An angsty new life-after-divorce romance—featuring a divorcee who finds herself behind bars and a handsome police officer who comes to her rescue—is coming next week from Jeannine Colette, and I have the whole first chapter for you.
My name being called from the other side of the thick steel bars has me rising from the cold bench and wiping my hands on my jeans.
An officer stands at the far end of the room, looking at me—the lone inmate in a holding cell at the Valor County Jail. He’s probably wondering why a thirty-four-year-old wedding designer with a nice home and two young children broke into a salon in the middle of the night. A high-end luxury salon in the nearby snobbish town of Greenwood Village, of all places. I scratch my head and wonder why myself. I suppose I could blame the wine. There was a vast amount of Whispering Angel Rosé involved in the events preceding the alleged break-in.
“Mrs. Jones, I have a couple of questions for you.” His deep baritone echoes from across the room, where he remains, seemingly in shadows. His voice is commanding in that tone police officers use on TV to intimidate people.
For the record … it’s working.
This moment is quite theatrical really. Me, a frazzled woman, alone in a cell, while the man in dark navy appraises my every move. It’s like I’m being interrogated, a convict in the spotlight as she’s probed for information. It has my spine standing up straight and a chill radiating up my back as I take a long, quivering breath.
I grip the bars tight, my hands clenched into fists as I shout toward him, “This is all wrong! I’m a good woman, for Pete’s sake.”
“Ma’am, please calm down.”
“Calm down?” My question is exclaimed. “You don’t understand. I’m not a criminal. Yes, I understand you must hear that sort of thing a lot, but I can explain. I tried to tell your friend, Officer I Just Want to Arrest Innocent Women.” I point toward the cinder-block wall and not at the officer I’m referring to because that man, the one who handcuffed me about two hours ago, isn’t actually in the room.
“When the cops showed up to Bella Boutique Spa, the officer didn’t let me explain my purpose for being there as he read me my rights and cuffed me.” The thought has my chest clenching. “Oh my God, I’ve been read Miranda rights. And handcuffed,” I cry out as I rub my wrists where the metal cinched my skin. “I’m a vagrant. A criminal in the eyes of the law. Did they really need to take a mug shot? I hope it’s more Nina Dobrev than Reese Witherspoon because Nina looked adorable in hers. Granted, she was only twenty. Reese’s was cute, too, but she wasn’t even looking at the camera. As long as I don’t look like Heather Locklear … or Lindsay Lohan …” My ramblings cease, and my eyes widen as the gravity of the situation comes into focus. “I’m a convict. Fucking Tyler!”
With a swift push, I shove off from the bars and start to pace the cell. It’s pretty forgiving in size, and I’m the only one here, so I have plenty of room to walk in a circle as my hands run through my hair.
“It’s bad enough he got the house and the kids on the weekends. Every single weekend. That’s so excessive, don’t you think? It’s what I get for trying to do the right thing. Did you know he cheated?” I ask the officer, who shakes his head and takes a step closer.
“With Maisie freakin’ Mirlicourtois. I mean, I couldn’t come up with a sexier name for his mistress if I conjured one up myself. I probably would have envisioned Debbie Dicksalot or Bonnie Bendover, but, no, he had to bed Maisie Mirlicourtois, the only woman in a hundred-mile radius who can do my color.”
His head tilts. “She colors?”
I lift a strand of my orange hair. Yes, brassy orange highlights by someone who clearly can’t do color like Maisie.
“She’s the best hair artist in the state and the only one who has the formula to do my hair the perfect shade of blonde without looking fake, which I haven’t seen since she stole my husband. So, now, not only does Tyler get to keep my entire life, but he also has my hairstylist. And before you assume I care more about my hair than my ex-husband, the answer is yes.” I pause and stare at him for dramatic effect because it’s true. “She can have him. He’s a lying, cheating bastard of a man. I just want my hair back!”
Moisture builds behind my eyes as they well up with a heaviness behind them. I hate Tyler more than I could hate any man. Yet why does the mention of him make me so damn sad? Oh, that’s right—because he was my husband and I loved him something fierce before he went and stuck it to Maisie, the hair goddess.
The anger from the reminder of his illicit affair brings a surge of adrenaline that has me slamming my fist into the cinder-block wall.
“Damn it, that hurt!”
