The Sheriff

"Keep safe, Doc." Pulling away from me, Lissa James gave me a shit-eating grin and a quick light punch on my shoulder.

It wasn't everyday that one of Temptation's finest came knocking on my door with a clenched fist. Of course recently it seemed as if it was becoming all too often. But since this time I wasn't being threatened by bodily harm, I playfully winced and faked a shoulder. "Hey, I am an injured man."

"Can it, Doc." Another quick smile brightened up her fair features and I wondered again why the single men in Temptation hadn't gotten ahold of this incredible lady yet. Were they blind, stupid or gay? "Try that trick with the boss. It certainly doesn't work with me."

With another quick farewell, the Deputy was gone and I was staring at my front door. Finally. The past week had been hell. I'd been shot at, mugged and almost run over all in the space of a week. And just barely three hours ago, I'd been threatened with a machete. And that was just before the shop twenty feet away from where I stood exploded.

It was a relief to be able to come home in one piece. Locking the front door behind me, I sighed and made a beeline straight for the kitchen. Yeah, all in a day's work for Dr. Shane West. It certainly hadn't been what I'd been expecting when I'd taken over the thriving private practice from Dr. Lerner in the my hometown, a little town called Temptation. A small lil town, he'd told me. A place where everyone knew each other - and all the dirt there was to know about each other too. Hardly any crime.

Coming from a big city where I'd seen the unsavoury results of drive-by shootings and serial killings, I had to admit the lure of the small town seemed almost irresistible. Perhaps it was nostalgia. After all, I had grown up in Temptation and though I'd moved away after a short while, I still had warm memories of the place and looked forward towards returning. A small manageable house with picket fences and a yard for a dog. A small practice where kids came for their shots and brokens arms. A place where I could pop in over for homemade apple pie over at Pop's.

Well, I'd gotten what I came for. And more than I bargained too. With my knack for attracting trouble, it wasn't long before I'd gotten my finger in one too many pies. My pa had always said that I had a curious nose, nimble fingers and way too many questions. By virtue of some luck, I'd parlayed those particular qualities into a successful medical practice. But even then I still had lots of curiosity left to spare. Sticking my nose where it doesn't belong.

Nowadays, I am sure the Sheriff thought the same about me too. It was barely after I returned that I got involved in my 'first case' as I'd called it. Though Sheriff Paolo Manoso would have likely called it my first misdemeanour. Don't get me wrong. I had committed no wrong other than poking my nose where it didn't belong but how could I help it? One of my patients had turned up dead at my door. What was a good doctor to do but to find out why there were six bullets lodged up in his spine?

But though I finally managed to sniff out the perpetrator, Sheriff Manoso still wasn't pleased. Especially after I'd wrecked his car and broken into his files in the process. Frankly, I didn't even want to think of his thoughts on my current situation. Luckily for me he was away for a week's vacation and hadn't heard of my latest shenanigans. As I opened the fridge door and peeked at its contents, I wondered what excuse I could dream up for him.

Funny thing was ten years back, I'd have been the one getting all fired up about his shenanigans. Yeah, the good old sheriff and I went way back. Back in school, we'd been almost inseparable. Since the first time we'd gotten into a scrap in the playyard and I'd given him a black eye, we'd been friends. People often wondered what we had in common but that hadn't stopped us from becoming fast friends. The dark, unruly Latino kid with attitude to spare and me, the sweet, obedient goody-two-shoes rich West kid. The scrapes we'd gotten into had gone into the stuff of legend - and still had Mrs Manoso clucking whenever I went by her cafe. But ten years had passed. Ten years since I'd left Temptation when my parents moved. We'd tried to remain in contact but adolescent boys aren't really all that good at writing. But I hadn't forgotten my time there.

And now here I was obviously repaying him for all the trouble he caused me. And it was payback in spades. In his opinion, I was singlehandedly turning the small town of Temptation upside down. And though I might vociferously defend myself in his presence, I had to admit that he hadn't gotten any rest ever since I'd returned. No one could possibly blame me for being there when the cigar shop exploded but I am sure the sheriff would find a way to pin me down. And give me an hour long lecture.

