Free Romance Stories – ch 6

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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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            So what was Hogan up to?

            That question and
Hogan’s face haunted Susannah’s dreams. When she awoke before dawn Saturday
morning, her thoughts immediately went to the irritating man. Disgusted and
somewhat bleary-eyed, she rolled out of bed and proceeded to get ready.

            Seven o’clock sharp,
the appointed time according to her newly-appointed boss, dulled to half past
the hour. Then eight o’clock came and went, taking Susannah’s patience with it.
She sat at the kitchen table and sipped her third cup of coffee. At this rate,
maybe she could plead caffeine overdose when she was tried for assault and
battery of her obviously reluctant partner.

            Moments later, she
heard the subdued growl of a powerful engine from her driveway. She dumped the
rest of the coffee down the drain, rinsed the mug, and left it in the sink.

            Impatiently, she
shoved the back door open and marched down the flagstone walk toward the sound.
Her mouth dropped open in surprise. A candy apple red Porsche Boxxter, with
Hogan in the driver’s seat, idled in the driveway behind her Jeep. She hadn’t
expected him to show up in the police department Burb, but this?

            She turned to him to
ask where he’d gotten the car, but Hogan’s appearance made her forget what she
was going to say. No scruffy beard. No wild Hawaiian shirt. Oh, dear. He looked
like he’d looked that night in Houston. Like a cover model for GQ. No.
He looked better. More male than a pretty boy model.

            Oh, dear. She was in a
heap of trouble.

            Several moments passed
before she realized Hogan was staring at her as hard as she was at him. Neither
said a word. Susannah began to wonder if she’d forgotten to close some of the
big black buttons stretching from the low cut vee of the yellow polka dot sun
dress to the hem. Disconcerted by his perusal, she sought defense in a good
offense. “You’re late.”

            He turned off the
engine, and his long frame unfolded from the Porsche. He wore tailored gray
slacks and an expensive designer golf shirt in a pale blue that made his eyes
seem even more blue. Not only had he shaved, but he’d had a haircut. Grace
would swoon, Susannah thought, trying hard not to do the same.

            “Lighten
up.” His voice held more than a hint of a growl.

            Lighten up? She was
tired of being told that. If she took everyone’s advice, she’d be floating like
a balloon. In a huff, she planted her hands on her hips. “One of us has to
be the adult and focus on details.”

            “There’s no doubt
you’re perfect for that role,” he muttered.

            Susannah’s eyes
narrowed. “If you have something to say, then speak up. Don’t
mumble.”

            “Look, details
are like rules. Sometimes you pay attention to them, and sometimes you don’t.
That is if you’re a good cop.”

            “I am a good cop,
and a good cop always follows the rules.”

            “No, a good cop
is flexible.”

            “Don’t lecture me
on the attributes of a good cop. You’re just a consultant, not a real cop so
how would you know?”

            “You must have
got up on your usual wrong side of the bed, Susy Q.”

            “Where I get up
is none of your business. I’ll thank you to remember that.”

            His eyes rolled.
“This is gonna be a fun week.”

            A week of discord held
no appeal for Susannah even if it was a good weapon against Hogan’s charm. She
decided to call a truce. She could be more amicable if he could. In a milder
tone, she said, “I kind of expected to see you in the Suburban.”

            “This goes better
with our cover. Where’s your bag?”

            “On the
porch.” She couldn’t help adding, “Since seven sharp.”

            She presented her back
to him and flounced along the flagstone walk to the back porch.

* * *

            Hogan leaned against
Walter’s Porsche and stared at the expanse of skin bared by the black and
yellow sun dress, and at her shapely legs in black stiletto sandals. Walter had
said he’d arranged for Susannah to get an appropriate wardrobe and accessories so
she’d look like a young, affluent wife. A long painful sigh escaped him. He
couldn’t recall Walter adding the adjectives sexy and seductive to that
description.

            Just wondering if the
rest of the clothes were like the yellow polka dot number she wore made Hogan
break into a sweat. The dress was tight and revealing, plunging low in front
and lower in back. She should look like a silly bumblebee in the yellow and
black dress, but she didn’t. He’d finally realized his fantasy. Once again he
got to see Deputy Quinn in something other than her uniform, Stetson, and
boots.

            The trouble was,
Susannah, out of khaki and into a sexy little dress and swaying along on
four-inch stilettos, was better than anything he’d imagined. As if he needed
unending days of sexual frustration. And nights.

            Hogan took a deep
breath and forced himself to restrain his inconvenient lust. How the hell was
he going to keep her at arm’s length when everything about her made him want to
get up close and very personal? He hit the heel of his hand against his
forehead. This whole thing was dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. He accentuated each word
with a thud to his forehead.

