Free Romance Stories – ch 9

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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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            Frantic protests
filled Susannah’s mind. Fallen in love? No. That just wasn’t possible. Fallen
in lust? That was it. Just lust. Not love. It could never be love. The desire
she felt for Hogan was clouding her judgment. She didn’t even like him. At
least, she tried not to. What she felt had to be lust, not love. What was she
getting so upset about? Lust was understandable. Just a chemical reaction
between two attractive, available people. He was a handsome, virile man. It was
nothing but plain old lust. That was it. And that was all it was, she
rationalized. Lust could be resisted. All it took was a little will power.

            “Is there
something you wanted to say?” Hogan asked.

            Susannah’s eyes
widened. She realized he was staring at her. She shook her head vigorously.
Lust was safe. She understood it. She could walk away from it. Her legs felt
rubbery. “No, that was just my stomach growling.”

            “Your
stomach?”

            “Yes.” It
had to be lust. If she went to bed with him and satisfied her physical needs,
everything would return to normal. She just had an itch that needed scratching.
She could scratch it or ignore it. The choice was hers.

            “As fierce as
you’re looking I’m glad I’m not between you and a sandwich when you’re
hungry.”

            The rationalizations
continued. He was an attractive man. She was a healthy, normal woman. It was
just chemistry. True, it was inconvenient, but it could be controlled. And
understood. She’d been lonely. He was single and available. And sexy. Okay.
Very sexy. Big deal. She’d been around sexy men before. So why did he make her
feel so different?

            “You look mad
enough to chew nails. If you’re that hungry, go find something to eat.”

            “Who me?”
Susannah asked, surprised to find his gaze on her.

            “No, the other
deputy in the corner.”

            “Funny. I’m sure
the next week will speed by with such a sharp wit to keep me entertained.”
She firmly banished her absurd romantic thoughts and focused on what he was
doing. “How are you going to set that up without anyone noticing it?”

            Hogan picked up the
tripod and camera and moved it over to the glass sliding door. He closed the
heavy drapes. “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

            “You certainly
like to bandy that word about.”

            “What word?”
Hogan turned to look at her.

            “Trust.”

            “You say that as
if it were something profane.” He remained motionless, his gaze focused on
her.

            She felt exposed
beneath his probing gaze and tried to divert his attention. “Won’t
McConnell see that big round black lens staring at him?”

            After a long moment,
Hogan shook his head. “With only the lens protruding through the closed
drapes, you’re talking about a dark spot less than six inches in diameter. From
a distance.” He fussed with the camera. “McConnell would have to know
where to look and what to look for in order to see it. He’d still have a tough
time picking it out.”

            “You’re sure
about this?”

            “I’m positive.
I’ve done it. . . .” He broke off and looked through the camera and played
with the zoom.

            “Many times
before,” she finished.

            When Hogan merely
grunted, she asked, “Is that a yes?”

            “Yes.” Hogan
sighed.

            “The mayor said
you had experience. What kind of experience?”

            Hogan quit fiddling
with the camera and looked at her directly. “The kind you don’t talk
about. What is this? A quiz show?” Without waiting for her to answer he
said, “Shouldn’t you unpack? We’ve already wasted most of the
morning.”

            “That wasn’t my
fault,” she said sweetly.

            “It doesn’t
matter whose fault it was.”

            “I can’t unpack
until you take my suitcases to my room.”

            Without a word, he
left the camera and grabbed her bags. “Lead the way.”

            Susannah hurried
toward the room that would be hers.

            “Now will you
quit pestering me, Nancy Drew?” he asked, tossing her bags onto the
king-sized bed in the other bedroom.

            “I’ve had enough
of your Nancy Drew cracks. Are you going to be this way all week?”

            “What way?”

            “Bossy and
irritating.”

            “Look who’s
talking. Go scrounge us something to eat. Maybe your mood’ll improve.”

            “Yes, master.
Anything else I can do for you, master?”

