How to Land Her Lawman

By: Teresa Southwick

Chapter One

Will Fletcher would rather face an armed felon than have the conversation he was about to have with his ex-girlfriend. But, as the saying went, this town wasn’t big enough for the both of them. For better or worse, this summer he was the acting sheriff in Blackwater Lake and she was a freelance photographer who occasionally did work for the department. She also had a studio on Main Street across from his office.

There was no way he wouldn’t see her and the sooner this confrontation was behind him the better.

He’d been watching the Photography Shop all morning, waiting for her to be alone, and now stood on the sidewalk in front of the sheriff’s office ready to head over. Hesitation was costing him a hell of a lot of time when there was work to do. He looked left, then right before crossing the street. Her window had big, fancy letters telling the establishment’s name, then smaller print in the right hand corner proclaiming April Kennedy, Photographer. There was a list of services in the right corner—Portraits, Family Sittings, Weddings and Special Occasions.

Will stared at the displayed dance-hall girl and gambler forms with cutouts where the tourists put their faces for a fun souvenir picture of a visit to Blackwater Lake, Montana. Technically he was a visitor but definitely not a tourist. Born and raised in this town, he was only here to help out and would go back to being a detective for Chicago PD in three months when his dad, the real sheriff, got a clean bill of health to resume his job.

“Man up, Fletcher,” he muttered. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

She could cry. The thought made him cringe.

He’d seen her do that and it ripped him up. But that was a lot of years ago. He didn’t know whether or not she’d still be angry but the first face-to-face since then was no doubt going to be awkward.

Will braced himself and pushed open the glass door. The bell above it rang as he walked inside. There was no one in the front but a familiar female voice called out, “I’ll be right with you.”

It was cheerful and sweet and the sound echoed inside him, stirring the cobwebs of tucked-away memories. It was impossible not to notice the framed photos displayed on the walls, examples of her skill as a photographer. There were individuals, families, babies. Some were black-and-white portraits, dramatic and really good. There’d always been something about April that people responded to, something that made them relax and allowed the camera to capture a special look or smile. The only black-and-whites he usually saw were cop cars, so this was a pleasant change.

“I’m so sorry I kept you waiting—” April Kennedy came through the open doorway and froze in her tracks when she saw him.

“Hi,” he said.

At one time they’d practically been engaged, but Will felt as if he was seeing her for the first time. Her shiny long brown hair was pulled into a ponytail with wisps coming loose around her face. She was wearing jeans and a purple Photography Shop T-shirt that clung to every sweet curve. Big hazel eyes stared back at him and right now they were more green than brown, which meant she wasn’t happy to see him. He couldn’t blame her.

“Will.”

“You look really good, April.”

“Thanks. So do you.”

“I’m pretty sure you didn’t want to tell me that, so I’ll take it as a compliment.”

“Gotta be honest.” She shrugged.

“And I’ve always liked that about you.”

“I heard you were coming back to Blackwater Lake.”

He didn’t have to ask how she’d heard. April was best friends with his younger sister, Kim. She and her teenage son lived with their dad and Will had moved into his old room for the summer. One big happy family again. The backyard of April’s little house was separated by an alley from his dad’s rear yard. Hank Fletcher had watched over April and her single mom because it was the neighborly thing to do. And, unlike himself, his dad had been there when April’s mom died of breast cancer. The Fletchers had kind of unofficially adopted her, so of course they would warn her that he was coming back.

“The thing is, this is a small town,” he started.

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