As I clutch my now-bruised fist to my chest, I take a seat back on the cold bench and hunch over. I have a wedding to set up tomorrow, and an injured hand is not ideal when you have to hang fifty yards of tulle over an altar to create an ethereal effect. That is, if I ever make it out of here.
The officer takes a few steps closer to the bars. His footsteps heavy against the concrete as he draws near.
“Are you okay?” He sounds sincere.
“I actually liked Maisie. Every six weeks, I sat in her chair and told her my secrets. It should be criminal for a hairdresser to use your thoughts against you. It should be like violating attorney-client privilege or HIPAA.”
My comment earns me a deep chuckle from the officer.
“You should hear what’s said in the barber shop. There’s an unspoken code of what’s said in the chair stays in the chair.”
I sit up, press my back against the cinder block, and laugh lightly. “Seriously. Instead, I bet she took every morsel and used it to woo him. Not that it was hard. We were quasi-separated. Smart woman to swoop in when she did. I’m such a fool.
“You know what hurts the most? My son, he loves her. Thinks she’s so cool, and he’s right. Maisie’s so damn cool. And beautiful and successful. A catch. A total upgrade.” I sigh, not in a woe is me way, although there’s plenty of that going on. I sigh because it’s true. Maisie is a total catch. “At least Izzy doesn’t see it that way. She hates Maisie. She hates Tyler too … and me for that matter, so I guess that doesn’t count for much.”
“You entered Ms. Mirlicourtois’s salon at eleven thirty in the evening for—”
“My hair color card.” I stand up again, holding my fist, and start my pacing again, this time a little closer than before. “I blame the wine. And my best friend, Tara. She got me all excited, and, well, after a bottle … and a half … I thought, You know what? Enough is enough. That witch has my house and my kids on the weekends, and she wore my robe and used my waffle iron while making my kids breakfast in my gourmet kitchen, and I was so damn tired of her having everything.”
“Went to the salon and used the back door while the cleaning crew was there. It’s not breaking and entering if the door is literally open.”
“Mrs. Jones, I have to stop you before you say any more.”
His use of the married abbreviation halts my steps. “It’s Miss Jones. Thank you for not calling me ma’am again. It makes me feel so old. There should be a rule you can’t call a woman ma’am until she’s older than forty, which I am nowhere near.”
“You’re thirty-four,” he states with a smile as he comes up to the bars, out of the shadows and into the light that my cell provides.
I stand up straighter as my heart freezes.
My chest rises as he closes in, and I have to clear my throat.
“I know,” I stammer rather breathlessly. While I am a little worked up from the pacing, fist punching, and overall self-deprecation, I’m mostly taken aback by how handsome he is.
Tall, broad shoulders, square jaw, and a killer grin. Officers shouldn’t have grins like this—the kind that gives a mischievous wink of the eye, which are both hazel and piercing. The kind that gives him divots in his cheeks and makes a woman weak in the knees. I’d confess to murder if he smiled at me like that because I’d be so hypnotized that I wouldn’t realize what I was saying.
He places a key in the cell lock. “I have to stop you there because I spoke with your ex-husband, Tyler Landish, and Miss Mirlicourtois. He said he gave you permission to be in the salon, and she is not pressing charges.”
The lock clicks, and the door opens. As the steel moves away, he holds it and gestures for me to step out.
“Oh.” I feel a little embarrassed. I just poured my heart out to this man and for no reason, as he’s clearly releasing me. “So, I’m good to go?”
“Yes, ma—” He pauses, as if catching himself before saying ma’am. “Ms. Jones. You are free to go, so long as you can confirm that what Mr. Landish and Ms. Mirlicourtois said is correct.”
“Yes!” My shoulders are squared, and my chin is held high. “That’s what happened.”
“Then, you’re free to go.”
He closes the cell door behind me, and I look up at him.
When he was standing on the other side of the room, he felt imposing, and I can see why. His tall height, paired with his lean yet muscular frame in that fitted uniform, is quite impressive. White teeth, tan skin, and a jawline that could slice granite, he could be a poster boy for the police department. It would make me join the academy.
I look back at the cell and think about all the things I said in there. “Is there any form of officer-felon privilege?”
His eyes widen, and it looks like he’s going to choke on his own air. I stare at him in confusion until it dawns on me that what I said sounded way worse than what I intended.
