“Sadie!” Jenna’s voice cracked with emotion and she raced across the lawn with only a towel wrapped around her body. He tried to force his eyes away, but her beauty was just as intoxicating as it was in high school. Same full lips, nice curves, and strawberry blonde hair. She skidded to a halt on her knees and flung her arms around Sadie. “I told you to stay right there. You scared Mommy.”
She hadn’t seen him. She hadn’t realized she was half-dressed and outside on her front lawn. She had found her little girl.
“Thank you, officer. Thank you so much.” Jenna checked over her daughter, investigating each arm, each leg, her cheeks, and forehead before she looked up at him. Her bottom jaw fell and her gaze fixed on him as if scanning her phone directory for the right name. Had she forgotten about him?
“Drew,” she whispered.
“Mama, Mama, Mama,” Sadie repeated.
Drew shifted gears and grabbed hold of his training. “Your daughter’s okay. We best get you inside, ma’am.”
She shook her head and looked down. “Oh, um, yes.” She swept Sadie into her arms, stood and raced barefoot up the front porch steps. Drew moved his cruiser into the driveway while still struggling to maintain his composure. It was his job to serve and protect the residents of Creekside, and it appeared as if that now included Jenna. Mason, that scoundrel. That was why he’d brought up her name again. He knew she was here. Boss or no boss, he’d drop kick him first chance he got.
With his chin high, his shoulders back, and his pulse racing faster than a high-speed chase, he marched up the front steps and knocked on the open front door. “Excuse me, but I thought I’d check on you both before I go.”
“We’re okay.” Jenna stood next to an unpacked box, clutching the towel tight around her body. “I’m sorry, I thought Sadie would remain in the house while I took a quick bath, but I guess I was wrong.”
“Ah, we’ve got a runner here.” Drew smiled down at Sadie who nodded.
The child was adorable, but acted a little younger than she looked. It appeared as if she still wore diapers, but shouldn’t she be out of them by this age? Of course, what did he know? He’d never had kids, or even been around little kids much.
“You have no idea. I can’t sleep or shower because I’m scared she’ll run off and get hurt. I plan to install an alarm system, but we just arrived.” Jenna shook her head, her far-off gaze smothering his need to attack her for answers. Why she ran off all those years ago? What had he done?
“Why don’t you call your mother? I’m sure she’d be happy to watch her while you take a break, or your husband.” Okay, that last part slipped out, but still, he waited for her reply.
Silence sounded in the room like an early warning system.
“She doesn’t know I’m in town yet.”
Drew analyzed Jenna’s face then her ring finger. Her soft lips twitched, the way they did when she was under stress, and her ringless hands fidgeted with the towel. “She also doesn’t know I’m divorced. I’d appreciate it if you gave me a chance to face her before you let her know I’m here.”
“It’s a small town, and your mother—”
“Knows everything about everyone in every way. Yes, I know.”
The way she said it sounded like there was some secret message behind it, but he didn’t have the code to figure it out. He never had.
“What are you doing here, Jenna?” he asked. His words sounded more harsh and accusatory than he’d meant them to, but he needed to know why she was demolishing his wall of protection with her move to town.
“Trust me, I don’t want to be in Creekside.”
“Then why are you here?”
“For Sadie. After the divorce, I needed a job that I could do but still spend time with her, and Judy Benjamin convinced me it would be a perfect fit. Not that I owe you an explanation, Drew Walker.” Her tone switched from sad to angry in a single breath. “I’m allowed to live in the town I grew up in. I have just as much right as you do.”
“You left your hometown without a word, so playing that card isn’t gonna sit well with some people in town.”
“Some people? Or you, Drew? Listen, I don’t care who you married, knocked-up, or are having an affair with. Go about your business. Sadie and I aren’t here to interrupt your life. I’m just trying to make a better life for my daughter.” She stomped to the front door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She stood at the door and tapped her foot.
“I think I’m long past due for an explanation, but it can wait.” He turned to Sadie. “It was nice to meet you.” He smiled at her.
Sadie waved backwards and giggled. “Bye, bye, bye.”
“If you need anything else, ma’am, I’m sure Sheriff Mason will be happy to assist you.” He left Sadie sitting on the floor next to the unpacked box. Left Jenna standing in her towel at the front door, but didn’t leave his heart this time. It had been in a ten-year coma.