Gracie Peters pushed the gas pedal harder and fought against her better judgment. A girl had a right to a trip now and then, even if it was only to see her sister-in-law in the next state. Ka-thump. She put her ear close to the window. A flat tire? She craned her neck over the dashboard; no, just rough roads. The state of Indiana really should invest in some roadwork. Gracie tried to relax against the seat of the rented car, and then, giving up, adjusted it with a sigh. Joe had always teased that she was the “cutest little girl driver around!” And she’d always respond with a pout and a flounce. She missed that; there weren’t many chances for a woman her age to pout. Widowhood revealed strange longings.
A woman’s voice startled her. “Turn right onto Highway 9.” Gracie swerved wildly and barely made the corner, though she felt the back end of the car slide a little. That crazy GPS; she pressed a hand to her heart and let out a breath. There. Time to settle down and drive with purpose; Ellen was expecting her for supper. She stomped on the gas.
Officer Mark Douglas adjusted the visor of his patrol car. The piercing afternoon sun would be a nuisance to the work traffic starting to accumulate on the state highways and freeways. He breathed a prayer of thanks that his shift was almost over, and that he had the night off. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed an out of control car. The sleek silver Camry careened onto the entrance ramp and shot down the highway. He didn’t need the radar to tell him that its speed was in excess of the limit, quite in excess.
Pulling on the lights and siren, he u-turned in the median. It took him only a few seconds to gain on the car and pull behind it. Mark looked at the plates and groaned – an Ohio driver. Or, wait a minute, was there a driver? The front seat looked empty. No, there, he could glimpse a bit of blond hair. It was probably some teenager, newly licensed and enjoying a drive in a new car that could only be a gift from an indulgent family. He’d never have given his sons anything that shiny to start off in; Emily had agreed with him that old beaters were the best way to start. But then again, times change, and Emily wasn’t here any longer to support him. She’d been in heaven five years already.
The car pulled over, reluctantly, and sat subdued on the shoulder of the road. Mark reached for his cap as he got out, shutting the car door with back of his hand. It was time to see who the hotshot driver was. He settled the cap on his head and walked forward.
Stopping at the car’s window, he leaned down. The driver was female. Middle-aged. Cute. And the expression on her face was one he wasn’t used to seeing on women her age; he would describe it as a pout.
Mark cleared his throat. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Douglas with the Indiana State Police. Do you know why I stopped you?”
The woman looked at him piously. “I could guess.”
In spite of himself, he wanted to laugh. The way she said it made her sound like a naughty little girl.
“That’s not necessary, ma’am.” He put on his mean-man-in-blue persona. “I stopped you because your driving was erratic and your speed was in excess of the posted speed limit.”
“Oh, I am sorry, Officer, really. I’m, uh, due at an appointment in thirty minutes, and I almost missed my turn. And these roads, well, they didn’t help anything.”
A sassy Ohio driver. “I do apologize for the roads, Ma’am, but regardless, the speed limit is posted to ensure your safety. May I have your driver’s license?”
She reached into a sequined purse on the seat beside her and fumbled for her wallet. Opening it, she handed the license to him with a little exasperated breath.
He smiled calmingly. “Thank you, Ms. Peters. I’ll be with you in a minute.” Mark pivoted and started back to his patrol car. He glanced again at the name on the license and stopped. Wait just a minute! Turning back to her car and placing his hands on the window ledge, he swallowed a grin.
“You are Grace Peters?”
“Yes, Officer, surprised?”
“Amazed is how I’d put it.”
He smiled. “It’s this way. You’re the guest of honor at my cousin’s dinner party. And I am your escort.”
“Really, Officer Douglas. How fascinating.” Grace batted her eyes mischievously. “Am I in danger? Or is Ellen just overly anxious?”
“Well, ma’am, considering the way you were driving, we might both be safer if you’d just follow me.”
“That’s so thoughtful of you. I was worried about getting there.”
He’d never seen anyone more un-worried. But he could act the hero. “Well then, ma’am, I will be delighted to assume the responsibility of seeing you safely to your destination. Just follow me.”
Gracie rested her hands on the laptop keyboard. Morning sunlight spilled into the room, glistening on the silvery dress laid across the bed. Before the flurry of this fabulous day, she’d wanted to put down in writing the way God had brought Mark and her together. It still seemed unbelievable – that a traffic stop could result in finding love again. She smiled and closed the laptop. It was time to head to the church.
Grabbing her carefully packed bags and draping her quiet wedding finery over her arm, she hurried out the front door. A man in uniform stood in front of a patrol car with flashing lights.
“My bridal escort?” Gracie tried to look miffed.
Mark just grinned. “Uh-huh. I heard you have a tendency to exceed the speed limit when you have an appointment, and I want to make sure you get to the church on time.” And he leaned down to kiss her pouting lips. — VQ