Gray Sin: A Small Town Sheriff Age Gap Romance
I was doing my job as a cop when I rescued Gracyn. But I should have known better than to bring her back to my cabin. Kingsbrier's princess has a reputation for getting whatever she wants. I'd never considered she'd be interested in someone as old as her father. I wasn't attracted to a younger woman until that night. Now I'm in bed with the devil, trying to keep my buddies from finding out that she's everything I ever wanted.
Joe was another one of my parents' friends not worth paying attention to until he saves me from myself. It was only supposed to be one sinful night. Now, I tempt fate each time I go back for more. I've fallen for a much older man and we're treading in gray waters. To keep him I'll have to come clean to my family. But does friendship eclipse love?
Release date: January 9, 2020
Print pages: 233
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Gray Sin: A Small Town Sheriff Age Gap Romance
“Turn around don’t drown,” I chant as my coupe continues rolling into the puddle. The Ivy League diploma I earned means I’m intelligent enough to comprehend the warning. My heart? Not so much. I’m basically ten again shouting, “Just watch me!” to my male cousins when faced with a challenge.
The dark road dips. Can’t they engineer something, I don’t know… Level? Like a submarine sinking, my low-to-the-ground headlights dim as the water rises. It must be above the door line. I’ve underestimated the shrill flood warning that emitted from my cell and overestimated my confidence. It’s going to take a combination of smarts and skill to get out of this mess.
We’ve already established I left the smarts behind. So skill it is.
Using rain-splotched mirrors, I gauge how much further there is to go until I’m in the clear based on what’s visible behind me. All I want is to get to Kingsbrier before the storm gets too bad.
Tough luck with that one. With the rate the rain is coming down, it will take an hour to go another few miles. I laugh at my own stupidity and drum my fingers on the steering wheel. I can’t see anything for as hard as it’s pouring on my sporty little sedan.
It would have been wiser to go straight to the apartment I share with Corey, put on my jammies, and had poured myself a glass of Kingsbrier 2012.
My cousin is going to give me so much shit for this. He was the first to make fun of me when I went European taunting, “This is Texas. Real women drive trucks.”
I’ve been trying to be a real woman. I’d dressed to impress for a winery distributor meeting today. My skirt is now soaked to my skin and so much for these heels. They’ll never fit again after getting stretched out. Being glamorous is about as effective as… As sitting soaked in your overpriced German sports car.
I suck at playing damsel in distress.
However, let’s all give Gracyn a round of applause for not screwing up her first solo trip to renegotiate the winery’s contracts for the biggest grocery store chain in Texas. It was thrilling. Not. Except I’m proud of the fact that it was something my boss, Alcee Bennet, and Uncle Cris believed I was capable of handling on my own.
It also fed my ego, which is what got me into this calamity.
I blow a raspberry. This rotation with the corporate office isn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a shrewd businesswoman the way my grandmother was. I’m glad the powers that be want me well versed in all areas of Kingsbrier Vineyards. They are making me deal with minutiae and expect I’ll get my hands dirty. But I’m hoping that at least one of my baby sisters or other cousins has the gumption for distribution sales. None of the vineyard tour customers try to haggle when you ring them up at the company store. Heck, the last time we paid a visit to Richardson’s Market, Alcee even had to bring a personal case for the beverage manager to sweeten the deal. We’ve been doing business with the local grocery store for ages and they still wanted an additional percentage off. So much for supporting local businesses.
My foot depresses the accelerator with steady force. Almost there. I must be almost there. I’ve got to be almost there.
It’s been a crazy week at work. All I want tonight is a few hours with Gran. Then, if it’s too mucky to make it across the estate to my parents’ house, I’ll sack out in one of the old Tudor mansion’s extra bedrooms.
Tomorrow I’ll even fire up my laptop, use my cell as a hotspot, and log onto the company servers to finish up the marketing plan for next season. Take that storm! Take that utility outages! Nothing’s going to get me down.
