A.N - I'm stupid, I know. Another WIP when my others have already gone so long without an update. But I have a week off school guys, I'll try to update them a fair bit. xD
And, I should warn you now. The way I've planned this story, will not have a happy ending. So, before you even start reading, you should know that there will be Character Death. And now I've just said bye-bye to all of my readers ...
I quite like this idea, however, and will continue to post it whatever. :)
Disclaimer - Meg Cabot owns all. And she is a genius for it. And the title is that of a film, I know, but there is nothing similar between them - and if there is it is entirely coincidental as I have never seen the film. So, title belongs to Warner, Bros. Pictures.
I froze as I walked into my office and saw who was, once again, behind bars.
"Brad Ackerman." I muttered, shaking my head as I picked up the set of keys to let him out. "What did you do this time?"
"I swear, Sheriff!" He held his hands up as he walked through the metal bars. "This time, it definitely wasn't me."
I raised an eyebrow as I glanced at the slip of paper that had his crime scrawled down on it.
"So, somebody else made you steal that food?" I asked, amused.
"Well, I was dared to." He jutted out his chin defiantly. "And Brad Ackerman never backs down from a dare."
"Brad Ackerman has also been locked up in jail more times this month than I can count with my hands." I shot him a look.
The seventeen year old shrugged, guiltily.
It always felt strange to reprimand people who were only a few years younger than I. Needless to say, it felt plain awkward when it came to convicting people older than myself.
I sat down on the plain wooden desk that accompanied the jail space in the otherwise empty room. The sun blared through the glass-less window in the wall as I placed my hat beside me. The badge on my chest glinted proudly in the sunlight.
"Who's picking you up this time?" I asked him, conversationally. We'd become tentative friends since he was brought in here so often.
"Jake, probably." He informed me. "Mom and Dad are too busy getting things ready for Suze to come home to."
My head snapped round to face him.
"Suze?" I asked.
"My step-sister, Susannah." Brad told me. "She's been living in Seattle with her auntie since her Dad died when she was six."
"So, why is she coming home now?"
I was intrigued. It wasn't often that we had someone new take up residence here. We had the occasional wagons travelling North for the Gold Rush, sure. But they were only passing through.
"Paul Slater." Brad spoke the name with such disgust that I couldn't help but startle at his tone. "He's been courting her for the past year and is coming to ask Dad for her hand in marriage."
"Then why the harsh tone?"
"He has a reputation." Was all Brad replied, cryptically.
I was prevented from responding with the arrival of Jake Ackerman, Brad's brother as well as my long-term school friend.
"I hope you're not talking about our step-sister's friend, Brad?" Jake inquired as he walked in, nodding in greeting towards me.
"So what if I am?" He challenged. "He does have one."
"In Seattle, maybe." Jake insisted with a shrug not unlike his brother's. "But here, he can start a clean slate. Our friend the Sheriff here needn't know about his past."
"It's too late." I joked. "I'll be waiting to arrest him the second he turns up."
"Yeah," he chuckled. "Let's see what Suze has to say about that."
--- --- ---
The elusive Paul Slater, as well as the Ackerman brothers' step-sister, arrived the next day.
I, as the Sheriff of this small town, was there to greet them, along with the Ackerman family of course.
"Where are they?"
I looked at the girl to my left who'd spoken. Maria, my cousin - not to mention fiancée. It was her duty as such to be there by my side. But it didn't mean that she had to enjoy it.
"They're coming now, Maria." I whispered, pointing to the distance. "See them?"
She rolled her eyes and placed her hand upon the crook of my arm.
"Well, they better get here soon." She continued. "We have an event to go to tonight, after all."
I refused her an answer, instead looking towards the cart that was getting ever bigger the closer it got to us even whilst I felt Jake's gaze boring into me. No doubt wondering why I was marrying my cousin, the girl I'd proclaimed to hate since childhood. It was a question that I didn't like to acknowledge.
The wagon arrived shortly after, pulling to a stop before the man driving jumped off his horse. He immediately went over to Mr. Ackerman, holding a hand out in greeting whilst introducing himself.
"Howdy, Sir." The man began in a country twang that was unusual for the likes of a Seattle-man. I had the feeling that he was putting it on for our sakes. "I'm Paul Slater."
Mr. Ackerman merely grasped his hand lightly before removing his own.
"It's good to finally meet you."
I could clearly hear the hostility in his voice.
It seemed to me that no one in the Ackerman household was a fan of this man.
From the back of the wagon came a small, black slipper, adorning the foot of the girl I could only guess was Susannah Simon, as was her father's name, before a swish of a green skirt followed afterwards. Black lace trimmed the bottom of the skirt as well as criss-crossing along the bodice, and finally, I saw the face of the girl who had been plaguing me since the day before.
She was beautiful. Brown curls swept back elegantly, a few curls framing her face as her emerald green eyes, brought out so well by her dress, sparkled with excitement. I decided then that she could never be a 'Suze' in my eyes. 'Suze' was too informal. She would forever be a Susannah.
