Christmas In Snowflake Canyon
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Two people he did not need to see. Oh, this wasn’t going to end well.
He had dated Officer Rachel Olivarez in high school a few times. If he remembered the details correctly, he’d broken up with her to date her sister. Not one of his finer moments.
If that wasn’t enough, her partner, Pete Redmond, had lost his girlfriend to Dylan’s older brother Drew. He doubted either one of them had a soft spot for the Caines.
He should have remembered that particular joy of small-town life before he moved back. Everywhere a guy turned, he stumbled over hot, steaming piles of history.
Rachel spoke first. “What’s our problem here, folks?”
“Just a little misunderstanding.” Jamie gave his most charming smile, still holding tight to Dylan. Predictably, like anything without a Y chromosome, her lips parted and she seemed to melt a little in the face of all of Jamie’s helicopter-pilot mojo for just a moment before she went all stern cop again.
“They always are,” she answered. “Genevieve. Didn’t expect to see you here. You’re bleeding.”
She said the last without a trace of sympathy, which didn’t really surprise Dylan. Genevieve didn’t have many friends in Hope’s Crossing.
“Oh.” For all her bravado earlier, her voice came out small, breathless. Rachel handed her a napkin off a nearby table and Genevieve dabbed at her cheek, and her delicate skin seemed to turn as pale as the snowflakes he could see drifting past the open doorway.
Rachel turned to him. “You’re bleeding, too,” she said, with no more sympathy.
“Oh, I think I’ve had worse,” he said, unable to keep the dry note from his voice.
“This is all just a misunderstanding, right?” Jamie aimed a hopeful charmer of a grin at Rachel. “No harm done, right?”
“No harm done?” The woman holding a wad of napkins to her still-streaming nose practically screamed the words. She held up a hank of red hair Genevieve had pulled out from the roots, and for some strange reason, Dylan found that the most hilarious thing he’d seen in a long time.
“What do you mean, no harm done? I’ve got a court date Monday. How am I supposed to prosecute a case with a broken nose and half my hair missing?”
“Why don’t you shave the rest?” Genevieve suggested. “It can only be an improvement. It will save you a fortune on hair spray.”
“Can you really be as stupid as you look?” Larry shook his head. “We’re district attorneys. Do you have any idea what that means? We decide who faces criminal charges. Officers, I insist you arrest both of these people.”
Rachel didn’t look thrilled about being ordered around. “On what charges, Mr. Kirk?”
“Assault, disturbing the peace, drunk and disorderly. How’s that for starters?”
“It was just a bar fight,” Jamie protested. “The same thing happens a couple times a week here at the Lizard. Isn’t that right, Pat?”
“Don’t bring me into this,” the bartender protested.
“So are you pressing charges, Ms.Turner?” Officer Redmond asked.
“Look at my nose! You’re damn right I’m pressing charges.”
The bartender looked around. “Well, somebody needs to pay for these damages. It might as well be Mayor Beaumont.”
“Oh! That’s so unfair!” Genevieve exclaimed. “If you hadn’t bought that stupid digital jukebox, none of this would have happened.”
“You probably want to keep your mouth shut right about now,” Dylan suggested. “I’ll pay for the damages.”
He ignored Jamie’s rumble of protest.
“That’s all I care about,” Pat answered, reaching out and shaking Dylan’s hand firmly, the deal done. “Caine is right. We have bar fights in here a couple times a week. As long as somebody replaces those broken tables, I won’t press charges.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you press charges or not. You still have to arrest and book them for assault,” the prick of an assistant district attorney said.
“Sorry, Dylan, Ms. Beaumont, but I’m going to have to take you in.” Despite her words, Rachel didn’t sound at all apologetic.
“You can’t do that!” Genevieve exclaimed.
Rachel tapped the badge on her chest. “This sort of says I can.”
The officer reached around and started handcuffing Genevieve. With all her blond hair, silky white sweater and that little stream of blood trickling down her cheek, she looked like a fallen Christmas angel.
“Stop this. Right now,” she said, all but stamping her foot in frustration. “You can’t arrest me! My father will never allow it!”
“Believe it or not, there are still a few things around Hope’s Crossing William Beaumont can’t control.”
Like most of the rest of the town, it sounded as if Rachel had had a run-in or two with Mayor Beaumont, who tended to think he owned the town.
“Why aren’t you arresting her?” she demanded with a gesture to the assistant district attorney. “She’s the one who wouldn’t stop playing the stupid songs on the jukebox. And I think she broke my foot with that hideous shoe.”
Rachel seemed unaffected as she turned her around and started reciting her Miranda rights. Her partner turned his attention to Dylan.