I am… Stuck. Why did the car stop? No! “Shit. Shit. Shit!” I bang the steering wheel and move my driving foot back-and-forth on the gas and brake. Then I feel the squish of carpet underneath my toes.
“Argh!” I lean across the console in time to snag my briefcase from the floorboard as the water streams in the seams. “Think. Think. Fuck! If you’d done that you wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with!” I yell at myself.
The rivers of rainwater falling over the glass on my windshield create a ghoulish glare from the bright headlights coming in the opposite direction.
And now I die. You know, if I wasn’t already drowning. The alternative seems to be getting carried off by the backwoods lunatic in yellow waders approaching my car.
Yeah, it’s a honed skill. What can I say?
I get my window open right before the electrical system cuts out. I really am dead in the water. At least my car is. If the lumbering hulk helps me out of this liquid coffin, I can make a run for it if he tries to strangle me. It’s dark enough out that he won’t find me hunched down and hiding in the trees.
The flashlight he’s holding is blinding.
“Ugh! Do you mind?” I hold up a hand so that I can make out a few details of the figure. The cops will have to hire a medium to channel this knowledge, but I am trying to be responsible.
“Gracyn Cavanaugh, your fathers are going to kill you for a stunt like this.”
“Oh, Joe. Thank God.” My prayers have been answered. It’s not Sasquatch. Although, this could get as hairy. I’ve known Joe for sixteen years. He’s a friend of the family.
And he brought me home in his cruiser when I was in high school. My fathers—Yes, I have two of them; they’re brothers—told me in no uncertain terms that it was the last time they’d put up with me in the backseat of Joe’s squad car.
Meanwhile, my mother and stepmother pretended to be just as cross while they admired how nicely Joe filled out his uniform. I hadn’t noticed until they both sighed and commented that it was a shame Joe never settled down. After they brought up how handsome Joe is, it became harder to ignore. That made it even more embarrassing because, ew, my mothers were drooling over this guy while my fathers doled out my punishment.
Even when I thought Joe was old, he was hot. Now that I’m older? He’s got the makings of silver fox all tied up in the yes-please-tie-me-up sort of way that makes a woman wonder what he’s done with those handcuffs. For all that is good and holy, if my mothers were thinking the same things then that I am now we are all burning in hell.
“Help me, Joe.” Water is lapping at my middle. So much for my laptop.
“Stay put. I’ll pull you out.”
Joe’s got one of those massive overkill trucks with a wench on the front. Buckets pour over him as he attaches the hook to the front bumper. It ratchets slowly, pulling my former luxury vehicle out of the mire.
My car winds up parked at the shoulder. When I open the door and my heels hit the pavement, I expect that fish along with the water are going to fall from the front seat. Leaning back over, I take my briefcase from the opposite side and pluck my cell from its holder on the dash. Hey, at least I have the hands-free safety thing done correctly. How many points is that? I definitely lost some for the driving headlong on to a flooded road debacle.
Covered from head to toe in yellow, Joe is stoic. He lifts me into the cab of the truck where I get the leather seat as soppy as my pumps. I’m soaked to the bone now. Shoes. Shirt. Blouse. Bag. Let’s hear it for waterproof phones.
I punch a few buttons on my cell, informing my auto service of where my car is so they can tow it.
Joe runs back to set my parking brake since my car rests on an incline, stows the hook, and hops back into his truck. The cab lights stay lit and I notice the heat has been on when he rubs his hands together, setting them close to the blower. It was considerate of him to make sure I wouldn’t be shivering more than I am while waiting for my rescuer to finish winding up the cinch.
“Can’t get the window up. Your interior is going to be a mess.”
“It already is.” I’m not worried.
“Where were you going on a night like this?”
“Would’ve been safer to stay in town. Then again, Gracyn, trouble seems to find you.”
I place a delicate hand over my heart feigning shock. Then I glower. “I’m twenty-six not sixteen. Check my bag. I swear you won’t find any weed in there this time.”
“The lot of you.”
