven’t been officially notified. Ergo, I’m still good to drive.”
“Wrong. Regardless of whether or not you’ve received the letter, it’s in the system.
consider yourself officially informed and notified.”
Oh, how she’d love to tell Dudley Do-Right exactly where he could stick his “informed and notified,” but…
…she couldn’t afford the twenty-three-hundred-dollar fine, so she clamped her mouth shut, inhaled a long breath, and jammed her hands down deep in her pockets.
“All right, then, Poncherello, what am I looking at? What do I have to do to get it back?”
His mouth tightened for a second before he spoke.
“Mandatory three-month suspension and you’ll need to complete—and pass—a safe driver’s course.”
she bellowed. “Are you on crack? I can’t go three months without my car—I have a business to run! A business that helps pay your—”
“Ellie!” With that sharp look and harsh tone, Jayne would have made one hell of a good cop herself.
Most of the stock for her boutique was shipped to the bus depot, so how was she supposed to pick it up now? And what about the trade show in Vancouver next month? She did almost half her fall ordering there and always came home with her trunk full of samples.
“You’re not going to impound her car, are you?” Jayne asked, her voice breaking through the buzzing in Ellie’s head.
“Not unless we find her driving it again while she’s suspended.”
“She won’t.” It was hardly necessary for Jayne to say it like that, grinding the words out between her teeth as if she needed to make a point with Ellie. “What about today? Are you going to ticket her?”
He fixed his gaze on Ellie for a long moment before he finally blinked and turned back to Jayne. “I think losing her license is enough for one day. Are you going to drive now, or should I call for a tow?”
Both Brett and Jayne ignored Ellie’s snort as she rounded the car and climbed in on the passenger side.
“Guess that means I’m driving,” Jayne said with a short chuckle. “Thanks, Brett.”