Authors: Cat Johnson
Christy sighed again. She was being forced by her boss to date one hot guy just to win the heart, or at least another piece of anatomy, of another. Love in the new millennium. Hmm, good title for a new show. She’d have to remember to write that down.
Bobby sat in the kitchen of his parents’ house sipping the day’s first cup of coffee when his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. It was early for calls. He saw it was Jared.
“Shouldn’t you be shoveling manure or something about now? What’s got you on the phone so early?” Bobby generally dispensed with small talk as a rule.
“You got tonight off from work?”
“Poker game, my place, around eight.” It seemed Jared wasn’t much for small talk today either.
Bobby frowned. “We haven’t played poker in years. What brought this on?”
“I’ve been watching those Texas Hold ’Em competitions on TV.”
“We always played Five Card Stud.”
“So we’ll try something different. Just have your butt over here tonight and stop arguing.”
Bobby released a slow breath. “All right.”
“Oh, and bring some beer.”
Shaking his head, he asked, “Anything else?”
“Nope, that’s it. See ya.”
Bobby heard a click as Jared hung up. He was just considering Jared’s strange new poker obsession when Christy and Fletch appeared at the back door. Jared’s call should make Christy happy. “I got something you might enjoy for tonight. Jared is having a poker game.”
Christy’s cheeks pinked. Her gaze dropped briefly to the floor. “Good. But you’ll only have Fletch tonight. Mandy gave me the night off.”
He frowned. “You never take any time off.”
She shrugged. “Mandy insisted.”
That was interesting. “Good for you. She works you too hard.”
Christy colored deeper, leaving Bobby wondering if perhaps there was some female issue he wasn’t aware of. He knew one thing from growing up with sisters, if Christy’s embarrassment involved PMS or cramps or something like that, it was best to just let the whole subject drop.
He took one last swallow of coffee and stood. “Ready for another day at the sheriff’s department?”
Christy nodded. She was much quieter than usual. Must be PMS.
Bobby nodded back at her. “Good, let’s try not to get ourselves killed in a stampede today, shall we?”
With that, they were out the door for another day of Pigeon Hollow law enforcement. Bobby was happy the day contained no wild bee swarms, no loose draft horses and thankfully, not as much heat and humidity as the last week had. More importantly, there was no bee boy either.
What Bobby was not so happy about was that Mrs. Brown’s cat got stuck up a tree—again—and Bobby had to climb up and get him. He was beginning to think the cat did it just for the attention, but he couldn’t tell the old lady no, now could he?
At least Christy seemed to enjoy seeing him perched up on a limb getting torn up by the damned feline. Hell, if it saved her from getting fired and he could keep the infamous little league tape, a few bloody scratches were all worth it. Otherwise, the day was basically uneventful.
He’d gotten Cole to stand in for him and coach Mikey’s little league game that afternoon. Bobby not being there would also keep the cameras away from his family at the ball field. He was getting good at juggling real life and reality show.
Christy left Bobby with Fletch at the diner that evening, where he ate dinner alone. After picking up two six-packs of beer for Jared’s little gathering, he headed over to the farm. If nothing else, at least he wouldn’t be home, bored watching television on his night off.
Bobby let himself in Jared’s back door and realized
was not the word to describe that evening, but
sure was. Inside the Gordon kitchen was the strangest mix of poker players Bobby could have imagined. Mac, the middle-aged diner owner, Harry, the ancient bee wrangler, Jared, the horseman, and himself, the deputy.
Oh, and Fletch the big-city cameramen.
Fletch… Fuck. Bobby cursed to himself when it hit him. Mandy must have staged this for the show because these four particular people had never before even thought about getting together to play poker in Jared’s mama’s kitchen.
Bobby shook his head, shoved one six-pack in the fridge and took his seat with the other, mentally trying to calculate when the hell this show would be over. Tomorrow he was going to start a countdown on his calendar. That would make him feel better. He’d put a big red circle around the date when this crew packed up and never returned.
His stomach twisted at the thought. He hated this whole endeavor. He should be happy for it to be over, but Bobby realized he didn’t like the thought of never seeing Christy again.
