Online Romance Novel ~ Chapter 14 Read romance novel onlineHome ~ Novel's Main Page

 

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

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Check back each month for the next chapter in this free online romance novel exclusively from Romantic4Ever.

Joan has also created a great soundtrack to go along with each chapter in THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE so you can listen as you read.

 

 

            Susannah closed her eyes tightly. When I open my eyes, I'll see that the woman giggling and cooing at Walter Bofco can't be my mother. She counted to ten and opened her eyes. The woman was still there, and she was still her mom.

            "Welcome to Bizarro-land."

            "What did you say?" Hogan asked.

            Susannah set her champagne glass down with such force the liquid sloshed over the rim. She didn't know which question to consider first. Hogan's or the question of what was her mother doing here or the question of what was she doing here with the Mayor of Murphy's Cove?

            "What is it?" Hogan murmured.

            "Nothing." She couldn't tell him. She and Hogan had to keep up their cover with Allison eyeing them suspiciously and Thomas McConnell over at the bar. Maybe the Platt woman knew something was amiss, but she couldn't risk drawing attention to herself because McConnell might take note.

            Hogan frowned at her but didn't speak. Instead he looked around the sparsely populated bar. She knew exactly when he saw her mother and the mayor. His shocked gaze locked onto hers.

            "What the hell is he doing?" Hogan muttered.

            Susannah shrugged. "You got me."

            She couldn't tear her gaze from the couple, but she tried to be discreet as she watched. The mayor's manners were impeccable as he guided Rory toward an empty table. He seemed gentle and solicitous, but there was something else. His face looked different when he looked at Rory Quinn. He didn't look like the no-nonsense Army colonel. He looked like. . . . Susannah gulped some of the bubbly. He looked enchanted. Besotted.

            They had eyes only for each other. It irritated her that they were completely unaware of the rest of the room's occupants as they gazed into each other's eyes. What on earth was wrong with her mother?

            Susannah's eyes narrowed. And where had she got that green sheath dress that hugged her body and revealed a figure Susannah had never noticed before? And what was with Rory's hair. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen her mom with her hair styled. Even when she went to church, she just ran a brush through it. But tonight, Rory's shining reddish-blond hair was carefully groomed. She'd parted it on the right side, and it fell in waves to her shoulders. And she was wearing heels. True, they were low heels in deference to her recent recovery  from foot surgery, but they were still heels. Strappy, sexy, gold evening heels.

            As she gazed at the couple over the rim of her champagne glass, her mother tipped her head back and laughed melodiously at something the mayor said. Oh, my goodness. Her mother was flirting.

            "Wow, your mom looks hot," Luke said.

            Susannah's eyes jerked to him. Oh, hell. She'd forgotten about Luke. He'd spill the beans to Allison and anyone else paying attention. Before she could stop him, he'd risen and was walking toward Rory and Walter. She felt as if her world were spinning out of control. When Luke stopped at their table and spoke, her mother and Walter looked over and caught Susannah staring at them. They acted like two kids who'd been caught playing spin the bottle. Or something worse.

            "Is that your mother?" Allison asked.

            "I think so," Susannah muttered, resigned to make the best of a bad situation. "She looks like my mom."

            "She's not what I expected." Allison's eyes narrowed as she studied Rory Quinn.

            "Oh, no. Luke asked them to join us." Susannah could have kicked him again, much harder, for his perverse sense of humor. He'd better know that she would pay him back. Some way. Some how.

            Luke made the introductions. Everyone acted like polite strangers, but the mayor frowned when Allison Platt was introduced. To her surprise, the mayor was quite brusque as he was introduced to Allison.

            Susannah marveled at the farce being played for an audience of one, Thomas McConnell  who still sat at the bar. As odd as the situation was, it paled in significance to what her mother was doing. She'd been gone only a few days and look what had happened. Rory was wearing heels and makeup and tight dresses and dating a man she couldn't possibly know. A man she had nothing in common with. She was beginning to think she didn't know her mother at all.

            Her mind flashed back to her last meeting with her father. She'd tried so hard to forget what the hurtful things he'd said. She'd told herself it was just sour grapes. Now, looking at her mother, she wondered.

            Walter nodded at Hogan when introductions were completed. "How are you doing?"

            "Doing all I can to keep world war three from breaking out." Hogan grinned, surprising a laugh from the Mayor.

            Susannah frowned. She knew Hogan referred to the present situation as well as to the way she acted toward his old girlfriend. If he didn't like it, then maybe he shouldn't create dissension by sneaking away to visit the woman.