            Hogan wheeled and
stalked away. Relieved, Susannah looked around the room where she’d be
sleeping. Alone. It was pleasantly decorated in coral and cool blues. Thank
goodness there was no bed the size of an aircraft carrier to incite ridiculous
romantic fantasies. She unpacked quickly then went to the bar.

            It was stocked with an
assortment of beers, soft drinks, crackers, and cheeses. She set out two of
everything and called Hogan. She didn’t wait for him. She settled onto one of
the bar chairs and started piling cheese on crackers. Happily munching away,
she realized she really was hungry.

            When he joined her,
she waited until he’d gobbled up a couple of butter crackers before she asked,
“What else do you know about McConnell that you haven’t told me?”

            “I think you’ve
been given all the relevant information. He doesn’t seem to have picked a mark
yet. He hasn’t stirred from his room except to play golf. He’s used room
service for most of his meals. He hasn’t attended any of the cocktail mixers in
the evenings. In fact, he’s not matching the profile we have. That’s why you’re
here, to draw him out of his shell.”

            “Maybe he’s
really taking a vacation.”

            “Men like him
don’t just take vacations,” Hogan said. “He’s looking for a
score.”

            “That in itself
contradicts what you told me. You said his modus operandi is to always
have a target picked out before he shows up.”

            “Maybe he came
here thinking it was a thief’s paradise. Maybe, just maybe, he’s having a hard
time deciding which woman to fleece when there are so many of them to choose
from.”

            “That’s a lot of
maybes. What if he rips off another woman before we discover where he hid
Yvonne’s jewelry? What if he leaves in the dead of night?”

            “And that’s a lot
of what ifs,” he retorted. “Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. The
sooner you get acquainted with him, the sooner we’ll get this show on the
road.”

            “You really think
he’s going to open his drapes, stare at me sunbathing on the balcony, and fall
head over heels in love with me or something? I’m sorry, but that’s pretty
lame. In fact this whole undercover or stakeout or whatever the Mayor wants to
call it just doesn’t make sense. If you’re staking someone out, you don’t want
to attract attention like we did in the elevator. I’m supposed to be bait? To
draw him out of his shell? That just doesn’t make sense.”

            “Let me do the
thinking around here.”

            “What’s really
going on?”

            When he didn’t answer,
she said, “Okay, assuming he opens his drapes, and you can see into his
suite, and see him retrieve the jewels from some hiding place, how are you
going to get them back? Go knock on his door and demand them? You don’t even
have an official leg to stand on. You need a search warrant which you can’t get
unless you’re prepared to charge him with something.”

            “Details,
details. You’re just going to have to. . . .”

            “Don’t say trust
you.” Susannah interrupted. “You may have done stakeouts and
undercover assignments before judging by the references to your mysterious
past, but this plan sounds just plain dumb.”

            Hands on hips, Hogan
said, “Sounds to me as if you aren’t keen on your role in this
charade?”

            “What possible
objection could I have to making a spectacle of myself?”

            “Now, Deputy
Quinn, if you don’t want to play the role of femme fatale, you can go
home.”

            “No way. You’re
not getting rid of me. If you want me to lay out there like bait in a bikini,
no problem.” She stood. “You can take care of cleaning this up. I’m
going to change.” She flounced off, acting a lot more brazen than she
felt.

            In her bedroom, the
pale blue monochromatic color scheme meant to inspire tranquility did little to
calm her. The bed was just a plain ordinary king-sized bed with a sky blue
velvet headboard and coverlet. She closed the drapes, thankful that this room
didn’t inspire any wild fantasies. Or it wouldn’t if Hogan hadn’t been in the
next room.

            Posing as Hogan’s wife
was turning out to be difficult, as she’d expected, but for different reasons.
Before she lost her nerve, she grabbed the hot orange bikini she’d bought in
Houston and went back to where Hogan sat munching the rest of the crackers.
With an odd mixture of rebellion and insecurity, she dropped the two pieces on
the table. “Think this’ll do the trick?”