That didn’t mean anything. He’d just gotten used to her constantly being there. That was all. After spending days and nights with her for weeks, her total absence from his life would be strange.
Four beer caps hit the table as the men popped them open and Bobby realized the game was about to begin. He’d have to worry about the strange feeling in his stomach later. As he took a big swallow of beer, he only hoped the alcohol would squelch it.
Jared started to deal the cards. “Let the games begin, boys. No-limit Texas Hold ’Em, and stop rolling your eyes at me, Bobby. I’m not blind.”
Jared sure was blind, blinded by love if he let Mandy talk him into this. Bobby smiled and took another sip of his beer, but he didn’t say that out loud since the camera was there. However he did offer a silent thank you to whoever controlled such things that he had never been afflicted with the love bug himself. Hopefully he never would be.
The cards dealt, Bobby glanced at his and found a pair of twos. Not great but not bad. He’d stick with that.
Harry peeked at his own cards, then glanced over at Bobby. “So, Deputy, that cute little brunette you were with yesterday is out with my apprentice tonight.”
Bobby nearly dropped his bottle. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah. What’s her name? Chrissy?”
“Christy.” Bobby corrected Harry through clenched teeth.
“Yup. That’s the one.”
He glanced around the strange group. Mac looked mildly interested, Jared was totally engrossed in staring at the two cards in his hand, and Fletch seemed to be biting his lip. He turned back to Harry.
“Where’d they go? You know?” Bobby did his best to sound casual.
Harry shrugged. “Nope. But knowing Corey, she’ll be back at his place by tonight. That kid’s real popular with the ladies.”
Bobby realized he was gripping his longneck bottle so tightly his knuckles were white. He put the bottle down and stared at it as the game continued around him.
Why would Christy go out with bee boy? Why didn’t she mention it today when she told him she had the night off? Most importantly, why was he suddenly feeling ill?
His concentration totally shot for the night, Bobby managed to lose his entire twenty-buck buy-in by the end, which was hard to do since each poker chip was worth only a dime. It wasn’t losing his money that had him worried. It was the sick feeling in his stomach at the thought of Christy with the supposed ladies’ man that had him most concerned.
Christy stood on the chair and looked at her reflection in the mirror over the bureau in her room. Would it kill the owners of The Hideaway to put a damn full-length mirror in the room? Jeez.
The flirty little sundress she was wearing looked cute, but she would have rather been wearing it for Bobby. She crawled off the chair and was happy when she reached the safety of the floor in her high-heeled sandals. She swiped on some lipstick, threw the tube along with her room key and a twenty-dollar bill into her date purse and was ready. Now all she needed was her date.
There was a knock on the door and she sighed. Be careful what you wish for. She opened the door to Corey’s gleaming smile. He leaned down, slapped a big kiss on her cheek, and then walked past her into the room. She hadn’t intended on inviting him in, but it seemed he had other ideas as he threw himself onto her bed.
“I’ve never been inside one of these rooms before. It’s not bad.”
Easy for him to say. Try living here for two months. She didn’t say that, however, because Corey might take it as an invitation to move in with her. “Um, are we going to go?”
“Sure. Whatever you want, beautiful.” He rose from the bed and hooked an arm around her waist. Anxious to get out of her bedroom, Christy steered them out the door where Corey led her to a suped-up sports car, complete with tinted windows and spoiler. Once he turned the key in the ignition, she realized the car also came with an ear-deafening sound system.
Corey turned the music down and turned to her. “I wish you’d let me take you to dinner.”
“I’m a simple girl. Ice cream is just fine for me.” That had been her choice for their date. He only agreed on the phone after a bit of arguing.
Christy didn’t want to feel any more guilt than she already did about going out with him just because her boss told her to, to make Bobby jealous. She definitely didn’t want to feel like she owed Corey anything if he paid for her meal. She had a bad feeling it was going to be a battle to keep her virtue intact as it was. He’d already been on her bed for God’s sake. He had ideas about this date, and she was not about to encourage him.
