Make You Feel My Love - Kait Nolan

Chapter 1

Dear God, if I’d wanted to break up elementary school fights, I would’ve become a teacher.

Headed into the second leg of a double shift, Officer Judd Hamilton tried his best to clamp down on the irritation. He had, after all, volunteered to organize FountainFest safety for the police department. And if that meant keeping Jim Vernon and Neil Faber from coming to blows over who got to kick off the 1-mile Fun Run, then that’s what he’d do.

Beyond the two geezers, he caught a glimpse of his girlfriend, Mary Alice, smiling at him. Her group of third graders was obviously excited about the race but behaved themselves. Unlike these two. He really wished he could put the pair of them in time out.

Instead, he tried his best to channel the calm, reasonable tone he’d heard Mary Alice use on her class. “Look, gentleman, I respect the fact that you were both told you could fire the starter pistol. I know it’s a big honor—” for the three seconds it will take for everyone to forget you were ever there, “and neither of you wants to be disappointed, but let’s have a little bit of perspective and festival goodwill, okay?”

“I’m not giving up my place!” Jim bounced like a banty rooster.

Neil’s age-spotted hands curled to fists. “Why you old—”

Judd inserted himself bodily between them. “Y’all simmer down, or neither of you is doing anything.” His over-tired mind raced, looking for a solution that didn’t involve him plunking both of them in a cell for the duration of the festival. Somebody somewhere had to have some more blanks. “Look, if we can come up with a second starter pistol, you could both take the shot starting the race simultaneously. Equals. Is that acceptable?”

“I don’t know…” Jim waffled.

Recognizing an opening when he saw one, Judd pushed. “Wouldn’t it look good to the townspeople to see the presidents of the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs joint officiating?”

Neil crossed his arms, rocking back on orthopedic-sneakered feet. “Well, I suppose that might be okay.”

“As long as we both get to have our banners,” Jim insisted.

“One on each side of the starting line,” Judd promised.

“I can live with that,” Neil allowed.

“Good. Great. Y’all do that. Banners in place on those barricades, and y’all get in position. The race should be starting in fifteen minutes.”

Lord have mercy. Was all this extra crap really worth enduring for the chance to be Chief of Police?

Of course it was. Because being Chief wasn’t the end goal. It was just a means to an end.

He waited until the combatants scurried off to their respective civic groups, then radioed to find some blanks. Couldn’t very well have civilians firing actual shots, when town was crawling with pedestrians for the first annual Wishful FountainFest. Looking at the throngs of people, Judd couldn’t help but wish their city planner wasn’t quite so good at her job. The department didn’t have the manpower to adequately police this many people.

Should’ve called in some of the off-duty deputies from the county.

But the departmental budget couldn’t afford that either. Still, he’d seen at least two of the deputies in the crowd. Men he trusted, who could handle themselves. If anything went down, they’d lend a hand. Not that anything was likely to happen, but Judd had plenty of personal experience that made him less complacent than most.

As soon as the starter pistol situation was taken care of, Judd walked over to Mary Alice. Her sunny hair was pulled through the back of a FountainFest ball cap, and she was dressed to run in a t-shirt and shorts that showed off her toned legs. The sight gave him a bit of a jolt. He was so used to her conservative, elementary school attire, he often forgot what was underneath. Which was a terrifying sign of exactly how much he’d been working these last few months.

Need to rectify that.

“Kyle, pull your shorts up. Does anybody have to go to the bathroom before we get started?”

“Everything under control here?” Judd asked.

She looked up, blue eyes twinkling. “As in control as it ever is.”

“At least they’re better behaved than the race officials,” he observed.

“You get whatever that was sorted?” Her gaze slipped past his shoulder. “Danielle, stop picking your nose.”

“Barely. Race will be starting in just a bit.” A jaw-splitting yawn interrupted the statement.

She gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. “Hang in there. Once this double is over, you’ll be off for four whole days.”

“Thank God.” The prospect of eight straight on a horizontal