EXCERPT: Indigo Ridge - Author Devney Perry

07/31/2021

EXCERPT: Indigo Ridge

CHAPTER 1

Winslow

“Could I get another . . .”

The bartender didn’t slow as he passed by.

“Drink,” I muttered, slumping forward.

Pops had told me that this bar was where the locals hung out. Not only was it within walking distance of my new house in case I decided not to drive, but I was a local now. As of today, I lived in Quincy, Montana.

I’d told the bartender as much when I’d asked for his wine list. He’d raised one bushy white eyebrow above his narrowed gaze, and I’d abandoned my thirst for a glass of cabernet, ordering a vodka tonic instead. It had zapped every ounce of my willpower not to request a lemon twist.

The ice cubes in my glass clinked together as I swirled around my pink plastic straw. The bartender ignored that sound too.

Main Street had two bars—tourist traps this time of year, according to Pops. But I regretted not choosing one of those to celebrate my first night in Quincy. Given his attitude, the bartender, who must have thought I was a lost tourist, regretted my decision too.

Willie’s was a dive bar and not exactly my scene.

The bartenders downtown probably acknowledged their customers, and the prices were listed on a menu, not delivered using three fingers on one wrinkled hand.

He looked about as old as this dark, dingy building. Like most small-town Montana bars, the walls were teeming with beer signs and neon lights. Shelves stacked with liquor bottles lined the mirrored wall across from my seat. The room was cluttered with tables, every chair empty.

Willie’s was all but deserted this Sunday night at nine o’clock.

The locals must know of a better place to unwind.

The only other patron was a man sitting at the farthest end of the bar, in the last stool down the line. He’d come in ten minutes after I’d arrived and chosen the seat as far from me as possible. He and the bartender were nearly carbon copies of one another, with the same white hair and scraggly beards.

Twins? They looked old enough to have established this bar. Maybe one of them was Willie himself.

The bartender caught me staring.

I smiled and rattled the ice in my glass.

His mouth pursed in a thin line but he made me another drink. And like with the first, he delivered it without a word, holding up the same three fingers.

I twisted to reach into my purse, fishing out another five because clearly starting a tab was out of the question. But before I could pull the bill from my wallet, a deep, rugged voice caressed the room.

“Hey, Willie.”

“Griffin.” The bartender nodded.

So he was Willie. And he could speak.

“Usual?” Willie asked.

“Yep.” The man with the incredible voice, Griffin, pulled out the stool two down from mine.

As his tall, broad body eased into the seat, a whiff of his scent carried my way. Leather and wind and spice filled my nose, chasing away the musty air from the bar. It was heady and alluring.

He was the type of man who turned a woman’s head.

One glimpse at his profile and the cocktail in front of me was unnecessary. Instead, I drank this man in head to toe.

The sleeves of his black T-shirt stretched around his honed biceps and molded to the planes of his shoulders as he leaned his elbows on the bar. His brown hair was finger-combed and curled at the nape of his neck. His tan forearms were dusted with the same dark hair and a vein ran over the corded muscle beneath.

Even seated, I could tell his legs were long, his thighs thick like the evergreen tree trunks from the forests outside of town. Frayed hems of his faded jeans brushed against his black cowboy boots. And as he shifted in his seat, I caught the glimmer of a silver and gold belt buckle at his waist.

If his voice, his scent and that chiseled jaw hadn’t been enough to make my mouth go dry, that buckle would have done it.

One of my mom’s favorite movies had been Legends of the Fall. She’d let me watch it at sixteen and we’d cried together. Whenever I missed her, I’d put it on. The DVD was scratched and the clasp on the case was broken because I’d watched that movie countless times simply because it had been hers.

She’d always swooned over Brad Pitt as a sexy cowboy.

If she could see Griffin, she’d be drooling too. Though he was missing the hat and the horse, this guy was every cowboy fantasy come to life.

Lifting my glass to my mouth, I sipped the cold drink and tore my gaze from the handsome stranger. The vodka burned my throat and the alcohol rushed to my head. Ol’ Willie mixed his cocktails strong.

