When Hogan's lips met hers, Susannah wrapped her arms around Hogan's neck and pressed her body to the hard planes of his. She closed her eyes, wanting to blot out everything but the sensation of his mouth on hers. The feel of his body next to hers. She kissed him back and welcomed his tongue as it plundered her mouth. The kiss made her weak, yet in the same moment she felt as if she were stronger and more alive than she'd ever been.
Dimly, she was aware that his hands moved away from her arms. She opened her eyes and saw him groping behind him. He did something to the control panel, and the elevator car slowed and stopped. In the next moment, he was kissing her again. Meeting her hunger with his own. His tongue mating with hers.
She felt desperate to touch him, to feel his skin. She pulled at his shirt, seeking the man beneath. Her hands slid over his chest, skimming the crinkly hair there, idling over the flat male nipples, pulling a deep groan from him. His mouth moved from hers. A soft moan was her only protest. She leaned forward as she pushed his shirt up. Her wet lips encircled the nipple her fingers had toyed with. When she kissed him there, swirling her tongue over the hardened nub of flesh, he gasped. She felt infused with a power she hadn't known she possessed.
Frantically, his hands began pulling at her skirt as he kissed his way to her ear. He gently nipped the lobe then soothed it with his tongue. His hands twisted in her skirt. "I want to touch you. I have to touch you." His voice was low, guttural with need.
"Yes," she breathed, wanting that too. And more.
Suddenly, a loud bell rang, shattering the spell.
"Aw, hell." Hogan groaned. His hands dropped. He leaned his forehead against hers. His breathing was ragged. "I'm sorry. I know better."
"What?" Confused, Susannah tried to control her breathing. Was it over?
"Security video cam in the elevator."
Horrified, Susannah jumped back from him just as a polite voice spoke over the canned music.
"Do you need assistance, sir?"
Hogan reached over and pushed a button. "No. We're fine. I must have accidentally hit the emergency stop. I've corrected the situation now. Thanks."
"You're welcome, sir. Enjoy your evening."
Susannah was certain she'd never blushed quite so red in her entire life. And that was saying a lot considering she was a redhead.
Before, she hadn't understood why Paula and other women made such idiots of themselves over men. Why sex was so important to them. Now she understood. Her legs felt weak. Her pulse still pounded low in her belly, still throbbing, making her so wet she was certain the tiny black panties she wore must be soaked. That's how Hogan had made her feel that night in Houston. He'd stirred her as no man ever had.
Then, she'd been reeling from the devastation of her father's rejection. More than that, she'd been heartbroken, horrified by what she'd learned. All she'd wanted when she met Hogan was to stop thinking, to silence the words that kept echoing inside her head. She'd sought comfort in the arms of a stranger, but she'd found more than mere comfort. He'd aroused a passion in her that had frightened her. Confused and knowing she was too vulnerable, she'd fled.
That was then. This was now. She was still frightened by the intensity of her emotions, but she wasn't confused any more. She knew exactly what she wanted. Him.
Silently the doors of the elevator opened. Hogan reached over, and, to her surprise, pressed the button for the lobby. She was about to ask him what was going in when he touched her hair, apparently taming it into some semblance of respectability. Just that simple touch raised the goose flesh on her arms and made her weak. His expression was unreadable. Twin spots of color marked his cheeks though. She swayed toward him as he smoothed her dress down.
He steadied her. Then, to her mounting confusion, stepped away. A moment later, the doors of the elevator slid open.
"There you are," a familiar male voice exclaimed.
Bewildered, Susannah saw Luke Orland grinning at them. Why was he here? Slowly, her mind cleared. What was going on?
Luke cocked his head to the side. "You all right, Susannah? You look kind of funny." His brown eyes were inquisitive as he looked from her to Hogan.
She cleared her throat and stepped out into the lobby, hoping her legs wouldn't fail her. "Yes, I'm fine. You're out of uniform," she said, stating the obvious since she couldn't think of anything else to say.
