Hot Velocity(9)

By: Elle James

T-Rex shook his head and glanced around. “I understand the County Records office is somewhere in this building.”

Sierra nodded. “You have to go back out to the front of the armory to get to their offices.”

“This was an armory?”

“It used to house a small unit of the Montana Army National Guard. When they moved out, they donated the building to the town. Now it’s the Grizzly Pass Community Center.”

He swept the gym with another assessing glance. Now that she’d mentioned it, he could imagine a military unit holding formations in the gym when the weather outside was too cold, wet or snowy. A twinge of regret filled his belly. While he was pretty much playing the civilian Stateside, members of his unit were putting their lives on the line in some godforsaken country on the other side of the world. His fists clenched. “Nice that the building could be useful.” As much as he’d like to talk to the pretty woman with the long, wavy blond hair, he had work to do. The sooner they figured out who was at the bottom of all the troubles in Grizzly Pass, the sooner he could be back with his unit.

Besides, it would do him no good to get close to a female. His career was with the US Marine Corps. And he’d seen the devastation a career in the military could wreak on a family. He couldn’t do that to a woman, any more than he could do what Sierra’s ex-husband had done to her. No, he was single for a reason. Career military men had no business dragging families along with them.

“I’ll be going. If your ex gives you any more trouble, you can call me. I’ll be happy to step in as the protective boyfriend for as long as I’m here.” As long as that was as far as it went. He didn’t say it, but he thought it, specifically to remind him he wasn’t in Grizzly Pass to start anything. He was there to finish it.

He spun and walked out of the building and around to the front, where an entrance led into a hallway with what had once been the offices of the officers and enlisted men who’d run the unit. Now the doors were marked with the names of businesses. He found the one marked County Records and entered.

With the help of the clerk, he found the surveys and plats of the properties bordering the oil pipeline running through the hills on the south side of Yellowstone National Park.

He snapped photos with his cell phone, and on a notepad he jotted down the names of the people or corporations who owned the land. When he was finished, he tucked his notepad into his pocket. “Thank you,” he called out as he left the office. He’d been there for over an hour. He knew he should go straight to his truck and leave, but he couldn’t without first checking on Sierra. Back around the side of the armory, he found the entrance to the gym and day care.

Sierra stood with the little red-haired girl and a woman with equally red hair who had to be the child’s mother.

“She took a nap after the commotion, but she might continue to be distressed,” Sierra was saying. “I’m so sorry it happened in front of the children.”

The mother held her daughter close in her arms. “I’m just glad you’re okay. Don’t you worry about us. Take care of yourself.” The woman turned and stopped, her eyes wide. “Oh. I didn’t hear you come in.” Her eyes narrowed and she shot a glance back at Sierra. “Do you know him? I can stay if you need me to.”

Sierra smiled. “I know him. He’s the one who chased Clay away. The kids love him.”

As if on cue, the little red-haired toddler reached her arms up to T-Rex. “My turn.”

Her mother frowned.

“It’s okay.” Sierra nodded. “T-Rex had them all wanting a turn.”

Eloisa leaned farther out.

T-Rex grabbed her before she fell from her mother’s arms. “Do you mind?”

“I guess not.” Eloisa’s mother gave him a confused smile. “She doesn’t usually go to strangers.”

T-Rex swung her up into the air and back to the ground, then up again.

Eloisa giggled and laughed. When he handed her back to her mother, she clapped her hands and held them out. “Again.”

“Sorry, sweetie.” Her mother straightened the child on her hip and hiked her diaper bag up onto her shoulder. “We have to get home and cook supper.” She smiled, waved and exited, leaving Sierra alone in the gym with T-Rex.

“Are all of the others gone?” he asked.

“Everyone but me.” She retrieved her purse from a chair and slipped it over her shoulder. “I get to lock up tonight.”

“I’ll wait.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know.” He waved a hand, indicating she should lead the way.

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