The last thing he needs is another person he has to protect…
Tim Means is the sheriff on the White Sandy Reservation—a thankless job on the best of days. He’s trying to keep a gang war from breaking out, vigilantes from running amuck and he’s doing it all with a two-man force. When a kid named Georgey gets busted breaking into the Clinic, Tim doesn’t have time to keep the kid on the straight and narrow. He needs a relative to take the teen off his hands.
But who? The only person who could take custody of Georgey is Summer Johnson, Georgey’s half-sister. She hasn’t been on the White Sandy in almost twelve years . But what choice does she have? She made a promise to her father to look out for her little brother, so she gives up her job teaching summer school and her hopes of a summer fling to venture west and meet a brother she barely remembers. But what she finds on the White Sandy is more than just a family or a sense of belonging. She meets one sexy sheriff and suddenly, a summer fling seems like just the thing.
But things on the White Sandy are never simple—or easy. When the gang war threatens Summer and her brother, will Tim be able to do his job—or will his heart get in the way?
Warning: This book features smart-mouthed teenagers, poverty issues, dyslexia, jackalopes, and car sex. Plan accordingly!
Men of the White Sandy #5
SnS Reviews: It's good to be back in the Dakota's on the White Sandy Lakota Indian Reservation...Tim has been a character we have known through all the books in the series and I was so happy to see he was finally getting a book.
Thoughts of a Blonde: Unexpected love at it's best! I've really enjoyed this entire series, but Sheriff Tim turned out to be one of my very favorites. I wasn't expecting it. I went into the book thinking he was a surly jerk ... but it didn't take long to figure out that he really had a heart of gold. Great characters, an emotional story of family and second chances and a sweet love story. Great read!
She saw no one. And the emptiness was starting to get to her. She’d been in the car since four that morning. She was tired and grumpy and more than a little freaked out. She missed her nice apartment and her safe life and she even missed grading those awful student papers.
Just as she approached the T in the road, she saw the most wonderful thing ever—a cop car. Even better, it was slowing down! Dear God, please let it be someone on the White Sandy police force.
The car pulled off to the side of the road at the intersection. Summer’s breath caught in her throat as she watched a man get out of the car. Was this the same man she talked to on the phone, Sheriff Means? Because the man striding toward her looked absolutely nothing like the man she'd pictured in her head.
Instead of short hair streaked with white, he had long black hair that came down just below his shoulders. It wasn’t even tied back in a tail—instead, the breeze caught it and blew it around him. The man she’d pictured had a gut—too much beer and too many donuts. But the man who was now walking around her car was lean and muscled and moved with a coiled grace that did more than catch her breath—he took it away.
He stood by the driver-side door while she gaped at him. She hadn’t remembered much about her brief time on the reservation, but she remembered what her father looked like. Now that she thought about it, her father and the way she’d envisioned this officer looking weren’t that different. Large and heavyset with short hair going white.
He had on a nametag. Sheriff Means.
One corner of his mouth quirked up into an amused smile and he made a motion for her to roll down her window.
Oh, damn. She’d just been sitting there, staring at him. She quickly rolled down the window. “Sheriff Means?”
He nodded his head in acknowledgment. “Ms. Collins?”
“Yes. Call me Summer.” She didn’t know why she said that. She was Ms. Collins to her students. She was perfectly fine answering to her last name.
“Then you have to call me Tim,” the sheriff said, his warm brown eyes doing something that looked remarkably like twinkling.
Was he laughing at her? Or flirting?
She jerked her gaze away from his face. Was it hot in here? “How did you know where I was?” She looked around at the nothingness surrounding them. “I mean, I don’t even know where I am and there’s no one around. Except…” She looked in the rearview mirror but she didn’t see that something that had been there earlier.
Sheriff Means—Tim—stiffened and turned to look behind the car.
“What is it?” she asked, a bit of that panic coming back up. At least this time, she wasn’t alone. She had an officer of the law—she glanced down and saw that he had a gun at his side. An armed officer of the law. Whatever that shadow thing had been, she wouldn’t be scared anymore.
Tim was scowling at the open space behind her car. “You saw something, I take it?”
She nodded, unsure if she was supposed to feel silly for fearing shadows or terrified that he knew what she’d seen.
“You have nothing to worry about,” he went on, setting his hand on the roof of her car and leaning down closer. Tobacco—not cigarettes and not cigars but the good kind of tobacco she’d only smelled during that one pow wow—wafted around him. She leaned forward and inhaled deeply. “What you saw was an…associate of mine, if you will. He seemed to think you might get lost and so he was keeping an eye out for you. He let me know where you were.”
How the hell was she supposed to interpret that statement? “It didn’t look like a man,” she said, feeling stupid. “It was like some sort of shadow.”
Tim grimaced. “Yeah, he does that. I’ll introduce you, if it’d make you feel better.” He sounded hesitant about this. Summer must have given him a look, because he added, “Been a while since you’ve been on the rez?”
