Sitting on the old couch in the office, Shasta ruminated again on the intriguing and extraordinary people she met here in Bramble. She was touched that Harley asked her to wait in her office for her to return, and realized it was to spare her the sight of having to see her attacker, as he was led out of the back of the jail. That thought made her think about Harley, to the exclusion of everything else.
Thoughtful, funny, she
smiled at that when she remembered the whole 'Satan' conversation, Smart,
hell she must be she's a lawyer, yet I know she can't be too much older than
I am. Strong She had a vague memory of being carried into Steph's house
last night. At that thought, she had a wiggling little moment of disquiet.
Something happened that surprised her and she wanted to remember it. She
thought hard but it just wouldn't come. She let out a breath she had unconsciously
been holding and told herself that it would come to her. It always did.
Her memory was like that. A pit bull, her sister called it. It got
a hold of a thing and wouldn't let go until she had it clear in her mind. Ah
well, it'll come. Now back to the Sheriff.
Beautiful. Just wasn't enough emphasis in that adjective. More than beautiful.
Gorgeous? Nah, she'd heard that used to describe Brad Pitt too often. In her opinion, Pitt was cute, but no more than that.
Lovely? No. Grace Kelly was lovely. Harley was just too dammed... sexy? Dangerous? Powerful? To fit into lovely.
Perfect. Damn, there was
that word again. She really needed to find a new word for her. It
fit so well, but she always hated the unconditional and unqualified characteristics
of words like perfect, always and never. It seemed, though, that where the dark-haired
woman was concerned, she couldn't find a more fitting description. She
knew the word itself was pretty subjective and that many people would tell her
she was wrong. If red hair and violet eyes were what tickled your fancy, then
you would disagree that Harley was perfect. That didn't matter.
Soooo, until I find a better word, "perfect" will have to do.
Of course, there were bound to be many people who agreed with her. Thinking that thought made her decidedly nervous.
I wonder how many people here think the same way. She can't be single if that's the case. Okay, lets put the evidence together. She's smart, funny, strong, sexy, young, and beautiful. She lives in a "really small town" as I've heard it described so often, and she does so by choice. Now, either she's here because she wants to stay close to her family, plausible, but it can't be the only reason, or she's here because she's living with her significant other and they like it here. Possible, and very discouraging or she's here because...
And, there she was stuck.
A talented, beautiful, smart and funny woman with a law degree spends her life stuck in a tiny town in the mountains when she could be living the good life with a practice in Beverly Hills and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. What's wrong with this picture?
Then, like daylight, it came to her. She saw the woman in her mind's eye in the standard three-piece Chanel power suit, sitting down at a table for lunch at the Polo Lounge and she just couldn't make the picture believable.
It was like trying to picture... Joey Buttafuco playing the romantic lead opposite Sharon Stone.
Off ... Wrong,
... and just a little sick.
Nope. She was here because she wanted to be here. All the writer could do was pray that the little seduction play they engaged in earlier in this office hadn't been a tease, and that the reason the woman remained living in Bramble wasn't because she had more than family here.
Well, guess the only way to know for sure is to ask. Let's see if I can get the Sheriff to open up about herself. My track record is pretty good.
Getting people to talk about themselves had always been fairly easy. She found that most people, with a few exceptions, thought they were, far and away,m the most fascinating creatures on the planet. A little interest, a little charm, and a dose of patience were usually all it took to get them going.
OK, Harley, I'm ready for
you. Let me in, she thought, just as the door began to open and the
object of her speculations stepped in.
"Hi ya. All done." She said as she walked across the room and sat at her desk chair. Am I ever glad to get that slime out of my jail and off my hands. The near overwhelming urge to give him a taste of his own medicine was very powerful. Many times since last night she got up and went as far as her office door to do just that, when she caught her self and came to her senses.
There's just something about bullies...
She knew it was more than that. The victim that had been on her mind each of those times. Well, at least I got him out of here and she didn't have to see his ugly face again. That gave her a little satisfaction. Okay, that, and the fact that Gunny and Lt. Brickman told her they had him nailed to the wall on the other charges. He wouldn't see the light of day for years and years.
The self-satisfied smile the Sheriff was sporting intrigued the writer, but she felt it best to proceed with caution in her interrogation, so she didn't mention it.
"So, tell me about growing up in the Ravensdown clan?" She shifted a little, brought her legs up onto the couch, and curled them beneath her.
"Not much to tell really. With six of us, it was a house full. Just the usual I guess, you know." A tiny smirk was her only expression.
"Well then, tell me about the members of the family I haven't met yet. Tell me about Emerson and Wilson."
The dark haired woman's expression didn't change but her mind worked hard and fast, nonetheless. This is a writer here. She's not just asking polite interested questions to make conversation. Harley had been a lawyer long enough to be able to tell the difference between curiosity and interrogation. No. She's hunting for something, all right, but is it for her work or is it...personal. She released a small sigh. Okay, let's just see where this is going.
