Chapter One

book-cover“No, no, no, not again!” Brooke Aarons said when she

caught sight of the flashing blue and red lights behind her. She

pulled over to the side of the highway and quickly tried to recall an

article she’d read in Psychology Today once about dealing with

police officers.

She watched from her side-view mirror as the man in

uniform approached slowly. When she noticed him studying her

car, she remembered a section of the article mentioning an officer

will base assumptions about the driver on the car alone, titled

“What does your car say about you?” Well, that’s great, she

thought. Mine says I’m poor and I hit things. She rolled down the

window of her beat-up Jeep Wrangler, thinking how neither was

entirely untrue.

“Is there a problem, Officer…” she glanced at his silver

name tag, “Hurley?” That was another thing she’d read: using the

officer’s name could help avoid the ticket. Sure, all evidence

pointed to the contrary, since it had never worked in her favor

before, but it didn’t stop her from trying. Besides, she was in a new

state. Things could be entirely different over here.

“License and registration, ma’am,” he said with a Southern

drawl so thick she assumed he was kidding. She laughed a little

until she noticed his face was stone cold.

Whoops, she thought. It’s okay. It’s not too late to salvage

this. Pretend you were flirting. Every other girl does it. She rested

 one elbow on the windowsill and tried to look innocent. “Was I

going a little fast? I’m so sorry you had to even get out of the car in

this heat. I mean, it’s got to be a hundred degrees out.”

This would totally work. She may not understand the

psychology of a cop, but he was still a man, right? How hard could

they be to figure out? She pulled her blond, wavy hair over to one

shoulder and fanned herself. “And that uniform looks awfully hot,

Officer Hurley.”

While debating if that was overkill, she pushed her thrift-

store aviators up onto her head so she could bat her eyelashes, but

instead they caught in her hair, then slid off and dangled in front of

her face.

“Oh, look at that. We have the same sunglasses,” she said,

trying to lighten his mood. “We’re matching.” She could feel him

assessing her.

“Ma’am, have you been drinking?” he asked while she was

still trying to untangle herself.

“It’s 12:30,” she said in a shocked, shame-on-you tone.

“Well, I’ll be. If you can read a clock, I’ll wager you can

read a road sign, too,” Officer Hurley said. “Mind answering my

question now?”

His patronizing tone made her want to hurl-ey. “No, I have

not been drinking.”

“Good. License and registration then, please.”

Brooke Aarons, you’re a complete waste of boobs, she told

herself. Not that she was hugely blessed in that area. Fake flirting

was out, but she still wasn’t about to accept a ticket. She

considered for a moment that maybe he was the type of guy who

needed to feel like the hero. Damsel-in-distress act?

“Actually, I’m so glad you stopped me,” she said, picking

up her portable GPS and holding it upside down for effect. “I’m

completely turned around.” Playing lost came easy, since it was

usually the case anyway. “I want to be on the 10 freeway and…”

“You’re on it,” he said sharply, not hiding his annoyance.

“The I-10 is the road you just broke a Texas state law on.”

The 10 was practically the only road she’d been on since

her drive began, and considering the speed limit had only gone up

since she reached Texas, she knew this one was a bit of a long

shot. Car trouble?

“Yeah, about that. I think my speedometer must be a little

bit broken. I swear it felt like I was going sort of fast, but it said 75

miles per hour.”

“Well, it would have to be a-lot-a-bit broken, since I

clocked you at 92.” He held out his hand. “I’m not going to ask

you again, ma’am.” The man was impossible.

She reached across the car and pulled her registration out of

the glove box. Right before handing it over, she had an epiphany.

Reverse psychology? What the hell—she had nothing to lose.

She looked up at him again, making her big green eyes look

as sorry as possible. “You’re right, Officer Hurley,” she said,

holding out what he requested. “I messed up. I completely agree

with everything you’re saying. I was obviously going too fast, and

I’m so glad you pulled me over to tell me. Just write me a ticket.

Even though I’d hate to see you waste more of your time standing

in this unbearable heat, I to pay for my crimes. I want the ticket.”

“Alright then,” he said, snatching her license and

registration and turning back toward his car. “Wait in your vehicle,



She leaned her head back against her headrest. Highway

Patrol, six. Brooke Aarons, zero, she thought. How was she going

to pay for this one?

She flipped her GPS over so it was right side up. Her

parents had given it to her as a going-away present in hope of

combatting her horrible sense of direction. Unfortunately, she

hated being told what to do so she switched the voice off, which

usually resulted in her missing a turn anyway. So as far as she

could tell, not much had improved.

Only two exits away. Three straight days of driving, and I

get a ticket two exits away. Way to kill a Saturday afternoon, not to

mention the most monumental day of my life!

While she waited for Officer Hurley to come back with the

impending speeding ticket she’d be paying for, she looked ahead

toward the city of Austin, Texas. As she studied the skyline, she

realized she could already see the football stadium from the

highway. A wave of excitement came over her. Everything she’d

been waiting for was right in front of her, and she was practically

inches away.

“California, huh?” Officer Hurley said when he reappeared

at her window and handed her back her driver’s license.

She looked at him and raised her eyebrows instead of


“Where you heading?”

“The university,” she said pointing ahead. “I’m starting

school there Monday.”


She nodded.

“Well, I hope you’re not majoring in theater,” he said, still

not changing his expression.

Jerk, what if I was? She chose not to respond to his

comment, thankful she hadn’t tried out her crying routine. Theater

was never in the cards for her, as today proved, but that was fine

with her since she already knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“Alright, Miss Aarons.” He started in on his memorized

explanation of understanding where to pay and where she could

attend traffic school and blah blah blah. She signed her ticket and

started to roll up her window while he was still standing there.

“Please obey all posted speed limits signs, and get

that speedometer of yours checked…”

He made it clear he didn’t believe her story, so she made it

clear she didn’t appreciate the B.S. concern. She stuffed the ticket

in the glove box and screeched back onto the highway.

When Brooke found out she was accepted to the University

of Texas, she couldn’t have been more excited. UT had an amazing

psychology department, and despite how everyone and their

mother (especially her mother) advised her not to major in psych,

she was doing it anyway. She’d always had a fascination with

trying to figure people out. She loved analyzing what people did

and trying to guess what made them do it, or simply why they were

the way they were.

She already considered herself a master of the subject,

though the interaction with Hurley showed her she still had some

work to do in dealing with authorities. She could stand to get a

better grasp on the psychology of men in general, actually, but

only if it came up in her studies. This Jeep was hauling ass away

from her small-town life in Camarillo for a reason. She had no

intention of letting anything distract her from acing her classes,

graduating, and starting an exciting life somewhere else, anywhere

else. Boys were the first thing she listed as a distraction, so no

matter how excited she was to break into a whole new scene, she

promised herself a potential relationship would not be on her radar.

Too many times she’d seen people talk about all the things they

wanted, only to go falling in love and lose sight of them. That

wasn’t in the cards for her.

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