"I'm off duty, but I had to deliver something to Hogan." He patted his blazer pocket. "Got it right here, boss, when you need it."
Luke smiled at Susannah and offered his arm. "How about a drink and some talk? Haven't seen you in a while."
Hogan deftly took Susannah's arm. "A drink sounds good. Don't wait for us."
Luke grinned and nodded. "I see. No problem. Take your time." Luke winked at Susannah and sauntered off.
Relieved, Susannah watched Luke disappear into the Tiki Lounge. She and Hogan were alone. Maybe if she got him up to the room, she could persuade him to continue what he'd started in the elevator. She shuddered in reaction, looked up, and saw Hogan looking at her. She suspected he knew the seductive thoughts bouncing around inside her head.
Hogan took her hand and pulled her to him. Her pulse leaped. She started to tell him she was all for putting an end to the desire tormenting them, when, to her surprise, he reached into his hip pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.
Gently, he wiped her mouth. "You're lipstick," he explained in a gruff voice.
She saw her bright red lipstick on the white cloth. "Oh, no." Mortified, she covered her face with both hands, peeking through her fingers at him. He was right. Her lipstick was smeared. All over his mouth. She took his handkerchief from him and wiped his mouth.
"Sorry," he said softly, tucking away the handkerchief when she handed it back to him. "I didn't mean to embarrass you. I didn't mean for any of that to happen." In a stern voice, he vowed, "I promise you it won't happen again."
"It won't?" The resolve in his voice dismayed her. She didn't like the steely determination in his blue eyes. She wanted it to happen again. She didn't care if Luke knew they'd been sucking face in the elevator like a couple of teenagers. She wanted more of it. And not just kisses. She wanted everything, the whole enchilada. Was she that big a fool?
Stricken, she looked into his eyes. Did he regret kissing her? Had he just gotten carried away with the pretense of their being lovers? Being married? That thought stung her pride.
While she was trying to sort out her feelings, Hogan started walking her toward the main entrance. She realized he was giving her the old bum's rush. She dug in her heels, and he jerked to a halt. "What are you doing?"
"I'm taking you back to Vance. I'll pack your things tomorrow and bring them up to you, but you're going tonight. It's the only way now that I can guarantee your safety. And I promised your uncle you'd be safe." He stopped and faced her. "Be reasonable. McConnell might look like a meek old man, but he's a convicted felon. I can't take the chance that you might get hurt." He started walking again, nearly dragging her along.
Susannah stopped again. So abruptly, he lost his grip on her arm. "You can't take the chance? What am I? A child? Some silent partner without a brain? You can't do this."
"I can, and I am. You were here to provide distraction." He flushed and shoved his hands in his pockets, looking down at the floor. "Distraction for McConnell." He looked up briefly. "You knew the ground rules. You've proved you can't follow orders."
"That's not fair. If I hadn't done what I did today, we'd still be nowhere."
"That remains to be seen."
"Hogan," Susannah wailed. "You can't do this to me. I won't go back to being Uncle Barney's file clerk. If you send me packing, he'll never take me seriously." She knew that was a bit of exaggeration, but she didn't care. She was not leaving. With that thought in mind, she turned and walked rapidly away, heading toward the cocktail lounge.
"Come back here," Hogan snapped.
Susannah flinched at the anger in his voice, but she didn't stop. Over her shoulder, she said, "No. Quit shouting unless your intent is to attract attention."
"I'm not shouting. Yet."
"I won't leave, and you can't make me. I'm joining Luke for a drink. You can certainly use something cold to drink. Maybe it'll cool your temper."
This is what she got for yielding to her emotions. She needed to practice what her best friend Paula preached, "Sex doesn't mean you have to be emotionally involved."
Hogan had set her up. All that bull about her attracting McConnell. Obviously, they thought the only talent she had to bring to the party was her resemblance to a girl long dead. Then he'd set her up again in the elevator. Kissed her, romanced her. He'd practically seduced her in an attempt to soften her up so he could get rid of her.
"I'll cool off the minute I get you out of here," he said catching up with her.