Corey glanced at her when they were on the road to the ice cream parlor. She didn’t miss how his gaze dropped briefly to the portion of her leg exposed by the sundress. He reached over and rested his arm on the back of her seat. “Well, it’s still early. Maybe we can hit the drive-in for a movie after.”
A drive-in movie? She glanced down at the console between their seats. That might offer some protection from unwanted advances, but she doubted it. Corey seemed like a real problem solver when the motivation was right. Not for the first time that night, and definitely not for the last she was sure, she wished the man at the wheel was Bobby.
This scheme had better work.
“I don’t think the movie is a good idea, Corey. I have an early morning tomorrow. Deputy Bobby starts his day about sunrise.”
Corey shot her a sideways look. “What’s up with Deputy Bobby, anyway? The guy seems pretty possessive when it comes to you.”
“Really? You think so?” Her heart beat a little faster at that thought.
“Yeah.” Corey glanced back at her again and frowned. She’d probably sounded more excited than she should have. “What’s going on here, Christy?”
She hung her head for a second debating whether to deny it or tell him the truth. “Look, Corey. You’re really cute and I really do like you—”
“Jeez, you’re dumping me and we haven’t even gotten to our date yet? Why did you even call me?”
“I’m sorry. It was my boss’s idea, and it sucks, and if I had any balls at all I would have told her to take a giant leap.” Her shoulders slumped. “It was a shitty thing to do and I apologize. This whole thing is so unlike me. I feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore—”
“Shh. Hey. Listen.” Corey pulled up along the curb in front of the ice cream shop and turned in his seat to look at her. Pretty ashamed, she forced herself to look back. Reaching out, he laid one hand on her shoulder. “Yeah, it was shitty, but I believe it wasn’t your fault. So how about a deal?”
She narrowed her eyes. “What kind of a deal?”
He grinned at her. “There’s a cute girl here in town who won’t give me the time of day, and that’s her car parked right in front of us. You go inside with me, pretend for a little while that I am your dream man and you can’t keep your hands off me and we’ll call it even.”
Figuring she owed him at least this much, she nodded. “I think I can handle that.”
He grinned. “Good. Let’s go.”
Christy spent the next hour pressed against Corey in a tight booth in the back of the ice cream shop. They shared one triple scoop sundae with two spoons. Except for the one time when he tried to feed her the cherry with his mouth, which she refused, he was the perfect gentleman. Being that they attracted the attention of quite a few of the locals, and that news in Pigeon Hollow spread fast, Christy had to wonder how quickly word of the date would get back to Bobby.
Her wondering was over the next morning when she walked into the Barton’s kitchen and felt a distinct chill radiating from Bobby’s icy glare. She had the definite feeling he knew about her little date, only he didn’t know it was pretend.
She was barely inside the room, Fletch on her heels and already filming as if he was expecting some action, when Bobby stood. “You two might as well go back to the motel.”
“Why?” Christy frowned.
“I’m not working today.” Somehow, she didn’t think that was the real reason. She re-evaluated her original theory—Bobby wasn’t acting cold at all. He was seething. Beneath the surface, she could see his red-hot anger bubbling.
“That’s fine if you’re not working. What are you going to do for the day? Doesn’t Mikey have a game or something?”
“I don’t want you anywhere near Mikey.”
She drew in a quick breath. “Oh.”
For Bobby to say that to her, in that tone of voice, after she’d put her job on the line to not expose Mikey and Cole with that tape truly hurt. Christy was having trouble maintaining her composure in the face of his overt antagonism. Her vision began to blur. If she didn’t leave and fast, she’d be in tears right here in the middle of the Barton’s kitchen.
“We’ll take the day off.” She turned and pushed past Fletch. Once outside, she ran all the way to the car. If Fletch didn’t follow her in the next three seconds, she was leaving him.
Bobby sat back down in the chair and buried his face in his hands. Christy looked like she was about to cry and he felt like the biggest shit south of the Mason-Dixon line. Blowing out a frustrated breath, he lowered his hands and realized that although Christy had fled, Fletch and the camera remained, red light still blinking.
“Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you go with your producer?”
producer and no, my job is now to shadow you, with or without her.”
Bobby raised his brow. “And why is that?”