Home > The Tourist Attraction (Moose Springs, Alaska #1)(13)

The Tourist Attraction (Moose Springs, Alaska #1)(13)
Author: Sarah Morgenthaler

His grin just grew. “You’re adorable.”

Not attacking him a second time took the willpower of a saint. “Officer Jonah? Can I have my own drunk tank? Please?” When she leaned her forehead against the door, it popped open.

“Better close it,” Graham murmured. “Breaking and exiting is looked down on in the state of Alaska.”

When she just stood there, staring miserably at the doorway labeled exit, Graham gingerly rose to his feet and met her at the drunk tank door. With a little tug, he pulled the door shut. It clicked as if locking. That amused expression stayed on his face as he pushed the door back open an inch, then closed it again.

“Freedom’s tempting, huh?”

She’d had enough of his teasing. “Listen, Mr. Barnett—”

“Graham.”

“I’m sorry about your—”

“Ball sack,” Graham provided helpfully.

“Your private parts, and maybe this is your idea of a great way to spend an afternoon, but I need to make sure Lana doesn’t go looking for me. Someone needs to let me out of here or at least let me make a phone call. I have rights.”

“Yes, but we kind of do things at our own pace in Moose Springs. I hope you’re not claustrophobic, because we’re going to be stuck in here a long time.”

Feeling her stomach sink, Zoey went back to the bench. She sat down with her now lopsided sandwich in her hand, blinking back tears of sheer frustration. Graham’s smile slipped, his eyes and tone softening. “Hey. I was just kidding.”

She shook her head, drawing her knees up to her chest. “My stupid cell phone literally only works at your restaurant and if I’m standing on my left foot in the shower in our hotel room.”

“Yeah, that happens to a lot of visitors. If you have the wrong carrier, you’re not going to get reception for crap up here.” Graham passed her his cell phone. “L’s number is in there. The security code to unlock it is one, one, one, one.”

“You’re kidding.”

A curve of his lips was his only reply. Murmuring a thanks, Zoey unlocked the phone and found Lana’s name, although she half expected him to have her listed as the single letter. The lump of ham and cheese in her now occupied fingers slipped and fell next to her foot as she made the call. Zoey absently picked it up and set it on the bench between her and Graham as Lana’s phone went to voicemail.

“Lana, this is Zoey. I’m in—”

“Jail,” Graham provided.

“It’s not jail. It’s a holding pattern. I’m in a holding pattern, and I need you to come pick me up. I don’t even know where this place is, but it’s a tiny little pretend police station on the far side of town, and my phone won’t work in here. Please, call me on Graham’s phone. Or just come down here.”

Handing the phone back to Graham, Zoey exhaled a sigh of relief. Feeling his eyes on her, she glanced over at him. “What?”

“Are you going to eat that?”

“It was on the floor.”

“It was wrapped.”

With a sigh, Zoey passed him the sandwich. Destroying it in several large bites, Graham left his ice pack on the bench and went to the entrance of the drunk tank. Raising his voice, Graham smacked his forearm on the bars hard enough to cause a loud bang to echo through the building. “Yo, Jonah. Hey, buddy, speed it up. She needs out of here.”

Then Graham sat down next to her, and—much to Zoey’s surprise—he offered his hand to her, palm up. “I’m scared,” he said in way of explanation.

Rolling her eyes, Zoey huffed a soft laugh. “Yeah, I bet.” Still, at his gentle smile, Zoey found herself pressing her sweaty, nervous hand against his ice-chilled one.

Zoey waited, but Lana never showed up. However, Jonah returned, a concerned expression on his face.

“I have bad news. I talked to the chief in Anchorage. Assault is something the DA takes very seriously. She wants me to take you to Anchorage and book you. The DA is pressing charges.”

Shooting to her feet, Zoey shook her head, alarmed at the turn of events. “It wasn’t assault. He didn’t actually attack me.”

The police officer cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Actually, ma’am, you’re the one being charged with assault. And breaking and entering.”

“I was hiding from Reindeer Dog Jason over here!” She pointed at him indignantly.

“Plus trespassing. You might want to call yourself a lawyer. Unless…well…we got the wrong of things.”

A look passed between Jonah and Graham.

“What do you mean?”

Graham never once glanced at Zoey as he said in a firm voice. “I kicked myself in the balls.”

Zoey stared at him, but Graham continued to hold Jonah’s eyes, dipping his chin just a little in a silent signal she didn’t understand.

