Walt Bofco was worried about Rory. Since they'd left Murphy's Cove, she'd been silent and resisted his attempts at conversation. They'd made the drive from the resort town to Vance in silence.
When they turned onto Rory's street, she finally spoke. "I wanted to offer Susannah my hard-earned wisdom. Instead, I made a mess of things. I've probably scarred my daughter for life."
"Did you tell her everything?"
"Yes. She probably hates me now."
"I'm sure that's not true. Don't be so hard on yourself." Walt reached over and took her hand, brought it to his lips and kissed her fingertips. "Susannah is a great girl. She'll be fine."
"I know she's attracted to Hogan. Probably what she feels for him is deeper than she suspects. I'm afraid if she does realize how much she cares for him that she'll run in the opposite direction." She looked over. "Should I call her and try to apologize again? What do you think I should do?"
"Just do what any parent does. Just love her. Be there for her when she needs you. She'll figure the rest out for herself."
"How wise you are."
"Well, you know where wisdom comes from."
"And where is that?"
"From making stupid-ass mistakes. I've made a ton of them in my life. Witness my completely dysfunctional relationship with my daughter."
"Sounds as if you've got something on your chest to get off too."
"You are as perceptive as you are beautiful." He sighed. "I don't even know where to start, but I guess I'd better start with my daughter." He pulled into her driveway and parked next to her minivan. "I haven't been completely honest about my little under-achiever. Actually, I haven't been honest about a lot of things that you need to know. I think I'd better tell you about it all now because you might not want to see me again when you know what's going on." He hated to do anything to cause a rift between them, but Rory had a right to know everything.
Rory frowned. "If that's the case, I don't know if I want to know. Ignorance just may be bliss."
Walt got out and went around to help Rory out. Silently, he followed her up the walk. At the door, she handed him her house key. He unlocked it and pushed the old fasioned door open. He hesitated in the doorway, waiting for her to kiss him on the cheek and tell him goodbye, the way she had every time they'd been out.
Rory beckoned him in then she closed and locked the door.
"Let me get this off my chest first, Rory."
She smiled. "The only thing I want off your chest is your shirt." She grabbed him by the tie and tugged gently.
He didn't resist. She led him down the short hall and into her bedroom. Lamps on either side of the old-fashioned double bed glowed in the darkness. Walt looked at the bed with the covers turned back to reveal pale pink sheets, and the desire he'd carefully controlled all evening flared to life.
He should tell her about his daughter. About Hogan. But everything he should say vanished when Rory put her arms around him. Her mouth sought his. With a low guttural cry, he matched her kiss for kiss. When their lips separated, they were both gasping for air. "I thought you were going to let me court you?" Walt murmured.
"I'm too old for a long courtship. I want to move straight to the sex," Rory whispered, pulling his shirttail out and beginning to unbutton his shirt. "If that's all right with you?"
"Forget the buttons," he muttered, jerking on the two halves of the shirt. Buttons flew while Rory laughed. To his delight, she reached out and grasped him through his trousers. He groaned. "I think I've died and gone to heaven."
"This isn't heaven. This is Texas." Rory squeezed him again before sliding her hands up to his belt buckle. "I guess you're thinking I'm rather brazen for an old broad."
"I'm thinking I'm the luckiest man in the world right now."
Walt wanted to make love to her, but he swore silently that he'd go slow if it killed him. It had been a long time since Rory had been with a man. That thought humbled him and made his ego swell with pride. He'd have to take it slow and do it right. He didn't want her to have any regrets. He shucked his shoes then his pants and socks. Last, he removed his briefs. His erection sprang forward to be captured by Rory's hands. Walt groaned. "Rory."
She laughed softly. "How very formidable you are."
"Let's get you out of this dress before you drive me crazy." He turned her around and briskly unzipped the dress. It fell to her feet. Surprised that she wore panty hose, he stripped them down. She kicked the pile of clothes away. Walt looked at her standing there in a plain beige bra and panties. "You're beautiful." He held her gaze while he reached around and unfastened her bra.
"No. I'm middle aged." Rory held the cups of the bra in place. "I'm suddenly very nervous."
"I'm middle aged to. And you really are beautiful. For any age. Don't be scared. I'll stop any time you want me to." He kissed her and went on kissing her until she tossed the bra away and clung to him with her beautiful, naked breasts pressed against his chest and his hard-on burning against her stomach.
Rory moaned and broke away. "I have to do this before I lose my nerve," she gasped, whisking the panties down and stepping out of them.
"Rory," Walt murmured reverently. He reached for her and bent her over his arm and did what he'd fantasized about doing since he'd first seen her. He took her nipple into his mouth and sucked hard on it. Rory cried out. Her hand reached up and clasped his head, holding him to her. Then his mouth moved to the other breast. When he took the hardened nub into his mouth, he made her cry out again.
He began to shake all over. He placed her on the bed and prepared to lie next to her, but she opened her legs in invitation.
"I don't have time to be coy," she whispered and pointed to the table by the bed. "Our condoms are in that drawer."
A thrill pierced Walt. "Our condoms," he repeated with a smile, retrieving one. He handed it to her. She tore it open and handed it back. As she watched, with her eyes glazed with need, he sheathed himself. Her eyes darkened.