“Turn around and place your hands behind your back,” Pete ordered.
“I’ll do my best, Officer,” Dylan answered. He twisted his right arm behind his back and twisted his left, with the empty sleeve, as far as he could.
“Dylan,” Jamie chided.
Redmond apparently realized the challenge. “Um, Olivarez, what am I supposed to do here?”
Rachel paused in mid-Miranda and looked at her partner in annoyance that quickly shifted to more of that damn pity when she looked at Dylan.
“You could always let me go,” he suggested, fighting down the urge to punch something all over again. “I was only coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress. What’s the harm in that?”
“Or not,” she snapped, and before he realized what she intended, she reached for the cuff on Gen’s left wrist and fastened the other side onto his right.
Oh, joy. Shackled to Genevieve Beaumont. Could he stoop any lower?
“You can’t do this!” she exclaimed again. “I’ve never been arrested before. I can’t believe this is happening, all because of some stupid Christmas carols.”
“I like Christmas carols,” Rachel said.
“So do I,” Genevieve answered hotly. “Believe me, I do. But not on a Friday night when I only wanted a few drinks and some good music.”
“You can explain that to the judge, I’m sure. Come on. Let’s go.”
She headed for the door, pushing her still-protesting prisoner ahead of her. Dylan, by default, had to go with them.
When she opened the door, a blast of wind and snow whirled inside, harsh and mean.
He was aware of Genevieve’s sudden shiver beside him and some latent protective instinct bubbled up out of nowhere. “It’s freezing out there. At least let the woman put on her coat.”
Rachel raised an eyebrow at him, as surprised as he was by the solicitude. Genevieve apparently didn’t even notice.
“That’s right. I can’t leave without my coat. And my purse. Where’s my purse?”
“I’ll get them,” Jamie offered.
“Where are they?” Pete asked.
“I was sitting over there.” She gestured toward her table. It seemed a lifetime ago that she had pressed her chest against his shoulder so she could bug Pat about her mojito. “My coat should be hanging on the rack. It’s Dior. You can’t miss it.”
Jamie found the coat and purse quickly and handed them over. “I can’t say this is how I expected to spend my last night of leave.”
“No worries. I’ll call Andrew. He’ll have you out in an hour or two.”
The only thing worse than the lecture in store for him from Pop would be the similar one their older brother would likely deliver.
“If they send me to the big house, take care of Tucker for me, will you?”
Jamie threw him a look of disgust. “This isn’t a joke, damn it. You’re under arrest. These are serious charges.”
“It was just a bar fight. Drew can handle that in his sleep. On second thought, Charlotte can take care of Tuck. He likes it at her place.”
His brother shook his head. “You’re insane.”
He must be. Despite the indignity of being shackled to Genevieve Beaumont and hauled out through the biting snow to the waiting patrol car, Dylan was astonished to discover he was enjoying himself more than he had in a long, long time.
THIS WAS A DISASTER. A complete, unmitigated catastrophe.
The rush that had carried her through the altercation—had she really punched a woman in the nose?—was beginning to ebb, replaced by hard, terrifying reality.
Her father was going to kill her.
Her mother was going to pop a couple of veins and then kill her.
She slumped into the seat, wondering just how her life had descended into this misery. A week ago, she had been blissfully happy in Paris. Long lunches with her friends at their favorite caf?s, evenings spent at Place Vend?me, afternoon shopping on the Rue de Rivoli.
Okay, maybe, just maybe, she should have been looking for work during some of those long lunches. Maybe she should have tried a little harder to turn her two internships into something a little more permanent.
She had always figured she had plenty of time to settle down. For now, she only wanted to grab as much fun as she could. What else was she supposed to do after her plans for her life disintegrated into dust like old Christmas wrapping paper?
She had been in a bit of a financial hole. She would be the first to admit it. She liked nice things around her. She would eventually have climbed her way out of it.
How was she supposed to do that now, with a record? She slumped farther back into the seat, vaguely queasy from the scent of stale coffee and flop sweat that had probably seeped into the cheap leather upholstery along with God knows what else.
Her father would see her arrest as just more proof that he needed to tighten the reins.
She burned from the humiliation that had seethed and curled around in her stomach since that afternoon. Her parents were treating her as if she were twelve years old. She was basically being sent to her room without supper in a grand sort of way.
She should have known something was up when they sent her a plane ticket and demanded she come back to Hope’s Crossing, ostensibly for Thanksgiving with them and her brother, Charlie. Stupid her. She hadn’t suspected a thing, even though she had picked up weird vibes since she arrived home Wednesday.
Thanksgiving dinner had been a grand social affair, as usual. Her parents had invited several of their friends over and Genevieve had endured as best she could and escaped to her room at the earliest opportunity.