In a scathing voice, she said, "The only way you'll get me out of here is to pick me up and carry me out. You won't do that because everyone here, including you know who, will know about it by tomorrow."
"The hell I won't." But he made no move to do so. Instead, he matched her step for step as she hurried into the dimly-lit lounge Luke had entered.
The bamboo-lined room, lit only by clamshell wall sconces and votive candles on the tables, was so dark it took Susannah a couple of minutes to spot Luke. A three piece combo on a small stage played a Jimmy Buffet song. She rushed toward her friend without looking at Hogan.
To her surprise, Hogan quietly followed and pulled out a chair for her at Luke's table. She murmured her thanks and sat. Hogan took the chair on her right where he faced the entrance. She risked a look at him. He seemed resigned, but no longer hostile. Maybe she'd convinced him to change his mind.
Luke lifted his glass of beer. Amusement flickered in his eyes. "You look like you could use a drink. Want one?"
Hogan nodded. "Sure, why not. I've been told I need to cool off."
Luke snickered. "How about you, Susannah?"
"Just a Coke," she said, looking at her old friend. She and Luke had played in the same sandbox together. He knew about this caper, but she had a feeling he knew more about it than she did. Some friend, she thought sourly.
Luke waved a cocktail waitress over. The dark-haired girl wore a pink-flowered sarong and had a pink hibiscus blossom tucked behind her right ear. She took their drink orders and left. Luke leaned close to Hogan and began talking in a low voice.
With Hogan's attention off her, Susannah tried to pretend she was listening to the music rather than eavesdropping on the men's conversation. When she heard Luke ask if Yvonne would be pressing charges if they arrested McConnell, her interest sharpened.
Apparently, the Mayor's sister, the famous Yvonne of the incredibly bad taste in men, was in residence at the hotel. Hogan didn't seem surprised so he must have already known. Susannah had a flash of insight. That's where he'd gone when he'd disappeared. Why hadn't he told her he'd visited the Mayor's sister? Why keep it a secret?
Disgruntled that he hadn't told her, she found herself analyzing his sudden passion in the elevator. He'd done a good job of distracting her. If the elevator ride had been any longer, she might have been willing to follow him anywhere if he so much as crooked his finger at her. Hogan was good. She had to give him that.
But why was he trying so hard to get rid of her? She'd thought he didn't want her here because she wasn't experienced. The last couple of days had showed her it didn't take experience to act like the idle rich. Resentfully, Susannah studied him. Had he thought kissing her would seduce her into meekly following his orders to leave? She blinked to dispel the sudden moisture in her eyes. She'd thought such sweet passion had to mean something. She squeezed her eyes shut.
Hogan was just a man, and men used women's passion to get what they wanted. And he wanted her gone. The reason didn't matter. Her stubborn nature came to her rescue. She wasn't going anywhere. She'd stick this out to the bitter end. And he wasn't going to order her away, scare her away, or seduce her away.
The sarong-wrapped girl brought their drinks. The icy cold liquid helped cool her emotions. By the time Hogan and Luke finished their conversation, she was in control of herself again. She chatted with Luke about his family and her own for a couple of minutes, but Luke's eyes kept straying to a point behind her. Without looking around, she knew his attention had latched onto a woman.
"Go on," she said. "You don't have to stay here for my benefit."
Luke grinned and picked up his drink. He saluted them. "Behave yourselves, children." He stood. "Back in a few." He sipped his drink. "Or not."
Susannah waited until Luke was out of earshot. Maybe it was time for some manipulation of her own. She touched Hogan's arm. "Hey."
He looked at her as he lifted his beer. "Hey, yourself."
She decided not to mention the scene in the elevator. "Hogan, I'll follow your lead from now on. I promise."
He sipped his beer, set it down, and asked, "Why did you volunteer for this? What do you hope to get out of this week?"
She shrugged. "Experience? A little excitement. Maybe a career boost?"
"Career boost." He nodded. "Is that what's important to you? Your career?"
"What else is there?" she asked, sounding more serious than she intended.