She walked daintily over to where Paul had begun introducing himself to her mother and I felt anger rise up in me. Had no one taught that boy manners? Instead of helping Susannah from the wagon, he'd forgotten about her, insistent on making a good impression. I see now why Mr. Ackerman had seemed so hostile.
"Susie!" I smiled as I heard Mrs. Ackerman's voice greet her daughter. "It's been so long since I saw you last, my, how you've grown!"
Susannah's cheeks tinted the slightest pink.
There was sudden sharp pain in my left arm and I looked up quickly in shock. Maria was glaring towards Susannah hatefully, her nails stabbing me in her anger. I touched her hand lightly to remind her that I was there. She didn't even look the least bit guilty in being caught.
I directed my attention towards Susannah, who was being greeted by her step-brothers, only Brad refused to show his enthusiasm. However, this did mean that Paul was left on his own.
Sighing, I walked over to him, Maria at my side.
"Sheriff De Silva," I introduced, nodding towards him. "This is my fiancée, Maria."
Paul didn't look my way, instead he was focused on Maria, his eyes sizing her up like meat to be sold as he took her glove-covered hand and kissed it politely. Maria was doing nothing to stop him.
"Charmed." He mumbled, not removing his lips.
I felt like beginning a fight - and I wasn't a violent person - but not for the obvious reason. How could this man even think about another woman when he was, most probably, going to propose to Susannah? He didn't know the brilliance of the gift bestowed upon him.
"Paul!" I heard a soft, melodic sound talk in a voice that could only be Susannah's call. "Come on! We have to tell them of our plans!"
The vaquero didn't even take his eyes off of Maria as he replied.
His gaze lingered on Maria, below where any normal gentleman should be looking, for a second longer before he walked to Susannah's side and placed her small hand in the crook of his elbow, keeping his own much larger hand on top of hers.
"Mom," Susannah began. "Andy. Paul and I were talking, on the way up, and we decided that -"
"-We're going to live here." Paul finished for her, a smile wide on his face. "Permanently."
I felt cold rush through me. No good could come from this. The way I was already feeling towards Susannah, when I was already engaged, would lesson none if she lived her permanently. It would probably only increase in intensity.
"And," Paul continued just as Susannah had opened her mouth to do the same. She seemed quite put out. "I've already sent word to my business partner back in Seattle, and he'll be joining us down here soon. We're going to open a saloon."
He paused as Mrs. Ackerman threw her arms around Susannah in happiness, cries of joy at her recent news of permanent residence ringing in my ears.
"I believe he was from down here originally," Paul mused. "Felix Diego?"
I froze as a grin appeared an Maria's face and she clapped excitedly.
"Oh, yes!" She exclaimed demurely - for she was a lady first. "I remember Felix. I was so upset when he decided to move away."
Yes, we knew Diego. He was ten times worse than what I imagined Paul Slater to be. If anyone had a reputation, then it was the Diego family - who hadn't moved away, like the town thought, but instead were ordered away for disruption within the community. Felix Diego was a first-class crook - it was a familial trait.
Diego and Slater together in one business could not be good. I heard a laugh coming from the girl that was surrounded by the Ackerman family. And poor Susannah would be caught up in their dirty business. Not to mention how involved I, as the Sheriff, would be.
"Hey, Jesse!" Jake called, using the childhood name that I hadn't been called in years, by anyone other than my immediate family, at least. "You haven't met Susannah yet."
I smiled at him.
"I'll be right there," I promised, and glanced towards Paul, whose gaze was possessively focused on Susannah.
Beginning to walk towards the group, I felt Maria slip her hand from my arm. I looked at her curiously.
"I must go home and prepare for tonight," she insisted. "You do remember that we were invited out, right?"
"Of course I do," I spoke slowly, cautiously.
"I'm surprised." She muttered. "Your head has been way too full of that Susannah girl."
Paul's gaze darted towards me as it narrowed into a glare. He'd obviously heard Maria's last remark. His hand clutched Susannah's the tiniest bit tighter.
"You shouldn't return home alone, Maria." I sighed, for her excuse had been a test for me. "Let me bid my goodbyes, and then we'll leave."
She smiled at me happily and nodded her agreement.
"I'll be over here," she told me as she began walking away.
I stood dejectedly outside of the Ackerman's home, where all of this had taken place.
"Maybe another time?" I suggested tiredly to Jake.
He nodded sympathetically.
"I'll be seeing you soon, I bet, anyway." He grinned. "Brad can't seem to keep himself out of your office for too long. I'll be the one picking him up."
I laughed and asked Jake to convey my thanks to the Ackerman's for inviting me to their home, to which he agreed he would, before joining Maria who was already astride her horse, waiting for me to join her so she could leave already.
We did so promptly, but not before I managed to glance towards the beautiful Susannah again. She intrigued me still and, because of that, I could already see my life spiralling out of my control.