Authors: Katherine Allred
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
A Cerridw en Press Publicat ion
w w w .cerridw enpress.com
Sw eet Revenge
ALL RIGHT S RESERVED.
Sw eet Revenge Copyright © 2005 Kat herine All red
Edit ed by Pamela Campbell.
Cover art by Syneca.
Elect ronic book Publicat ion: November 2005
W it h t he except ion of quot es used in review s, t his book may not be reproduced or used in w hole or in part by any means exist ing w it hout w rit t en permission from t he publisher, Cerridw en Press, 1056 Home Avenue, Akron, OH 44310-3502.
T his book is a w ork of fict ion and any resemblance t o persons, living or dead, or places, event s or locales is purely coincident al. T he charact ers are product ions of t he aut hors’
imaginat ion and used fict it iously.
Cerridw en Press is an imprint of Ell ora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.®
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Mack: Mack Trucks, Inc.
MTV: Viacom International Inc.
Superglue: Chemence, Inc.
Tupperware: Dart Industries Inc.
Camry: Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha (Toyota Motor Corporation)
Jaguar: Jaguar Cars Limited
Gibson Girl: C. R. Gibson Company
Jessie stood in the middle of the empty room, her reflection cast back to her a hundred times from the mirror-lined walls. The smell of floor wax drifted up from the gleaming wood under her feet, and she inhaled deeply. Her own dance studio. It had taken her ten years, a lot of hard work, and a big chunk of her savings, but she’d finally done it.
The sounds of bagpipes filled the room, the exotic rhythm vibrating in time with her excitement. Unable to contain the feeling another moment, she hooked her thumbs under her belt and executed the steps to a Highland Fling, her feet moving so fast they were a blur in the mirrors.
“How the heck do you do that?”
The voice was filled with disgust, and Jessie grinned at Bridget’s reflection before she turned to face her. “Practice.”
“Well, it shows.” Her chunky friend shook her head and shifted the box in her arms. “I still can’t believe it’s you. You look completely different. Like someone stole your body and replaced it with a new sports model.” Jessie moved to the sound system and turned the music down. “What you’re trying to say is that you expected me to still be fat.”
“You were never fat!”
“Come on, Bridget. I wore a size twenty pants. I went to our senior prom alone and not a single boy asked me to dance. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.”
“You’re sure gonna get even at the class reunion next week. Every man in this town will take one look at you and you’ll be running for your life.”
Lifting the box from Bridget’s arms, Jessie headed for the office. “I’m not interested in any man this town has to offer. They had their chance. If they didn’t want me when I was fat, they darned well can’t have me now. The only thing I want from them is their children in my classes and their money in my pocket.”
“What about Chase Martin?”
“What about him?” Jessie hoped her face remained as neutral as her voice. Just the mention of his name had her stomach rolling like a bowling ball in an empty room.
Bridget slid behind the desk that was now hers and began stocking the drawers from the supplies she’d brought in. “You had a horrible crush on him all through high school. A re you telling me you aren’t even a little curious about him?”
“Not even a little bit,” she lied. “He was the worst of the bunch. Mr. High-and-Mighty football hero. Oh, I was good enough to talk to when he needed help with algebra, but let any of his friends show up and he’d look through me like I didn’t exist. I don’t know what I ever saw in him to start with. I don’t even like football.”
“Yeah, sure.” Bridget rolled her eyes heavenward. “Those blue eyes and coal black hair didn’t have a thing to do with it. A nd neither did that gorgeous body of his.”
“Oh, he had the looks, I’m not denying that. But I learned my lesson when his pals tacked my size thirteen underwear to the bulletin board in homeroom, then tried to convince Mr. Weems it was historical memorabilia because they belonged to Jessie James. Chase knew what they were doing, Bridg. I could see it in his eyes. A nd he just stood there watching me while everyone laughed. It wouldn’t even surprise me to discover that he was the one who stole them from my locker. I cried for a solid week. With the others, I sort of expected things like that, but for some reason, I really thought Chase was different.” She shook her head. “Just goes to show how wrong you can be. It’s a mistake I won’t make again.”
“Come on, Jess. A dmit it. You’re still interested. The minute I told you Chase was divorced you started talking about coming back.”
“You told me that four years ago. If he were the reason I came back, why would I have waited?” She perched on the edge of the desk and looked at her new secretary seriously. “Bridget, on the inside I’m the same person I was in high school, the same one who swore in blood that we’d be best friends until the day we died. I’ve still got the scar to prove it. See?” She held out her index finger.