"A husband?" He set his drink down. "Children? That's what most women want. Even the ones I've met in law enforcement. Most men want that too even though a lot of them don't realize it or won't admit it if they do."
Susannah toyed with her glass. Why was he asking? What did he want to hear? Cautiously, she asked, "Do you mean am I looking for happy ever after?"
"Yeah. Sure. Don't you want that?" His gaze was intense.
"Do you think there's such a thing?" she parried.
He shrugged. "Yeah. I guess I do. My parents felt that way. They had that. Even when my mom died and my dad remarried, he found that with my stepmom too."
Susannah couldn't meet his eyes. "Sorry. I don't think there is such a thing. Maybe some people think they're in love and living the fairy tale, but all fairy tales come to an end. They're just fooling themselves." Her eyes flicked to his. "They lie to themselves, but they can't fool the children they bring into the world. My mom used to say my dad loved me. He doesn't. At least he was honest enough to tell me that."
"Not every parent is like your father." Hogan reached out and covered her hand with his. "Don't judge every man by that yardstick."
"Men lie to get what they want. My father lied to get what he wanted, and my mom got pregnant at sixteen. He lied when he said till death do us part. That death part? Well, when he left, my mom nearly died. People lie." She met his gaze unflinchingly.
Hogan's eyes shifted away from her bleak stare. "Sometimes things aren't what they seem. Yes, people lie. But sometimes, maybe, there's a reason. A good reason."
"You must have listened to Grace's mitigating circumstances lecture." She laughed but there was little humor in the sound. "I disagree. There's never any excuse for lying. Especially from someone who's supposed to love you." Susannah thought about what her father had told her. What was she supposed to do with that knowledge?
"Hey, y'all look so serious," Luke interrupted, pulling his chair out. "The lady over there is engaged so I guess I'll interrupt your conversation and rejoin you if I may?" Luke dropped into his chair. "All these intense whispers. What's going on?"
"Nothing," Hogan answered, his eyes on Susannah.
Her chest actually hurt as if a block of ice sat on it, freezing her emotions to keep them from melting and running down her face in tears. Love hurt. Despite her best efforts, she had loved her dad and wanted his love in turn. She was tired of the pain.
"Come on, Susannah. Talk to your old buddy," Luke said.
She forced a smile and joked, "Hogan's miffed because I made more progress with this McConnell thing than he has."
Luke's brows lifted. "That so?"
"No, it's not so. And I'm not miffed. I'm just trying to get Susannah to understand the importance of following orders."
"He's got you there, Susannah. You've never been good at following orders." Luke grinned. "Giving them, yes. Following them? No, ma'am."
"Thanks a lot, Luke. You're a big help."
"Well, I will say in Susannah's defense that she has great intuition. Also, she's good with people. She'd make one hell of an interrogator. I've seen total strangers tell her their entire life story with no provocation at all. I think it's those wide green eyes."
Luke sipped his beer. "Just don't get in the way of her ambition. I remember when she was in sixth grade she told everyone that she was going to go to the FBI academy. No one laughed. The girl has will power in spades."
"Yeah, I've found that out."
Susannah imagined Hogan didn't think she had a snowball's chance in hell of going places. But she'd show him. And her dad. And the whole damn county.
Poor little Susannah.
The desire to run away from that label, from Hogan's questioning gaze was nearly overwhelming. Quietly, but forcefully, Susannah said, "I'm going to do it. My uncle isn't going to keep me cushioned in cotton balls forever. I'll get what I want."
Luke picked up his frosted mug and said, "Well, let's drink a toast to getting what we want rather than what we deserve."
Hogan looked grim at the silly salute, Susannah thought. Of course, Luke was just being Luke. Still, he should show some discretion. "Luke, how many did you have before we arrived?"
"Hey, this is it. But it doesn't matter how many. I can hold my liquor just as good as I can keep secrets. Right, Hogan?" Luke grinned. "Here's to keeping secrets."
