“Shut off the tractor and put your hands in the air.” The command came through the speaker attached to the top of the sheriff’s car, which was right next to the flashing red and
Squinting against the rain, Glory stared in panic at the speed trap up ahead. A floodlight clicked on, blinding her and causing her foot to slip off the clutch. The engine sputtered to a stop.
Determined to see this through, Glory cranked the engine and spun the tires, kicking up loose gravel and a few cow pies. She hadn’t come all this way, spending thirty minutes on the muddy back roads in the middle of the night to right someone else’s wrong, just to get caught now.
“Come on now, Ms. Hattie. Step on off that tractor so we can all get out of the rain.”
Ms. Hattie was the town busybody and one of Glory’s grandma’s oldest and dearest friends. Which explained how the Prowler ended up in her grandma’s garage.
The roadblock of wet and irritated officers obviously had no idea who was driving the tractor. If they had, Glory was certain that their boss would have her butt tossed in jail before she could say, “Morning, Sheriff.”
Plus she was pretty sure the smug-looking guy in the department-issued hat, weighing in at two hundred pounds of bad attitude, was Sheriff Jackson Duncan.
“Look, I promise my grandma won’t press charges.” Yup. Sheriff Duncan. The entitled drawl was a dead giveaway. And if he thought Ms. Kitty wouldn’t press charges, he was insane. “Heck, Ms. Hattie, as long as the Prowler is back in the bay before she wakes up, she doesn’t even have to know
it went missing and we can all go home and back to our respective business.”
“Do I have your word on that, Sheriff?” The second Glory opened her mouth, Jackson realized Hattie McGraw wasn’t behind the wheel because he went from leaning against the grill of his cruiser to reaching for his gun. She also knew that only ten feet and some plywood separated her from a mug shot—a mug shot that was not going to happen. She had enough mascara under her eyes to pass for a
linebacker and enough emotion built up that, after one too many double shifts slinging beer and a lifetime of double standards, getting arrested would fill out her already unflattering résumé.
Jackson silently made his way toward the tractor, boots clacking against the slick concrete, cuffs jangling in his hand. Knowing nothing good could come from that, she rested her hand on the gear shift and asked, “I’m guessing by the pissy look on your face that your generous offer is no longer on the table.”
“Sorry to say, but you’d guess right,” he said, not sorry at all.
Jackson Duncan had been sheriff of Sugar County for the past four years, and he’d hated Glory for at least twice that amount of time. He was uptight, by the book, and still blamed her for his older brother leaving town. Not that he had ever bothered to listen to her side of the story. No one really had. But everyone knew that he would love nothing more than to parade Glory around town in cuffs and prove that she was a menace to Sugar’s properly polite society.
“Even if I told you that I wasn’t stealing Ms. Kitty’s tractor? That I was trying to return it?”
“Even then. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”
And wasn’t that just great, because in this county possession might constitute only nine-tenths, but being the girl who cost Sugar High their beloved football coach and the state championships all in the same year surely made up the other one-tenth. Which meant the odds of her getting out of this mess with a friendly warning were a big fat zero.
There was no way she was letting him take her in. Not dressed in flannel and fertilizer. And sure as hell not when she had a Pediatric Health Theory midterm in six hours. It had taken her the better part of a decade, juggling part-time classes and full-time bar tending, to get to where she was, and she wasn’t about to let one mistake screw up everything. Not again.
“Sorry then, Sheriff.”
Grabbing the edges of her rain slicker, she flipped it up to cover her face and gunned it. The tractor roared as she threw it in second. The gear kicked in, causing the Prowler to pick up in volume and speed—surprising speed for a machine that looked like a giant peach and was built when she’d been in preschool.
“Aw, hell,” Jackson said, racing back to the cruiser. “Let ’em go, boys.”
Heading straight for the road, she vowed that she would drive right through that speed trap, over the metal spikes and all, if she had to. Her grandma was counting on her, and the entry to the Prowler’s parking bay was only a few yards past the sheriff’s patrol car. She could slip in, park the vehicle, and hightail it out of there.
She hit fourth gear right as the Prowler’s wheels cruised over the first set of shredders—tires unscathed. Only before she reached that second strip, Jackson stepped in front of the tractor.
“Dang it, Jackson,” she screamed over the roar of the tractor’s engine. “Move your overentitled, stubborn ass out of my way or I’ll run it down!”
“And miss busting yours for grand theft auto and assaulting a police officer?” he yelled back, smiling as though he’d just won box seats at the Georgia Dome. “No, ma’am.”
Glory looked from side to side, weighing her options. Had she been thinking with her head instead of her heart, she would be warm and snug in her bed, not facing jail time in little more than a pink slicker and ducky galoshes. Instead she was trying to solve a feud that had been brewing since Glory turned seventeen and made the biggest mistake of her life.
Before Glory could react, she crossed the second trap and the back two tires exploded simultaneously. The tractor jerked forward and she didn’t know what was thumping louder, her heart or the deflated tires struggling to roll over the blacktop.
The Prowler decelerated and slowly crawled toward Jackson, who stepped out of the way right as the tractor made its final stop—giving the cruiser a big smacker to the front bumper. The Prowler must have been made of steel because a loud crunch broke through the night’s air, followed by an awful sizzle and finally steam, which drifted up from under the hood and into the inky sky.
“I guess I can add destruction of city property to the charges,” Jackson said with a smile.
“Damnit, Jackson.” Glory picked up a stray cow pie, which had landed in the back of the tractor during her offroading excursion, and threw it on the ground. It shattered, splattering right up his department-issued boots and onto his pant legs. “I’m just trying to return it.”
“And I’m just doing my job,” he said as he approached the vehicle and hoisted his smug self up. “Now, do you need me to read you your rights? Or would you like to say them with me?”
And right then Glory understood that no matter how hard she tried to atone for her past, she was never going to be free of it.