Her cheeks heated. “Is it that obvious? I haven’t been here since I was twelve and so far, I’ve gotten lost and seen an associate of yours.” She knew she was not putting forth the most competent of first impressions. Why would anyone trust her to make decisions about a teenager?
The lazy grin lifted the other corner of Tim’s mouth. How old was he? He had that kind of ageless face that meant he could be anywhere from twenty-five to forty-five.
She remembered the reason she was here in the first place. “Where’s Georgey?”
Tim shifted, his hips moving side to side and she was absolutely not staring at the fluid motion of his body. Really, really not. He brought his hands down. No ring. Why was she even looking? She wasn’t. She was only going to be on this reservation long enough to do…something with Georgey. To make sure Georgey was well cared for.
The way Tim was grinning at her made it pretty clear she was making a fool of herself. God, she was screwing this up so badly.
“My deputy is keeping an eye on him. Don’t worry—the boy isn’t going anywhere.”
She stared up at Tim in confusion. “You kept him locked up? You promised me you wouldn’t!”
Something in his face changed—closed, almost. “I didn’t lock him up,” he said in a dull voice. “I know you don’t know me or know how things work here, but I’m a man of honor.”
Her cheeks got even warmer. Why was it so damned hot here? “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
Tim gave a little shake of his head and stepped back from the car. “Follow me. I won’t let you get lost.” Then he turned on his heel.
As Summer watched, he opened his car door and set one foot in the vehicle, then turned and stared off into space behind her. He touched two fingers to his forehead in a small salute and Summer twisted in her seat to see if there was really a man back there. But there was nothing. Nothing but grass and more grass.
Sheriff Tim Means was right about one thing. She didn’t know him and she had no idea how things here worked.
It took close to twenty minutes of following Sheriff Means before Summer saw actual, real buildings. Not burned-out shacks or rotting hulks of old trailers, but a solid, substantial building. Or what was two buildings sharing a connected wall? Cars were parked haphazardly because there wasn’t a true street front, nor was there a paved parking lot. Children played off to one side of what looked like the newer of the buildings.
The cop car parked and Summer parked next to it. “Is this the police station?” she asked when she got out of the car.
“No, ma’am,” Tim replied. He pulled a cowboy hat out of the car. It was black and when he settled in on his head, it gave him a more dangerous air. “This is the White Sandy Clinic. Georgey broke that window when he tried to get inside. Said he was trying to get drugs for his grandma, Darlene, and it turned out she was sick. But I don’t know why he didn’t just bring her down. Dr. Mitchell would’ve seen her, even if they couldn’t afford to pay her anything.”
“Do you think that’s what he was doing? Trying to help his grandmother?”
Tim shrugged and she saw the ripple of muscle beneath his shirt. How could she have ever thought this man would have a donut gut?
“Hard to say.” He motioned with his hand toward the front door and they begin to walk, albeit slowly. “Georgey is a follower. A couple times, he’s almost been sucked into gangs. I’ve managed to keep him out with a little help, but it’s entirely possible that he was stealing drugs on orders from one of the gang leaders.”
Summer stopped in her tracks. She looked up at Tim—he was maybe three inches taller than she was and apparently all muscle. “Gangs? You have gangs here? I thought that was just an urban problem.”
Tim stepped in close—so close that if she wanted to, she could have put her hand on his chest. Not that she would ever do anything like that, of course. She didn’t even know this man.
“He almost joined the Killerz a couple years ago. Gangs run a lot of drugs here—the rez is a hard place to live and a lot of people want to escape any way they can. An associate of mine managed to put the leader of the Killerz out of commission and the feds helped me break up that ring, but another gang grew up in its place.”
“Why? Why would anyone do that?” She felt dumb for asking, but she really had no idea. She’d heard about Mexican cartels in the news. She wasn’t so naïve as not to realize that some of her students were members of gangs. But they were so far removed from that here. Hell, they were removed from everything here.
Tim tilted his head, as if he were deciding what he wanted to tell her. “I take it you aren’t familiar with our ways?”
If she could stop blushing in front of this man, that would be awesome. “No, not really. Why?”
He settled his hands on top of his belt, near his gun. She got the feeling he was a hell of a good shot. “We are a warrior people. Even your father was a warrior. He left the rez to join the Army and, as I understand it, that’s when he met your mother. Gang leaders take our proud warrior past and twist it. We used to have hunting raids and steal ponies from our enemies. We’d count coup and steal feathers. Now they run drugs and do drive-by shootings. For some people, there isn’t much of a difference.”
A warrior people? She’d certainly never thought of her father as a warrior. She had so few memories of him before he left them, and the man that she had met when she was twelve was nothing like a warrior. He’d been loud and drunk and doughy. She’d loved him anyway because he’d made her feel like she belonged to something she didn’t get from her fair-haired mother and her German heritage. But a warrior?
She wanted to understand, but she didn’t. “And you? Are you a warrior, too?”
Tim looked down at her, his eyes in shadow under the brim of his hat. “We all have our own battles to fight.”
Before she could come up with a response to that, he turned on his heel and took long strides towards the clinic.
