Not Quite Forever (Not Quite series)

BOOK: Not Quite Forever (Not Quite series)
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Also by Catherine Bybee

Contemporar
y
Romance

Weekday Bride Series

Wife by Wednesday

Married by Monday

Fiancé by Friday

Single by Saturday

Taken by Tuesday

Not Quite Series

Not Quite Dating

Not Quite Mine

Not Quite Enough

Paranormal Romance

MacCoinnich Time Travels

Binding Vows

Silent Vows

Redeeming Vows

Highland Shifter

Highland Protector

 

The Ritter Werewolves Series

Before the Moon Rises

Embracing the Wolf

 

Novellas

Soul Mate

Possessive

 

Erotica

Kilt Worthy

Kilt-A-Licious

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Text copyright © 2014 Catherine Bybee

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle

 

www.apub.com

 

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

 

ISBN-13: 9781477825891

ISBN-10: 1477825894

 

Cover design by Anna Curtis

 

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014940354

This one is for Angelique. I admire you more than words can express.

Chapter One

“We’re sitting in the back of a police car! This isn’t my idea of research!”

“Lighten up!” Dakota knew Mary ignored her words. “There isn’t any way we’ll be charged with squat. You didn’t say we
had
a bomb . . . you simply said the
word
bomb.”

Mary’s less-than-happy face reminded Dakota of her own mother when she wanted to bury her with a look.

“I repeated
your words
, Dakota.”

“Repeated in a
not so soft
voice. Even I know not to yell the word bomb in an airport.”

Outside the squad car, uniformed policemen were talking among themselves while the temporarily misplaced airport passengers were let back into the terminal.

“I didn’t yell.” Mary tossed her head back, a curly lock of blonde hair moved away from her eyes in the process.

Dakota let loose a snarky laugh. “The ol’ lady next to us did.”

Yeah, the blue-haired crone managed to hear one word from their conversation, pointed her crooked finger in their direction, and you’d have thought they were both walking through baggage claim with an AK and an Uzi. In an effort to calm her friend, Dakota made the remark that everything that happened could be used for research. From the moment airport security showed up and put them in handcuffs to feeling the palms of the
not so friendly
guard
running down their legs, Dakota tried to spin the experience.

They were visiting Florida for a writers conference. OK, it was more convention than conference. Plenty of parties, lots of fans . . . and tons of fun. Fun that didn’t normally involve the police. Handcuffs, however, were optional.

Dakota would have liked to find the arresting officers worthy of a chapter in one of her books. Unfortunately, the woman who cuffed her wasn’t amused and her partner wasn’t any kind of hero Dakota would profile for her next novel.

Unable to help herself, she looked around the tiny backseat of the squad car, noted the cage separating the front seat from the back, and all the radios and toys the police used.

Who’d sat in the car before her? Her shoes stuck to the surface under her feet. She couldn’t remember ever being in a car without carpet. A combination of bad musk, cigarettes, and something that sadly reminded her of vomit filled her nose.

Research only went so far. The thought of a night in jail—sleeping in the same space the previous occupants of the backseat did—churned her stomach. The longer they sat there, the worse her head started to spin.

“Oh, God,” Mary said.

Dakota rallied. “Relax, Mary . . . and for God’s sake, when they open the door again, let me do the talking.”

Mary, bless her heart, didn’t have the stomach, or the street smarts, to talk her way out of a gay bar full of lesbians. No, she’d try to ask said fictional lesbians about their childhood and try to determine if they were truly attracted to women or if they were just trying to piss off their parents. Mary spent her days, and sometimes nights, with a private client base that paid her to listen to their problems. With a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, she was a huge sounding board for Dakota. Right now poor Mary was probably wondering if she could continue to practice if she ended up in jail.

Mary jumped when Dakota’s door opened and one of the officers leaned over and addressed them. “Which one of you is Dakota Laurens?”

Dakota swallowed. “That would be me.”

Without even a hello, the overweight, balding man pulled her out of the car. Her Lakers cap fell from her lap as he marched her to a second car where two more officers stood. Next to them, the female officer that had cuffed her seemed to have loosened the bun on her head, and she offered a smile.

In an effort to ease the tension, Dakota lifted her eyebrows and tried to grin.

“This is all such a huge misunderstanding.” Dakota let a little bit of the South slip into her accent.

Mr. Baldy held up a hand, stopping her, and nodded toward the female officer. “Is this her?”

The woman stepped closer, tilted her head. “Who are Mathew and Cassidy?”

For one brief second, Dakota’s brain short-circuited. “What?”

The woman simply stared.


Surrender to Me
?” The title of her last bestseller fell from Dakota’s lips and the officer’s eyes lit.

“I think it’s her,” the female officer murmured.

While the officers exchanged glances, Dakota kept talking . . . after all, outside of writing, it was what she did best. “My friend and I are here for a conference. The Morrison is hosting Booklovers Unite. That sweet little old lady simply misheard my friend. There’s no bomb.” She whispered the word
bomb
and looked around them.

Dakota’s gaze met her luggage, which was strewn, panties and all, across the sidewalk with more than one dog sniffing the contents.
Now that has to go in a book.

“Ms. Laurens, you do understand the severity of yelling the word
bomb
in an airport, right?”

Dakota met the dark eyes of the only man not in uniform. “Well of course I do. My friend and I didn’t
yell
anything.”

“Mrs. Leland said you pointed to a bag and—”

“I’m a writer, Mr. . . .”

“Hansen.”