Though I had to admit I certainly wouldn't mind being pinned down by him. As I scanned through the selection of drinks in my fridge, my mind wandered elsewhere. Pinned down on the ground, pressed hard against his solid, well-muscled body, hearing that low, sexy growl against my ear. Those soft, sensuous lips brushing against my cheek, that bristly, half-shaven jaw rubbing across my skin, those incredible hands.. Shaking my head to clear any lascivious thoughts, I tore open a beer can and drank it in.

Stupid. No use thinking what could never be. Hadn't I heard enough about Manoso's licentious lifestyle before he'd settled down? The wild women? Did I have to add the countless wild women? The nasty brawls? But Manoso had quietened down after high school, cleaned up his act and joined the Marines. A few years back, he'd returned to Temptation. Older, wiser but no less mean.

And no less sexy.

The relentless banging on the door shook me from my reverie. For a wild moment, my heart started beating double-time as I wondered whether Benny and his goons had somehow decided to pay me a night-time visit. Somehow I knew they hadn't come for one of my incredible mouthwatering waffles. Sure I had the pistol in the oven but Manoso had promised to tie me up in bed if I even went near it again. Though the idea of a bed and ropes with the hunky Manoso sounded titillating, I doubted very much that he had the same situation in mind as I did.

As I pondered whether to risk Manoso's wrath and reach for the oven door, the yell coming from the door saved me from making any rash decisions.

"West! Dammit! Open the door!"

It was the good sheriff on a mercy errand and I had to fight back a smile. Sure, the man could be a pest at times but it was nice to know that he was a man you could depend on.

"I know you're there, Shane! Don't make me do anything that you'd regret."

Notice he said anything I'd regret. That's because the new Manoso did everything with a purpose. No regrets. Which boded ill for me as I wondered why Manoso was paying me a late night visit. Could his deputy Lissa James have already notified him about my escapade this evening? Damn, I'd thought Manoso's plane would only arrive tomorrow morning and I'd have time to concoct an alibi. Crushing my can and tossing it silently into the bin, I wondered whether to make a quick getaway through my window but decided that it wouldn't be dignified for the doc in town to scurry around alleys at midnight. Not to mention I was sure Manoso was quite capable of putting out an APB on a certain errant physician for the sheer fun of locking me up. Wild thoughts of Manoso interrogating me in his tight, form-fitting uniform got me hard in seconds.

Taking a deep breath, I answered him. "I am coming." The hard banging on the door stopped as I approached it. Trying to stall, I peeked at the door. Yeah, it was one steamed, sexy, hot-as-hell Latino stud. Dark eyes flashing, nostrils flaring, muscles tensed. He was still dressed in a coat and tie and I wondered whether he'd rushed over like a maniac from the airport.

The muscle ticking in his square jaw didn't bode well for me but I didn't see much of a choice so I took another deep fortifying breath. Turning the door open, I pinned on a cheerful smile. "Hey, you're back."

It took a second before he had me pinned on the nearest flat surface. Which unfortunately was my hall closet door rather than my plush bed. "How are you? Dammit, are you hurt?"

"No, but your bashing my head on the door doesn't help much." Perhaps I should have struggled but I knew it would have been futile. Though I had my share of muscle, I certainly didn't have the biceps of death that Manoso had. And besides, I liked having those large hands on me. Yeah, it was sad and pathetic but these cheap thrills were all I could probably get from him. The idea of Wild Man Manoso being into man-sex was just too hot and too mind-boggling to consider. Was he a top or a bottom? That incredible piece of male ass screamed to be taken hard and rough but I couldn't imagine Manoso bottoming for anyone.

"You're okay?" His voice was a surprisingly gentle whisper as those fiery dark eyes ran over me, slowly assessing. Obviously satisfied that I wasn't maimed or bodily impaired, he lit into me. "Did I not tell you to stay away from the Lipinski case? Couldn't you listen to me for once, West?"

His sudden yell had my ears ringing. "I have!"

My blatant lie had Manoso staring at me in disbelief. "Then why did my deputy find you skulking around the shop?"

"I.. I needed a smoke."


Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Well, I needed that too but I doubt Manoso was in any mood to give it to me even if he was so inclined. The thought had me hard in seconds but then again I usually am hard whenever the man was within half a mile. Ah, the effect of pheromones and a fine ass. "I really did. I was nervous, my hands were shaking, I needed a smoke."