“The lot of us? You mean me and my cousins? Don’t lump us in with your friends. Didn’t you meet my fathers’ family through my Aunt Brier?”
When Joe laughs his intense brown eyes crinkle with kindness at the corners. He pulls the yellow hood off his head. Short, more pepper than salt hair, is trimmed tight on the sides and a little longer on the top. He brushes a few drops of water from his olive complexion before answering me. “Yep, I did. And you are—”
“The spitting image of my Aunt Daveigh.” Which has gotten me out of all sorts of jams. She’s the nicest person ever. “I’m also an upstanding businesswoman. Pillar of the community.”
“Same as your grandmother?” he mocks.
“The very same.” Or at least I intend to be. “Miss Rose will be very happy that you came to my rescue.”
“Not tonight she won’t. If you think this is bad, you should see Taysha Creek. The roads are flooded all over the county. You’re not making it to Kingsbrier tonight.” Joe glances at my soggy vehicle and gives me the side-eye when his gaze lands on my cell. Everyone on God’s green earth—or at least this county and the surrounding ones—got the emergency alert.
Instead of letting him lay into me I change the subject. “Where are you going? Does your shift start soon?”
“Just got off.” That explains the rain gear and personal vehicle instead of the sheriff’s department SUV. “I’ll take you back to my place. Call one of your dads and let him know you’re safe.”
“Me or you?”
I watch a pulse point in his neck strain as he puts on his seatbelt and decide to buckle up before I do something out of line. Like licking it.
“You, upstanding citizen. I’m not doing it for you. I’m not one of your parents.”
No kidding. I catch myself before the words leave my lips. I doubt Joe will appreciate the meaning.
He thrusts the truck into gear. Like the ones we go mudding in, it glides onto the grassy shoulder and around the puddle-approaching-lake with ease.
In the darkness, I take in the dashboard light reflecting off his chiseled face and the way Joe scans the area, making sure we’re safe and no one else is in danger.
By the time we get to Joe’s, I’ve chosen to use my insurance check on a new half-ton. Metallic black with silver tones. After all, this is Texas. Real women need a way to keep their motor running.
I’d lay into Gracyn for being irresponsible, but it won’t do any good. She’s got a mind of her own, born into generations of women of the same nature—Tornado. Hurricane. Choose your preferred disaster. They’ve named one after a Cavanaugh.
She’d like to think she put me in my place bringing up her aunts. I’ve been a cop a long time and argued with enough people who were so sure they were right that it wasn’t worth wasting my breath. I’ve also been friends with her fathers for more than sixteen years. They’re my drinking buddies. I owe it to them to make sure Gracyn is safe.
My place is only a few miles down the road. It’s an old hunting cabin that I’ve done some upgrades to. The log walls were solid. I ripped off the sagging front porch and spent a summer installing a new metal roof with insulation.
Floodlights illuminate the trees as I pull the truck up close to the squat front steps. If we could get past the sound of rain beating on the top of the cab, I’m sure we’d hear it rushing down the gutters. A barrel at the corner of the house is choking on the run-off the same way a drunk frat boy sputters beer from a funnel.
The windshield wipers swish back-and-forth a few more times as I shrug out of my raincoat.
“You might want to take this.” I offer it to Gracyn.
“I don’t see why. I’m drenched.” She may be arguing, but she’s already putting her arms into the thick sleeves. “Thanks.” She smiles.
Her hair is plastered to her head and neck and the thick curls have rivulets winding their way down the sides of her face. It’s dampened her clothes. Seeing how basically everything Gracyn has on is either white or sheer, I’ve gone out of my way to look only at her brown eyes. The color doesn’t really matter, she’s got a hint of the devil in her. Same as her Aunt Brier. And that plump lower lip she’s biting down on, waiting for me to get my ass in gear? It’s one of the things that once attracted me to Daveigh. That’s water under the bridge, though. A pretty face is a pretty face.