            Hogan reached over and
lifted the expensive scraps of fabric. “What is this?”

            “A swimsuit.
What’s it look like?”

            “Triangles held
together by string?”

            She withered him with
a glare. “I’m going to change and then lay out on the chaise on the
balcony. So you can’t complain about my not playing the required role.”

            When Hogan crushed the
aluminum drink can in one hand but didn’t say a word, she took the bikini and
returned to her bedroom and closed the door. Before she could lose her nerve,
she pealed her clothes off and pulled on the tiny bikini. Privately, she agreed
with Hogan. It did look like a couple of triangles tied together. Standing in
front of the bathroom mirror, she fidgeted, feeling self-conscious and awkward.
And oddly breathless at the thought of having his eyes on her while she wore
this.

            Normally, she wore a
one piece. When she swam, she didn’t like the distraction of wondering if her
suit would fall off. For this occasion though, she’d known the hot orange
bikini was perfect the moment she’d seen it.

            Would Hogan think she
looked skinny? She had better curves than she’d had in high school, but there
was no denying she was slender. When she thought about Hogan molding her curves
with his hands, heat flashed through her body. She placed her clammy hands over
her cheekbones, trying to cool the furious blush. Somehow, she had to stop
obsessing about him.

            Determined to think
only about the assignment, she opened the bottle of sun screen and began
applying the coconut-scented lotion. The unreachable area of her back defied
her best efforts. What a quandary. Risk sunburn or risk asking Hogan apply the
lotion.

            It took five minutes
of debate before Susannah accepted the inevitable. She stepped into a pair of
cork platform sandals. Grumbling beneath her breath, she retrieved a couple of
the oversize fluffy coral towels from the adjoining bathroom. Taking a deep
breath and armed with her most assured attitude, she grabbed the bottle of
lotion and left the safety of her room.

            Hogan was tearing open
a bag of potato chips. Susannah dropped the towels on the table. Nervously, she
sought something to say before brashly asking him to put the lotion on her
back. “Too bad we can’t wire tap McConnell’s phone.”

* * *

            “We’d need a
court order.” Hogan looked up. The vision of her wearing the hot orange
triangles silenced him. His hands convulsed on the bag in his hands, crushing
the chips. His mouth went dry. He swallowed. Then he took a deep breath, but
that didn’t ease the pressure in his chest. Or in his pants.

            Abruptly, Susannah
held out a bottle. “I can’t reach my back so you’ll have to do the
honors.”

            He stared dumbly at
the bottle. His brain refused to work. “The honors?”

            “I’ll burn if I
don’t get sun screen on my back.”

            “You want me to
put sun screen on your back?”

            “No, I’m asking
the other deputy in the corner.”

            Hogan took the bottle
from her hand. She sat on the other bar stool and presented her back to him.
Yeah. He’d like to do the honors all right. But what he had in mind had nothing
to do with sun screen and everything to do with both of them getting hot,
sweaty, and naked.

            “Speaking of
microphones, I went on the Internet when I was at work yesterday and found this
wireless directional mike that we could place on the balcony. We might be able
to hear him if we aimed it at his suite.”

            Hogan’s pulse thudded
with enough force to burst his veins. His hands were unbelievably clumsy. It
took him a couple of tries just to get the damned top off the bottle. A loud
buzzing in his ears drowned out the rest of what Susannah said.

            Gazing raptly at her
back, he squirted a stream of scented white lotion on the satiny expanse. With
effort, he tried to focus on what she was saying and keep his eyes off her
bottom which was sleek and sexy and shapely and nearly naked except for a very
narrow strip of orange.

            Suddenly, he realized
she was waiting for him to respond. What had she been talking about? “Uh,
I don’t think so.”

            “Why not?”

            Hogan tried to focus,
but his little head was doing his thinking at the moment, and the little head
wouldn’t let him think about anything except getting inside her.

            “Wireless mikes
sound like just the tool we need.”

            Ah, microphones. Relief washed over him. “They’re probably not worth the shipping cost. Usually anything available to the public is strictly for amateur use.”