Then this morning after breakfast, William had asked her to come into his study. Her mother had been there, looking pale and drawn. As usual, sobriety wasn’t agreeing with Laura.
It certainly hadn’t agreed with Genevieve as she had sat, sober as a nun, while William outlined the financial mess she was in and then proceeded to give her the horrifying news.
He was closing her credit accounts, all of them, and withdrawing her access to her trust fund.
“I’ve been patient long enough.” His grim words still rang in her ears, hours later. “For nearly two years, I’ve let you have your way, do what you wanted. I told myself you were healing from a broken heart and deserved a little fun, but this is becoming ridiculous. It stops today. You’re twenty-six years old. You graduated from college four years ago and haven’t done a damn thing of value since then.”
Her father had thrown her one miserable bone. Her grandmother Pearl had left her hideous house to her only son when she died in the spring. If Genevieve could take the house, fix it and sell it at value within three months, she could take the earnings back to Paris to seed the interior-design business she had been talking about for years.
And if she could turn a profit within the first year of her business, her father would release the rest of her trust fund permanently.
William had been resolute, despite her best efforts to cajole, plead or guilt him into changing his mind. She was stuck here in Hope’s Crossing—this armpit of a town where everyone hated her—throughout the winter.
Furious with all of them, she had packed her suitcase, grabbed the key to Pearl’s house and left her parents’ grand home in Silver Strike Canyon—the second biggest in town, after Harry Lange’s.
Yet another big mistake. Pearl’s house was far, far worse than she had expected. Was it any wonder she had gone to the Lizard with the intention of getting good and drunk?
True to form, she had taken a lousy situation and made it about ten times worse. She could only blame it on mental duress brought on by hideous pink porcelain tubs and acres and acres of wallpaper.
That was really no excuse. What had she been thinking? She didn’t pick fights, take on annoying people, punch someone, for heaven’s sake! She had just been so angry sitting there in the Liz, feeling her life spiral out of control, certain that she would have to spend the next several months in this town where everybody snickered at her behind their hands.
Now she was sitting in the backseat of a police squad car, handcuffed to Dylan Caine, of all people.
He shifted in the seat and she was painfully aware of him, though she couldn’t seem to look at him. He used to be gorgeous like all the Caine brothers—tough, muscular, rugged. They all had that silky brown hair, the same blue eyes, deep creases in their cheeks when they smiled. Keep-an-eye-on-your-daughters kind of sexy.
He was still compelling but in a disreputable, keep-an-eye-on-your-wallet kind of way. He hadn’t shaved in at least three or four days and his hair was badly in need of a trim. Add to that the scars radiating out around his eye patch and the missing hand and he made a pretty scary package.
Each time she looked at him tonight—damaged and disfigured—sadness had trickled through her, as if she had just watched someone take a beautiful painting by an Italian master and rip a seam through the middle.
Yes, that probably made her shallow. She couldn’t help herself.
He did smell good, though. When he shifted again, through the sordid scents of the police car, she caught the subtle notes of some kind of outdoorsy scent—sandalwood and cedar and perhaps bergamot, with a little whiskey chaser thrown in.
“I’m sorry you were arrested, but it’s your own fault.”
He scoffed in the darkness. “My fault. How do you figure that, Ms. Beaumont?”
“We are handcuffed together,” she pointed out. “I think you could probably call me Genevieve.”
“Genevieve.” He mocked the way she had pronounced her own name, as her Parisian friends had for the past two years—Jahn-vi-ev, instead of the way her family and everyone she knew here had always said it, Jen-a-vive—and she felt ridiculously pretentious.
“You didn’t have to come riding to my rescue like some kind of cowboy stud trying to waste his Friday-night paycheck. I was handling things.”
He snorted. “Last I checked, Genevieve, that bitch looked like she was ready to take out your eyeball with her claws. Trust me. You would have missed it.”
Like he missed being able to see out of two eyes? She wanted to ask but didn’t dare.
“You wouldn’t be here if you had just minded your own business.”
“It’s a bad habit of mine. I don’t like to watch little cream puffs get splattered.”
It annoyed her that he, like everybody else she knew, thought so little of her.
“I’m not a cream puff.”
“Oh, sorry. I suppose it would be ?clair.”
He said the word with the same exaggerated French accent he had used on her name, and she frowned, though she was aware of a completely inappropriate bubble of laughter in her throat. It must be the lingering effect of those stupid mojitos.
“I believe the word you’re looking for is profiterole. An ?clair is oval and the filling is piped in while a profiterole, or cream puff, is round and the pastry is cut in half then some is scraped away before the rest is filled with whipped cream.”