I lift my hips and shimmy my hand down the front of my pants. Gracyn watches me, at first unsure of what I’m doing between the layers, until I pull my cell out of my pocket. I keep my mouth shut while disengaging my alarm system and unlocking the front bolt via remote. She’s bound to have a whip-fast tongue and take whatever I say out of context. It’s sexy on women my age. On girls young enough to be my daughter it gives me the creeps. Probably because it tends to happen while I’m in uniform and those women are the ones offering you a quick blow to get out of whatever mess they’ve dug themselves into.
I take the handle of her briefcase to carry it for her.
“You may want to use my laptop as an umbrella.” Gracyn motions over her wet head. “That’s about all it’s good for anymore.”
“On three?” I’m counting down to what I know will be an interesting night of trying to play good host to a kid. I’m not big on having guests. I’d planned on hitting the hay since the clean-up from a storm like this is tends to be all-hands-on-deck and I’ll get an early call.
Gracyn reaches for the door handle. She looks over her shoulder before I get another word out and I realize she’s about to race me. Although, I’d have made sure she’d gotten in first, it’s also obvious she plans to cheat to get to the front door.
All I can see under the hood of the coat is the sly grin spreading over her face when she’s sure I’m onto her game. “Catch me.”
Gracyn darts from the truck while somewhere in my past the phrase drags me back. It sends me a little off-kilter, but I’m slamming the driver’s side door and bringing up the rear fast enough that my hand connects with the knob at the same moment hers does.
Lightening crashes around us. Gracyn jumps as if the heat of my hand scorches her back through the Gor-Tex. I guide her inside and shut us in, away from the storm.
Her knees buckle as she giggles. “That was fun. Wanna do it again?”
“Not really.” I laugh because she is.
“Me either.” She sighs opening her arms wide. “Except I don’t think I could get much wetter.”
She takes a step forward, invading my space. I’m glad the heavy coat is covering her blouse and linen skirt. Gracyn reaches up and roughs her fingers in my hair. Water droplets sprinkle to the ground. I shake like a dog to get her to stop touching me. Since pulling Gracyn from her car, her smile hasn’t quit and the way she seems to love life—even when she’s endangering her own—is an ever-present reminder of how beautiful that can be.
Gracyn turns, taking in my small cabin. It’s got two rooms. All a single guy needs. We’re in the living area, which includes a corner kitchen that is behind us right now.
I place her case near the door as she roams around. It’s not like she can go far. Her head darts into the bedroom, leaving me with the impression that she’s more interested in finding out where the bathroom is hidden. Then her fingers softly play along the back of the leather couch.
“Homey. What’s out there?” she asks about the bay windows and wipes a trickle as it threatens to descend from her forehead to her nose.
“Porch. Creek bed. It’s a tributary to Taysha Creek.”
“Like the one at Kingsbrier?”
Gracyn shrugs, sufficed by my answer. It’s then that I realize she’s removed her high-heeled shoes and is making wet toe prints on the hardwood.
I run my hand over my wet scalp. I guess I’ve gotten used to traffic details in the weather so it doesn’t quite phase me to drip dry, but I doubt it’s normal for her. The woman is dressed to the nines and, although I’d know Gracyn anywhere, she doesn’t resemble the twig of a teen I last saw.
“I don’t know what I have that’ll fit you, but I’ll—” I stutter and stumble. Why the hell am I so tongue-tied?
Gracyn follows me into the bedroom. I rummage in the drawer looking for something clean, warm, and not so old there are holes in the fabric, that she can change into. I find an old pair of navy sweatpants and a green t-shirt.
“Doesn’t exactly match,” I say.
“Beggars can’t be choosers.” Gracyn starts to shrug off the jacket, but then sees what I’ve been trying not to. She stops before handing it back to me, drawing the fluorescent color against her front. This is the first hint of vulnerability she’s shown since I’d approached her car. She looks around again, this time slightly unsettled. “Are you staying?”
“Oh, no.” I move toward the threshold.