            The men exchanged chitchat for a few minutes while the women eyed each other in silence. For some reason, Allison Platt seemed to be enjoying the scene with a great deal of pleasure. After a bit, the mayor stood and held a hand to Rory who rose. The couple bid them good evening and returned to their table. Luke and Allison resumed their flirting, and she and Hogan stared at each other in silence.

            Susannah pressed her hands to her temples. Her head pounded. This was turning out to be the longest day of her life. She could barely make sense of everything that had happened. And she was so angry at her mother. How could her entire world have been turned topsy turvy in such a short time?

            She needed to talk some sense to her mother, she decided. She excused herself and went to the ladies room, purposely passing the table where her mother sat. When Rory looked her way, she jerked her head, indicating that she should follow.

            Susannah made sure no one else was in the bathroom. Then she leaned against the vanity, arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently against the marble floor. Finally, her mother pushed through the door. Susannah pounced. "Okay, what the hell is going on?"

            Rory's lips tightened. "I thought I might see you tonight. Maybe that was why I agreed to come here instead of someplace outside the Cove." She smiled gently. "Getting caught in the act was easier than just calling and telling you."

            "What are you talking about? Tell me what?" Susannah couldn't shake the chill that seemed to be seeping into her bones.

            "I guess I should explain."

            "Please do," Susannah snapped. Then she held up her hand. "Sorry. I didn't mean to sound like that." Her shoulders sagged. Tiredly, she went over and sat on the tapestry-covered settee in the corner and leaned her head against the high back. Her eyes closed. "Just tell me what's going on. The truth please."

            Until last month, she'd thought she could depend on her mother to always be truthful. Now she wasn't so sure.

            "I know I owe you an explanation. It's just that it's as hard as I thought it would be. The truth is Walt and I are, well, I told you we were dating."

            Susannah opened her eyes and saw Rory, clutching her beaded evening bag as if it were a life preserver and she was in danger of drowning. "Dating?"

            "Actually, it's more than dating." Rory's nervous fingers began to work on the gold chain on her evening bag, twisting and untwisting it.

            Susannah stared at the gold chain and felt as if she were being bent and twisted like the metal links. "More than dating? Exactly what does that mean?"

            Before Rory could answer, Susannah gasped and looked up. "You don't mean?" She couldn't say it. She couldn't even think it. She shook her head vigorously. "No. Oh no. You can't be."

            Rory's hands stilled. She straightened her spine and looked her daughter directly in the eye. "Sleeping with Walt? Not yet, but, I'll be honest. I want to. I'm going to."

            "But why? I don't understand." Susannah just couldn't picture her mother as a sexual being. Rory was her mom, for heaven's sake. "Have you lost your mind?"

            "No. I finally found it a few years ago." Rory laughed ruefully. She sat next to Susannah and spoke softly. "This isn't a conversation I thought we'd be having in a bathroom."

            "This is as good a place as any to have a conversation about your affair with a man you know absolutely nothing about."

            "That's not what I want to talk to you about. I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I don't feel the need to justify myself or discuss my love life with you." She laughed. "Love life. I can't believe I actually said that." She shook her head. "I can't even believe I'm planning to have one."

            Planning to? Susannah's brain worked franticly. So her mom  really hadn't gone to bed with Walter yet. There was time to avert this disaster. Cautiously, she asked, "Then what is it you want to talk about?"

            "You, sweetheart. I want to talk about you. I probably should wait until you finish your job, uh, assignment, here, but I have this nagging feeling that I shouldn't put this off another day."

            "Well, what's so important that you have to come down here and turn my world upside down?"

            "I'm not trying to disrupt your world. Well, perhaps I am. Maybe it's like a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces have been forced into positions they don't belong in. I guess I'm trying to put the pieces back where they should be."

            "Mom, you aren't making a bit of sense." Susannah pressed her hand on her breast to still the panicked beating of her heart.

            "Bear with me. I think it'll begin to make sense. First, I want to tell you how much I regret your childhood."

            "My childhood?" Susannah forced a laugh. "Are you sure this is going to make sense?"

            Rory nodded. "I've realized since you moved home that you're blind to certain things. For instance, you don't see me as I am now. You see me as the bitter, depressed mother of your childhood. I can't undo the past and give you back the childhood I took from you." She held up a hand to keep her daughter from interrupting. "No, you don't have to deny it to make me feel better. I just want you to open your eyes and see what's real now. Not what happened in the past. I'm different."