            Susannah looked over
her shoulder. “Are you coming?”

            His body clenched. Not
yet, he thought, but hope springs eternal in the male heart. He pushed away
from the car and followed her. This was a fine mess he’d gotten himself into.
Rather, it was another fine mess his stepmother had gotten him into. When was
he going to learn to say no to Yvonne? Hogan stepped onto the back porch and
halted dead in his tracks. The pile of luggage stunned him. “What the hell
is this?”

            “Luggage? You are
familiar with the concept? It’s kind of a box with a handle? It holds clothes
when one travels?”

            “Yes, I’m
familiar with the concept,” he mimicked in a singsong voice. “Since
you’re so smart, why don’t you tell me how you think we’ll fit all this in a
Porsche?”

            “Well,”
Susannah said sweetly. “You didn’t tell me we were traveling in a Porsche,
now did you?”

            He folded his arms.
“Deputy Quinn, why don’t you offer me a cup of coffee before my head
explodes?” He forced himself to smile. “I’ll sip it quietly and
patiently while you decide which two bags you want to take. And make
sure they’re two of the smaller bags, not that thing as big as a steamer trunk.”

            “Two?”

            “Yes, two.”

            “That’s
impossible.”

            “Well, you better
make it possible.”

            “There’s no way I
can get all this in two smaller bags.”

            “I’d say you’re
right.” His lips stretched in a smile, but his eyes were shard as flint.

            Susannah stepped closer
and lifted her chin to stare defiantly at him. “I’m not the one who drew
up that clothing list. If you have a complaint, tell it to the Mayor.”

            “That list was
about as stupid as this whole situation. I didn’t create it, but I’m the one
responsible for transporting it, so decide. Two bags. Uno. Dos.” He
held up two fingers. “Two.” Then he pushed past her and grabbed the
doorknob. “In the meantime, I need coffee.”

            Susannah grabbed his
arm. “Hey, this is breaking and entering, buddy. I didn’t invite you into
my house.”

            “Then arrest me,
but let me have some caffeine first.”

            “I drank all the
coffee while I was waiting.” Sparks flew from her eyes. “Quit
thinking about coffee, and start thinking about my luggage. Be creative. Figure
out how to squeeze my bags into your silly car.”

            “Listen,
sweetheart, there’s just one problem with that.” He took a step to bridge
the short distance between them. He looked down the low neckline and saw the
shape of her small, perfect breasts. And forgot what he was going to say. Sweat
popped out on his forehead.

            Susannah’s eyes
narrowed. “And what’s that?”

            “What’s
what?”

            “You said there
was just one problem so tell me what it is.”

            “Problem?
Right.” He got back on track. “No matter how creative I get, six bags
won’t fit in a Porsche.”

            She stepped even
closer and tilted her head to look him in the eye. Her breasts brushed against
him, and Hogan’s brain shut down. All the blood stampeded south. With great
effort, he managed to ignore a certain part of his anatomy and dragged his gaze
from the creamy curves of her breasts. Breasts that were pretty damn perfect as
far as he could tell. She was close enough to hear his pounding heart. Hell. He
was close enough to count the gold flecks in her green eyes.

            Moments passed. He
caught a whiff of honeysuckle and couldn’t help himself. He glanced down,
wondering if the light fragrance came from the shadowed valley between her
breasts. He could picture her spraying perfume there. That mental image just
enhanced something that didn’t need any more enhancing. His pulse pounded even
harder, traveling through his body like tom tom drums signaling danger on the
horizon.

            Dishes clattered and
crashed. Hogan quickly stepped away from Susannah. A blush stained her cheeks.
Maybe she wasn’t immune to the electricity between them.

            A woman who must be
Susannah’s mother opened the back door. She held a broken cup in her left hand.
Hogan hurried over and held the door for her. Embarrassed, he was fairly
certain his face was suffused with the same scarlet hue as Susannah’s.

            “Hi, I’m Rory
Quinn, Susannah’s mom. Sorry for the noise. I thought I’d bring a tray out so I
could offer you some coffee, but I dropped a cup trying to get out the
door.” She held her hand out to him. “You must be D. E. Hogan. Would
you like some coffee?”

            He pumped her hand
vigorously and said in a heartfelt voice, “Yes, I’m Hogan. I’d kill for a
cup of coffee.”

            “I don’t think
homicide will be necessary, Mr. Hogan.” She flashed another smile.
“Susannah, I think you need to redo your bags. I’ll keep Mr. Hogan company
while you take care of that.”

            She turned to Hogan.
“Why don’t you come inside so Susannah can focus on what needs to be
done?”