“Oh God. No! Not that kind of privilege. I mean, like what we were saying. Like the barber shop. What’s said behind the bars stays behind the bars. Because some of the things I said in there, while true, aren’t exactly—”
“You’re good.” He gives that damn winky smile again.
“Thank you,” I say with a shaky breath and glance at the tag on his uniform.
He leads me out of the room and into the main room of the police station. In a quiet place like Valor County, there isn’t a ton of criminal activity. A few officers are at desks, including my arresting officer. I give him a sneer as we pass and follow Officer Bronson to the front of the room, where my ex-husband, Tyler, is seated in a wooden chair.
As we approach, Tyler stands.
I blink at him a few times and then look at Officer Bronson and back to Tyler. My eyebrows squish together. “Why are you here?”
My ex looks at me with a mixture of exhaustion and annoyance. “Maisie came down here to give a statement, and then we had to switch because someone needs to watch the children. It’s way too late for a woman, especially one who’s possibly still drunk, to take an Uber alone. So, unless you want me to wake your father up to come down here to drive you home, I suggest you let me give you a lift.”
The problem with dating someone since you were fifteen is that they know everything about you and your family. My father, Gavin Jones, would be far more ornery than usual if we woke him up for a reason other than the fact that someone was lying dead in a ditch.
“Fine. Let’s go.” I’m about to walk out when a warm, strong hand touches my arm. I turn to see Officer Bronson pulling me back.
“Your belongings. You need to sign for them.”
I nod, having completely forgotten I had a purse. I leave Tyler unhappy to be waiting longer. I understand his grievance. It’s now two in the morning, and we could all use a good night’s sleep.
Bronson walks me over to a counter, where a female officer has my bag in a large ziplock. We go through the contents, and then I look inside my purse, signing a form to confirm everything I had with me tonight is accounted for.
When I’m done, I’m about to walk back to Tyler, who is impatiently tapping his foot by the front door, when Officer Bronson halts me. Those light eyes look down, slightly unsure, before he looks straight into my eyes. I take a deep breath, which seems to be a habit when he stares at me. It’s the smolder. The man has a look that burns slowly, melting you on the spot. I wonder if it has anything to do with the uniform. Like how Tim McGraw looks hot with the cowboy hat, but not so much without it. I don’t think the intense gaze of Officer Bronson would be as powerful if he were wearing pajama pants and a hoodie.
I tilt my head at him, wondering what it is that has us standing here.
His lips purse for a moment. “Are you okay, going home with him?”
“Tyler?” I ask incredulously. “He’s harmless.”
“You had a lot to say about how he hurt you. I need to make sure you’re emotionally okay, being alone with him.” His words are purposeful and laced with concern.
I let out a breath, enlightening this man’s understanding of my feelings. I look down at his hand and don’t see a ring on his finger. “Do you have kids?”
He shakes his head.
I shrug my shoulders and sigh. “Divorce sucks. You expect to love each other forever, and when that doesn’t happen, you end up fighting over property and pensions and who gets the fine china. It’s an exhausting process that leaves you feeling very bitter, very alone, and suddenly very, very single. But when you have children with that person, that until death do you part promise comes into play. I might hate that man, but he’s still the father of my children, and for at least the next thirteen years, until my son goes to college, I’m stuck with tolerating him. And despite his flaws, he did me a solid tonight.”
He squints his eyes and gives a sly grin. “Are you confessing that you did indeed break into Bella Boutique Spa in order to obtain your hair color card?”
Yes, actually, I did break into the salon because I was frantic and drunk, but that’s beside the point.
I scrunch my face and raise a finger at him. He’s slick, but not that slick. “Nice try.”
I walk away from the handsome officer and to my scoundrel of an ex, who rises again from his seat and holds his hands out, as if saying, Are you ready?
With an air of sarcasm, I grunt at him. “Jeez, Tyler. Can we please get out of here now? I’ve been waiting on you for hours.”
He lets out a groan as I brush past him and out to his brand-new Mercedes-Benz. I’ll have to remember this new car when he complains about the upcoming cost of Izzy’s braces.
I slide onto the soft leather and close the door. Tyler climbs in on his side and starts the car. He’s wearing jeans and a sweater—something he must have thrown on quickly to look presentable at the station. He drives through the streets of Greenwood Village, the radio turned off.
