Not Quite Forever Page 1

Author: Catherine Bybee

Series: Not Quite #4

Genres: Romance

Chapter One

“We’re sitting in the back of a police car! This isn’t my idea of research!”

“Lighten up!” Dakota knew Mary ignored her words. “There isn’t any way we’ll be charged with squat. You didn’t say we had a bomb . . . you simply said the word bomb.”

Mary’s less-than-happy face reminded Dakota of her own mother when she wanted to bury her with a look.

“I repeated your words, Dakota.”

“Repeated in a not so soft voice. Even I know not to yell the word bomb in an airport.”

Outside the squad car, uniformed policemen were talking among themselves while the temporarily misplaced airport passengers were let back into the terminal.

“I didn’t yell.” Mary tossed her head back, a curly lock of blonde hair moved away from her eyes in the process.

Dakota let loose a snarky laugh. “The ol’ lady next to us did.”

Yeah, the blue-haired crone managed to hear one word from their conversation, pointed her crooked finger in their direction, and you’d have thought they were both walking through baggage claim with an AK and an Uzi. In an effort to calm her friend, Dakota made the remark that everything that happened could be used for research. From the moment airport security showed up and put them in handcuffs to feeling the palms of the not so friendly guard running down their legs, Dakota tried to spin the experience.

They were visiting Florida for a writers conference. OK, it was more convention than conference. Plenty of parties, lots of fans . . . and tons of fun. Fun that didn’t normally involve the police. Handcuffs, however, were optional.

Dakota would have liked to find the arresting officers worthy of a chapter in one of her books. Unfortunately, the woman who cuffed her wasn’t amused and her partner wasn’t any kind of hero Dakota would profile for her next novel.

Unable to help herself, she looked around the tiny backseat of the squad car, noted the cage separating the front seat from the back, and all the radios and toys the police used.

Who’d sat in the car before her? Her shoes stuck to the surface under her feet. She couldn’t remember ever being in a car without carpet. A combination of bad musk, cigarettes, and something that sadly reminded her of vomit filled her nose.

Research only went so far. The thought of a night in jail—sleeping in the same space the previous occupants of the backseat did—churned her stomach. The longer they sat there, the worse her head started to spin.

“Oh, God,” Mary said.

Dakota rallied. “Relax, Mary . . . and for God’s sake, when they open the door again, let me do the talking.”

Mary, bless her heart, didn’t have the stomach, or the street smarts, to talk her way out of a gay bar full of lesbians. No, she’d try to ask said fictional lesbians about their childhood and try to determine if they were truly attracted to women or if they were just trying to piss off their parents. Mary spent her days, and sometimes nights, with a private client base that paid her to listen to their problems. With a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, she was a huge sounding board for Dakota. Right now poor Mary was probably wondering if she could continue to practice if she ended up in jail.

Mary jumped when Dakota’s door opened and one of the officers leaned over and addressed them. “Which one of you is Dakota Laurens?”

Dakota swallowed. “That would be me.”

Without even a hello, the overweight, balding man pulled her out of the car. Her Lakers cap fell from her lap as he marched her to a second car where two more officers stood. Next to them, the female officer that had cuffed her seemed to have loosened the bun on her head, and she offered a smile.

In an effort to ease the tension, Dakota lifted her eyebrows and tried to grin.

“This is all such a huge misunderstanding.” Dakota let a little bit of the South slip into her accent.

Mr. Baldy held up a hand, stopping her, and nodded toward the female officer. “Is this her?”

The woman stepped closer, tilted her head. “Who are Mathew and Cassidy?”

For one brief second, Dakota’s brain short-circuited. “What?”

The woman simply stared.

“Surrender to Me?” The title of her last bestseller fell from Dakota’s lips and the officer’s eyes lit.

“I think it’s her,” the female officer murmured.

While the officers exchanged glances, Dakota kept talking . . . after all, outside of writing, it was what she did best. “My friend and I are here for a conference. The Morrison is hosting Booklovers Unite. That sweet little old lady simply misheard my friend. There’s no bomb.” She whispered the word bomb and looked around them.

Dakota’s gaze met her luggage, which was strewn, panties and all, across the sidewalk with more than one dog sniffing the contents. Now that has to go in a book.

“Ms. Laurens, you do understand the severity of yelling the word bomb in an airport, right?”

Dakota met the dark eyes of the only man not in uniform. “Well of course I do. My friend and I didn’t yell anything.”

“Mrs. Leland said you pointed to a bag and—”

“I’m a writer, Mr. . . .”


Dakota smiled. “Mr. Hansen. As a writer, I tend to let my muse wander a little more than the average person. My friend and I seemed to have our luggage in the very back of the plane, and for a few minutes, we didn’t think it was ever going to appear down that chute. As a writer, I thought, and whispered, ‘I suppose it could be worse . . . there could be a bomb in here somewhere and we’d have to evacuate and wait even longer to get to the hotel.’ Well, my friend Mary shoved my hand away and told me to be quiet about bombs. Next thing I knew, Mrs. Leland, bless her little ol’ heart, started yelling we had a bomb. That’s all there is to it. I swear on Nana’s grave.” Dakota lifted her right hand and hoped her Nana wouldn’t be pissed if and when she ever learned that Dakota buried her prematurely.

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