            "I'm the same as I've always been." Susannah stood abruptly. She was afraid suddenly. "I don't want to talk about this now. Mom, just go home. When I get back, we'll talk."

            "I'm afraid it might be too late then." She threw her hands up in disgust. "I'm making a mess of this. Look. I'll be blunt. You know how I used to warn you about the complications men bring? Well, I was bitter. Vindictive. I told you never to fall in love. To always maintain a distance. Keep your perspective."

            "Yes. So?"

            "Well, I was wrong to do that. I was so wrong."

            "Why can't this little mother-daughter talk wait?"

            "Because I don't want to wait another minute to set the record straight. When you entered high school, I realized what I'd done when I saw how you were with boys. I knew I had to change because I realized, for better or worse, that I was your model for behavior. I didn't want you to end up the same way. Bitter, lonely, and alone. I should have told you the truth then, but I was afraid."

            Susannah started to speak, but her mother shushed her.

            "I keep telling myself that you'll fall in love, but that hasn't happened. Every time you meet a man, you keep him at a distance. You've never let anyone into your heart. If a guy forces the issue, you drop him so fast it makes my head spin."

            Rory reached out and grabbed Susannah's hand. "You've never been in love because you're too afraid to give your heart away. And that's my fault. I have to tell you the truth now. And this isn't going to be easy for me to tell or you to hear. But I have to wipe the slate clean. Your father never really loved me. It was me. It was all my fault."

            Susannah wanted to cover her ears so she wouldn't have to hear. She knew what her mother was going to say. She'd heard it from her father last month. Tears pooled in her eyes.

            "Oh, God, this is so hard." Rory's gaze dropped to her hands then jerked up to look directly in her daughter's eyes. "I tricked him, Susannah. I loved him so much that I couldn't stand the thought of him going away to college. I wanted to get pregnant so he'd have to marry me. I seduced him, not the other way around. And I kept at him until, well, until you happened."

            Rory's voice dropped to a whisper. "I'll spare you the details, but I got what I wanted." She exhaled a long breath. "His parents forced him to marry me because that's the way it was then. But he hated me for it. He lost his scholarship, and he died a little bit every day. I saw it happening, but I didn't know what to do. You'd been born. I thought he would love you the way I did, but I think every time he looked at you, he thought of what I'd done. I don't blame him. He stayed until he couldn't take it any more. When his parents were killed in the car accident, he took off."

            Susannah thought her heart would burst from the pain. It was all she could do to hold in the tears.

            Rory collapsed back against the settee and closed her eyes. "There. I finally said it. I forgave him long ago for leaving, but I couldn't forgive myself. That's the true source of my bitterness and depression. Self-loathing."

            Silence fell between the two women. Finally, Rory opened her eyes and looked at her daughter. "I was afraid to tell you the truth. I was afraid you'd hate me. It was easier to let you blame him for everything than to take the blame myself for screwing up my life, his life, and your life. I made stupid mistakes, but I don't want you to make an equally stupid mistake by refusing to love and be loved."

            Susannah hardly breathed. She'd had a month to get used to the knowledge that her mother had lied to her all her life. She wanted to be compassionate, but hurt and anger consumed her.

            "I know it's a shock. Can you forgive me?"

            No, Susannah wanted to scream. Instead, she said, "I already knew." She shook her head and clamped down on the raw emotions coursing through her. "I don't think I believed it though until now."

            "But how?"

            "It's not important. I don't want to talk about this any more. Not now. When I get home, we'll talk. In the meantime, you tend to your love life more carefully, and I'll tend to mine."

            "What love life? You don't have one. You meet a guy and then dump him after three or four dates. Or you try to make them friends when that's not what they want. Brian Nguyen's the only exception, and he's stayed your friend because he kept hoping you'd change your mind."

            Defensively, she said, "I've told Brian to move on."

            "I know. This isn't about Brian. It's about you. Wake up, Susannah. You're young. Don't let love pass you by."

            Unbidden, Hogan's image came to her. She shook her head as if to dislodge his face from her thoughts. He might be the right man, for a short while, but she had no delusions about anything beyond this week. "Who are you to tell me anything about love or men or life?" She blurted out, releasing her anger.

            Rory looked sad. "I want you to let go. Lose control. Let yourself fall in love. I have."

            "Oh, is that what you've done? Fallen in love?" Susannah nearly vibrated with her anger.

