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Authors: Jennifer Zane

Home Sweet Gnome

Home Sweet Gnome

By Jennifer Zane



Daphne Lane leads an uncomplicated life as a travel journalist. Sure, she's lonely and has no real home. But the very best thing about the job? It got her out of Montana, away from her completely crazy Aunt Velma and her quirky, matchmaking friends. After a week back home in honor of her Aunt's birthday, Daphne is more than ready to escape to her next assignment. But Fate has other plans in the form of JT McCade, a sexy detective with a sensitive trigger finger.



JT McCade is ready to settle down, find a nice, normal woman. Get a dog. He wants the whole white picket fence fantasy. When he pulls over a gorgeous woman doing 90 mph on a back road, an off-duty traffic stop completely ruins his vacation. Arresting Daphne wasn't part of the plan, but neither was a road trip across the west in a vintage RV with his crushed motorcycle playing the victim to Daphne's poor driving skills. A solo road trip would have been fine, but add Daphne, her Aunt Velma, Goldie, the towns most notorious meddler, Velma's crazy friend Ester Millhouse, and it turns into an adventure.



Can JT and Daphne survive three geriatric matchmakers, a feral cat, a flying gnome, a mistaken identity as a porn star, a taser, and other twists of fate? Is this going to be the road trip from hell? Or will the insanity lead Daphne to the one place she's never really been...home.



















Home Sweet Gnome

By Jennifer Zane



© 2015 by Jennifer Zane




I was usually very rational, very sane. Growing up with a crazy aunt, I hadn’t had much choice. When my Halloween costume in kindergarten was a perfect replica of a stapler and not a fairy princess, my five-year-old brain knew something was fishy. When I found two hard-boiled eggs floating in water dyed yellow in a secondhand pickle jar for lunch in fourth grade, it was time to make my own lunch. Then there was the middle school dance, when she’d gone not just as chaperone but the principal’s date and were caught together in a very compromising position in the janitor’s closet. Needless to say, the man relocated to Florida and I knew I needed to get out of town. I couldn’t compete with Aunt Velma.

To say that my aunt was famous in town—perhaps infamous was a better word—was very apt. Being known as “Velma Dinkweiler’s niece”, not Daphne Lane, spoke volumes about our two personalities. That’s why one day in July, I lost it. Completely and totally lost it. Maybe the fruit didn’t fall as far from the tree as people had thought. Maybe my parents left me on the Aunt Velma’s doorstep because they knew I was as crazy as she was. Maybe I was just a late bloomer and had to grow into my craziness. Whatever the reason, looking back, crazy might not be so bad after all.

Chapter One

“Ma’am, I’m Detective McCade. I need to see your license and registration.” Detective McCade? Make that Detective McHottie. Yeah, it wasn’t his name, but it fit and so did his jeans and black T-shirt. He was tall, tall enough where I could only see a very specific portion of his body from my vantage point—a very nice portion of a pair of well-worn jeans molded in
the right places. I shouldn’t get a hot flash at this point in my life, but yup, this guy was working for me. I licked my lips.

He had to bend at the waist, a forearm resting on the roof of my car, to look at me through the open window. His hair was cut short, but I could see how it would curl if it grew out a bit. His jaw was square and clean shaven, his nose had a slight crook in it, which could mean he had a little bit of fight beneath the law enforcement. His eyes were shielded by mirrored sunglasses, so I dreamt that he had blue eyes. A little Black Irish to go with his Scot name. A service pistol was clipped to his belt along with a badge, which made the whole snug-jeans thing even hotter. He pretty much looked like a GI Joe action figure minus the army fatigues.

“Hey, you’re Silky Tangles.” He grinned and it was his turn to lick his lips.

I frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Silky Tangles, the um…film star.”

I handed over my license. “Yeah, um…no. No Silky Tangles here, unless you’re referring to my hair, which sometimes does get tangled, the curls and all. Silky? I guess that’s a compliment, right?”

He looked at my ID. “Daphne Lane,” he read. “Not very catchy. I guess you do need a better name than that for your line of work.”

“Hey!” I felt slightly insulted, but I was too confused to know how to retort. Who the heck was Silky Tangles? “Look, how do I know you’re a real police officer? You don’t really act like one with the tangled-hair comment and all.”

He had a Kojak light on the dash of his SUV, not a police cruiser, but I was law abiding enough to know when to pull over. Perhaps not law abiding enough to keep to the speed limit. Sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. And I had to catch my flight.

“Ma’am?” he asked, his eyebrows going up above his sunglasses.

“I’ve seen on
where women are taken and cut up into little pieces by a man who pretends to be a police officer.” I wouldn’t mind being taken by McHottie, skipping the cutting-up part.

“Ma’am, it’s ten o’clock on a Tuesday in Montana. Not four in the morning in downtown Detroit. I pulled you over because you were going ninety in a forty-five.”

He did have a point. I was going fast. I leaned across the center console to reach the glove box for the registration. “Look, Officer—”

“Detective,” he countered.

“Detective,” I repeated, blowing hair out of my eyes. “I’m trying to make a flight. I’ve got an hour until it takes off.” I turned back to face him, held out the paper for him to take. He lifted his chin a few inches. Had he been checking out my ass?