            “Whatever you
say, boss.”

            His hands shook. She
didn’t want to know what he wanted to say. Tentatively, he smeared the lotion
in a big circle. Prim Deputy Quinn would get her ears blistered if he said what
was in his brain at that moment. He took a deep breath and began to spread the
lotion in smaller circles. His hands slowed. Her skin felt like silk beneath his
hands. He couldn’t ever remember being so turned on by a woman’s back before.
If he could only touch other parts of her body, he could die a happy man.

            Slowly, reverently, he
stroked the coconut-scented lotion across Susannah’s shoulders and down her back.
He dared not touch her hips. Just the thought of sliding both hands down and
over the rounded buttocks made him break out in sweat.

            Blood pounded through
his veins and pooled in his groin. He was so hard he could hammer nails. It was
all he could do to keep his hands confined to the satiny skin of her back, but
he couldn’t keep his thoughts there as well. He imagined his hands moving
around and cupping her small perfect breasts. Stroking the nipples to hard
points of desire until she cried out for him. He was seized by a longing so hot
and so intense that he felt dizzy.

            His hands slipped
under the string of the bikini top and inched across her ribs. Slowly. Oh so
slowly. How far could he go before she seized his hands and made him stop?
Mesmerized by the feel of her skin, he rubbed and stroked long after the lotion
had soaked in. What had Susannah done to him?  He’d never wanted a woman as much as he wanted her in that instant. He
had to have more of her. So much more.

            Hogan didn’t allow
himself to think in specifics about what that more might be. He dared not think
about it or act on it. Not yet. Not here. Not when he was supposed to be her
partner. Not when he needed his wits about him. He’d thought to protect her,
but at this moment, he couldn’t think of anything more dangerous than the way
he felt.

            “That’s enough.
No more.” Susannah jerked away from him. “Thanks,” she mumbled
and grabbed the towels. Hastily, she rushed over and lifted her straw hat from
the coffee table then went out the sliding glass doors to the balcony.

            “Yeah. No
problem.” Hogan said to the empty room. Relieved she hadn’t turned and
looked at him, he took a couple of deep calming breaths. When he thought he
could walk without embarrassing himself, he returned to the bedroom, concentrating
on putting one foot in front of the other and willing his erection to subside.

            His hands tingled. He
stared at them then abruptly squeezed them into fists as if he could hold onto
the feeling of her skin. His whole body throbbed. When he tried to remove the
lens cap from the camera, it took two attempts. He thought about Susannah and
the orange bikini. This wasn’t right. He didn’t want her out on that balcony
with McConnell and the rest of the world ogling her. This whole set up stunk
like yesterday’s shrimp shells.

            He had to break into
McConnell’s suite as soon as possible and find those damned jewels and steal
them back. Then this insanity he had agreed to would be over. And none too
soon. He just had to be strong until then.

            He stepped away from
the camera and peeked through the gap in the drapes. Susannah was spreading one
of the towels onto the chaise lounge. With her tight, round fanny stuck up in
the air, she made quite a show of shaking the towel and arranging it. So much
for trying to tame his hard-on.

            Work was work. Play
was play. You never mixed one with the other. He’d never even considered it.
Until now. Susannah stretched out on her stomach. Then she reached around and
untied the bikini top. She spread each string aside, exposing her perfect,
beautiful back. His stomach knotted with desire.

            “This is total
insanity.” He barely repressed his instinct to rush out there and cover
her from head to toe with. . . . He groaned in frustration. With his body.
Sweat beaded his forehead. He couldn’t take it. She lay like an exotic
delicacy, offered to appease the rapacious appetite of the sun.

            Her skin had felt
incredible beneath his hands. He knew every inch of her would feel the same.
Like silk. Everywhere. Oh, hell. He couldn’t help it. He imagined peeling that
little swimsuit from her perfect body, and burying his throbbing erection in
Susannah’s sexy warmth.