            Rory blushed but replied calmly. "When I met Walt, I wasn't planning on that. I'll be honest though it will probably shock you. I thought maybe I'd have an affair with him. Instead, I've fallen in love with him."

            Susannah bounded off the settee. "That's crazy." She threw her hands up in disgust. "You can't be in love with Walter Bofco. You just met him."

            "I know, but," Rory's voice softened. "I am. Even though it's been years, I recognize the feeling." She looked up and met her daughter's incredulous gaze. "Except this time the feeling isn't hormonal puppy love. This time I'm mature enough to know what love is, and how rare it is. I also know that it may all be one-sided on my part, and that it may go no further than a brief affair. But I won't do anything crazy to get him to love me back. And I won't regret having him in my life either."

            "This is absurd. You can't suddenly fall in love with the first man you've dated in years. The first man you've ever dated." Susannah turned around and wet a towel with cold water and pressed it to her throbbing forehead.

            "It does sound crazy. But it's true."

            "No, it's not. It can't be. I know how you hate being alone. You know I want to leave Vance. You think if you convince yourself you're in love you won't be alone when I leave."

            Rory laughed softly. "I told you I know you'll leave eventually. You haven't noticed, but I finally grew up after you went away to college. I expect you to live your own life whether that's here or some place else. The world is yours, my darling. Go out and make your dreams come true. Maybe it's not too late for me to make some of mine come true as well."

            Susannah dropped to the couch. She wanted to weep. She wanted to crawl onto her mother's lap and let Rory comfort her for a change. "But I thought you wanted me to stay in Vance so you wouldn't be alone?"

            "No, Susannah. I want you to stay in Vance because you're my daughter, and I love you."

            "Oh." She felt as if someone had knocked the breath out of her. She couldn't take any more revelations. She had to think about all this and try to assimilate it. Everything she thought she could trust, everything she thought was true, had changed.  Maybe her mother had also changed, but that didn't mean the woman wasn't about to make a huge mistake.

            She tried calm logic. "Mom, I can understand that you'd be flattered by the mayor's attention. He's an attractive man, but that isn't the same as being in love."

            "How would you know the difference, Susannah?" Rory asked quietly. "You've run from every relationship you've ever had."

            Anger sank its talons into her again. "We're not talking about me. We're talking about you."

            "I'm sorry this is upsetting you," Rory whispered, putting her arms around her daughter.

            Susannah refused to yield to the softness of her mother's embrace. She felt hollow, empty, Rory sighed. Her arms fell away. Susannah heard the quiet rustle of silk as Rory stood.

            "I'll see you when you get home, dear."

            The door opened. Susannah finally spoke. "Mom?" Her voice, even to her, sounded cold and distant.

            "Yes, dear?"

            "Don't say anything or do anything you'll regret. We'll talk about this when I come home."

            "There's really nothing more to talk about, Susannah."

            "Just promise me you won't do anything rash."

            "Yes, dear, I promise I won't do anything without giving it a lot of thought." She hesitated and added, "Whether you believe it or not, I do know what I'm doing." She left.

            Her mother was wrong. When it came to desire, no woman knew what she was doing. Susannah had only to think of the confusion Hogan incited in her to prove that.

            When she thought she had her emotions under control, Susannah rose and checked her appearance in the mirror. To her surprise, she looked unchanged. She found that very odd.

            The three-piece combo had been joined by a woman who sang a love song with a slow Latin beat. Susannah saw two couples on the small dance floor. To her relief, McConnell had left.

            The table where her mother and Walter had sat was vacant. Good. She didn't think she could have faced them again. The next time she talked with her mother, she intended to know everything there was to know about Walter Bofco. She'd make her mother see the man was just using her for his own purposes. Whatever they might be. Sex. Fun. Whatever. Rory was being played for a fool. Somehow, she'd make her mother see that. Just as she faced up to the prospect that maybe Hogan was playing her for some kind of fool too.

            As she approached her table, she saw Allison's feet, minus the silver high heels, resting in Hogan's lap. That was the spark needed to detonate the anger that had been simmering since her mother's confession. Her mother was wrong in her newly-found enlightenment. She should have held onto her bitterness. Men couldn't be trusted.

            Hogan, in deep conversation with Luke, had the woman's feet in his lap the way he'd held Susannah's feet that afternoon. True, he wasn't giving the blonde a foot rub, but still the feet rested on his thighs when he should have dumped them to the floor.

