THE SOUNDS OF heavy metal music blasted in the car, vibrating not only the speakers but the windows, as well. Beating his hands on the steering wheel to the drumbeat, he drove along the highway to his destination.
Justin Davis was on his way home.
The last time he’d travelled on this particular road, he’d been heading as far away from the town as possible. He’d vowed to his friends, on more than one occasion, that he’d only come back when Hell froze over. It looked like things were about to get chilly. Justin wondered what sort of reception he would get when people found out he’d returned. He hadn’t exactly been a pillar of the community before he’d left. If there was trouble, Justin had been in the middle of it. He fancied his booze, and he did what he could to prove to everyone he wasn’t the sweet blonde-haired, blue-eyed, good boy his looks implied. He liked to have fun and had done it as often as possible.
Man, he’d been an ass in his day.
But mostly when he’d been with Wes Donnelly.
Hammering his palms on the dashboard to the strong bass, Justin looked back at his past.
He’d been a good kid most of his life, up until Wes had come to Passion when Justin was fourteen. Wes had been from the big city, and Justin had envied anyone who lived in the city. Not that he hated Passion; it was just too damn small and so often dull. The city had bright lights, lots of activity, and plenty of breathing room. So Justin had clung to Wes and every story he told of big city life.
Before Justin knew it, he was emulating his friend, including getting into trouble.
It had mostly been minor stuff: vandalism, rowdiness, drunk and disorderly conduct, fighting, disobedience. The instant Wes found out Justin’s father was chief of police in Passion, he’d ribbed Justin about it every chance he got.
“Cop’s son can’t do no wrong with daddy looking after him,” Wes had always said.
But Justin had proven him wrong. When he’d gotten in trouble, his father had been right there, breathing down his neck. Victor Davis claimed to love his son dearly, but wouldn’t stand for his shit.
What choice had he had but to rebel? He was the stubborn type and so often butted heads with his father. The last thing Justin wanted was to follow in his father’s footsteps, and he hated it passionately when everyone compared him to his father. He was his own person, yet no one seemed to recognize that.
Well, except for his friends, the Healy’s.
Living next door to Beth, Tyler, and Kevin had been outstanding. Anytime you were bored, you could hop the short fence and drag one of them out for a quick game of basketball, hockey or whatever else you could think of to do. Justin had considered Tyler and Kevin like brothers, and Beth as his best pal. Beth was the oldest; a year and a half older than him, he and Tyler were six months apart, and Kevin, the baby, two years younger.
He loved his sisters, Donna and Abby, dearly, but having two younger sisters had often been a pain. So he’d latched on to the Healys. Sure, Beth was as female, but she hadn’t been a girly female. She loved getting dirty and playing as rough as the boys did.
His earliest memories ran back to hanging with the Healy kids. He even considered their parents, his aunt and uncle, though they weren’t any relation whatsoever. Victor Davis and Thomas Healy had grown up together and were life-long friends. Tom and his wife, Cassie, were a great pair, and Justin loved hanging at their house. Tom was a famous artist who was filthy rich and built like a wrestler. Cassie had her trinket shop on Main Street that did very well. It was his little secret, but he’d always had a tiny bit of a crush on his Aunt Cassie. She was a blonde bombshell with a lovely personality.
His Uncle Thomas had given him more than one talking to in his rebellious youth. Not that it did much good. Justin had still been a troublemaker.
But he hadn’t been a thief. That was where he drew the line.
His father hadn’t believed him; no news there. Victor Davis rarely believed his son.
Sure, Justin gave his father cause to doubt him, but that last time, Justin had thought his father would trust him and believe that he hadn’t taken part in the robbery.
Boy, had he been wrong.
Now here he was, on his way back, and why? Because he’d made a promise.
When he’d run away, his destination had been his grandparents’ home in Mississauga, Ontario. Justin knew his mother and sisters had been there, visiting. He thought he could go, hang out with them, maybe give his mother the sob story that his father had thrown him out, and she would take pity on him and give him some money so he could live on his own for a while.