“Stop avoiding the subject.”
Jessie grinned. “What subject?”
“Chase Martin. He’s the sheriff now, you know. A nd divorced.”
“Bridget,” Jessie warned. “Drop it.”
“Did I tell you he has a daughter?”
She paused in the act of returning to her own desk. “No, that’s one thing you didn’t mention. A ge?”
“Ten, I think. She was a little premature. Showed up about six months after Chase and Becky married.”
“Put them on the mailing list. I want the flyers to go out tomorrow.”
“Sure. But why the rush? We don’t open until next Monday.”
Her smile turned to one of satisfaction. “Because I’m going to use the reunion as advertisement. By the time that dance is over, I’m going to have parents fighting to get their kids enrolled.”
Bridget blew an unruly lock of red hair away from her face and stared at Jessie suspiciously. “I remember that look. It’s the same one you had right before you suggested we pour dishwashing detergent in the town fountain.”
“A h, the bubbles,” Jessie sighed with contented remembrance. “You have to admit, it was the cleanest the town square has ever been.”
“Yeah, and they’re still looking for the criminals who did it. I had nightmares for two years expecting to be arrested any second.”
“I told you they’d never suspect us.”
“We were just lucky. So what are you planning for the reunion? Going to put on a show all by yourself?”
“I won’t be by myself. A t least, not for the dance part. I have a date.”
Jessie absently shuffled through a box of CDs in preparation for filing them. “Dom is coming down for the weekend. He’s going to take me.”
Bridget’s green eyes widened. “Dominic Reyes? The dancer slash actor? Oh, my God! I thought you were joking about knowing him!” Jessie glanced at her with amusement. “Why I would joke about that? Dom is a good friend. I’ve choreographed several of his shows for him. We even dated for a while.”
“Why the heck are you back here, then? Not that I’m ungrateful for the job, but you had everything a person could want in New York. You had a successful career, a wonderful apartment, and Dominic Reyes.”
“Dom and I realized a long time ago that we work better as friends, Bridg.” She rested one hand on the CDs and looked out the window.
The sheriff’s office was directly across the street, a single light from its window cutting through the darkness. Her gaze paused on the square of illumination then drifted, taking in all of Main Street.
“I know it’s hard for you to believe, but I missed Rocky Flats. I guess once a Texan, always a Texan. When Gram died and left me the house, I knew it was time to come home. The studio being for sale was just icing on the cake. I think I’d made my mind up even before you wrote to me about it.”
“Well, I think you’re crazy, but I’m glad you’re back. I’ve missed you. The place hasn’t been the same since you left. A re you unpacked yet?”
“Pretty much. There are a few boxes left. But Gram’s things are still there. I have to decide what to keep and what to donate to charity.”
“I can help you with that if you’d like. I know you’re still not feeling a hundred percent.” Jessie shook her head. She’d had a recurring sinus infection for the last year. Not enough to stop her, but enough to make her feel tired when it was acting up. “I’m already taking up too much of your time with the studio. A nd actually, I’m starting to feel a lot better. Maybe they got it taken care of this time.”
A movement across the street caught her attention and she watched as the light went out in the sheriff’s office and the front door opened.
In spite of her good intentions, her heartbeat jumped a notch as a tall male form paused on the sidewalk, his head turned toward the studio.
She didn’t need a spotlight shining on him to know it was Chase Martin in the flesh. Every nerve in her body was screaming the news loud and clear. She was in the process of reminding herself that Chase Martin was a silly girlish fantasy she’d long ago outgrown when the man stepped off the curb and started across the street.
“What?” Bridget looked at her in puzzlement.
Jessie turned her back to the window. “Did you lock the door when you came in?”
“In Rocky Flats? What for? The soap in the fountain was the biggest crime this place has ever seen. People are still talking about it.”
“I was afraid of that. Better hide the dishwashing detergent. Wyatt Earp is on his way in.”
“Wyatt Earp?” Her gaze cut to the office door and a sheepish grin crossed her face. “Oh, hi Chase.”
“Bridget.” He nodded politely, his blue eyes sweeping the room before coming to rest on Jessie.
She was going to have to get a bell for that front door, Jessie decided. The man moved way too quietly. A nd if possible, he was even better looking now than he’d been in high school. It took an effort to remain calm.
“Is there something we can help you with, Sheriff?”