            Susannah stalked over and yanked Allison's chair. The woman nearly fell out of it. "If you want to play footsy with someone," Susannah snapped, needing an outlet for the anger simmering  inside. "Then pick on Luke. He's single. But you keep your red-toenailed feet out of Hogan's lap."

            Luke burst out laughing. Hogan leaned back. A grin slowly lit his face, replacing the grimness that had characterized his features most of the evening. Susannah wanted to bean him with the bottle of bubbly.

            "I assure you I didn't mean anything." Allison laughed as if she found Susannah's reaction hilarious.

            "Well, I don't like it." Susannah declared, eyes flashing. She wanted to hit something and wished she'd brought some work out clothes so she could go to the fitness center. There was bound to be a body bag there she could pound. "If I see you touch him again, I won't be responsible for the amputation of whatever appendage is guilty."

            Then she whirled on Hogan. "And you!"

            "Me?" Hogan held up both hands to ward her off. "What did I do?"

            "You didn't stop her. You're a man who's supposed to be my husband."

            "You tell him, girl," a woman at another table called out.

            Susannah suddenly realized she was the center of attention. She'd forgotten that Thomas McConnell might still be at the bar. She took deep breaths and tried to get control of her emotions.

            The combo picked up the beat and the singer launched into another love song. Hogan stood and grabbed her hand. "Come on. Let's dance."

            "I don't want to dance. I want to go." She resisted as he tugged her hands.

            "I have some news." Hogan pulled her to the dance floor, and she reluctantly followed, and, even more reluctantly, went into his arms. Still angry, she kept her face averted, looking over his shoulder rather than up at him.

            Hogan guided her easily, and she followed. They moved as if they'd been dancing together for years. "I apologize. I'm so used to Allison's games, I didn't realize how it might appear to someone else," he said quietly. "By the way, thanks for putting her in her place. God knows I've been trying for years to do that. But she really is harmless. Especially to me."

            "Just doing my job. That is, just playing the role of the wife. Apology accepted," Susannah managed to say. Slowly, she began to relax. His arms brought her a few minutes of sorely needed comfort from the storm of emotions lashing her. "Now what news do you have?"

            "Nothing. I just thought you needed some quiet time away from Romeo and his latest target. Are you all right?"

            Susannah didn't know if she'd ever be all right again.

            Hogan pulled back and studied her face. "You look as if you're about to cry."

            "No. I'm fine. I'm not a cryer." Then to her surprise, she felt a tear trickle from the corner of her eye.

            Hogan reached up quickly and caught the tear on his finger tips. "I see that."

            "It's nothing. Just allergies. Probably to the perfume your friend Allison is doused in."

            "Right." Hogan's hand moved in slow soothing circles on her back. He pulled her tighter to him until her head rested on his shoulder. "Go on and cry if you want to," he soothed. "I'll still respect you in the morning."

            Tears blurred her eyes, but Susannah refused to let them fall. She had her pride. That's all she'd had, even as a child, to keep her back straight and her head high when other kids made fun of her garage sale clothes or when she overheard one of the women at church gossiping with the rare newcomer about her mother.

            "Talk. It'll do you good." Hogan whispered. "Tell me what your mom said. Tell me anything that's on your mind."

            Susannah shuddered. Why not? Finally, she said, "When I was sixteen, I found my father and went to visit him. He wouldn't see me. I had this insane idea that if I worked really hard and put myself through college and graduated with honors, I'd be a daughter to be proud of. He'd want me in his life."

            "I waited until I'd graduated from college. I took my diploma and all my certificates of achievement and went again last month. I called him, but he wouldn't let me come to his house. He met me in a coffee shop. A lousy coffee shop with bad coffee and stale doughnuts."

            "Why did you tell me that night I met you that your father had died?"

            "He's dead to me. He told me not to come again. Ever. I was part of the past that he didn't want to remember. I guess he thinks he fulfilled his responsibility by paying child support until I was eighteen." She shuddered and took a deep breath. "He told me that my mom had tricked him into getting her pregnant. I called him a liar. I told him my mom would never do anything like that. We were the victims." She ached inside. In a whisper, she finished, "My mom admitted it just now that he was telling the truth."

            The song changed. They stayed on the dance floor, moving slowly around the room. Susannah couldn't seem to stop the flow of words. Maybe if she got it all out, she could get beyond the anger and hurt. "He didn't know I followed him home. I parked where I could see his house. As he parked his Mercedes in the driveway, a cute little red sports car pulled up next to him. A teenage girl got out of the red car. Pretty. Dark hair. Even from across the street, I could tell that she looked like me."