“Actually, I was wondering if you were drying off or did you need to leave altogether? Go back out in the storm.”
“No, I’m in for the night.”
“Okay.” Her words are quiet.
I nod to the bathroom so she can have some privacy. “You should call your fathers.” I remind her. “They’ll want to know where you are.”
Her lips flatten to a line.
The door closes with a snick and I grab the first thing I see laying on the floor to wear. I also shut the bedroom door and do my best impression of a quick-change artist in the living room so that I’m covered by the time Gracyn’s out of the bathroom. I’ve got my jeans over my hips when the sounds of her shuffling make it to my ears. I jump twice, buttoning up as fast as I can. I’d been pissed at myself for forgetting my boxers. They’re likely in plain view in my bedroom, hanging out of the hamper. But if I’d taken the time to put them on, I wouldn’t be zipping up when she’s already walking back out here.
“I hung my clothes in your shower.” Gracyn knots the hem of the shirt, cinching it around her middle. The pants must be too big as well seeing how she’s got the waistband folded down. Her belly button peeks out, showing the kind of skin that calls a man to graze his fingertips against it.
I make another reminder to call her parents so they don’t expect her home. At this point, I should just do it. I seem to need it reinforced that Gracyn’s off-limits.
“Corey and I share a place. Mom and Daddy didn’t know I meant to see Gran tonight.”
That’s Keely and Colton, her set of parents who live at the estate. Adam, Gracyn’s biological father, and his wife Temple have a house a few miles away.
“Won’t your cousin wonder where you are?”
“Meh… Corey’s not around lately anyhow. I see him at work, but that’s about it.”
I can’t help noticing Gracyn’s curves and that she doesn’t have a bra on. Especially when she brushes her dark hair back over her shoulders. She’s drying her long brown curls with a towel. They’re bouncing back with the help of the heat in the room. If someone would open a window to cool it down in here that would be great.
“What do you do?… Are you hungry at all?” I duck my head into the fridge. It’s about the only distraction I have from Gracyn’s tiny waist and not-so-tiny chest.
“I do what ninety-nine percent of Cavanaughs do; work for my family… And yes, I’m starved.”
Gracyn comes over to help. We stand at the counter and she looks up at me, smiling again as she chatters on about a marketing venture for Kingsbrier Winery and return on investment. I don’t think the two are interconnected, but she’s excited and, for the number of times the older woman’s name has come up, I get the feeling it’s what Gracyn wanted to talk to her grandmother about.
Meanwhile, all I can think is what the hell was I doing bringing her here?
Gracyn is young, well-educated, young, well-off, engaging, young, funny enough to laugh at herself… Did I mention young? If I’m doing the math right—and I’m sure she can—I was hardly out of high school when she was in diapers.
Gracyn cuts zucchini rounds to place on the tray I’m using for seasoned steaks. The knife slices the veggies and the foreshadowing’s not lost on me. I’ll give her my bed, tell her I’m taking the couch, and then lock my perverted ass in my truck overnight.
Right now, I’m kind of hating that I refused a decade of invites to their biggest family events. I know nothing about Gracyn the way I do about Brier’s kids. The familiarity would put the kibosh on whatever sweet hell this is.
I want to light the grill, but instead play by the rules and the steaks go under the broiler. I’m already getting zapped left and right by electricity. Chancing going out into the storm would allow me to expand my lungs. It’s asking for disaster, though, during a thunderstorm. The room keeps getting smaller. It’s at the point that I’m only seeing Gracyn. Like a dolt, I’ve knocked over a few things while watching her. If she’s noticed, she hasn’t let on. That’s good manners for you.
I need Gracyn to have not grown up. To not be this beautiful and charming. My mind keeps trying to conjure the sticky-fingered little girl Colton introduced me to or the teenager in tears whom I’d confiscated a dime bag from and flushed the damn thing so no one knew except me and her good-and-mad parents. That’s not the woman in front of me.
This night needs to pass at the rate the swollen rivers are flowing or else I’m screwed.
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