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It Had to Be Love

By´╝ÜTamra Baumann

For the first time since he’d become sheriff, Ryan Anderson was tempted to lie. Who thought up the ridiculous questions online dating apps asked anyway?

He had no idea what his “ideal first date” would be. He wasn’t one of those all-in-touch-with-his-feelings kind of guys.

Probably a movie. Less talking.

With his deputy returning soon from answering another trespassing call, Ryan only had the office to himself for a few more minutes. Maybe he’d tackle the easy questions first.

Height: 6'5

Weight: 220

Age: 30

Hair Color: Dark brown

Eye Color: Blue

After that the questions got complicated.

Favorite hobby?

Would running and going to the gym be considered hobbies? He liked keeping fit, but it was part of his job to do that, being in law enforcement. Or how about reading mysteries? No. That made him sound like a wimpy bookworm, but he liked getting lost in a great story.

How about hiking and whitewater rafting? But if a woman didn’t want to do those things it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. He’d just go by himself.

A glance at the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of his computer screen showed it was almost time to go.

His tongue slid over his jagged, cracked tooth. No choice. He had to go this time.

As annoying as the questions on the application were, going to the dentist could be just as aggravating. And chances were slim someone in sleepy Anderson Butte, Colorado, would commit a serious crime in the next five minutes so he could cancel his appointment—again.

It’d take him all of two minutes to cross the grassy square, so he’d leave in three.

Turning his attention back to the screen, he skipped the hobby question. He’d come back to it later.

Next it asked what he preferred in a woman’s build and coloring.

A vision appeared of a cute, short woman with a pretty smile and brown hair. Sarah—someone who’d never cheat and lie like his mother had. He’d been in love with Sarah—a quiet, sweet, loyal woman—since middle school, but he’d had a hard time telling her how he’d felt. Now she was married to a jerk she’d never leave.

He held the women he dated to high standards. Maybe too high. He’d been accused of being too rigid, too black and white, on top of being too quiet, but he’d seen what the poor choices in his parents’ marriage had resulted in, and refused to make the same mistake. Many of his friends had come from good homes with awesome parents and he’d always vowed he’d have that, or stay single.

He typed the opposite of Sarah: Tall and blonde.

At the echo of heavy footsteps approaching outside his office, Ryan quickly saved his profile just as Mike, one of his deputies, stepped inside.

Ryan called out, “Gotta go. Make sure you file that call report before you leave for the day.”

His deputy, a fellow football player on their high school team, shot him a stupid grin. “In a hurry to visit our pretty new dentist, Sheriff?”

Nope. He’d never admit it out loud—he had a reputation to uphold—but he’d always feared going to the dentist. It was the last thing he’d be in a hurry to do. No matter how good-looking Tara was.

Ignoring Mike’s question, he said, “Do you get a weird vibe from her? Like she’s hiding something?”

Mike sat down at his desk. “The kind of vibes I get from Tara would earn me a smack upside the head from my wife.”

“She should smack you anyway, you deserve it.”

“A man can look.” He chuckled. “Hey, the mayor stopped by earlier. He said, and I quote, ‘Tell Ryan I want this bogus hunt for the long-lost whiskey recipe that surely doesn’t exist to stop,’ end quote. You think your crazy uncle really buried that map? Those barrels of whiskey from Prohibition days could be worth a fortune if they’re still intact. I’ve been tempted to look myself.”

It’d been a week since that letter with cryptic clues had been accidentally unearthed and posted online. The recipe for what was once known as the best whiskey west of the Mississippi had caused the biggest stir the town had seen in a long time. The mayor, his father, had been on Ryan’s case to be harder on the trespassing, treasure-hunting townspeople so all the digging would stop.

Like that would happen anytime soon. Bets were being placed on when that buried box with the recipe and map would be found. “No idea. It’s your turn to make the breakfast burrito run in the morning. See you.”

Ryan slapped his laptop closed, then he locked it in his top drawer to prevent curious eyes from checking out his browser history. He didn’t want anyone to know he’d been perusing dating sites—and jobs—in Denver..

He headed out of his office in Town Hall, still thinking about Tara. Mike was right. The new dentist was beautiful, tall, blonde, and easy to look at. The kind of woman men stopped in their tracks and stared at. But his brother, Ben, had asked her out so bro-code dictated Tara was off-limits. Not that he’d ever want to date a dentist in the first place. That’d be like Superman dating the female version of Lex Luthor.