Dakota smiled. “Mr. Hansen. As a writer, I tend to let my muse wander a little more than the average person. My friend and I seemed to have our luggage in the very back of the plane, and for a few minutes, we didn’t think it was ever going to appear down that chute. As a writer, I thought, and whispered, ‘I suppose it could be worse . . . there could be a bomb in here somewhere and we’d have to evacuate and wait even longer to get to the hotel.’ Well, my friend Mary shoved my hand away and told me to be quiet about bombs. Next thing I knew, Mrs. Leland, bless her little ol’ heart, started yelling we had a bomb. That’s all there is to it. I swear on Nana’s grave.” Dakota lifted her right hand and hoped her Nana wouldn’t be pissed if and when she ever learned that Dakota buried her prematurely.

From the corner of her eye, she spotted Mary talking with several officers.

So far . . . the Florida conference was sucking ass!

The Lakers cap caught his attention when she walked into the room and settled at the bar. As if knowing she wasn’t anywhere near Lakerland, the brunette removed the cap almost the moment her butt hit the cushioned seat. Her sleek, dark hair wore a kink where the hat had creased it and she didn’t wear a stitch of makeup. She was beautiful.

Walt sipped his whiskey and glanced at the never-ending pamphlets of patient care that were in constant need of revising, made a note, and glanced back to the bar.

From where he was sitting, he didn’t hear what she ordered, but the bartender brought a short glass with a few cubes of ice and a nice amber liquid. Walt stared into his own drink and grinned.

Kink-haired Laker Girl tilted the drink back, taking half of it down with one swallow.

Nice!

The bar was busy for a Wednesday due to the conventions hosted by the Miami Morrison. The question was, what convention was Laker Girl attending? Walt had arrived at the hotel earlier in the day to find massive banners and the entire second floor of the conference hall filling up with pictures of half-naked men and women embracing. At first, he thought the competing conference had something to do with adult film. When he asked, he was told a writers convention was dominating the hotel for the weekend. By comparison, the number of people at the conference he was attending was a drop of water in the ocean. Soon the hotel would be filled with writers, readers, publishers, and agents. The genre of choice . . . romance. Books written with nothing but happily-ever-after in mind.

Walt had a hard time picturing any conference featuring romance books filling the hotel. Time would tell.

He glanced up to find Laker Girl pushing earbuds into her lobes and fishing a notebook from her overly large purse. Nothing said
don’t try to pick me up
more than earbuds.

Yet Walt kept watching her. She sipped on her second drink as men and women made their way to and from the bar. Her shoulders folded in and she started to laugh quietly. She made a note and then held perfectly still, only to laugh again.

Walt pushed his attention back to his work and tried to concentrate. He doodled on the edge of the paper, found his eyes drawn away from his work.

She was laughing again, this time with her head in her hand as if she was trying hard to keep her mirth in. Walt had no idea what amused her, he found a smile on his lips and wanted to laugh along.

He folded the binder together and moved from the booth to one of the available stools at the bar. From his perch, he ordered another drink and discreetly watched as Laker Girl tucked her hair behind her ear and made another note. On impulse, Walt glanced at her left hand and found it bare.

Not that it meant anything . . . he’d met plenty of women in bars who were married but didn’t wear rings when they were attending conferences. More than one woman, or man for that matter, used time away from home to troll.

If he had to guess, laughing Laker Girl didn’t fall into that category simply because she wasn’t making eye contact with the bartender.

Two seats down, an attractive blonde parked her shapely butt into a seat and ordered a glass of wine.

Laker Girl noticed the woman and twisted her way. Within seconds, a man moved to the space between the two women and struck up a conversation with the blonde. Beside them, Laker Girl wrote frantically and sucked in her bottom lip. Though she was trying to keep her laughter to herself, she captured the attention of more than one set of eyes.

She met Walt’s gaze from across the bar, briefly, then returned her attention to her notepad. Nearly as quickly as she turned away from him, she looked again.

Even in the dim light of the bar, Walt could see the exotic gold spark in her brown eyes. He imagined her with a little bit of makeup accenting those eyes, maybe a ruby red lipstick. The room grew hot. He noticed the laughter inside her spread to her eyes, making her even more attractive. He knew he was staring, and didn’t care.

She kept his stare as she lifted her glass to her lips and finished her drink.

Walt couldn’t remember the last time he’d picked up a woman in a bar. Probably in college. Pickups in bars left a bitter taste in his mouth, but he was half tempted to do so now. Bitter be damned.

“There you are!”

A familiar voice redirected his attention and brought a smile to his lips.

Monica Fairchild, newly minted nurse practitioner, stood beside her husband, Trent, her arms open in greeting.

“Mo!” He accepted her hug and stood back to shake Trent’s hand. “You’re early!”

Monica nudged her husband’s shoulder. “On-time flights are easier when you’re behind the controls.” Trent Fairchild and his two brothers owned and operated Fairchild Charters. A private air charter company with a fleet of jets, big and small, not to mention more helicopters than one could count, which was why they were attending the conference of International Emergency Medicine . . . a conference where professionals worked to improve the emergency response to natural disasters all over the world. “Is Glen with you?” Glen was Trent’s brother and liaison to the fixed-wing portion of air travel for the sick and injured.

“He’s flying in later,” Trent told him.

Monica glanced around the bar and motioned to an empty table that would hold all of them.

After they settled, Trent flagged the waiter.

“Looks like this place is gearing up for quite a week.” Monica’s words mimicked Walt’s thoughts.

“What are all the posters for?” Trent asked.

Walt explained the second conference taking place and Monica’s eyes lit up. “Really? Romance novels?”

“Don’t tell me you read that garbage,” Walt said with a roll of his eyes.

“Don’t judge. There’s enough blood and guts in the world. Books help me escape.”

Trent shared a glance. “Everyone has a vice. Besides, it helps her midflight.”

How a pilot and a woman phobic of flying ever managed to get together . . . Walt would never know.

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