            Susannah pressed her lips together and willed her anger to return. She could handle anger better than the feeling of desolation. "She called him dad. He kissed her on the forehead and hugged her. She's his daughter. My sister. I have a sister," she whispered brokenly. "But she'll never know about me because I'm just a mistake he made when he was a kid. And he doesn't want me to mess up his perfect suburban life."

            "You're not a mistake," Hogan said vehemently. "He's got problems or he wouldn't have dumped all that on you. If he doesn't want to know you, he's an idiot. One day he'll regret it."

            "You sound so wise," she scoffed. "So unlike your usual self."

            "Well, I'll try to insult you in a minute if it'll make you feel better."

            "Thanks." In as matter of fact a voice as she could manage, she said, "I could handle him rejecting me. But how do I deal with the fact that my mom lied to me all these years?"

            "Don't you think it's a little unrealistic to expect her to have sat you down and told you the tale of how you were conceived?"

            Susannah bit her lower lip. "I guess."

            "If you didn't have this knowledge, how would you feel about your mother's love for you? Would you question it or her honesty, her integrity?"

            "No," Susannah said without hesitation. Unable to instantly put it behind her, she said, "But why didn't she tell me the truth? Why let me think everything was his fault? How can I believe anything she says?"

            "Mitigating circumstances," Hogan whispered. "One lie doesn't make her incapable of honesty. Have a little faith in her. Trust her."

            Trust. She was beginning to hate that word. She was quiet for several minutes as she tried to get a handle on her anger. Finally, she told him about her mother and Walter Bofco, and that just renewed her anger.

            "Wow. Now that's a bombshell."

            "She's being a fool."

            "Why? Because she's in love?"

            Scorn dripped from her voice. "Love. See where it got her before?"

            "She was a kid. She's a grown woman now."

            "I don't care. She can't be in love."

            "Why not?"

            "Because love is nothing but a figment of the imagination."

            He laughed softly. "Do you really believe that?"

            "Damn right I do." Stewing, she stared over his shoulder and tried to make her mind blank. She was tired of thinking.

            When Hogan's arms tightened, pulling her even closer, Susannah didn't resist. Her face flamed. He was aroused. In a flash, everything that had happened in the elevator came rushing back to her, heightened by the raw emotions roiling inside her. He stopped and held her as they swayed to the music. Heat rushed through her veins. She burned where they touched. There was no doubt in her mind that there was even more to him now than a moment ago. She noticed that he noticed, and her blush deepened.

            "Sorry to be so transparent. Men are at such a disadvantage," Hogan murmured. "Women can hide when they're aroused, but with men it's there for all the world to see. You could be at arm's length, and you'd have the same effect on me."

            His admission confused and excited her. She savored his honesty as much as the feel of his hardness against her aching emptiness. Their eyes locked. The singer finished and the combo began a slow song with a steady rhythmic beat that seemed to seep into her bloodstream and pound through her veins. Slowly, they danced. The sweet torture of his body rubbing against hers made her throb in an echo of the way his heart pounded against her breasts.

* * *

            When the music stopped, Hogan leaned down and brushed his lips against her temple. He wanted to protect her, soothe her. He wanted to take her to bed and love her. Teach her that she could trust him. But first he had to tell her everything. He feared if he did, he'd just prove her point that men lied and couldn't be trusted at all.

            Now, he could have told Yvonne that he knew why it was different with Susannah. Why it mattered what she wore, what she did, who she saw. The answer was simple. He was in love with her.

            He'd been prepared to keep his hands off Susannah, but that little scene with Allison showed she was jealous. Guessing – hoping – her reaction meant she felt more for him than she was letting on, encouraged him. She had to care. Even if she wouldn't admit it. That changed everything.

            Life was too short to spend any more time denying his feelings for her. Feelings that had shocked him, but he'd lived with them long enough that he'd accepted them. Somehow, he'd win her over. He'd tell her everything. He had to before they took the next step.

            Unfortunately, he was having a hard time convincing his body they needed to talk first and love second. Every part of him wanted to forget the talking and head straight for a bed. In fact, he rationalized, maybe it would be better to first love her so thoroughly she'd have no doubt they belonged together. Then he'd reveal all.

            Softly, he asked, "Isn't it time we retired for the evening, Mrs. Hogan?"

 

 

 

   

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Also read the
first novel Joan
published on our site:

Moonlight on Snow:
A Love Story

 

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