"A smoke." Giving me a hard stare, he slowly released me. There was a soft twinkle in his dark eyes and I knew the storm had passed. "Tell it to someone who believes, West. The last time you smoked, you hacked up so much I thought you'd lost a lung."

I kept quiet. That was true enough and I hadn't lit anything since then. After he'd dared me to take a puff years back in a dark storeroom in school, I'd practically passed out due to the noxious taste. I never looked at a cigarette again without thinking of the horrible taste. Again I was amazed that he remembered.

Shaking his dark head, he leaned back on the wall and let out a gusty sigh. "Christ, I take a week off and all hell breaks loose. Couldn't you just mind your own damned business for a week?"

The accusation in his voice annoyed me. "I did mind my own business. Was it my fault that the letter was accidentally sent to me?"

"Accidental?" Those sexy lips quirked up in a smile. "West, nothing accidental ever happens to you. People conveniently drop dead when you're around. Bullets go flying into your doors. Orphans fall at your doorstep." Shaking his dark head, he took a turn in my small foyer.

Being so close to the man with his incredible cologne and those amazing pheromones certainly wasn't helping my concentration. Standing back from him, I folded my arms and gave him a baleful stare. "Well, someone obviously hasn't been getting any rest."

That stopped him in his tracks and had him spinning around to glare at me. "How could I? I spent the vacation thinking of the havoc I left behind!" Paolo growled back, running his fingers through his dark hair. "Thinking of you running around with that pistol of yours gunning down bad guys."

His voice held so much frustration that I had to fight back a smile. "Sorry. And here I thought you were out sunning yourself with all those sexy, dark-eyed senoritas." Of course I'd also had my own private fantasies of Paolo dressed in slick sweat, a smile and a black thong. And there certainly weren't any dark-haired nubile beauties in my dreams. Well, none of the female variety at any rate.

"Sorry, my ass. You're not sorry at all," he shot back knowingly. "Stay in the clinic, Doc."

"I do."

He snorted. "If you did, you wouldn't accidentally find dead bodies in the river. Nor would you find knives stuck to your door with threatening notes. You wouldn't-"

Did I say that I wanted him growling at me? I take it back. It was getting on my nerves and I itched to stab him with some Valium. It was with some regret that I remembered my oath and reminded myself to do no harm. "You made your point, Manoso."

Seeing my expression, Paolo relented. "Look, I hate yelling at you as much as you hate listening to this."

"Then why do it?"

He had rested his forehead on the wall for a moment but looked up at my reply. "We're not playing games anymore, Shane. You could get hurt out there." As he said that, he walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. Was it my imagination of was there a quick sizzle?

The weight of his hand sent thrills down my spine but I managed to come out with a reasonably coherent answer. "I am not an idiot, Manoso. I know that."

"If you knew that, you wouldn't be out dodging bullets for a part-time job," he pointed out coolly.

I kept silent.

Seeing that he wasn't exactly getting through to me, he sighed. "Will you promise me one thing?"

I was suspicious. "What?"

"Promise me you'll lie low for a while. Don't mess around with them, Doc. Promise me you will leave the meddling to us."

How could I do that? I still had so much to do. Not only hadn't I gone through the stack of letters I'd found, I still had Mrs. Letterman to talk to. But as usual, I could never say no to a handsome man. Especially one so close with his shirt open at the throat to show off a vee of smooth, golden male chest. It wouldn't take much to just lean over and have a taste. "I do."

It took only a moment before his dark face filled with disgust. "Hell, you're lying again."

"No, I am not." It was weak. It was lame. But I never could resist arguing with him.

"You never could lie worth a damn, Shane."

"I don't purposely run around looking for trouble, Paolo. But when someone needs my help, I can't just-"

He smiled. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Doc Bleedin' Heart West."

It was his old name for me and I had to smile. "Stop that."

"So you're still gonna break the rules and look for trouble?"

"It's not against the law and I-"

The growl should have been warning enough. Sensing my next vociferous protest, he hauled me up before I could continue and pressed me up against my front door. Rough manhandling wasn't exactly my style and I pitted my strength against his for a second but that was before my hand smacked hard against his hard torso. As his pecs tensed, my defenses crumbled. Horny gay man that I was, I was certainly no proof against a pair of rock-hard pecs and tight male nipples.