I was unabashedly staring. It was rude and obvious. Yet when I set the glass down, my gaze immediately returned to Griffin.

His piercing blue eyes were waiting.

My breath hitched.

Willie set down a tumbler full of ice and caramel liquid in front of Griffin, then, without giving him the fingers to pay, walked away.

Griffin took a single swallow of his drink, his Adam’s apple bobbing. Then his attention was on me once more.

The intensity of his gaze was as intoxicating as my cocktail.

He stared without hesitation. He stared with bold desire. His gaze raked down my black tank top to the ripped jeans I’d put on this morning before checking out of my hotel in Bozeman.

I’d spent four and a half hours driving to Quincy with a U-Haul trailer hitched to my Dodge Durango. When I’d arrived, I’d immediately jumped into unloading, only breaking to meet Pops for dinner.

I was a mess after a day of hauling boxes. My hair was in a ponytail and whatever makeup I’d put on this morning had likely worn off. Yet the appreciation in Griffin’s gaze sent a wave of desire rushing to my core.

“Hi,” I blurted. Smooth, Winn.

His eyes twinkled like two perfect sapphires set behind long, sooty lashes. “Hi.”

“I’m Winn.” I held out a hand over the space between us.

“Griffin.” The moment his warm, calloused palm grazed mine, tingles cascaded across my skin like fireworks. A shiver rolled down my spine.

Holy hell. There was enough electricity between us to power the jukebox in the corner.

I focused on my drink, gulping more than sipping. The ice did nothing to cool me down. When was the last time I’d been this attracted to a man? Years. It had been years. Even then, it paled in comparison to five minutes beside Griffin.

“Where are you from?” he asked. Like Willie, he must have assumed I was a tourist too.

“Bozeman.”

He nodded. “I went to college at Montana State.”

“Go Bobcats.” I lifted my drink in a salute.

Griffin returned the gesture, then put the rim of his glass to his full lower lip.

I was staring again, unashamed. Maybe it was the angular cheekbones that set his face apart. Maybe it was the straight nose with a slight bump at the bridge. Or his dark, bold browbone. He was no ordinary, handsome man. Griffin was drop-dead gorgeous.

And if he was at Willie’s . . . a local.

Local meant off-limits. Damn.

I swallowed my disappointment with another gulp of vodka.

The scrape of stool legs rang through the room as he moved to take the seat beside mine. His arms returned to the bar, his drink between them as he leaned forward. He sat so close, his body so large, that the heat from his skin seeped into mine.

“Winn. I like that name.”

“Thanks.” My full name was Winslow but very few people ever called me anything other than Winn or Winnie.

Willie walked by and narrowed his eyes at the sliver of space between Griffin and me. Then he joined his doppelganger.

“Are they related?” I asked, dropping my voice.

“Willie Senior is on our side of the bar. His son is mixing drinks.”

“Father and son. Huh. I thought twins. Does Willie Senior have the same glowing personality as Willie Junior?”

“It’s worse.” Griffin chuckled. “Every time I come through town, he gets crankier.”

Wait. Did that mean . . . “You don’t live in town?”

“No.” He shook his head, picking up his drink.

I did the same, hiding my smile in the glass. So he wasn’t a local. Which meant flirting was harmless. Bless you, Quincy.

A hundred personal questions raced through my mind, but I dismissed them all. Skyler used to criticize me for going into interrogation mode within ten minutes of meeting someone new. One of many critiques. He’d used his profession as a life coach as an excuse to tell me anything and everything I’d been doing wrong in our relationship. In life.

Meanwhile, he’d betrayed me, so I wasn’t listening to Skyler’s voice anymore.

But I still wasn’t going to bombard this man with questions. He didn’t live here, and I’d save my questions for the people who did: my constituents.

Griffin looked to the far end of the room and the empty shuffleboard table. “Want to play a game?”

“Um . . . sure? I’ve never played before.”