"Well, Emerson is, as I
said, the Principal of the Bramble High School. It's not very big but
it does have one of the highest senior test scores per student in the state
and has for eight years now. I think Emerson is responsible for a good
deal of that. He's really passionate about getting the kids to love to learn.
According to him, that's the key. He says, anyone can learn anything if
they want to enough. You just have to get them to want to. I think
She settled back a bit in her swivel chair and took a sip of her now cold coffee.
"I think I agree with him, too. So, he's the oldest. I'm assuming he's married?" The question was so casual it would have been dismissed by anyone else.
Harley wasn't anyone else.
OK, let's see how long it takes to get to me. She turned her chair just a tad until she was looking directly at the woman curled on her couch as she answered.
"Oh yes, for years now. He and Martha have three kids, two boys, and a girl. It's only respectable to be married if you're going to be a principal. Em says people wouldn't trust him otherwise." She smiled wickedly and lifted both feet to rest on her desk, crossing them at the ankles and observed the interest in the green eyes across the room as she did.
It took the writer a good couple of seconds too long to get her next question out and drag her gaze from those long legs encased in that tight denim.
"A.. and uhm, Wilson? Does he live here too, or just come visit?" She really hoped she didn't sound as lame as she thought she had. Returning to the tone she hoped would imply casual interest, "You mentioned he worked for your father but you didn't say what he did specifically."
Interesting shade of pink on those cheeks. I bet she didn't know she was licking her lips. Harley smiled inwardly and tried to think of how to prove her theory while still answering Emily's questions.
"Scholastically, he has a Masters in business. Professionally, he's the President of my Dad's company and the heir to the throne, so to speak. Practically speaking, he's my Dad's right hand man and it's his job to keep abreast of any and all new opportunities to expand the company or increase its profits." She decided that another long, slow stretch was in order and closed her eyes to slits to watch the blonde's reaction. She didn't have long to wait.
In almost perfect synchronicity, the writer herself took a very deep breath and held it as her eyes dropped from the Sheriff's face to her chest. Her nostrils flared briefly and she swallowed, hard. She had to clear her throat to continue.
"That must be tough on his family...being away so often, I mean, on his wife and children."
Oh, that was a smooth transition. Brava, little bard. You must have paid a lot of attention in those journalism classes in college. Assume the statement just needs to be confirmed and wait for the interviewee to deny it. Sharp lady, but I know that look was not about my brother. Getting warmer, here. The interior smile was now a grin.
Bringing her arms back down to rest on the arms of her chair, she answered. "Oh yes, Wils has a lovely and very understanding wife and two sons. They stay very busy while he's gone. Jeannette runs the best, if ONLY," she smiled as the writer said the words with her, "accounting service in town and the boys are very active in student government and the scouts. Wils always makes sure to be home for the meetings and the campouts." She let the smile flow over her face a little as she thought, Here it comes.
The blonde didn't disappoint. "And what about you?"
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could form the words, there was a brief knock at the door and then it opened.
"Excuse me, Ms. Cutter..." Cole said.
"Emily, please." She returned. She surprised herself with that. When Harley told her she preferred Emily to Shasta, she'd been more than willing to let her use it. Mostly because she liked the way she kind of breathed the word out. It felt sexy and intimate. Besides, it may have been only one more syllable, but she wanted the woman to have more to say to her... about anything.
With Cole, it was immediate and unexpected. Like using her penname here, was way to...shallow. For some reason, she wanted to be as real as possible with these people. Strange.
"Harley, Martha just e-mailed me. It looks like the Steven's mare is in foal and I need to get down there for a while. You want me to call in J.D.? It could take several hours." A little line of worry etched across his forehead and he shifted from one foot to the other.
Harley smiled. Cole and his critters. He'd been like this all of his life. She couldn't remember how many times he was found in the tool shed fixing up some kind of animal that had been hurt. He was a very tender man and she loved him very much, but this time she knew, it was important. The Steven's mare already lost two foals and this was important to the small ranching family that owned her.
"No, I'll be fine. If it gets busy, I'll give him a call. Just go and take care of Trixie. I hope this one works out for them." She said, sincerely.
"Thanks, I'll let you know." He turned to the blonde. "It was a sincere pleasure to meet you, Emily. If you ever need anything, you just let me know. Sally and I are in the book, and I'll be here at the station for the next month. I really hope to see you again." He thought for a moment. "Maybe you'd like to come to have dinner with Sally and I one day this week. Don't believe everything that my sister tells you about dinners at my house. I promise we'll be civilized and we won't talk about animal digestive tracks." He paused for a few seconds. "That's saved for when Harley visits." The dark haired woman scowled at him, but he ignored her. He smiled winningly at the writer, and she was charmed once again.
"What a lovely offer, I'd be delighted Cole." She smiled back.
"Great. We'll arrange it then. Bye now." He gave a little salute and was gone.
"Brat." The Sheriff said, and then turned to Emily.