            Sweating like a man on
the rack, Hogan followed her and sat at the kitchen table. While Rory Quinn got
another cup and filled it for him, he pulled a handkerchief from his back
pocket and discreetly blotted his forehead. Somehow, he had to erect a big wall
around Susannah and hang a “no trespassing” sign on it. And he’d
better figure out a way to do it fast, or he wouldn’t last the day out at this
rate.

* * *

            Susannah watched Hogan
and her mother. Slowly, she released the breath that had somehow lodged in her
lungs. The heated encounter with Hogan had shaken her. Hyper awareness made her
shiver. She could smell the musky aftershave he wore. Even if she closed her
eyes, she could see his blue eyes. And his mouth. Even drawn into a scowl it
had made her want to trace his lips with the tip of her tongue. To press her
mouth against his lips. That thought struck fear in her heart.

            “Are you all
right?” her mother asked from the doorway, startling her. “You look
kind of peculiar.”

            “Mom! I thought
you were in the kitchen. Yes, I’m fine. Just fine. Just trying to figure out
what to do with the clothes situation.”

            “Just take what
you think are necessities. If you find you need something you’ve left behind,
just call me. I can sneak it to you at the hotel.”

            “That might be a
good idea. Thanks.”

            Rory nodded and left
her alone. Susannah snapped open the locks on all the bags and surveyed the
contents. In a matter of minutes, she had two medium-sized bags and a makeup
case ready. She was certain they’d fit in the small trunk of the car despite
what Hogan said. He could just shut up and deal with it because there was no
way she could get by with less.

            When she went into the
house, she was surprised to find Hogan and her mother laughing together as if
they were old friends. She cleared her throat. Her mom turned merry eyes to
her. “Before I leave, Mom, I wanted to tell you that Mayor Bofco may come
by to check on you. Just be, well, be cordial.” She blushed and felt
foolish for advising her mother on how to act. “You know just in case you
need anything.”

            Rory chuckled.
“Well, that’s very sweet of him, but I don’t think he needs to bother. I
can take care of myself just fine.”

            Guilt at leaving her
alone urged Susannah on. “Yes, but you had surgery just a couple of months
ago.”

            Rory laughed.
“I’m fine now and wearing regular shoes. Don’t worry so much.”

            “The Mayor’s
nice. It doesn’t hurt to have someone in addition to Uncle Barney or Grace to
call for help. Just in case, I left his phone number by the kitchen
phone.”

            “Oh, and Walter’s
single, rich, and fancy free,” Hogan threw in, laughing.

            Rory laughed.
“Somehow I don’t see you as a matchmaker, Mr. Hogan. Honestly, if I need
anything, there are people who’d come running if I so much as whistled. Go.
Don’t give me a thought.”

            “The coffee was
great, Rory,” Hogan said.

            “Another cup
before you go, Mr. Hogan?”

            “No, thanks. And
please. It’s just Hogan.”

            “D. E.?
Right?” Rory asked, with a laugh.

            Hogan nodded.
“That’s it, but everyone calls me Hogan.”

            “What do the
initials stand for?”

            “That’s top
secret information, Mrs. Quinn. I could tell you,” he grinned, “but
then I’d have to kill you.”

            Rory laughed. “I
thought that was James Bond’s line. All right. Since I don’t have a death wish,
I won’t ask again.”

            To Susannah’s
surprise, Hogan seemed to enjoy talking and laughing with her mother. Maybe he
wasn’t a complete jerk. Any guy who was this nice to her mon had to have some
redeeming qualities.

            After a few minutes of
listening to them joke back and forth, Susannah said, “I hate to interrupt,
but shouldn’t we be going?”

            Rory laughed. “My
daughter. Always focused on the task at hand.”

            “Rory, it was a
pleasure.” Hogan shook her hand then followed Susannah.

            Back on the porch, he
studied the two bags she pointed to. He lifted one dark brow as if questioning
her. She crossed her arms and stared him down. Wisely, he just picked up the
bags and headed to the Porsche.

            “Hey, don’t
forget your hat.” Rory pointed to a wide-brimmed black straw hat laying on
the porch swing.

            “Thanks, Mom.
I’ll call you tonight.” Susannah planted a hasty kiss on her mother’s
cheek. Rory whispered, “I can see why Hogan bothers you so much.”

            “He’s impossible,
isn’t he?” Susannah replied in a hasty whisper. “What am I going to
do with him?”

            Rory pulled her into
her arms for a quick hug. Her voice sounded choked. She blinked rapidly and
cleared her throat. “You’re a smart girl, Susannah. I think you’ll
eventually figure out the real problem and the only right solution all by
yourself.”

            “I hope so.”
Susannah placed the sun hat on her head and hurried outside.