"Bad." His dark eyes twinkling, he leaned closer and whispered. His voice dropped to a lower, huskier octave - what I personally dubbed his sex-me-up voice which he used to charm people into seeing his way. It worked. "You've been a very bad boy, Doc West. Someone should teach you a lesson."

"And that would be you?" I snorted.

"Yeah. Me." He flashed a devious smile. "You know, I should probably break out the cuffs."

The thought had me shivering. As did the sudden heat in his lowered voice. Hey, the thought of Manoso and anything vaguely sexual got a charge out of me. What could I say? I was smitten with a pair of dark brown eyes and a hot ass. "What the hell are you trying to do, Manoso?"

His white teeth flashed. "Trying to get you to listen to reason. Talking doesn't seem to be working. Let's try something else for once."

Well, that was what the man said but all I felt was his hard body against mine - and something even harder against my thigh. The sheer size stunned, terrified and intrigued me all at the same time. Nothing was going to get into my head at this rate. "I-I hear you, Paolo. Now just let me go."

"You sound scared, Doc. Why is that?" Moving closer, he pressed his lips against my ear. Something hot and wet traced the outlines of my ear. "You're a strong man, Shane. I've seen you knock out Benny's goons easily without breaking a sweat. I'm not that much bigger than them. You could take me too if you wanted to."

That's because the feel of their hard crotch didn't have me whimpering. Their hot breath on my cheek didn't leave my knees weak. And they certainly didn't make my heart beat the way it did right now. Perhaps I could have resisted if it was only those amazing lips but his hands were also making their own assault as those clever fingers ran down my torso and my back. Yeah, take him. That's exactly what I intended to do.

"You don't want me to let go, do you?"

With a flash of realization, I knew that he had learnt my secret. Which wasn't such a big deal since I was pretty much out of the proverbial closet. But this was Temptation, a small town with lil town values. And this was Manoso, an ex-Marine and now Sheriff - whose biceps were pretty much the size of my thigh. And while I had my share of muscles, I certainly didn't want to wrangle with him.

Sensing my hesitation, he pulled away for a brief moment, his dark eyes searching mine. "Shane?"

"You know." It was a statement not a question.

There was an almost imperceptible nod. "Yes."

"Then what the hell are you doing?"

"What do you think?" He smiled. It was his cat-got-the-cream smile. For the first time, Paolo Manoso must have suddenly realized that he'd found a sure-fire way to make me agree to whatever he said without a complaint. Why argue till he burst a vessel when he could just kiss the gay doctor to shut him up? Uh-oh.

His hands were still massaging that perfect spot on my back and I found it difficult to argue. Even as I knew that I should make a protest my body was capitulating quite easily without a fight. "Fuck."

His grin turned wicked. "Exactly."

I'd love to say that I was a man of steel and resisted his efforts but I am not stupid. Six months in Temptation was celibacy enough - even for me. Sex is sex and like the majority of red-blooded gay boys out there, I wanted plenty of it. And it was plainly obvious that Manoso was ever ready to offer a steady supply.

It was plain that I had to give credit where it was due. "That was phenomenal."

"No argument there." Mumbling out his answer, he didn't open his eyes to reply but remained face-down on the pillow. Rested and satisfied, he looked years younger than his age. My eyes ran over that dark, golden-tanned body. The sybarite that he was, the tan was all over. The white sheets had been kicked down to his knees and I had an excellent view of the best ass in Temptation. Curved just right, hard, well-muscled and incredibly smooth. Definitely worth another bite.

He shifted a little. "And you can thank me later, doc."

Forget about the gorgeous body. Giving him a shove, I tugged the sheets back to my side. "Asshole."

One dark eye snapped open. "Look who's talking."


Both eyes opened now, still heavy-lidded, sinfully thick-lashed and lazy at this hour of the morning. Bedroom eyes, the folks here would have said. "We'll have to do this again."

"Definitely. If I'm still alive." Which was actually an understatement. Another night like this and I wouldn't have to hit the gym for the rest of my life. The past few hours, I bet I'd burned enough calories tonight to last for the next week. A week ago, I wouldn't have thought that my back could twist into so many different positions but I guess Paolo was inspiration enough.