“It’s easy.” He slid off his stool, moving with a grace that men his size didn’t normally possess.

I followed, eyes glued to the best ass I had ever seen. And he didn’t live here. An imaginary choir perched in the bar’s dusty rafters gave a collective yeehaw.

Griffin went to one end of the table while I walked to the other. “Okay, Winn. Loser buys the next round of drinks.”

Good thing I had cash. “Okay.”

Griffin spent the next ten minutes explaining the rules and demonstrating how to slide the pucks down the sand-dusted surface toward the point lines. Then we played, game after game. After one more round, we both stopped drinking, but neither of us made a move to leave.

I won some games. I lost most. And when Willie finally announced that he was closing at one, the two of us walked outside to the darkened parking lot.

A dusty black truck was parked beside my Durango.

“That was fun.”

“It was.” I smiled up at Griffin, my cheeks pinching. I hadn’t had this much fun openly flirting with a man in, well . . . ever. I slowed my steps because the last place I wanted to go was home alone.

He must have had the same idea because his boots stopped on the pavement. He inched closer.

Winslow Covington didn’t have one-night stands. I’d been too busy wasting years on the wrong man. Griffin wasn’t the right man either, but I’d learned in my time as a cop that sometimes it wasn’t about choosing right from wrong. It was choosing the right wrongs.

Griffin. Tonight, I chose Griffin.

So I closed the distance between us and stood on my toes, letting my hands snake up his hard, flat stomach.

He was tall, standing two or three inches over six feet. At five nine, it was refreshing to be around a man who towered over me. I lifted a hand to his neck, pulling him down until his mouth hovered over mine.

“Is that your truck?”

***

“Shit.” I cursed at the clock, then flew into action, flinging the covers off my naked body and racing for the bathroom.

Late was not how I wanted to start the first day of my new job.

I flipped on the shower, my head pounding as I stepped under the cold spray and let out a yelp. There was no time to wait for hot water, so I shampooed my hair and put in some conditioner while I scrubbed Griffin’s scent off my skin. I’d mourn the loss of it later.

There was an ache between my legs that I’d think about later too. Last night had been . . .

Mind blowing. Toe curling. The best night I’d ever had with a man. Griffin knew exactly how to use that powerful body of his and I’d been the lucky recipient of three—or had it been four?—orgasms.

I shuddered and realized the water was hot. “Damn it.”

Shoving thoughts of Griffin out of my head, I hurried out of the shower, frantically swiping on makeup and willing the blow dryer to work faster. Without time to curl or straighten my hair, I twisted it into a tight bun at the nape of my neck, then dashed to the bedroom to get dressed.

The mattress rested on the floor, the sheets and blankets rumpled and strewn everywhere. Thankfully, before I’d headed to the bar last night, I’d searched for bedding in the boxes and laid it out. When I’d finally gotten home after hours spent in the back of Griffin’s truck, I’d practically face-planted into my pillows and forgotten to set my alarm.

I refused to regret Griffin. Kicking off my new life in Quincy with a hot and wild night seemed a little bit like fate.

Serendipity.

Maybe on his next trip through town, we’d bump into each other. But if not, well . . . I didn’t have time for the distraction of a man.

Especially not today.

“Oh, God. Please don’t let me be late.” I rifled through a suitcase, finding a pair of dark-wash jeans.

Pops had told me specifically not to show up at the station looking fancy.

The jeans were slightly wrinkled but there was no time to find whatever box had stolen my iron. Besides, an iron meant fancy. The simple white tee I found next was also wrinkled, so I dug for my favorite black blazer to hide the worst offenders. Then I hopped into my favorite black boots with the chunky heels before jogging for the door, swiping up my purse from where I’d dumped it on the living room floor.

The sun was shining. The air was clean. The sky was blue. And I had no time to appreciate a minute of my first Quincy, Montana, morning as I ran to the Durango parked in my driveway.

I slid behind the wheel, started the engine and cursed again at the clock on the dash. Eight-oh-two. “I’m late.”

