The diner wasn’t difficult to find and wasn’t far from the department, either. Within walking distance. Frowning, Madeline parked in the alley beside the historic brick building. Why hadn’t Calvert sent her on foot?
She found the answer inside as the bubbly fresh-out-of-high-school cashier loaded take-out plate after take-out plate in two large cardboard boxes. An unwilling spurt of humor tugged at Madeline’s lips. At least Calvert hadn’t been a big enough ass to send her after this on foot.
Or maybe it simply hadn’t occurred to him.
She juggled one of the awkward boxes into her arms and glared at the second. “I’ll be back for that one.”
Trying to keep her hands from slipping off, she shoved the door open with one hip and stepped onto the sidewalk. The damn carton was heavier than it looked, and it was further to the car than she’d like. Plus, she’d locked the unit. Her keys were in her pocket; she’d have to set the box down to dig them out.
“Hey, let me help you with that.” A smooth drawl filled her ears seconds before strong hands lifted the box easily from her precarious hold.
“Thanks.” She rubbed her tingling palms down her hips before tugging the keys from her pocket. She looked up at her rescuer. He was tall, his body tight with the muscles that came from good old-fashioned hard work, the box balanced easily on one hip. Sunlight glinted off sandy-blond hair, lightened here and there by long hours outside. A denim jacket covered an untucked T-shirt worn over faded blue jeans, a hole worn in one pocket, and scuffed work boots.
Standard farmer attire.
Too bad she’d sworn off farmboys long ago. This one was cute, with a great smile and the prettiest pale green eyes she’d ever seen, glowing in a tanned face, thin lines spreading out beneath long lashes.
He was checking her out, too, his sea-colored gaze roaming from her hair, to her face, over her body and back up to her eyes. He grinned, white teeth flashing against his golden skin. “You’re new here.”
New? Madeline swallowed a laugh. If he only knew. She wasn’t going to explain her convoluted past to a man she’d probably never see again, though. She pointed toward the police car. “I’m parked over here.”
He settled the box on the stainless steel back seat and straightened. “Is that all?”
She wavered for a half second. “Actually, there’s one more, if you don’t mind…”
“I don’t.” The great smile lit his face again. “Or I wouldn’t have asked.” He tucked his hands in his pockets as they walked back to the diner. “Good thing I decided to call in a lunch order today, huh?”
She reached for the door and held it. “What do you mean?”
“Might have missed meeting you.”
A laugh bubbled in her throat, and she smothered it. The last thing she wanted was a man in her life, and if she was in the market for one, it would be the kind she’d always dated: smooth, polished, interested in sex and no strings.
Not the farmer-type she’d grown up with.
Not even one with a killer body and drop-dead eyes.
He hefted the second box with the same ease and economy of movement. Outside at the car, he tilted his chin toward it. “So you’re with the sheriff’s department.”
He tucked his thumbs in his back pockets, the line of his body relaxed. “Maybe I’ll see you around then.”
Not likely, but she smiled anyway. “Maybe.”
He nodded. “You have a good day, now.”Slipping behind the wheel, she watched him amble toward the diner. My, my, he had a nice ass, and the old jeans highlighted it to perfection. Shaking off the purely feminine musings, she shifted into gear and drove back to the station. Any pleasant feelings engendered by the interlude with the good-looking farmer sputtered out as soon as she returned to the sheriff’s department.