It was one of those inane, obscure details she couldn’t help spouting when she was nervous.
He snorted. “Wow. You are quite a font of information, Genevieve. This evening is turning into all kinds of interesting.”
She couldn’t see his features well through the snow-dimmed streetlights but she was quite certain he was laughing at her. She hated it when people laughed at her—one of the biggest reasons she hated being here in Hope’s Crossing.
Before she could respond, the vehicle stopped and she saw the solid, somehow intimidating shape of the police station outside the ice-etched window.
A moment later, the door on her side of the vehicle opened and Pete Redmond loomed over her. “You two having fun back here?”
Dylan didn’t answer, making her wonder if he had been having fun.
“What do you think?” Genevieve tried for her frostiest tone. Pete had tried to ask her out once when she was home for the summer, before her engagement to Sawyer.
“I think you’re in a pickle, Ms. Beaumont,” he answered.
Oh, she could think of a few stronger words than that.
“I think we all need to suit up for the you-know-what to hit the fan after Mayor Beaumont gets that phone call,” the female police officer with the split ends and the improper lipstick shade said as she helped pull Genevieve out of the backseat and Dylan, by default, after her.
Her stomach cramped again, just picturing her father’s stern disapproval. What if he decided her latest screw-up was too much? What if he decided not to give her the chance to sell Pearl’s house as her escape out of town?
She might be stuck here forever, having to look for excitement at a dive like The Speckled Lizard.
A sudden burst of wind gusted through, flailing snow at them, rattling the bare branches of a tree in front of the station. Gen shivered.
“Let’s get you two inside,” the female officer said. “This is shaping up to be a nasty one. We’re going to be dealing with slide-offs all night.”
Despite the nerves crawling through her, the warmth of the building seemed almost welcoming.
She had never been inside a police station. Somehow she expected it to be...grittier. Instead, it looked just like any other boring office. Cubicles, fluorescent lighting, computer monitors. It could be a bland, dreary insurance office somewhere.
She was aware of a small, ridiculous pang of disappointment that her walk on the wild side had led her to this. On the other hand, she was still shackled to the scruffy, sexy-smelling, damaged Dylan Caine.
The officers led them not to some cold interrogation room with a single lightbulb and a straight-backed chair but to what looked like a standard break room, with a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker.
Yet another illusion shattered.
“Have a seat,” Pete said.
“Can you take these off now?” Dylan raised their joined arms.
The female officer seemed to find the whole situation highly amusing, for reasons Gen didn’t quite understand.
“I don’t know about that,” she said slowly. “We wouldn’t want the two of you starting any more fights. Maybe we should leave it on a few more minutes, until we give Chief McKnight time to assess the situation.”
Genevieve drew in a breath. The McKnights. She couldn’t escape them anywhere in this cursed town.
“What about our phone calls?” Dylan said. “I need to call my attorney, who also happens to be my brother Andrew. I’m sure Ms. Beaumont wants to call her father.”
“You don’t speak for me,” she said quickly. “I don’t need to call my father.”
“But you’re going to need an attorney.”
She was exhausted suddenly after the ordeal of the evening and the cut on her cheek burned. Her brain felt scrambled, but she said the first thing that came to her mind. “I’ll use yours. Andrew Caine is my attorney, too.”
Her father would find out about this, of course. She couldn’t hide it. For all she knew, somebody had already told him his only daughter had been scrapping in a bar like some kind of Roller Derby queen. But she couldn’t endure more of his disappointment tonight, the heavy, inescapable weight of her own failure.
“Seriously?” Officer Olivarez—now, there was a mouthful—looked skeptical. “You’re sure you don’t want to call Daddy to bail you out?”
“Positive.” She looked at the two officers and at Dylan. “I think we can all agree, the last thing any of us needs tonight is for my father to come down here. Am I right?”
“I doubt anything you do will stop that,” Dylan drawled.
He was right. Someone at the Lizard had probably already dropped a dime on her. Wasn’t that the appropriate lingo? William was probably already on his way over but she wasn’t going to be the one to call him.
“Andrew Caine is my attorney. End of story,” she declared. “Now will you please take these things off?”
After a pause, the female officer pulled out a key to the handcuffs and freed them. Instead of elation, Genevieve fought down an odd disappointment as she rubbed the achy hand that had been cuffed with her other one.
“You can call your brother over there.” Officer Olivarez gestured with a flip of her braid to a corded phone hanging on the wall.
Dylan headed over and picked up the phone receiver, and after an awkward moment where he tried to figure out what to do with it, he draped it over his shoulder so he could punch the numbers with his remaining hand.
Poor guy. Even something as simple as making a phone call must be a challenge with only one hand.
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