Thankfully, Quincy wasn’t Bozeman and the drive from one side of town to the police station on the other took exactly six minutes. I pulled into the lot and parked next to a familiar blue Bronco and let myself take a single deep breath.

I can do this job.

Then I got out of my car and walked to the station’s front door, hoping with every step I looked okay.

One disdaining look from the officer stationed behind a glass partition at the front desk and I knew I’d gotten it wrong. Shit.

His gray hair was cut short, high and tight in a military style. He looked me up and down, the wrinkles on his face deepening with a scowl. That glare likely had nothing to do with my outfit.

And everything to do with my last name.

“Good morning.” I plastered on a bright smile, crossing the small lobby to his workspace. “I’m Winslow Covington.”

“The new chief. I know,” he muttered.

My smile didn’t falter.

I’d win them over. Eventually. That’s what I’d told Pops last night when he’d had me over for dinner after I’d returned the U-Haul. I’d win them all over, one by one.

Most people were bound to think that the only reason I’d gotten the job as the Quincy chief of police was because my grandfather was the mayor. Yes, he would be my boss. But there wasn’t a nepotism clause for city employees. Probably because in a town this size, everyone was likely related in some manner. If you added too many restrictions, no one would be able to get a job.

Besides, Pops hadn’t hired me. He could have, but instead, he’d put together a search committee so that there’d be more than one voice in the decision. Walter Covington was the fairest, most honorable man I’d ever known.

And granddaughter or not, what mattered was my performance. He’d take the cues from the community, and though my grandfather loved me completely, he wouldn’t hesitate to fire me if I screwed this up.

He’d told me as much the day he’d hired me. He’d reminded me again last night.

“The mayor is waiting in your office,” the officer said, pushing the button to buzz me into the door beside his cubicle.

“It was nice to meet you”—I glanced at the silver nameplate on his black uniform—“Officer Smith.”

His response was to ignore me completely, turning his attention to his computer screen. I’d have to win him over another day. Or maybe he’d be open to an early retirement.

I pushed through the door that led into the heart of the station. I’d been here twice, both times during the interview process. But it was different now as I walked through the bullpen no longer a guest. This was my bullpen. The officers looking up from their desks were under my charge.

My stomach clenched.

Staying up all night having sex with a stranger probably hadn’t been the smartest way to prepare for my first day.

“Winnie.” Pops came out of what would be my office, his hand extended. He seemed taller today, probably because he was dressed in nice jeans and a starched shirt instead of the ratty T-shirt, baggy jeans and suspenders I’d seen him in yesterday.

Pops was fit for his seventy-one years and though his hair was a thick silver, his six-three frame was as strong as an ox. He was in better shape than most men my age, let alone his.

I shook his hand, glad that he hadn’t tried to hug me. “Morning. Sorry I’m late.”

“I just got here myself.” He leaned in closer and dropped his voice. “You doing okay?”

“Nervous,” I whispered.

He gave me a small smile. “You’ll do great.”

I could do this job.

I was thirty years old. Two decades below the median age of a person in this position. Four decades younger than my predecessor had been when he’d retired.

The former chief of police had worked in Quincy for his entire career, moving up the ranks and acting as chief for as long as I’d been alive. But that was why Pops had wanted me in this position. He said Quincy needed fresh eyes and younger blood. The town was growing, and with it, their problems. The old ways weren’t cutting it.

The department needed to embrace technology and new processes. When the former chief had announced his retirement, Pops had encouraged me to toss my name into the hat. By some miracle, the hiring committee had chosen me.

Yes, I was young, but I met the minimum qualifications. I’d worked for ten years with the Bozeman Police Department. During that time, I’d earned my bachelor’s degree and a position as detective within their department. My record was impeccable, and I’d never left a case unclosed.

Maybe my welcome would have been warmer if I were a man, but that had never scared me and it certainly wasn’t going to today.

I can do this job.

I would do this job.

