“Mom, you won! You won, you won, you won!”
Sunshine Vicram squinted at her bouncing daughter, Auri, a fourteen-year-old who only rarely sounded like a Jurassic era bird of prey, and said, “Yay!” before returning to the case file she’d been perusing. They’d been spending a quiet evening together in their above-garage loft while Sun studied up on her latest case. The key word being quiet. A word she loved. A word she craved.
Sadly, her daughter’s cravings were more along the lines of pink cotton candy and K-pop.
Auri hopped up behind her, and threw her arms around Sun’s neck. “I’m so excited! I can’t believe it! After all this time, we get to go back!”
Sun closed the folder and gave the copper-haired beauty her full attention. “Did we win a trip to Scotland? I’ve always wanted to go back to the motherland.”
“Mom.” Auri hurdled the back of the sofa and plopped down beside her. “You’ve never been to Scotland. You can’t go back to a place you’ve never been.”
Sun made a concentrated effort to stare longingly into the distance. “Oh, I’ve been there. Many times. In my dreams.”
“Doesn’t count. So anyway, we should probably start packing. This is going to take a while.” Auri scanned their humble abode, a crease forming between her brows as she began to devise a plan.
“Perhaps, fruit of my loins—”
Auri turned back to her. “You have to stop calling me that.”
“—if I knew what I’d won, I could help you with the prep work.”
“Right.” Auri patted Sun’s arm absently. “I’ll definitely need some help. You’re going to be busy with your new career. Maybe we can hire movers.” She thought a moment and then frowned. “I don’t want them packing my underwear, though. I have, like, a lot. Can we specify what they can and cannot pack?”
“I’m sure we can. When is this big move taking place?”
The girl-child took out her phone and started tapping out a text. “Let me ask Grandma and Grandpa when you have to report for duty.”
“And how would they know?” Sun asked nonchalantly, but the mere mention of her parents smack dab in the middle of this bizarre conversation triggered a stabbing pain in her left eye. As much as she loved Cyrus and Elaine, they did tend to walk the line between a healthy parental relationship and a highly volatile one. The fact that they did everything out of pure love helped, but only a little.
Auri looked at Sun, her hazel-green eyes sparkling in the firelight. “They’re the ones who nominated you.”
An icy dread crept up Sun’s spine. “Nominated?”
“I guess that’s what it’s called when someone runs for sheriff.”
Sun froze a solid minute before she lunged for her phone and did a search for the Del Sol County election results. Sure enough, her name—and picture!—popped up front and center as having won the bid for sheriff. Along with about a hundred congratulatory comments.
Auri’s phone dinged as Sun tried to speak. Nothing came out but an airy, “What the f—?”
“They said you don’t have to report until after the new year.” She turned to Sun, her expression similar to the one she always wore on Christmas morning. “I can’t believe this. And we have some time, which is good, because I have a crap-ton of underwear to go through.”
She started to rise but Sun stayed her with a hand on her shoulder. “Auri, wait.” She took several deep breaths to keep from hyperventilating, and asked, “Is this . . . is this real?”
“Oh.” Auri seemed to come to her senses. She scooted closer and took her mother’s hands into her own. “I almost forgot. Yes, it’s real. They asked me first, naturally.”
“They didn’t want to take me away from my school and friends if I didn’t want to go. But I want to go, Mom. This is the chance of a lifetime. We can get out of this crazy town and go somewhere more stable.”
Sun gaped at her. “Have you ever actually been to Del Sol?”
Auri rolled her eyes. “Every summer since I was two. Mom, you’ll be a real sheriff. You’ll have your own office and you’ll get to work with your BFF, Quincy, like you’ve always wanted.”
Sun shook her head, the shock taking hold like a great white during Shark Week. How could she win an election she never entered? Weren’t there laws against things like that?
“Plus,” Auri continued, oblivious to Sun’s anguish, “Levi isn’t too bad to look at and God knows you could use something to look at.”
Sun gasped, then quickly covered her mouth with her hands. Levi Ravinder. She would have to face Levi Ravinder. The man she’d had a crush on since the day she was born. The man she’d put in her rearview fourteen years ago. The man she’d never forgotten.
A grin of pure mischief slid across her daughter’s beautiful face. She giggled and jumped to her feet. “Yep. This is going to be fun. Now, how many pairs of underwear does a girl with a boyshort addiction really need?”
Copyright © 2022 by Darynda Jones