"Well, since I've lost my deputy, I have to take on his job. It's nearly time for the school to get out and then I need to make the drive-around. You could either accompany me or I can drop you at Steph's." She colored just a bit. Shit, that wasn't supposed to come out.
She spoke very fast now. "That is if you want to. I know you might be feeling bad and those pills you're taking for pain have a tendency to make you sleepy. I'd be happy to do whatever you want. No pressure, here. Just want to be sociable." She broke into a huge smile and hoped it was enough to keep the writer from noticing the mention of the publishers name in so casual a manner.
It wasn't. The writer did notice and she was about to remark on it when she saw how uncomfortable Harley seemed. For some reason Emily managed to put a lid on her curiosity, and let the woman off the hook...for now.
"I'd love to join you. Maybe you can give me a little tour of the place. Your mother told me so much about the people here, I'm anxious to know more. Bramble really seems to have its share of characters, to hear your Mom tell it." She gave the woman her best smirk and tilted her head just a bit.
"Well, I'm not sure that wouldn't be the case anywhere that people got to know everyone around them so well. You get to see all their quirks and curiosities when you live up close and personal like this. I may not have mentioned it before," She rose from the chair and grabbed her hat and her radio, then swept her arm toward the door. Emily took the hint and moved toward it. "But it's a really small town."
The Sheriff opened the door for the woman and started to follow her into the outer office, when the blonde stopped suddenly and turned to her. They were only inches apart now.
Harley had to grab hold of the smaller woman's shoulders to keep from slamming into her. As she did, Emily instantly lifted her left arm to the taller woman's waist. She brought her head up to see those fabulous blue eyes up close for the first time.
"I..." She let out a small breath and felt the warmth of the strong hands on her shoulders and her breath on her cheek. She took in a breath to speak and was captivated by the scent of her perfume. Or was it her shampoo? Or maybe it's just her. She tried again.
"Excuse me. I'm, ah, sorry." Her voice was very quiet. She expected that the Sheriff would take this opening and back off a step. She knew she should be doing just that but she couldn't get her feet to move an inch. She kept glancing from the woman's eyes, to her lips and then her breasts, which were right in line with her mouth, and back again. Her head was screaming at her. Get out of her personal space, you idiot. This is NOT subtle. You are making a FOOL of yourself. She just couldn't move and she kept taking in little quick breaths of air, in cadence with her faster heartbeat.
Harley, for her part, was delighted... and stunned, besides standing there, frozen to the spot like a fly in amber. The air in front of her was filled with the smaller woman. She could tell the scent of her hair and floral scent of her cologne and the warm, sweet breath of her mouth when she spoke. She said something and it took a moment for the words to register.
"No problem." She whispered. Emily's breath was coming in shallow little pants, which she drew in with her mouth slightly open. Her chest rose and fell rapidly and her eyes would drift up and touch her own every few seconds. Each time it happened she felt a little lightheaded. The only movement she could make was to squeeze the shoulders she was holding onto. She knew she should move back, but she just couldn't.
Her head screamed again at the writer. Either reach up and kiss her, or say something and move on. Almost unconsciously, her body leaned forward, just a touch, in readiness for that kiss. Then a sudden chilling sense of wrongness filled her. Not like this. It's too fast. She's different. She's not one of them. Don't blow it. With her, you'll only get one chance to do it right. She halted her forward momentum in an instant and forced herself to speak.
"Do you," she had to clear her throat to remove the deep, raspy and obvious sounds of arousal. She began again.
"Do you," she let out a breath as she realized the beautiful face before her was lowering toward her with those wonderful eyes locked on her lips. Then they stopped suddenly, and slowly Harley straightened her head. "have an, uhn, a florist, uhm, here in... town?" She swallowed hard.
Harley fixated on her eyes. From the moment the blonde started the question, she was staring into them. They were... -wow. Grass green and sparkly and she had the tiniest ring of golden brown surrounding her pupils, eyelids half lowered, just as she started to lean toward her. Harley was sure they were about to kiss.
Then Emily stopped.
Suddenly Harley felt flooded with disappointment and the acknowledgement of that, completly surprised her. She was never one for brief affairs and she could count on one hand her past lovers. Most importantly, even if she were attracted to someone, as she was most assuredly to the blonde writer, it would never have occurred to her to kiss someone she only knew for one day. It just wasn't her style, but, holy gods and goddesses, she sure would have if Emily hadn't pulled back. She had no clue what was going on here, but she did know that she wanted it to continue going on, so she pulled back too.
"No problem." She repeated, and, as one, they stepped away from each other, but not before they both took one more small chance.
As the sheriff stepped back she brought her right hand down to slide from her shoulder to her elbow with a very light touch, while her left hand snaked its way up the nape of her neck and brushed it gently.
As Emily stepped away, her left hand drifted casually up from the sheriff's waist and squeezed as her thumb slid in a half circle, a breath beneath the officers right breast.
They both turned then and inhaled deeply, but neither noticed since they had both closed their eyes.
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