The Lawman's Runaway Bride

By: Patricia Johns

CHAPTER ONE

Chance Morgan tucked his chief-of-police hat under his arm as he jogged up the worn wooden staircase to the second floor of Comfort Creek’s town hall. He rubbed a hand over his short-cropped sandy-blond hair. There were times he thought it was working with the mayor that had caused the premature gray at his temples. He was five minutes early for his meeting with Mayor Scott, and he was dreading it already.

Mayor Eugene Scott was planning a remembrance ceremony for the four men from Comfort Creek, Colorado, killed in the military over the last five years. The mayor’s son was one of them, as was Chance’s fraternal twin brother, and since both Chance and Mayor Scott had someone close to them die overseas, the mayor figured they wanted the same thing.

He was wrong, of course. Chance was a private man, and while he grieved his brother deeply, he didn’t like having to do that in front of the entire town. Regardless, when the mayor summoned, the chief of police showed up—he glanced at his watch—four minutes early.

“Good morning, Chief.” Brenda, the middle-aged secretary, shot him a smile from her desk. Her hair was tucked behind her ears, along with a pen, and she was clicking through something on her computer screen that seemed to be absorbing most of her attention.

“Is he in?” Chance asked.

“Go on through,” Brenda said, turning back to her computer. “He’s waiting for you.”

Chance settled what he hoped was an appropriately professional look on his face, and tapped on the closed office door, then opened it. He could see Mayor Scott behind a mammoth mahogany desk. His bald head had a thin strip of hair swept over the top of it, and his dress shirt was already open at the neck despite the snow on the ground outside.

“Chief Morgan,” the mayor said. “Come on in.”

Chance opened the door the rest of the way, and as he did, it revealed a slim woman sitting in the visitor’s chair. His heart stopped for second, and then did three fast beats to catch up. Sadie Jenkins…

“Hi, Chance.”

She wore a pair of gray dress pants paired with a pink cashmere sweater that brought out the same shade of pink on her cheeks. Did women plan these things? Her knees were pressed together, a pad of paper on her lap. She tried to smile, then gave up. She was the same petite, freckled brunette who had left his brother at the altar five years ago…and Chance wasn’t entirely blameless in that, either. Her hair was longer now—tousled curls that tumbled around her shoulders—and she rose halfway and put out her hand.

“You’re back,” he said woodenly, taking her hand. He’d meant to give her a perfunctory shake, but he didn’t let go in time, and she tugged her fingers free.

“Close the door, would you?” Mayor Scott said, and Chance swung it shut behind him without looking back. It closed louder than necessary, and he shot the mayor an incredulous look. Chance didn’t like surprises—especially the personal kind—and the mayor knew exactly how personal this was. The entire town of Comfort Creek knew—they’d all been at the wedding that didn’t happen.

“Now, I know there’s a bit of history between you,” the mayor went on quickly. “I’m trusting we can get past that. I’ve hired Miss Jenkins to be the events coordinator for the remembrance ceremony.”

Sadie had left town five years ago on the morning she was supposed to marry Chance’s brother, Noah. Chance hadn’t forgiven her for that disappearing act yet.

“Are you serious, sir?”

“She comes highly recommended,” the older man replied. He pulled out a wad of tissues and wiped his nose. “She also has a wealth of experience.”

Chance glanced over at Sadie, eyeing her for a moment. He was angry—that was easier to deal with than the more complex emotions swarming beneath the surface. Because in those five years, she hadn’t contacted him…not that she owed him anything, exactly. He shouldn’t have gone to her house the night before the wedding. He shouldn’t have stood with her on the porch, talking late into the evening. He shouldn’t have reached out and touched that tendril of hair that hung down her neck…

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