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Beauty and the Badge (Charlotte’s Cove #1)
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After being held up at gunpoint, Ashley Colton realizes that life in the big city isn’t for her. She decides to take the biggest risk of her life and move to Charlotte’s Cove, the small seaside sanctuary where she’s vacationed every summer since childhood.
Everything falls perfectly into place until her first day of work, where she meets her new boss Tyler Jameson, the chief of police. The chemistry between Ashley and Tyler is instant and powerful, but for reasons of their own, both are cautious about jumping in.
When a woman from Tyler’s past surfaces, Ashley retreats, making Tyler realize that if he’s going to show Ashley she’s the only one who has his attention, then he needs to stop being hesitant and put everything on the line.
Is the badge powerful enough to win the beauty who holds his heart?
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My body jerks at the sound. The person bellowing my name is my boss, Hadley Halls, which means it may as well have been accompanied by the snap of a whip.
Pushing back from my desk, I hurry into her office. While the outer office area where I sit is decorated in shades of dark gray, Hadley’s office is painted black. It’s like an ultra-luxe magazine spread come to life, and if anything is out of place, she’ll let you know. All of the trim and crown molding is stark white, there’s an enormous crystal chandelier in the center of the room, and her acrylic desk is eight-feet long. The space is neither welcoming nor warm—especially since she keeps the temperature at sixty-five degrees year round. I bet Cruella de Vil would feel right at home.
As I near Hadley’s desk, I’m hit with the cloying scent of her custom-blended perfume, which signals she’s getting ready to leave. Shooting a furtive glance at the clock, I note that it’s just after one. For one brief, beautiful second, I wonder if she’ll let me go home early. Then reality knocks on my head like I’m George McFly, and I remember that Hadley would never be so generous.
“Jesus, are you part turtle?” she snaps, her expression one of pure disdain. “It took you long enough to get in here.”
If it took me more than fifteen seconds to get from my desk to her office, I’d be stunned. Hadley’s style of management has my jump and run reflexes on high alert.
“Sorry,” I mumble, hating that I have to apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong.
“You’re always sorry,” Hadley snipes, her tone haughty.
Beneath the pin-straight line of her jet-black bangs, her dark eyes are narrowed in a way that make me feel as if I’m under a microscope. She’s a lot like a vampire. The only difference between her and a creature of the night is that she runs on a steady diet of forced apologies as opposed to blood.
“I’ve got somewhere to be. Get my bag ready.”
I nod, always complacent, and head for her coat closet. After retrieving her Louis Vuitton Neverfull tote, I return to her desk and begin to gather the items she takes with her. Two cell phones, one iPad, her Apple pencil, and a traditional notebook along with four pens all go into the bag. Once it’s packed, I set it on the right edge of her desk, making sure to align it just so. Hadley has a thing about objects being crooked. Stepping back, I look at her and smile blandly. “Is there anything else I can do before you go?”
The look she gives me is so razor-sharp that I know whatever she’s about to say will be either rude or insulting, and quite likely both. “A quick look at my Instagram post from two Thursdays ago shows you’ve missed responding to several comments today. I need you to stop lazing about and step it up. My followers need me to respond. Don’t you realize that if my status falls, you’ll be out of a job?”
It would be impossible to forget, since she reminds me of that very thing a minimum of a half-dozen times each day. “I’m sorry. I was busy responding to all the comments from yesterday’s post about mix-and-match wardrobe essentials and—”
“Too many excuses,” she interrupts, her tone harsh. Rising, she walks around her desk. “You’ll stay half an hour later today to make up for it.”
Her glacial stare dares me to argue. There are so many words on the tip of my tongue, but as always, I swallow them down, nod to indicate my acquiescence, and keep my mouth shut, because arguing with her is an exercise in futility. Hadley doles out criticisms and put-downs like they’re candy. She can find fault in everyone but herself, which means being told she’s mistaken is anathema to her.
The victorious expression on her heavily Botoxed face as she picks up her bag makes my stomach roil. I’ve only ever actively disliked one other person this much. I don’t like the feeling.
Hadley doesn’t say anything else, because she’s already gotten her digs in for the day. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she stalks from the office like a model working the catwalk. The silence left in her wake is welcome but also not, because it gives my brain time to ruminate on all the reasons I’m unhappy with my job.
If her three million followers ever discovered what a vicious person she is, they’d be shocked. The soft-voiced woman who teaches people how to organize their lives while also guiding them in the ways of classic style is a carefully crafted façade. Hadley is a barracuda with the ability to fake being a pleasant human being. Worse, she gets the bulk of her ideas from other influencers.