“Let me introduce you to Janice.” He nodded for me to follow him into my office, where we spent the morning with Janice, my new assistant.

She’d worked for the former chief for fifteen years, and the longer she spoke, the more I fell in love with her. Janice had spiky gray hair and the cutest pair of red-framed glasses I’d ever seen. She knew the ins and outs of the station, the schedules and the shortcomings.

As we ended our initial meeting, I made a mental note to bring her flowers because without Janice, I’d likely fall flat on my face. We toured the station, meeting the officers not out on patrol.

Officer Smith, who was rarely sent into the field because he preferred the desk, had been one of the candidates for chief, and Janice told me that he’d been a grumpy asshole since the day he’d been rejected.

Every officer besides him had been polite and professional, though reserved. No doubt they weren’t sure what to make of me, but today I’d won Janice over—or maybe she’d won me. I was calling it a victory.

“You’ll meet most of the department this afternoon at shift change,” she told me when we retreated back to the safety of my office.

“I was planning on staying late one evening this week to meet the night shift too.”

This wasn’t a large station, because Quincy wasn’t a large town, but in total, I had fifteen officers, four dispatchers, two administrators and a Janice.

“Tomorrow, the county sheriff is coming in to meet you,” Janice said, reading from the notebook she’d had with her all morning. “Ten o’clock. His staff is twice the size of ours but he has more ground to cover. For the most part, their team stays out of our way, but he’s always willing to step in if you need help.”

“Good to know.” I wouldn’t mind having a resource to bounce ideas off of either.

“How’s your head?” Pops asked.

I put my hands by my ears and made the sound of an exploding bomb.

He laughed. “You’ll catch on.”

“Yes, you will,” Janice said.

“Thank you for everything,” I told her. “I’m really looking forward to working with you.”

She sat a little straighter. “Likewise.”

“Okay, Winnie.” Pops slapped his hands on his knees. “Let’s go grab some lunch. Then I’ve got to get to my own office, and I’ll let you come back here and settle in.”

“I’ll be here when you get back.” Janice squeezed my arm as we shuffled out of my office.

Pops simply nodded, maintaining his distance. Tonight, when I wasn’t Chief Covington and he wasn’t Mayor Covington, I’d head to his house and get one of his bear hugs.

“How about we eat at The Eloise?” he suggested as we made our way outside.

“The hotel?”

He nodded. “It would be good for you to spend some time there. Get to know the Edens.”

The Edens. Quincy’s founding family.

Pops had promised that the fastest way to earn favor with the community was to win over the Edens. One of their relatives from generations past had founded the town and the family had been the community’s cornerstone ever since.

“They own the hotel, remember?” he asked.

“I remember. I just didn’t realize there was a restaurant in the hotel these days.” Probably because I hadn’t spent much time in Quincy lately.

The six trips I’d taken here to participate in the interview process had been my first trips to Quincy in years. Five, to be exact.

But when Skyler and I had fallen to pieces and Pops had pitched the job as chief, I’d decided it was time for a change. And Quincy, well . . . Quincy had always held a special place in my heart.

“The Edens started the hotel’s restaurant about four years ago,” Pops said. “It’s the best place in town, in my opinion.”

“Then let’s eat.” I unlocked my car. “Meet you there.”

I followed his Bronco from the station to Main Street, taking in the plethora of out-of-state cars parked downtown. Tourist season was in full swing and nearly every space was full.

Pops parked two blocks away from Main on a side street, and side by side, we strolled to The Eloise Inn.

The town’s iconic hotel was the tallest building in Quincy, standing proudly against the mountain backdrop in the distance. I’d always wanted to spend a night at The Eloise. Maybe one day I’d book myself a room, just for fun.

The lobby smelled of lemons and rosemary. The front desk was an island in the grand, open space, and a young woman with a sweet face stood behind the counter, checking in a guest. When she spotted Pops, she tossed him a wink.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Eloise Eden. She took over as manager this past winter.”

