Home > Complicated(5)

Complicated(5)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Heard you hit the Dew Drop.”

Another thing he didn’t like about small towns in not-very-populated counties.

Without much else to do, everyone got up in everyone else’s business.

And without much else to focus on, everyone’s business was easy access.

But with him, for some reason, even before he became sheriff, everyone thought he was their business. Him and Hope and their kids.

It was worse that it was Bets hitting his door first thing on a Monday morning sharing this.

Shit.

Here we go, he thought.

She walked in and Hix beat back a sigh.

“I’ve been there a couple of times. It’s pretty cool,” she noted.

He’d been there only once before last Saturday, years before, on a night out with Hope.

And Bets was right. The Dew Drop was cool. Out in the middle of nowhere, plenty of parking because everything around it was a field, the building looked like a shack.

This was because, back in the day it was a shack where the few African Americans in McCook County and its surrounding ones, and the few other people who inhabited them who knew cool, could go to listen to jazz or blues played and sung by traveling artists who’d never miss the chance to do their thing in hopes of making their names.

But also, they’d never miss the chance to give the management of the Dew Drop an opportunity to earn a cover charge.

There were a number of people in McCook County who had the respect of its citizens.

But there were only a handful who had the respect shown Gemini Jones.

The man was the fourth generation in his family to own and manage that shack.

And it might have been a shack back in the day, but now, you walked in, you got classy pink and blue lighting, plush semi-circle booths, tables in front of the small, intimate stage with tiny burgundy-shade covered lamps and long rosy-pink tablecloths on them, drinks served in stemmed glassware or heavy lowballs set on thick marine-blue cocktail napkins. Beer was served draft only. And the second you sat down, a small bowl of warmed almonds and cashews was set on the table in front of you.

If that club was in any city in any country in the Western world, it’d be cool as hell and popular to boot.

Instead, it was in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska, and it was cool as hell. But clientele was thin on the ground, so even though it was popular as best it could be, the crowd was only healthy, not what that club deserved—heaving.

“Yup, it’s cool,” Hix agreed, not sitting, just looking into Bets’s eyes.

She made a movement with her body that, if she’d allowed its fullness, would have had her drawing the toe of her boot across the floor.

Hix sighed again.

Bets spoke.

“Hear they have a new singer.”

Okay, it wasn’t even eight in the morning and he was having a bad day.

But even if he wasn’t, this shit had to end.

That shit being Bets having a crush on him.

She’d had it before his wife divorced him. But the minute she’d heard Hope had kicked him out, it went into overdrive.

Even before, she wasn’t good at hiding it. When she’d convinced herself she had a shot, she didn’t bother.

She got razzed about it by his two male deputies—one in an affable way, one in an asshole way—and she was so deep in the throes of the possibility of something that was impossible, it bounced right off her.

His other female deputy, Donna, didn’t think much of it.

She didn’t razz. She threw glares, then took Bets aside and had chats, and when that didn’t work, she took every opportunity presented her to share however she could that Bets was doing the sisterhood in law enforcement no favors.

Hix had been hoping that Donna, a veteran to Bets’s mostly rookie, would get through. And in the meantime, he made things very clear in every way he could without being an asshole.

That wasn’t working.

And now Bets knew he’d gotten himself some from Greta, which meant others knew as well, which didn’t make him happy.

But her walking into his office first thing on a Monday morning to bring it up in her irritating way made him less so.

All of this pushed him to declare, “Right, Deputy, we need to get this straight.”

He watched her body go still as her focus on him went acute.

“Been tryin’ to make things clear in a way that wouldn’t cause harm,” he shared. “Since you’re not getting that message, I’m afraid I’m gonna need to be more direct.”

“Hix—” she started, beginning to look panicked.

“Right now, I’m Sheriff,” he interrupted her.

Her eyes got wide and he watched her swallow.

He knew why, all of the reasons.

One of them being the fact that he was the sheriff, so he didn’t feel the need to force that down his deputies’ throats. They called him Hix. He called them by their first names. Unless it was an official situation where they needed to communicate they had their shit tight to the citizens they served, that was the way it was. They were a team. He was their leader. They knew that and didn’t need reminders.

Until now.

He kept at her.

“Three things are happening here that make the one thing you want to happen something that is not ever gonna happen.”

He lifted a hand, finger pointed up, and he flicked it out before dropping his hand and continuing.

“One, you’re twenty-seven years old. You’re closer to my son’s age than mine. I’ve lived that part of my life. Had the wife. The kids. The house. Don’t know where my change in circumstances is gonna take me, I just know it’s not gonna take me back there. I’ve done that. What’s next will not be that. Not settin’ up house again to make another family. You got that ahead of you, and if that’s what you want in life, you gotta find a man who’s up to giving it to you.”

“I—”

He spoke over her, lifting his hand again with his fore and middle fingers pressed together and up, and he flicked it out before dropping it.

“Two, and this is more important, Bets, so listen clear to this. I’m your boss. I’m this county’s sheriff. You’re my deputy. That shit is not gonna happen.”

“If—”

He did the finger thing, indicating three, and again talked right over her.

“Three, mean no offense, none at all, but even if you weren’t my deputy, I wouldn’t go there. As I said, you’re too young. There are men who’re into swimmin’ in a pool they should have vacated a decade before, but that man is not me. Regardless, again, no offense, you just aren’t my type.”

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