            He might like to think
he was ruled by his head, not his passions, but Susannah had made a lie of
that. She was displayed like a banquet, and he felt like a starving man. It was
too much to ask of any guy.

            It was only Saturday.

            This was going to be
the longest week of his life.

* * *

            The rest of Saturday
dragged until Rory began to think it was the longest day of her life. She went
to her office, located in what would have been a guest room, and tried to fill
the afternoon with work. Each hour ticked by with excruciating slowness.
Finally she gave up and left her desk.

            By sunset, she’d had
all day to obsess about what she’d done. She didn’t know whether she had come
to her senses or lost her courage, but she was horrified at her actions. How
could she have so brazenly propositioned that man? Any man. But to do it to the
man who had such close ties to what Susannah was involved in was mortifying.
She showered, pulled on her bathrobe, and made a decision.

            Too nervous to dry her
hair and style it, she ran a comb through it and forgot about it. Then she
paced from the bedroom, through the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen
where she’d turn and reverse her steps. As she paced, she tried to figure out
what to say because she simply couldn’t go out with Walt. Not when he was
expecting her to. . . . Expecting them to, well, do it. She blushed scarlet at
the thought of what she’d led him to expect based on their earlier encounter.

            She called the number
Susannah had left, but it proved to be Walt’s office phone. Obviously, on a
Saturday evening, he wasn’t in the office so she didn’t bother leaving a
message. Oh, dear. She’d wanted to break their date over the phone. She hadn’t
wanted to see him again. How could she face him? What must he think of her?

            What if Susannah
somehow found out? All her years of effort to prove to everyone that she was
respectable were meaningless.

            The glass-domed clock
on the mantle chimed the hour. Panic hit Rory. He’d be here any minute.
Belatedly, she realized that meeting him at the door in her robe wasn’t going
to send the message she intended. With a groan, she tightened the sash on her
robe. She wanted to hide, but she had to face the consequences of her rash
actions.

            Deciding brightly-lit
rooms were less conducive to seduction, she rushed around flipping the switches
in every room until the house was ablaze with light. She even turned on the
porch lights front and back.

            Her senses were so
heightened, she heard a car pull into the driveway and stop. Her heart hammered
in anticipation. Wistfully, she wished that he was calling on her because he
liked her, not because he thought he was going to have sex with her. But what
else could he think? Rory’s heart pounded so hard now she almost didn’t hear
him when he knocked.

            Her hands were clammy.
Dreading what was to come, she opened the front door. Walt was gorgeous in a
beautiful charcoal suit with a pristine white shirt and a red-striped tie. He
looked beautiful. Rory tried to smile but couldn’t quite complete the task. She
felt like crying.

            “You’re not
dressed.” He smiled. “That’s okay, I’ll watch TV while you go make
yourself more beautiful.”

            “No.” In a
wooden voice, Rory said, “I want to apologize for my actions today. I
don’t know what came over me. I really and truly have never done anything like
that before in my entire life.”

            Walt smiled.
“Really and truly?”

            Rory stiffened.
“Don’t make fun of me.”

            He looked instantly
contrite. “I apologize. I wasn’t making fun of you. I was just trying to
lighten the mood. You look so grim. Where’s the Sleeping Beauty from this
morning?”

            His words distressed
her even more. “That’s just it. I’m not like that. I can’t explain why I
behaved that way.” Nervously, she pulled on the sash as if to tighten it
and constrict her wayward thoughts and wishes.

            “That’s too bad.
I’d really like to get to know that woman. It’s not often I find myself in the
presence of a woman so natural and impulsive. Most of the women I meet have
every word, every mannerism rehearsed to fit what they think I’m looking for in
a woman.”

            “Why do they do
that?” Rory couldn’t help but ask.

            “Because they
want me. Rather, they want my bank account. I can’t remember the last time I
met a woman who didn’t have an agenda for me that didn’t include my
money.” He slapped his hand to his forehead. “Wait a minute. Yes, I
can.”

            “When?” Rory
asked.