Pops waved at her, then walked past the front desk toward an open doorway. The clatter of forks on plates and the dull murmur of conversation greeted me as we entered the hotel’s restaurant.

The dining room was spacious and the ceilings as tall as those in the lobby. It was the perfect place for entertaining. Almost a ballroom but filled with tables of varying sizes, it also worked well as a restaurant.

“They just put in those windows.” Pops pointed at the far wall where black-paned windows cut into a red-brick wall. “Last time I talked to Harrison, he said this fall they’ll be remodeling this whole space.”

Harrison Eden. The family’s patriarch. He’d been on the hiring committee, and I liked to believe I’d made a good impression. According to Pops, if I hadn’t, there was no way I’d have gotten my job.

A hostess greeted us with a wide smile and led us to a square table in the center of the room.

“Which of the Edens runs the restaurant?” I asked as we browsed the menu card.

“Knox. He’s Harrison and Anne’s second oldest son. Eloise is their youngest daughter.”

Harrison and Anne, the parents. Knox, a son. Eloise, a daughter. There were likely many more Edens to meet.

Down Main, the Eden name was splashed on numerous storefronts, including the coffee shop I wished I’d had time to stop by this morning. Last night’s antics were catching up to me, and I hid a yawn with my menu.

“They’re good people,” Pops said. “You’ve met Harrison. Anne’s a sweetheart. Their opinion carries a lot of weight around here. So does Griffin’s.”

Griffin. Did he say Griffin?

My stomach dropped.

No. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a mistake. There had to be another Griffin, one who didn’t live in Quincy. I’d specifically asked him last night if he lived in town and he’d said no. Hadn’t he?

“Hey, Covie.”

So busy having my mental freak-out that I’d slept with not only a local man, but one I needed to see me as a professional and not a backseat hookup, I didn’t notice the two men standing beside our table until it was too late.

Harrison Eden smiled.

Griffin, who was just as handsome as he had been last night, did not.

Had he known who I was last night? Had that been some sort of test or trick? Doubtful. He looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

“Hey, Harrison.” Pops stood to shake his hand, then waved at me. “You remember my granddaughter, Winslow.”

“Of course.” Harrison took my hand as I stood, shaking it with a firm grip. “Welcome. We’re glad to have you as our new chief of police.”

“Thank you.” My voice was surprisingly steady considering my heart was attempting to dive out of my chest and hide under the table. “I’m glad to be here.”

“Would you like to join us?” Pops offered, nodding to the empty chairs at our table.

“No,” Griffin said at the same time his father said, “We’d love to.”

Neither Pops nor Harrison seemed to notice the tension rolling off Griffin’s body as they took their chairs, leaving Griffin and me to introduce ourselves.

I swallowed hard, then extended a hand. “Hello.”

That sharp jaw I’d traced with my tongue last night clenched so tight that I heard the crack of his molars. He glared at my hand before capturing it in his large palm. “Griffin.”

Griffin Eden.

My one-night stand.

So much for serendipity.

 

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12 Comments:


  1. Marlene Larsen said:

    Wow! Great first chapter. I’m looking forward to the book.

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thanks so much, Marlene!

      Reply

  2. Jaylyn said:

    Wow! What a great first chapter, I will be patiently waiting to read the whole book. Amazing so far!

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thanks Jaylyn!! I’m excited for everyone to read this series.

      Reply

  3. Ruth said:

    Outstanding First Chapter! I cannot wait to read this book.
    ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thank you so much, Ruth!!!

      Reply

  4. Lesley Bradley said:

    Amazing first chapter, not sure how I’ll manage to wait until October for the rest of the book!!

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thanks Lesley!!!

      Reply

  5. Nancy friesen said:

    Looking forward to read the book..

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thank you!

      Reply

  6. Truddy Hoffmann said:

    I know better than to read the first chapter, but I just couldn’t resist any longer. Damn it. I just tortured myself. It’s going to be a longggggggggg wait until release date.
    This one has me hooked already.

    Reply

    1. Devney Perry said:

      Thank you!!!

      Reply

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