Being a Baxter is all about giving — giving your time, giving money, and giving hope to those who have none. While Jacqueline Baxter has plenty of time, money, and hope to spare, what she lacks is trust. When Brett Robak, the FBI guy determined to win her heart, drops into her life, she has one rule — be there. Be on time. Be present. Be hers. But can Brett live up to her expectations?
When tragedy strikes and Brett’s not there, how can Jacqueline ever trust him again? Will she be able to see past her own pain and loss to realize that love is more important than a series of coincidences and hands on a clock?
Copyright © 2016 by Jane Charles
Baxter Art Camp – June, 2003
The red lights flash in my rearview mirror and I immediately take my foot off of the gas pedal. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” I grew up here. I know about that speed trap. I didn’t even see the cop sitting there, and it took him long enough to catch up to me. It isn’t like there are any other cars on the road.
I flip the blinker on and slowly pull into the parking lot of my grandparents’ plantation, now an art camp. I don’t need this now. Today. Ever.
After I lower the window, I turn off the ignition and place my hands on top of the steering wheel, just like my uncle told me, and watch in my side mirror as the door on the cruiser opens and the state trooper gets out. At least it isn’t someone from the sheriff’s department. Those guys are dicks.
He stops at the side of my car and looks at me. There’s a bit of humor in his brown eyes and he gives a slight nod. “License please.”
I’m glad stopping me has made his day because it hasn’t made mine.
I fish it out of my purse and hand it over. Another guy comes up and stands a little behind the trooper. He’s not in uniform, but slacks and a shirt. Is he a supervisor or something? He looks kind of young to be that. Cute too. If anyone should be supervising, I’d think it would be the older trooper. Not that he’s that old, maybe in his mid to late-thirties and wearing a wedding ring. The other one is closer to my age with light brown hair and blue eyes. At least, they seem blue from this angle in the mirror. Lean, fit and young.
“I’ll be back.”
I look up and smile, noting his nametag. “I’ll sit tight and wait, Officer Q. O’Brien.”
As he walks away I switch my focus back on the side mirror. The young one is walking back to the cruiser with the cop. Damn, he looks just as good going as he does coming. Nice, tight ass, narrow waist and wide shoulders. While the older one slides into the driver’s side and talks into the mic on his shoulder, the hot one returns to the front of the squad car and faces me. His feet are planted at shoulder width, arms across his chest, watching me. Those arms are nice too. Firm, tanned, a bit muscular. Too bad he wasn’t the only one to show up. I might just have tried to get out of this ticket. He’s all yummy and I’d be happy to work out a deal. Hell, I’d even let him cuff me.
Not that trying to get out of a ticket ever worked. Or, so I assume it never worked. My Uncle Gary is a cop and he’s told me all kinds of stories, and he’s seen more boobs than most guys see in a strip bar. In fact, as far as he’s concerned, the more women try to use their body or tears, the more likely they are to get a ticket.
I’ve never tried to get out of them before, and I’ve had a few tickets. Truth be told, I kind of have a lead foot. That’s something I should probably start worrying about more since I just started paying my own car insurance. Ouch, that first bill hurt.
Officer O’Brien gets out of the cruiser and stops next to the cute guy and says something I can’t hear. Shit! He’s holding the long metal case that has tickets in it and he takes out a pen. Cute cop nods and returns to the passenger side of the cruiser while the other one returns to my window.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
I cringe. “Ten over?” I hope it isn’t more.
“About that. Why were you going so fast?”
“Late for work.”
“Where do you work?”
I nod toward the plantation house. “The camp. Our first group arrived this morning.”
A smile pulls at his lips. “Oh yeah? What do you do?”
Everyone around here is interested in the art camp. “Organizing events, the calendars, displays, performances, paperwork, supervising. All kinds of things.”
“Well, slow down.” He hands me the ticket. “Miss Baxter.” He practically whispers my name. Weird.
“I will.” I take the paper and don’t even look at it before shoving it in my purse. I don’t want to know what he clocked me at or how much this one was going to cost.
He gets back into his cruiser and I look into my rearview mirror one last time to see if I can get a look at the other cop. At least I assume he’s a cop even if he isn’t in uniform. Why else would he be in the car? His face is turned to the older trooper, so I only get the profile before they drive off. Which is just fine. Even in profile he’s hot.
With a sigh I start my car, pull further into the parking lot, and find my space. My brother, Theo, is standing at the end of the drive leaning against a post, just shaking his head as I get out of my car.
“One of these days you’re gonna lose your license,” he warns.
“Not gonna happen.” I brush past him. “Why aren’t you at work?”
“They’re at orientation. Thought I’d sneak away.”
Theo is my youngest brother at eighteen and is a teen counselor at the summer long art camp my grandparents established at the plantation eons ago. Not that he does much counseling. Just watching, checking to make sure his group of campers don’t get into trouble and he helps with photography, his passion.
I glance at the cigarette between his fingers. He gives me a smirk and takes a drag.
“You really should quit smoking those vile things.” At least he isn’t smoking in front of the kids. Not that he’d be allowed to.
“It’s all I got.”
“If grandma sees you,” I start to warn.
“She’ll scold, but not do anything.”
He’s got that right. Theo could get away with anything where Grandma was concerned. Her baby.
Theo takes another drag and then tosses the butt into the gravel behind the bushes.
I turn and shake my finger at him. “You know animals pick those up and get sick. Don’t you care about the environment?”
“I’m finding I’m not caring about much these days,” he says as he saunters past me.
That’s the problem. Theo doesn’t care about anything and it worries me. He does have a good heart, but the only time he’s ever happy is when he’s alone with his camera.
He turns, and walks backward. “Hey, I hear you have a date tonight.”
My stomach flips, but not in a good way. “Yeah.”
“Blind date, right?” He laughs.
My friend, Ashley, fixed me up with a guy she knows, but won’t tell me a thing about him, other than he moved here about a month ago to temporarily stay with family until he can find his own place. She knows him because he’s been working out at the recreation and fitness club where she works. She’s also said he’s hot, but we don’t always agree on what is hot and what isn’t. Hell, she could have just been describing how he gets when he works out. It’s also her opinion that I don’t date enough, if ever, and need to get out. And, the reason she won’t tell me a single thing, other than his name, is because she knows me too well. The more details I have the more reasons I’ll come up with not to go. “We probably both agreed to it to get her to shut up.”
Theo chuckles and shakes his head. “I bet you’re home by the time we’re roasting marshmallows if he’s anything like that last tool she set you up with.”