"Guess we'll both have something extra to do on our itinerary these days."

Something occurred to me and I decided to get it out in the open. "Paolo, this isn't going to stop me from asking around for answers."

"I knew you were going to bring that up." He closed his eyes for a moment before speaking. "I don't want to see you hurt, Shane."

The serious look on his face gave me pause and I suddenly felt awkward for some reason. There was something in those dark liquid chocolate eyes that I'd never encountered before. Although I'd been in relationships before, I'd never been very good at such situations and I tried to defuse it with a joke. "Well, hey, I am not fond of bullets either."

The man was having none of it. Catching my wrist, he stopped me from turning away. "I am being serious here, West. I care about you."

My heart skipped a beat and I found that for once, I didn't have anything to say. All my quick comebacks and jokes just didn't fit right. It couldn't be what I was thinking, could it? It would be stupid to assume that one wild, senseless night of lust could lead to anything, especially with Manoso. Since I'd been back, he'd been surly, irritable and plain abrasive to me. And now, here he was professing his love.

His quick charming grin resurfaced when he saw my disbelief. "I know what you're thinking. I'm insane. I'm mad. Well, babe, you're crazy, you're insane, you never listen to a single thing I say, do the opposite of everything I say and yet.. and yet I think I might be falling for you, Shane," he admitted softly.

The way he said it left me in no doubt that this was no laughing matter. "Like a brother?"

He smiled, running a hand up my thigh as he did so. "Did what we just did seem like something brothers would do?"

"You tell me."

The fingers stilled on my upper thigh and he gave me a look.

Manoso. Gay. In love. It simply didn't add up. Attempting to sit up in the bed, I pushed him away, shaking my head insistently. "You can't.. you're not.."

"I am," he admitted simply.

"There were no signs. I-"

His dark eyes turned amused. "Well, Hardy Boy, I think you missed some clues. Perhaps you should check me out thoroughly. Again."

"Hands to yourself, mister." Giving him a gentle shove when he reached for me, I gave him a dark look. "Be serious."

The devil came into his eyes an he smirked in return. "You certainly weren't saying that earlier."

I grinned. "You really love me?"

"Must I put it out on the APB?" he complained.


"Then yes." Seeing the stunned look on my face, he let out a sigh and turned back to his side of the bed. "If you're not in the mood, I am going to catch some shut-eye."

At any other time, I might have taken him up on his offer but I was still overwhelmed by information. It took me a moment before I could process all he had just said. The fact that his confession hadn't been dressed up in fancy words and lace made it seem all the more real. But it was still a tad mind-boggling. Sure, I was over the moon by the fact that Temptation's finest was in love with me - for all his surly ways, the man was a gem - but the sudden admission was like a Mack Truck ranning through me. The earlier bombing and mugging hadn't fazed me at all but those simple words from Manoso had me stumped. By that time, he was already half asleep. "Why didn't you tell me earlier? Why didn't you make a move? Why-"

Face down in the pillow, he opened one bleary eye to blink at me in disbelief. "It's 3 in the morning, Shane. Thinking you were being blown up didn't exactly give me a good night's sleep. I was having nightmares of scooping pieces of you off my porch. Write it down and I'll give you an answer in the morning."

The disgruntled tone in his voice made me smile. It was so like him. To confess his love and then just turn around and fall asleep. Like it was a commonplace. Giving him a hard nudge to push him aside, I took back my share of the pillow. "I love you too, you goof."

His smile was smug. "Yeah, I know that."


"I am a better detective than you."

That deserved a punch at the least. "In your dreams, Manoso."

When I came back to Temptation, I certainly hadn't had any idea that I'd get the sheriff in my bed. Sure I'd had wild. sweaty fantasies but I never thought that it'd come true. An idea came up to me that had me smiling. "Can I sing I fucked the sheriff now?"

"Shit." His grin flashed white in the dark. "As long as you don't fuck the deputy too. Don't want to get your cute face out of Lissa's fist."

Something occurred to me. It was stupid but I wouldn't put it beyond the wily Sheriff. Since we were kids, Paolo Manoso always had his own way.. of making everything go his own way. "Hey, is this a ploy to get me to stay out of the way?"

His smile flashed white in the dark and he pulled me close to nuzzle in my neck. "What do you think?"

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