There are many things in life which are never a good thing. Death, taxes—and like now—the reflection of flashing red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror.
"I should've stayed at the reception," Kelly Ann Morgan muttered to herself, pulling to the side of the road. "Stupid feet." Despite her mother's warning, she'd opted to wear the sexy slingbacks with five inch heels that made her look tall and something closer to svelte, but even having kicked them off two long hours ago hadn't helped the ache still shooting up her arches. Once Finn and his bride had left the reception, all she could think of was getting off her throbbing feet and crawling into bed. With the others still dancing the night away, she'd convinced the groom's sister to catch a ride with her brother so Kelly could leave on the heels of the newlyweds. If not for her stupid feet she'd still be at the reception dancing with all her friends instead of stopped at the side of the road with a police car on her bumper.
Searching her beaded clutch for her license, she sucked in a calming breath and replayed the last few blocks in her mind, wondering what she could have done wrong. License in hand, she lowered the window and took a quick glance at the windshield. No expired registration. At least that was a good thing.
"Evening, miss. License and proof of insurance please?"
"Yes," hiccup, "sir." She stretched out her hand. "I'm sorry." Hiccup. "I get hiccups when I'm nervous."
The officer raised his attention from the license to her face. "I see. Wait here, please."
Maybe she had a burned out tail light or something. Staring intently at the rear-view mirror, watching the officer get into the front seat of his patrol car did nothing to ease her unsteady nerves. He was just checking her insurance. Routine. Standard Operating Procedure. Nothing to be concerned about. After all, she wasn't a criminal on the run.
The towering man sauntered back to her door, his expression unreadable.
Impatient, she blurted out, "Did I do something wrong?"
"There's a stop sign a few blocks back."
His gaze scanned the interior of the car in one swift motion. "Where are you coming from, miss?"
"My friend's wedding." Sucking in a deep breath and swallowing hard, she tried to suppress the stupid nervous hiccups.
"Celebrating?" he asked evenly.
Kelly nodded. She didn't dare open her mouth.
"Have a few drinks?"
"No, sir. Well, yes, sir, but I'm perfectly sober."
The officer nodded and took half a step back. "If you'll step out of the car, please?"
"I had my last drink at least a couple of hours ago." She dangled one foot out the door then another. "Trust me, no one would have let me out the door of the hall if I'd had more." Hiccup.
The man's gaze dropped, and for a few exhilarating seconds, she thought he was admiring her legs. "Miss, where are your shoes?"
"Shoes?" Did he mean those miserable expensive torture devices? She flung her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the backseat only to suddenly realize she had no recollection of tossing them there in the first place. "I… think I forgot them at the reception."
"If you'll please stand with your arms out and raise your right foot six inches off the ground."
"Yes,” hiccup, “of course, but I can straighten this whole thing out if I could just have a minute to call someone. You see…" Arms spread, she toppled sideways, balancing on one foot had never been her strong suit. She'd flunked out of ballet class at the age of six. Regrouping, she tried again, wobbling precariously before almost tipping over once more. "Oh, forget this. If I could just call—"
The officer raised his flashlight. "Are you refusing the field sobriety test?"
She sucked up her nerve and straightened her shoulders. If standing on one foot was part of the test, she'd never pass it. "I am."
"Then you're definitely going to get your one phone call."
* * * *
"Mom is going to be extremely disappointed the party's almost over and instead of dancing with an eligible female you're dancing with me." Ian Farraday's little sister, Hannah, smiled up at him.
"Only because DJ tapped his future brother-in-law into helping load the wedding gifts." Across the floor he spotted his mother approaching the square patch of dance floor at his father's side. "Besides, if Dad doesn't fade before the song ends, Mom will never notice."
Hannah chuckled. "I guess you and Jamie are lucky she loves dancing more than she loves to sing."
"But Jamie isn't dancing with his sister."
"No." Hannah frowned. "That blonde has monopolized him since Joanna cut the cake."
"You're losing your touch, sis. The blonde was reeling Jamie in before they poured the first glass of champagne."
Hannah's gaze shifted across the big hall to where her eldest brother and the Marilyn Monroe wanna-be twirled to the music. "Jamie had been the one who took best to those dance lessons Mom insisted we all have."
"Helps that he was old enough to understand all the girls love a guy who can take a turn on a dance floor without stepping on their feet." Ian was only a few years younger than his brother, but at the time he'd considered the dance lessons a major imposition on his youthful fun. Not till he was in college and had easily mastered the two step—and winning the best girls—did he realize that once again his mom had been right. Which only made him wonder, briefly, why she'd picked now to harp on his bachelorhood.