            “This morning.
When I met you.” His smile was warm and intimate. “I got the
impression you wanted me, not my money. Me.”

            “Oh.” Her
eyes rounded in surprise then her gaze dropped.

            “It’s too bad
you’re not that woman, but if you’re not. You’re not. I understand.”

            Disappointment flooded
Rory. She bit her lower lip and nodded. “Thank you. I’m glad you
understand.”

            “You’d better get
dressed. We have reservations for nine o’clock.”

            “But, I
thought.” She frowned.

            “If I can’t have
Sleeping Beauty, I guess I’ll have to settle for her alter ego.”

            Comprehension dawned.
“You mean, you want to go out with me anyway?”

            Walt smiled.
“Yes.” He gazed sharply at her. “Did you think I was just after
your body?”

            She blushed crimson.
That was exactly what she’d thought.

            “True, it’s a
delectable body, but I like to think I’m smart enough to know there’s more to a
woman than her body.”

            Rory felt a ray of
happiness. Still, she hesitated. “Just to make sure we understand each
other. I’m not going to. . . that is, we’re not going to. . . .”
Her voice trailed off. She took a deep breath. “I hope you didn’t go to
any trouble getting condoms, because you won’t need them.”

            Walter put his hands
on her shoulder, gently pulled her to him, and to her surprise, kissed her on
the forehead. “I’m a quick study. I already figured out that part.”

            Now her heart really
did beat fast. She tipped her head up to look him in the eye. “You don’t
mind?”

            His voice deepened,
and his eyes darkened. “Oh, I mind very much.” He reached into his
coat pocket and pulled out something. He held it out to her.

            Automatically, Rory
reached for it. She nearly dropped the folded packet when she realized it was a
strip of condoms, each little packet separated by a perforation from the others
in the strip.

            “I’ll let you
keep these. When you decide you’re ready, you can let me know.”

            “How many are
here?”

            “Only twenty. I
would have brought more, but I’m not as young as I used to be.” Grinning
wickedly, he smacked her lightly on the rear. “Now go get dressed.”

            Rory flew from the
room. She felt as if her heart was doing cartwheels. She didn’t have to dither
over her wardrobe. She pulled a sleeveless black linen sheath from the closet.
Normally, she wore this to church with its matching jacket to hide the low
scoop neck. She was pretty sure it would look sophisticated enough for dinner.

            Her good black pumps
pinched the foot that had been operated on a bit, but she didn’t care. Her gold
hoop earrings completed her ensemble. She leaned over, brushed her hair
forward, then raised up and flipped it back. A quick part on the right side and
some spritz on the roots to lock in the lift left her with a few minutes for
makeup. She rooted around in the bathroom drawer for her meager supply. Mascara
to darken her auburn lashes. A quick swipe of an eyebrow pencil to give a bit
more definition to her brows. Blush on her cheekbones. Some lipstick. That was
it. She glanced at her reflection, grimaced, and shook her head. Somehow she’d
expected to look different, more glamorous. Even sexy. Like the way Walt made
her feel.

            When she rejoined him
in the living room, he was holding a book he’d pulled from one of the
bookcases. “I’ve heard about this book. Is it any good?”

            Rory nodded. “It
is. I usually read either gardening books or romance, but I’m finding there’s a
lot of good science fiction being published too.”

            He laid the book on
the table and looked her over. “You look beautiful, Rory.”

            She blushed, pleased
at the compliment, even though she knew she looked like plain old Rory Quinn.
“Thank you.”

            Outside, Walt took her
hand and walked her to the passenger side of a Cadillac Esplanade. After he’d
got in and buckled his seat belt, she asked, “What did you mean
inside?”

            “Mean about
what?”

            “When you said
you didn’t mind doing this the right way. Do what the right way?”

            He reached over and
laid the palm of his hand on her cheek. Solemnly, he said, “Why, courting
you of course.”

            “Oh. Is that what
you’re doing?” Rory asked in a breathless whisper.

 

 

   

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