Secrets? That was hitting a little too close to home. Maybe it was time to plead tiredness and retire for the night. "Luke, it's been real. It's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun."
He slapped the table top and laughed. Then he sat up straighter. Next thing she knew, his attention was riveted to whoever had just arrived. Another woman, she guessed, amused. Some people never changed.
"Be back in a few," he said and bolted.
"Susannah." Hogan leaned toward her. "Sometimes something can happen that might make you doubt someone. I want you to promise that you'll remember what I'm about to say. I'm on your side. Always. You can trust me. With anything. Even if circumstances seem to suggest otherwise."
Trust him? The thought was alien. Admittedly, she wanted to be with him. Did she have to trust him in order to have a relationship with him? In the end, could she have a relationship without giving him some kind of power over her? Too many questions and no answers. Susannah looked away and saw Luke had seated himself at a table with Allison Platt. How perfect.
The woman was just Luke's type. She was probably any man's type. No wonder she'd attracted Luke's attention. She was hard to miss in a tight, shiny silver dress that made Susannah's short black silk dress seem prim by contrast. Susannah realized Allison Platt was staring at her in return. Or was it Hogan the woman watched so avidly?
Susannah didn't like the blonde. Not one little bit. It took all her will power not to question Hogan about his connection to Allison. Disquieted by the woman's presence, she forced her thoughts back to the problem at hand. At least that was something she could see to a logical conclusion without messy emotional entanglements. That was the appeal of law enforcement. Things were either right or wrong. If they were wrong, you fixed them. That was so much easier than real life.
"Hogan, let me follow up with McConnell. Please? We'll finish the job then you can get on with your life, and I can get on with mine." Her words made her feel empty and hollow, but that was the way it had to be. That was best.
"Is that what you want?" Hogan asked with quiet intensity. "Just to go our separate ways? Never see each other again?"
"Sure. I've got things to do and places to go." She tried her best to sound assured yet she watched him carefully. The tension seemed to drain from his body at her response. She figured he was relieved by her assurances.
Hogan took a long pull on his drink. Long minutes passed, then he asked, "You really like McConnell, don't you?"
"Yes, I do, but you say the word, and I'll arrest him quicker than you can spell habeas corpus." She forced a grin.
Hogan's lips twitched. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. Another long sigh, and he said, "I give up, Quinn. I'm going to level with you. I need to tell you everything then we can go upstairs."
"Well, hello. If it isn't the lovebirds, Mr. and Mrs. Hogan."
Susannah felt like throwing her hands up in despair. Talk about bad timing. She bit back a growl as Hogan stood. Allison Platt, with her arm linked with Luke's, had zeroed in on them like a heat-seeking missile.
"Hogan," Allison scolded. "You were supposed to call me." Allison stood on tiptoe and planted a noisy kiss on Hogan's cheek.
Susannah cast a surprised glance at her pretend husband. She'd thought he'd sneaked away to meet with Yvonne. But maybe he'd really gone to see the blonde. Maybe he saw them both without mentioning a word to her. The sense of betrayal cut deep.
Yeah, she could trust him. Her anger flared and focused on the lip print on Hogan's cheek. She could not sit here another moment and gaze at that mark of possession. Too bad she didn't have any sand paper. That would remove the red mark quite nicely.
"I'll leave you two to reminisce. I was just leaving." Susannah rose, her gaze fixed on the doorway. Damn. Thomas McConnell was walking into the dark lounge.
"Aw, come on, Susannah, don't be a party pooper," Luke said, pulling out a chair for Allison then dropping into the one he'd occupied before deserting them to race across to the blonde.
Susannah dropped back into her chair and held her hand over her forehead as if to shield her eyes. She hoped Thomas wouldn't see her and come over to their table. She watched as he seated himself at the bar. Under the table Susannah kicked Luke's shin.
"Ow." He caught her pointed gaze and looked toward the bar. "Oh. Sorry. Just an old football injury. Gives me a twinge every now and then."
Quicker on the uptake, Hogan casually turned as if looking for someone.