“Where are you headed?” His T-shirt afforded me a very nice view of tanned forearms with corded muscles and sprinkled with dark hair. No wedding ring. A thirty-year-old woman noticed these types of things even when the man was keeping her from her next assignment. It wasn’t like I planned to linger and have his babies. Men were the antichrist at the moment, even hot ones, but that didn’t mean I didn’t take a moment to ogle.


He shook his head as he looked at my license photo, then at me. It was not the best picture—whose was? I’d had a moment of inspiration and cut my bangs, but seeing the photo at the DMV only confirmed I’d made a serious error in judgment. My brown hair was too curly for bangs and I could only imagine what McHottie thought.

“Look, Miss Lane, I’ve heard a lot of excuses for speeding, but Thailand? You couldn’t come up with something better than that? Besides, I thought films like yours were done now in the valley.”

“The valley? Gallatin Valley?” Bozeman was situated in a flat, open plain between three sets of mountain ranges, also known as the Gallatin Valley. What was he talking about? I narrowed my eyes. He doubted me? “Oh. You don’t think I’m going to Thailand? What should I have said instead?”

“Going into labor is used frequently.” His gaze raked over my body with that one. “Yeah, that one won’t work for you. You need to keep your body in tip-top shape.” He waggled his eyebrows and actually grinned. Of course, he had a dimple.

I didn’t know if I should be flattered, annoyed or grossed out. “I don’t have time for this,” I snapped. I could feel my anger building. Patience was never one of my strong suits, perhaps honed from dealing with Aunt Velma all my life. One would think I’d become
patient because of her antics, but no. Definitely not. I didn’t have a patient bone in my body. That’s why I was a travel journalist and didn’t have to wait for anyone. Except Officer, no, Detective McHottie to hand me my ticket so I could speed even more to get to the airport in time. “I really am going to Thailand, although if I miss my flight, I’ll make it as far as Salt Lake and will miss the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival. Can you
give me my ticket so I can be on my way?”

“Wait here.” He stood up and I watched him through my side mirror heading back to his car. Yeah, the pants fit him just fine. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, the impatience building with every second. I’d only returned to Bozeman for Aunt Velma’s birthday as I had a week off between assignments. Montana wasn’t on the way to anything so the flight choices to Thailand were limited. As it was, I had to go to Salt Lake City, then Chicago, then Narita, Japan, to connect to Bangkok. It would take over twenty-four hours to get there and missing one flight would mean I missed them all. And I’d lose my assignment. If I lost the story, I didn’t get paid. I was freelance, which meant the next job wasn’t guaranteed. Since Roger turned out to be a little shit and decided to shack up with someone else, someone who liked Shalimar perfume and red patent fuck-me heels, I needed a new place to crash. With the Thailand trip on the books, there had been no time to find one. Travel journalism didn’t allow for Home Sweet Home.

I watched the clock on my dash. Fiddled with the radio. Dug out twelve cents between the seat and the center console. Five, ten minutes and the man just sat in his car. He was looking down, but he could have been doing anything from writing up my ticket to playing a game of Solitaire on his cell phone.
Come on!

When I had twenty minutes left to get on the flight before they gave my seat away, I’d had enough. I climbed from my old VW Rabbit to tell the man to get a move on. As I approached, he glanced up from his seat, opened his car door and stepped out. He was a few inches over six feet and must have eaten his Wheaties for breakfast to turn out like he did.

“I’m not exactly sure what you’re doing in there, but it can’t take that long to write a ticket.” I just shook my head in disappointment. My friend Violet was a first-grade teacher and I’d seen her use the look before. It worked on six-year-olds and adults alike.

Not this guy. I could tell from his stance and how he had one hand on the top of his gun at his hip and held some weird black thing in his other that I may have done the wrong thing. “Ma’am, you need to get back in your car.”

I held up my hands in the “don’t shoot” position. “Just give me my ticket and I’ll go.”

“Ma’am, you need to get back in your car now or I’m going to have to cuff you. You know what it’s like, from your third film
Cuffed and Stuffed.

My hands dropped, so did my mouth. “Are you kidding me?”
Cuffed and Stuffed
? It sounded like a porno. What was wrong with this guy? “You’re going to cuff me? If you hadn’t taken so long, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. I
to get on that plane. It’s not like I tried to talk my way out of the ticket. I’ve even asked for it.”

I could see one eyebrow raise. “Thailand? Seriously? You’re dressed for yoga class and let me tell you, all that stretching pays off on-screen.” He may have winked, but the glasses hid it well.

I think my head exploded then because his eyes widened—I could tell even through the mirrored glasses—and he took a half step back. His hand clenched around the butt of the gun. “Do you know what it’s like to come back here? Do you have
idea what I’ve been through this week? What will happen if I miss that flight? And you’re standing here discussing my flexibility?”

“Ma’am, I need you turn around and place your hands on the roof of your car.” He stepped closer. I stepped back. “A police cruiser will be here in a few minutes to give you your ticket.”

“A few minutes?” I started waving my arms around as I spoke. “No. I’m going to Thailand. I
to go to Thailand. I can’t spend another night as a designated driver for a bunch of senior citizens. I can’t fill in again for league bowling just to get my ass pinched by Frank Zajik. And if I have to spend another night listening to a borderline geriatric couple getting it on when I’m in the Sahara Desert of a sex life, I might do something crazy. Give me my stupid ticket.”

I might have seen his lip twitch in amusement, or it could have been a nervous tick.

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