was minding my own business, trying to figure out how many shifts I'd have to take at the dealership to keep the farm afloat, when I saw the Porsche barreling straight for me. Shiny silver, it mesmerized me to the point where I didn't realize the driver wasn't going to stop despite the fact that I was clearly in the middle of the crosswalk.
And then, asphalt.
Well, Julian, if you're going to be run over by a car, it might as well be expensive.
“Oh, my God, I am so, so sorry.”
That voice sounded familiar.
“Don't ever apologize, dear. It might be a legal liability.”
That voice didn't.
I shot to my feet, hardly registering the stiffness or the jolt of pain that ran down my right leg, the one I'd injured playing high school baseball. Today was the day I'd finally run into Romy. Or the day she had finally run into me.
I couldn't tell if it was the sun or a possible head injury that made a sort of halo shine off her dark, glossy hair. I kept blinking, thinking I'd see her in an old concert tee and cutoffs, but, no, she was wearing designer jeans and a form-hugging shirt scooped low enough for me to see the tops of her breasts. She raked straightened hair behind her ear with meticulously manicured fingernails.
It was like looking at Romy's evil twin sister.
“Romy, darling, don't you think you should move out of the middle of the road? It would appear he's unharmed.” A dark-haired man leaned against the passenger door like he owned the damn car, which he probably did.
She registered the honking horns and the two lines of blocked traffic about the same time I did. She'd thrown me into the opposite lane and we stood there, blocking traffic going one way while the Porsche blocked traffic coming from the other direction.
“If you're sure you're okay, I'd better move,” she murmured as she turned.
Something about seeing her walk away so casually caused a lump to form in my throat. “Aren't you going to introduce me?”
Cars honked. Someone speculated long and loud on our ancestry.
“Richard, this is”âshe hesitatedâ“Julian, an old friend. Julian, this is my boyfriend, Richard.”
I knew I didn't like him for some reason.
Sirens wailed as the Yessum County Sheriff skidded into the intersection. “For the love of God, Julian, get out of the middle of the road!”
Len Rogers loved that bullhorn. I had a suggested location for it.
“Do you need for me to call an ambulance?” Len spoke slowly, enunciating each word.
“Good. Both of you. Over there. In front of the cafÃ©.”
Romy jerked the Porsche into one of the spaces along the curb on Main Street. I crossed the street, willing my injured leg not to limp. We congregated under the awning of the jewelry store beside the cafÃ©, and the boyfriend decided to speak.
“Officer, I'm not sure what the proper procedure is, but we will cooperate to the bestâ”
“Oh, Richard, it's Len. I went to school with him.” Romy sighed.
Len adopted his Barney Fife stance, puffing up to show his importance despite Romy's casual dismissal. He reached into his back pocket to take out his notepad, then licked the tip of one finger before he flipped through carbons to get to the first clean page. “Now what happened?”
“I didn't realize there was a new traffic light, and I accidentally ran it.”
“Rosemary, you don'tâ”
She turned on her boyfriend with a raised eyebrow. “I made a mistake. I'm admitting it.”
Len looked me up and down once more, no doubt trying to assess if I needed a doctor. “What about you, McElroy?”
“I got the âwalk' sign, started walking.”
Len nodded, then went back to his notepad, biting his tongue as he wrote. Next he drew out a ticket book. He hastily scribbled a ticket and ripped it off with a flourish. “This one's yours for running a red light.”
He scribbled again before ripping one out for me. “And this here ticket's for jaywalking.”
Blood pumped behind my ears. “That's a load of horseshit.”
“Hush up and go on down to the courthouse and pay that five dollars. You were a good three feet out of the crosswalk. If you don't knock it off, we'll add obstruction of justice.”
“Okay, now thatâ” Richard started to speak, but Romy clamped down on his upper arm to silence him.
“Is that it, Len? I'm really sorry for the fuss,” she said.
He smiled and tipped his hat. “That's enough. Thank you.” He took two steps away before turning on his heel and coming right back.
“No, that is not enough. Now, look here, you two.” He pointed his billy club first at me and then at Romy. “Things have been right peaceful since
went off to Vanderbilt, and I will have no shenanigans in my town. You got that?”
Romy and I looked at each other. I drank in the face I hadn't seen in almost ten years. It was a little more angular and slathered in expensive makeup, but she was still Romy and still beautiful.
“I'm sorry, officer, but what are you talking about?” Richard asked, bringing me back to the present.
“These two are troublemakers. Come from a whole long line of 'em. Satterfields and McElroys. I thought we'd got past the worst of it when they got together in high school, then this one”âhe pointed to Romyâ“up and ran off to Nashville.”
He pointed the club at me. “And this one went on a few benders, but I've just about got him straightened out.”
Romy's mossy-green eyes darted to me, her eyebrows bunched with concern.
“Got together in high school?” Richard echoed.
So, Romy hasn't told her new boy toy everything.
She turned to him. “Julian was the guy I was engaged to.” She leveled those eyes back on me, daring me to contradict her.
That's part of the story.
“And I don't care why you're back or what happened between the two of you.” Len leveled his billy club at Richard for the first time. “I don't even care who
are. If you cause any trouble around here, I will throw the book at you. Each and every one of you.”
“Surelyâ” Richard began, but Len had already started ambling back to his cruiser with his exaggerated John Wayne walk.
“Well, good to see you again, Romy.” I went to tip my hat only to realize it was still in the middle of Main Street getting run over repeatedly. That figured.
“Julian,” she muttered.
“Nice to meet you, Julian, even if it wasn't in the best of circumstances,” Richard said with a bland smile as he extended his hand.
His grip was surprisingly strong, causing me to study his face once more. He seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place where I'd seen him before.
I kinda wanted to punch the smug smile off his face, but I didn't have cause. It looked like he was taking good care of her, and I'd given up any such claims long ago. If this was the man she wanted, who was I to stand in her way? I glanced at the Porsche as she slid into the driver's seat and Richard closed the door behind him. I sure as hell could never get her a car like that.
She jerked into traffic, and I bit back a smile. She still couldn't drive a stick for nothing. The vanity plate said PARIS1, and I frowned. That's where I'd seen him before. He was one of the Parises of Nashville, and they were lawyers and politicians all of them. Romy was dating one of the richest men in Tennessee.
And there were a lot of things she wasn't telling him.