            As she walked up to
the car, Hogan slammed the trunk shut and turned. “Why are you wearing an
umbrella on your head?”

            “Very
funny.” Susannah walked around to the passenger side.

            He climbed into the
driver’s seat. “Whatever.”

            Susannah tapped her
foot impatiently. “Well?”

            “Well what?”
he asked, putting on a pair of expensive sunglasses.

            “Aren’t you going
to open my door for me?”

            “This isn’t a
date, Deputy Quinn. Open it yourself.”

            “I think we
should get into character immediately. I’m certain rich, attentive husbands
always open the car door for their wives.”

            “You’re going to
milk this for all it’s worth, aren’t you?”

            An impudent grin was
his only answer.

            “This is going to
be a damned long day.” Nevertheless, Hogan climbed out, walked around, and
yanked open the passenger door.

            “There you go,
muttering again.” Susannah enjoyed seeing him grinding his teeth in
exasperation for a change. Smart, sassy remarks might be as good a defense as
antagonism.

            Her dress rose to
mid-thigh when she slid onto the black leather seat. She’d have to have been
blind not to notice his interest. Somehow, that made her feel better.
Ridiculously pleased, she leaned back against the warm leather. She was tempted
to leave the hemline where it was, but that might be playing with fire. Those
who played with fire often got burned. She yanked her dress down.

            Hogan still stood
beside her. She waited for a taunting remark. When it didn’t come, she looked
up, meeting his gaze. The heat in his eyes robbed her of thought.

            “Uh, you need,
that is, we need, to wear these.” He reached into his trousers pocket and
pulled something out. Sunlight glinted off two plain gold wedding rings in the
palm of his hand.

            Susannah held her hand
out, surprised to see a slight tremor in it. He slid the smaller band onto her
ring finger. Her heart beat unsteadily. A weird feeling swept through her as
she watched him slip on the larger gold band.

            “Right. We’re set
then.” He slammed the car door and walked around. He slid into the
driver’s seat and turned to her. “Ready, Mrs. Hogan?”

            His voice sounded as
hollow as she felt. The gold band on her finger taunted her. Uneasy, she
rotated the ring surprised that it fit perfectly. Why did being with Hogan make
her have such a feeling of anticipation? As if something new and different and
exciting lay just around the corner. And she wasn’t thinking about a police
operation. Her heart beat so fast and so unsteadily.

            “Ready,” she
managed to say, willing herself to believe it was the undercover operation that
affected her. Because if it was something else, something she couldn’t allow
herself to think about, then she was in big trouble. Upset that a piece of meaningless
metal placed on her finger by him could induce such crazy thoughts, such
weakness, she rallied her defenses.

            “What should I
call you this week? I can’t very well go around addressing you as Hogan. I’m
surprised the Mayor left that little detail out of his battle plans.”

            Susannah fished a pair
of oversized black sunglasses from her small purse and popped them on, hoping
he didn’t notice the mistiness in her eyes and the quaver in her voice.
“You realize this is the new millennium. We women don’t have to address
our husbands by mister or lord and master.”

            “Very
funny.”

            “Okay. I’ll just
call you D. E.”

            At his derisive snort,
she giggled. “Wow. Your names must be really horrendous.” She’d
stumbled on a topic that made him uncomfortable. Good. That made them even then
because everything about him made her uncomfortable. “Come on. Tell me
what your names are? Delmar Egbert?”

            “None of your
business, Susy Q,” he said starting the engine.

            “Come on,
confess, Hogan.” When he ignored her, she asked, “Is it Dostoyevski
Ezra?”

            He shoved the
sunglasses down on his nose and looked at her.

            “No? Dagny
Ezekiel?”

            His blue eyes scorched
her.

            “Darnell
Elwood?”

            “You call me any
of those, and I’ll think of something worse than Susy Q to call you.”  He glanced over and grinned at her.
“And you really hate Suzy Q so just imagine what I might come up
with.”

            “Suzy Q isn’t so
bad.” She flashed a wicked grin, knowing she had the best of him.
“It’s a lot better than Darnell or any of the other names I’m thinking of.
You better mind your p’s and q’s, Hogan, or you just might find yourself stuck
with Dionysus Engelbert.”

             “Better fasten your seat belt. And hang
on to that damned hat.”

            Susannah placed a hand
on the crown of the hat and held tight to the expensive straw concoction.
“Oh, I’ve got it. Don’t worry about me.”

            Hogan quickly backed
out the driveway. On the street, he shoved the gear shift into first, and with
a squeal of the Michelins, they were off.

            “Durwood
Elmer!”

            The words vanished
into the wind as Hogan stomped the accelerator leaving only the echo of her
laughter.

 

 

   

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