Susannah felt trapped. "Okay, I'll stay a little longer."
"Wonderful. I'm so glad you'll stay. We need to get to know each other," Allison said, tossing her mane of straight blond hair over her shoulder.
Susannah saw the bartender pour Thomas a brandy. Oh, great. It would take forever for him to sip that stuff. She was trapped. She just hoped he didn't see her and Hogan. It was bad enough with Allison Platt here. She didn't want another actor to enter their comedy of errors pretense.
"Come on, Hogan. I insist you and your, uh, lovely wife, let me toast your marriage," Allison said, eyes twinkling. "Your very sudden marriage at that. Champagne is definitely called for."
Luke made choking sounds and covered his mouth with his hand. Susannah fixed him with a malevolent stare. He just grinned back at her. Knowing Luke and the way his brain worked, he probably thought they were using the McConnell thing as an excuse to have a fling in the luxury hotel. Her lipstick smeared all over Hogan's face probably had just confirmed the fact for him. Luke had always had sex on the brain.
She stiffened her spine. She didn't care what he thought, but she did care that Hogan obviously had told Allison the truth. That meant the blonde bimbo knew they weren't married. What a ridiculous situation. It was like some stupid Regency comedy of errors novel plot.
"It's a miracle you landed this guy, Suzanne," Allison gushed.
"My name is Susannah, not Suzanne."
Allison giggled. "Like the song? Maybe if you had a banjo on your knee, I'd remember."
"Sorry. I left my banjo at home. There wasn't room for it in the Porsche."
Hogan coughed. When she looked at him, amusement gleamed in his eyes. Her eyes narrowed in warning. If he laughed, she would not be responsible for what she did.
"Hogan, if I'd known you were here, I'd have skedaddled down to Texas sooner." Allison took a long look at Luke and said, "Do tell me all about your friend here, and I don't mean Suzanne."
With an apologetic grin in Susannah's direction, Hogan said, "My wife really hates for people to misuse her name." A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Isn't that right, my love?"
Allison didn't give her a chance to reply. "I know just how she feels. People are always calling me Alice or Ally, and I just hate it." She pouted prettily. "My name is Allison. Is that too hard to remember, Suzanne?" Allison giggled and patted her hand. "Sorry, I couldn't resist one last misnomer. When you get to know me, you'll discover I'm one big prankster. I love a good joke."
Allison ordered champagne while Luke turned on the charm which he never bothered to use on platonic friends like Susannah. After that everything went downhill like a wet snowball rolling to hell.
She resented how the woman continuously touched Hogan. A squeeze of his hand, a pat on the cheek, a touch on his shoulder. True, she treated Luke the same, but that didn't upset her. The woman was so touchy-feely she put Susannah's teeth on edge.
Susannah clenched the glass of champagne Allison had forced on her and watched the continuous stream of bubbles rise through the hollow stem to break on the surface. That was better than watching the blonde flaunt her assets while she complained about the remnants of a sunburn she'd received in Martinique.
As much as Allison talked, it was surprising her tongue didn't suffer from fatigue.
"You don't look a bit burned," Luke said gallantly.
"Oh, baby, if you saw me without my clothes." Allison's dramatic sigh was accompanied by a flirtatious giggle.
"I'd love to," Luke said.
Allison just laughed and launched into another story about sailing off some other exotic island.
Susannah wondered if she doused the blonde with the chilled bubbly if that would help her alleged itchy sunburn. Fortunately, Thomas McConnell chose to notice them. He caught her looking and saluted her with his glass. He smiled.
"He looks so sad."
Hogan whispered in her ear. "Don't even think about asking him to join us. Just let him finish his drink and leave."
"All right. I wasn't going to say anything to him," she lied.
Moments later, she glanced up and saw Walter Bofco walk into the lounge with a woman clinging to his arm and smiling at him with an expression of adoration.
Susannah gasped. "Oh. My. God. Is that my mother?"
Copyright © 2009-2016 Romantic4Ever.com and Joan Reeves.
All rights reserved.
Also read the