“I kicked myself,” Graham repeated. “All this was on me. Zoey was just visiting, and I was showing her some of my art. Then I kicked myself in the balls, and she went inside to call for help for me.”

Jonah thought about it, thought about it some more, and then he sighed. “Well, I suppose this was all a misunderstanding. Right, ma’am?”

Graham nudged her in the rib cage with his elbow. “Right, Zoey Bear?”

“If Graham kicked himself…we’re free to go?”

“Yes, but I feel obligated to remind you, ma’am. We’re a small town of good people. Just because some of us can be convinced to kick ourselves doesn’t mean we should have to.” Without further ado, Jonah opened the door. “Have a nice day.”

No one needed to tell her twice. Zoey bolted. Graham followed at a more leisurely pace, stopping to chat with the officer while Zoey headed outside, once more trying to get reception long enough to check her voicemail. Maybe Lana called and she’d missed it?

As Zoey sat on the edge of the sidewalk outside the tiny concrete building, still trying to find a reception sweet spot, their voices filtered out to her.

“They cause more trouble than they’re worth.” Jonah’s pleasant drawl was heavy with annoyance. “Each new batch is worse than the last.”

“This was actually an accident, man. Don’t hold it against her.”

“If she wasn’t so pretty, you wouldn’t be okay with this. Not like you to get pulled into their kind of drama.”

“Maybe, but she’s different.” A snort brought a flush of color to her cheeks. “She is, Jonah. I don’t know, I just think she’s a cut above the rest.”

Now, in Zoey’s life, she had worked her heart out and her fingers to the bone for every single thing she had. She was proud of herself and the accomplishments she had achieved. But she couldn’t remember a single time a stranger had said something like that.

A cut above the rest.

Nothing in their interaction thus far should have given this man a good opinion of her. Confused, Zoey watched as Graham Barnett left the station, still walking gingerly as he whistled to himself. He headed to his truck, climbing in with care. Even though she heard the engine start, he stayed parked. After a few moments, he killed the engine and got out again, joining her.

“I could be completely wrong, but my gut tells me L’s not coming, darlin’.”

“She’s coming.”

Even Zoey didn’t believe herself.

Her spot on the sidewalk couldn’t have been easy for him to sink down to. Yet there he was, settling in on cement when it probably hurt terribly, careful not to sit too close. Whatever else he might be, Graham Barnett was kind. Kind enough to hold her hand in the holding cell. Kind enough to lie to keep her from being arrested. Kind enough to care about a stranger not having a ride.

Guilt squeezed like lemon juice on her frayed nerves.

“I tried to call her a couple times. L’s not picking up for me either. I’m not saying she won’t come get you. I just think it might be a while.”

Sighing, Zoey stood. “You’re probably right.”

Glancing at him, feeling stress and guilt twist her stomach into knots, Zoey added softly, “I’m sorry I hurt you. Thank you for not letting me run off the cliff, and thank you for helping me in there. If you have any medical bills, please send them to me.”

Nodding in acknowledgment, Graham climbed back up to his feet.

“It’s a long walk back to the resort. Jonah’s squad car gets better gas mileage than tennis shoes, but he might be a while. There’s a lot of paperwork to go along with our festivities this morning. I don’t know how much you remember about last night, but I got you home safe and sound once. If you don’t mind, I bet I can do it again.”

“I think this tourist has trapped you in enough of her drama for one vacation.” Offering him a tight smile, she added, “But if I could use your phone to call a cab, I’d appreciate it. Then you’ll never have to set eyes on me again.”

“That would be a shame.”

An odd expression crossed his face, as if Graham hadn’t planned on saying that. Then he held out his phone in one hand and his keys in the other, offering her the choice of either.

“It’s up to you. But if I make you nervous, you can drive.” Graham jingled the keys enticingly. “I’ll even sit in the bed. No chance of mischief.”

“What if I steal your truck? Or worse? Women are capable of dismembery-type hijinks too, you know.”

“Then at least I went out with a good story. Red pill or blue pill?”

Zoey tapped her fingers on his hand, the one holding the keys. “You drive. My nerves are shot. I could use another Growly Bear about now.”

“You and me both.”

The truck was a newer model, but something had damaged the side door enough to give Zoey pause.

“Do I want to know what happened to your mirror?”

“Unrequited love. Okay, back to the big house. They’re going to start charging me parking if I keep going there.”

   
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