It had been a nice plan, except... By the time he’d arrived, his father had already called ahead and informed them that Justin had left home. Of his own accord. Justin hadn’t known that, though, when he’d shown up at his grandparents’ home two days later, distraught and pleading with his mother for help, claiming his father kicked him out.
She’d let him have it like she’d never done before.
Usually, his mother was a softy when it came to him. She had always babied him and stood up for him. Not this time though. This time she lit into him like a woman possessed. Man, had she been angry. And hurt. Hurt because Justin tried to play her against her husband with a lie.
She’d left the next day, giving Justin an ultimatum. He either shaped up, or he would not be welcome back home until he had.
That had shocked him and given him pause for thought.
Then his grandfather had lit into him. And he hadn’t been as kind. He’d told Justin it was time he acted like a man and did something with his life. “Stop being such an ass and grow up.” And that had been the mild part of their conversation.
Justin had been so shocked that he had agreed to everything his grandfather had said, including getting a job and paying his own way in life.
The first job he’d gotten was as a busboy at a fancy restaurant.
He’d lived with his grandparents for a year before moving out on his own. His grandfather showed him how to invest his money wisely, and so Justin had. It didn’t take long for his money to grow, and after two years of saving and investing, Justin opened his nightclub.
Just In Time.
His parents knew how he was doing, not because he called them to tell them, but because his grandparents kept them apprised. Justin had still been smarting with both his parents.
Then six months ago, his grandfather had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Within weeks he was deathly ill, and everyone knew he wouldn’t make it. On his deathbed four weeks earlier, Leo Wilson had made Justin promise he would go home and smooth things out. Justin hadn’t wanted to, but his grandfather had guilted him into it.
So here he was, heading home.
God help him.
Remnants of the winter’s snowfall still lingered in the ditches along the road. Spring had sprung, but winter wasn’t giving up the fight just yet.
The flash of police lights in his rear-view mirror caught his attention. Checking his speedometer, Justin cursed heavily. Slowing down, he pulled to the shoulder and hoped it wasn’t his father who was pulling him over. When he saw the officer step from the vehicle, he let out a long breath. It wasn’t his father, unless he’d had a sex change. No, the officer approaching him was all woman. Tall, lean, and built like a goddess.
Pressing the button on his door his window slid down, and he tilted his head towards the beauty before him. “Afternoon, Constable.”
“You were speeding,” she said in a deep, breathy growl that rang a bell in his mind.
“I know. Guess I wasn’t paying attention to the speed.” Her face was as stunning as her body was.
“Mind turning your music down?”
Damn, that voice was sexy. “Sure.” He shut it off, then flicked the glove compartment door open and pulled out his license and registration. “I know the drill. Here you go.” As he handed her his ID, he saw the name over her left breast. “Constable Healy. Beth?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Jesus, look at you, all copped out.” Pushing his door open, he stepped out and had a good look at the woman he’d grown up with. “Holy hell, look at you.” He swiped the hat off her head and whistled as all that blonde hair tumbled free.
“Give me back my hat, Justin.” She yanked it from his grasp, then pulling her hair up, slid the hat back in place.
He couldn’t get over how much she’d changed. When he’d left, she had been tall, thin, shapeless, with a short crop of blonde hair. Now…. well, she was gorgeous, complete with plenty of luscious curves. And she looked pretty hot in that uniform.
“You look incredible.” But when he leaned towards her, ready to take her into his arms for a welcome hug, she pulled away.
“I see you haven’t changed much. Still breaking the law.” She pulled out her pad and began writing.
“What is that?”
“A ticket.” She snapped it off and held it out to him. “Slow down.”
Looking down at the paper in his hand, Justin chuckled. “Funny.” He tore it in half, then looked up when she gasped. “What?”
“You can’t rip up a ticket.” She proceeded to write out another one.
“Give me a break, Beth.” He took the second one and repeated his action with the first.
“Fine, have it your way.”
She pulled out her handcuffs, and he looked down at them with bewilderment. “What the hell are you doing with those?”
She spun him around so fast, he didn’t have time to protest, and the next thing he knew, she was slapping the cold steel onto his wrist.
“You have the right to remain silent—”