The disc jockey announced the last song of the evening and Ian spun his sister to the first notes of the popular tune "Time of Your Life." By the end of the song they were laughing, out of breath, and ready to call it a night.
A few feet from their empty table the sound of a cell phone ringing caught Ian's attention. Quickening his step, he followed the sound, and under the napkin by DJ's seat, uncovered the culprit. The caller ID showed Lew Sterrett Justice Center. Normally he would have let another person's phone go to voice mail, but this late at night, he opted to answer. "Hello."
"No. DJ will be back shortly. This is Ian. Can I help?"
"I hope so." He heard the catch in the caller's voice. "It's Kelly Morgan and I've run into a small problem."
If she was at Lew Sterrett, he'd venture not so small.
"They think I've been drinking."
Think? Everyone in the place had been drinking. The parents of the bride hadn't pinched pennies. Not with the historic art-deco location, the food, or the free-flowing booze.
"I refused the field sobriety test."
Which meant the officer involved brought her into the station for blood tests. She didn't sound drunk to him, but he had no idea how long she'd been held in jail before getting her phone call.
"I need DJ to come here and explain that I'm not," a heavy sigh sounded through the phone, "… a drunk. They can," she sucked in a deep breath and he swore he could almost hear her swallowing. "…they can let me go home." She blew out a ragged breath, exposing the fear under the confident bravado. "Soon, please."
"We'll be there." Disconnecting the call, he scanned the large hall, then turned to his sister. "We need to find DJ. Fast."
Hannah pointed to the stairs leading down to the semi-circle reception area by the front doors. "He's coming in now."
Not waiting for his sister, he walked as quickly as was practical without drawing attention to himself and caught up with his cousin. "We've got a situation."
DJ's brows dipped into a frown. "What's happened?"
"Kelly called you." Ian handed DJ his phone. "She's been detained. DUI."
"What?" DJ's brows shot high on his forehead.
Dale, the most recent man to leave the Dallas PD, stepped up around his friend. "Where is she?"
"Let's go," DJ and Dale echoed.
Ian turned to his sister and tossed her his keys. "You take my car back to the hotel. I'll meet up with you later."
"I'll follow you." Hannah leaned across a nearby table and grabbed for her purse.
"No," Dale and DJ said in unison again, before DJ continued, "Not a good idea. We'll handle it, and better not tell anyone what's going on. No sense in worrying them until we find out more."
Ian could see the argument forming in his sister's head, but with a slow nod, she agreed.
The jail was a short jaunt from the reception hall at the fairgrounds and Ian and the others were rushing through the doors in no time.
The officer at the front desk lifted his gaze as the three men pushed their way into the building. The second his gaze settled on Dale, his shoulders relaxed and a hint of something akin to friendship lit his eyes. "What brings you in at this hour?"
"Here about a friend."
The officer's head took in the men at either side of Dale, both with their badges now clipped to their belts. Focusing on DJ, the older man frowned and narrowed his gaze. "Farraday?"
DJ nodded but the smile was forced. He wasn't in a mood for small talk and Ian understood why.
This time the officer's stiff stance didn't ease as he turned to Ian's familiar Texas Ranger badge. "Who do we have in custody that warrants two former Dallas PD and a Ranger gracing us with a visit at one o'clock in the morning?"
"Kelly Morgan," DJ answered, his stance much more casual and friendly compared to the man behind the desk.
"Morgan," the officer muttered, tapping at a keyboard. "The DUI?" His expression shifted from territorial arrogance to total bewilderment.
"She's a friend," Dale repeated with a casual shrug. "Who's the arresting?"
From the quick bob of Dale's head that matched DJ's, Ian figured that was buddy speak for We can work with this.
"Can we see her?" DJ asked.
The officer's scanned each of the men then, looking at Dale, shrugged. "You know the routine."
This time Dale's grin was more like that of a man among friends. "Thanks, Jack."
From the front of the building to the lock up where Kelly and a few other misguided souls and at least a couple of working girls were kept waiting was a short walk. Even if he hadn't seen Kelly a brief while ago at the reception, she would have been easy to spot. If she pressed herself any closer to the back wall, she'd become one with it. The elation in her eyes at first sight of DJ made Ian wish someone had stopped her from driving home alone.
"You made it," she said on approach to the cold metal bars. "Can I get out of here now?" This time her faltering voice failed to hide the fear.
DJ shoved a thumb over his shoulder at Ian. "It pays to have friends in high places."
Relieved and grateful eyes turned to Ian. "If that means yes, I owe you my first born child. When I have one."
At least she still had a sense of humor. "That one won't be necessary." Especially since her freedom came at a price. For at least the next twenty-four hours, one Kelly Morgan was in his custody.
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