Summer stared after him. She didn’t like this confusion. She was an intelligent person with multiple college degrees who’d made a nice life for herself. She was not an idiot.
Except none of that counted here. All her education and street smarts meant nothing on the reservation.
She hurried after Tim. As she got closer to the building, she could see a tall, thin man and a shorter, broader one. The thin man was scraping a putty knife along the edge of the window frame and the shorter one watched him while talking to a beautiful young lady in medical scrubs through the empty window frame.
Summer was immediately jealous of the other woman. Her long black hair hung straight past her butt and she had deep bronze skin and cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass. She looked Native in a way Summer never had and never would. Most people didn’t believe Summer was half Lakota because she simply didn’t look like their idea of an Indian.
Tim strode up to the shorter man. “He give you any trouble, Jack?” He tilted his chin toward the thin man.
Jack snorted. “The kid knows better than to run from me.”
It was the kind of ominous statement that made her wonder exactly what sort of place she’d arrived in. This Jack made it sound like he would hunt the other man down.
It was only then that the taller man made eye contact with Summer. And suddenly, she knew he wasn’t a man—he was Georgey. There was something about him that she recognized instantly. It was the eyes. They were darker brown than hers but somehow, it was almost like looking into a mirror. “Georgey?”
Up close, she could see now he wasn’t quite yet a man. Yes, he was tall and thin, but he was gangly in that way teenage boys were when they were in the middle of a growth spurt. He hadn’t grown into his feet and hands yet. When he did, he was going to break a lot of hearts. But right now?
Right now, she recognized the same sullen teenage look so many of her students had when she made them read Romeo and Juliet out loud. He didn’t want to be here and he didn’t want to see her.
Georgey didn’t say anything. He just stared at her for a minute until finally, Tim stepped over and smacked him on the shoulder. “Say hello to your sister. She drove a long way to see you.”
Summer winced. One of the hard and fast rules of teaching in the Minneapolis public school system was you were not allowed to touch a child under any circumstances. Even things such as pats on the back were frowned upon.
But no one else seemed to think anything about the contact. Instead, Georgey looked sheepish. “Hi.”
Summer couldn’t help smiling. Okay, so she was completely clueless as to how things worked here. If there was one thing she knew, though, it was how to deal with sullen teenage boys. “Hello, George. I’m Summer Collins—do you remember me?” She was tempted to ask if he remembered her babysitting him at that the pow wow, but that was the sort of detail that tended to embarrass boys. They never liked to be reminded they had been babies once. So she held onto that for when they were in private.
Because they were not in private now. In addition to Tim and Jack and the young woman, there was a waiting room full of old, frail and very sick people who were watching them through the empty window. Additionally, a woman sitting behind a desk with bouffant hair—there was no other way to describe her curls—was staring and an absolutely huge man wearing medical scrubs who looked like he should be a mercenary, not working in a clinic, had paused to watch as well.
And behind them was—Summer blinked, but the vision didn’t change as the woman walked forward. “Hello, I’m Dr. Madeline Mitchell,” the white woman said. She had a mass of blond curls pulled back into a low bun. She reached through the empty space and shook Summer’s hand.
“Summer Collins,” Summer said, feeling a little dazed. This was very different from the pow wow she remembered. And she hadn’t even gone inside the building!
“Thank you for coming,” Dr. Mitchell went on as if she were in complete control of the situation—which she appeared to be. “I appreciate that Sheriff Means is making the young man repair the damage. He’s doing a good job and I don’t anticipate that we will be pressing charges. I do ask that you make sure he pays Sheriff Means back for the window.”
Summer glanced at the sheriff, who did that little half-shrug again. “We can settle up later,” Tim said. Then his gaze cut sideways. “Can’t we, kid?”
Georgey glared, but the older man only grinned wider.
People were staring at her. The people in the waiting room, the huge guy in medical scrubs—even if they weren’t flat-out staring, they were all watching her out of the corners of their eyes as she literally stood on the outside, looking in. Did they know who she was? Should she know who they were? Were any of them related to her?
Dr. Mitchell stepped in a little bit closer and dropped her voice. “If you have any questions, just let me know. I know what it’s like to be the outsider here.”
“But I’m not an…” The protestation died as Summer looked around again. She didn’t fit in here just because Leonard had been her father and Georgey was her brother. One trip to the reservation did not give her bona fides.
An overwhelming sense of loss snuck up on her. Why hadn’t she come back sooner? Well, she knew the answer to that—there was no way in hell her mother was going to bring her. And then she’d gotten busy with life—college, getting a job, teaching.
She turned her attention back to Dr. Mitchell. “Thanks,” she said, smiling widely. “I appreciate it.”
Dr. Mitchell gave a brisk nod and turned back to the clinic. “Jenna? We have patients waiting.” The young woman in scrubs gave a brief nod before throwing a half-smile back at Jack.
Summer glanced over and found Georgey watching her. He hadn’t answered the question, she realized—did he remember her or not?
Then she caught Tim Means watching her as well.
And that brought up a whole different set of questions.
Men of the White Sandy #5