“I saw the lights on over here and thought I’d better check it out. This building has been empty for years.” His voice was the same deep, slow drawl she remembered, but he had filled out physically. No longer was he the boy her memory had led her to expect. His shoulders strained against the khaki of his shirt and tapered down to a narrow waist. Jessie swallowed hard, but kept her gaze direct and steady.
“A s I’m sure you can see, it’s not empty anymore. But thank you for your concern.”
“You bought it?”
“That’s right.” She went back to filing CDs. “A nd we’ve got a lot to do before opening day, so if you’ll excuse us?”
“Sorry I bothered you.” He turned to go and then looked at her over his shoulder, his gaze skimming her body with interest. “By the way, my name isn’t Wyatt Earp.”
While Bridget goggled, Jessie smiled sweetly. “How nice for you. I suppose it saves a lot of confusion.” His blue eyes met hers. “A pparently not.” He touched the brim of his hat with one hand. “Bridget. Ma’am.” Before she could blink, he was gone.
“Well, well,” Bridget commented with a grin. “He didn’t recognize you, but you certainly got his attention. He couldn’t take his eyes off you.”
“I told you, Bridg, I don’t want his attention. Men like Chase Martin are only interested in pretty packages. Let a woman show a little intelligence or look a little different, and they run like greyhounds. They want a trophy, not a real woman.” Bridget propped her chin on one hand and studied Jessie. “I think you’re letting high school color your opinions. It’s been ten years, Jess.
You’ve changed, don’t you think it’s possible that Chase may have changed, too?”
“I suppose it’s possible. It’s just not probable.”
“A nd did Dom date you because you’re ugly?” Bridget blinked her eyes innocently.
“Not gonna work, Bridg.” Jessie smiled at her. “Dom was one of the first people I met in New York. Before I lost the weight,” she added in case Bridget missed the point. “He’s one of the few men I’ve met who doesn’t care about things like that. Maybe because he knows what it’s like to be wanted for your looks. Lord knows, he has to fight women off with a stick.” Bridget sighed. “I don’t think that’s a problem I’ll ever have. Men still look through me instead of at me.”
“Then they don’t deserve you,” Jessie told her gently. “You’re smart and funny and loving. I’ll bet sooner or later, someone will see that, and when they do they’ll hang on to you for dear life.”
“Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.”
“Come on. Let’s get this stuff put up and get out of here for the night. I’ll even fix your supper.”
“You aren’t going to make me eat bean sprouts, are you?” Bridget was looking suspicious again.
“Nope. How does broiled chicken fajitas sound?”
“Like diet food.”
Jessie laughed. “You’ll never know the difference, I promise.”
* * * * *
Chase Martin’s brow furrowed as he steered the patrol car down Main Street. He’d felt like a tongue-tied idiot standing in the office of the old studio, and he wasn’t real happy about his reaction. It had been a long time since any woman had rattled him like that. But one look at her and his brain had emptied out like water through Swiss cheese.
She was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that stole your breath and made your heart stop beating. Her hair was the color of rich coffee, long and thick, shimmering with highlights. The eyes that had met his were an odd blue-green color with flecks of gold mixed in, and rimmed with lush black lashes.
He would swear he’d never met her before, yet there was something about those eyes that seemed vaguely familiar. Her accent had been northern, though, possibly New York, and he’d rarely been out of this part of the country.
Puzzled, he went over the whole scene in his mind again and came up empty. He hadn’t been there long enough to offend her, yet he’d sensed a definite air of reservation in her posture. Hell, he hadn’t even gotten the chance to introduce himself or find out her name before she’d made it clear he was intruding.
A rueful smile crossed his face as he realized how her attitude had irritated him. A s sheriff he was used to commanding respect. Having someone dislike him on sight was a new experience for him. Maybe she just didn’t care for the law, period. His smile turned to a grin. Maybe she was a criminal. He would sure take great pleasure in frisking her.
The thought shocked him, wiped the grin right off his face. He hadn’t been tempted by a woman since Becky had left, and that was fine with him. He’d been stupid enough to let a woman trap him once. It wasn’t going to happen again. Besides, he had A my to think about. She took up every spare minute he had.
His brow furrowed again at the thought of his daughter. The truth was, he didn’t know how to help her. He’d talked until he was blue in the face, but she still believed Becky had left because of her. Lately, he’d considered taking her for therapy, even though it left a bad taste in his mouth. She didn’t have any friends now. What would happen if the other kids found out she was seeing a shrink?
Pulling the patrol car to a stop in his drive, he climbed out and headed across the front lawn to his aunt’s house, next door. He took the front steps two at a time, then followed the sounds to the kitchen at the back of the house.