He runs a hand down the side of his face. We make it about seven blocks before the silence is broken.
“Lyss, if you need money, just tell me. Robbing the salon is not the answer.”
My back hits the side of the door as I stare back at him, incredulous, hoping he’s joking with that comment. The way his brows lower and he looks at me with pity has me barking out a laugh.
“I wasn’t there to rob the salon.”
“Then, what were you doing? Maisie got an alert on her phone that the security cameras went off in the back room, and the cleaning crew never goes in there, so when she looked at the camera feed and saw you, she called the cops.”
“Maisie is the one who called the cops? I thought it was the cleaning crew. Jesus, Tyler. You two really think I was there for her money? What business owner keeps money in a store at night anyway? You’re supposed to take it home with you at the end of the day. Besides, most of her clients pay with credit cards.”
“You know an awful lot about her salon.”
If my eyes could shoot daggers, I’d let them. “I know a lot about running a business because I run one myself.”
“Party planning isn’t a cash operation.”
“Go to hell, Tyler.”
He slams his head against his seat. “Fine. You’re not gonna be straight with me. Just promise you won’t go near Maisie’s business or any of her things again.”
“That’s a good idea. Then, maybe you should tell her to stop wearing my robe. I didn’t even realize I’d left it there until the kids mentioned she was wearing a white robe with the initials MJL on the breast pocket.”
“She forgot hers at home and found yours tucked into the back of the guest room closet. As you and I agreed, she still sleeps in the spare room when the kids are there. She didn’t want to come downstairs in the morning, looking inappropriate.”
“I heard Maisie is moving in with you. Doubt she’s gonna stay sleeping in the guest room.”
His face pales slightly, and he scrunches his eyes. “I was going to tell you when I dropped the kids off on Sunday.”
“I should have been the first person to know.”
The rest of the thirty-minute drive to Newbury is in silence. We pass the woods that surround the town on two sides, a place we used to go for hikes in as a young family.
He pulls over in front of the neighbor’s house. It’s an old habit from our teenage dating years, when he’d have to let me out at the house two doors down from my parents’ so they didn’t hear the car door close in the middle of the night and wake up.
When the car is parked, he turns to me with a hand stretched out on the back of my seat. I remember when he used to park here and put his arm on my seat this way. It was a different time, when we had different feelings for each other.
“It’s been two years—”
I hold my hand up to stop him. “No, Tyler. Don’t wax poetic about what we were and what we are now. Believe it or not, what happened tonight had nothing to do with unrequited feelings I have for you. Because there are none. I just had too much wine and a really bad idea, which led to me being handcuffed and arrested for the first time in my life, having my mug shot taken, sitting in a cell for far longer than I ever planned on, and being questioned by an impossibly handsome police officer.”
Tyler raises a brow at that last comment. “Handsome?”
I clear my throat. “Yeah, wasn’t planning on saying that out loud. It just came out.”
He lets out an incorrigible laugh. “You’ll never change.”
Now, it’s my turn to raise a brow at him. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Both. Definitely both.” He unlocks the car door. “You owe Maisie a thank-you for tonight.”
“Yeah, well, she owes me an apology for stealing my husband, so let’s call it even.”
He shakes his head with a sigh. “Good night, Lyss.”
I slam the door and start walking down the quiet suburban street I grew up on, trying to figure out how my ladies’ night with Tara went haywire. While I should be condemning myself for the wicked behavior, I can’t help but replay a certain grin in my head. A brooding smile with a smolder that could torch a small city. I could go for a little fire lighting. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the heat of a man’s touch.
Little did I know one night of bad decisions would awaken something inside of me.
A man is the last thing I need in my life and the furthest thing from what I’ll allow. Still, it’s nice to know I’m not entirely dead inside. Just the thought of Officer Bronson gives me a small shiver. A quake. A very nice feminine quake.
“Maybe I am still drunk,” I say to myself.
Yes, nice smiles on handsome men are fun to think about. I’m an adult woman—and a feral one at that. That is, until I stand on the front path of my childhood home and see the bedroom light of my father’s room on, and suddenly, I feel like a sullen teenager, about to get in trouble for sneaking into the house late at night.
So does growing up, even when you’re a divorced mother of two.