"Like I said, I don't have time to be coy. I want you inside me. Now."
His eyes locked with hers as he positioned himself between her legs. "I know it's been a long time for you."
Rory pulled him to her for a kiss. While they kissed, he stroked downward and found soft curls. His fingers probed. She was ready. Her hips lifted, beckoning him.
"I don't know if I can control myself. I'll try to go slow."
"I don't want slow."
He plunged into her. Her arms tightened around him. He'd never felt anything so good before. Suddenly, he realized Rory was crying. Horrified, he started to withdraw. "Are you all right? I'm so sorry."
"Don't you dare leave me!" Rory wrapped her legs over his.
"Oh, Rory. I'll never leave you." Walt began to move, and Rory moved with him.
* * *
Susannah thought they'd never get away from the lounge. She didn't miss the speculation in Allison's and Luke's eyes as she and Hogan said goodnight. She was fairly certain the sexual tension buzzing between her and Hogan was apparent to everyone.
In the elevator, her emotions simmered. There was no kissing and fondling like earlier in the evening. For once, they shared the elevator with other people. But Hogan held her hand. And that was a first. Her hand felt warm and secure. Their hands fit together as if made for each other. She wondered whether they'd fit together equally well in bed. Impatience made her heart beat faster.
Finally, they arrived at their suite. Silently, Hogan opened the door. He'd left the lights on.
"I think I'll just turn these off," she said, quickly turning all of them off. Moonlight seemed more suitable for what she knew would happen next. Silently, she walked to the balcony, opened the door, and took a deep breath of fresh air. Her heart hammered. Every nerve ending in her body seemed in a state of anticipation.
The breeze off the Gulf ruffled her curls and caressed her face. Soft footsteps approached. She smelled Hogan's unique scent. Then his hands were on her shoulders. She released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and leaned back, braced against his solid, warm body. Solid and hard. She smiled, part of him was very hard.
"Finally. Alone." Hogan pressed his lower body against her buttocks.
She couldn't help herself. She rotated her hips against him and smiled at the ragged exhalation she drew from him. Her head fell back.
"You're a tease," he whispered, accepting the invitation to kiss the soft skin below her jaw. His lips trailed down. When he bit the sensitive cord at the base of her neck, Susannah was the one who moaned. She turned. Seeing him in the moonlight before her made her shiver with some unidentified emotion. She moistened her lips and watched his eyes follow the movement of her tongue. Then she sought his mouth.
She planned to tease and torment him and make him feel as crazy as she felt. She traced the shape of his mouth with the tip of her tongue, tasting him. Her lips skimmed along his jaw and down his neck where she mimicked what he'd done.
He reached out and lifted her head, bring her mouth back to his. When his tongue thrust inside her mouth, she forgot her strategy. His kiss was the kind that took your breath away. Hard. Deep. Ruthless. He made no pretense of being gentle. He invaded and conquered. And she gloried in it.
His hands plunged into the low neckline of the dress, capturing her breasts. Her head fell back. His mouth burned kisses down her neck. Pleasure stabbed her when he took her nipples, rolling them between thumb and forefinger. His hands abandoned her, but his mouth was on her breast then, kissing, licking, teasing his way to the aching swollen nipple. She nearly fainted when his mouth closed over the hard tight nipple.
"I think I'm going to fall," she gasped, knees shaking as she held onto his shoulders.
"Then I'll fall with you," he said, his voice low and harsh.
Somehow he got her out of her dress. Still in her heels, she stood in front of him, swaying like a trembling leaf in a storm, clad only in a black lace thong and a black strapless bra. For a moment, Hogan just stared at her.
Susannah reached out and touched his chest. His heart galloped like a stallion in a race.
"You're beautiful," he said, bending to graze the mounds of her breast with his kisses.
"And you're overdressed." Susannah tugged at his shirt.
He jerked it over his head and tossed it. When she reached for his belt, he placed both hands over hers. "No. Not yet. I don't think I could control myself if we were skin to skin."
His mouth came down on hers. One hand cupped her breast and tormented the nipple. His other hand glided down her body and slipped beneath the black lace of the thong. His lips pulled away a fraction of an inch. "You're wet," he said. "But not as wet as you're going to be."
A bolt of heat shot through her. His fingers moved against her. Her pulse pounded there. She could hardly stand the intense pleasure. His fingers danced away. He kissed her again, thrusting his tongue into her mouth and withdrawing. Anticipation built.
He removed the scraps of black lace and swept her into his arms and headed for his bedroom.
Naked, clad only in the black high heels, Susannah didn't even feel awkward. She clasped her arms around his neck and kissed him with all the longing and desire pent up inside her.
Hogan dropped her on the bed. Unerringly, her hands reached out and clasped his rock-hard erection through his pants. She felt him pulse beneath her fingers. Her mouth went dry at the thought of having him inside her.
He kissed her and murmured words about her body that no man had ever said to her. Susannah knew she'd never forget this night. He touched and stroked and kissed as if he were staking claim to her body. And she let him.
When she was at a fever pitch and thought she would scream if he didn't give her more, he pulled her thighs over his shoulders, and spread her legs wide. Then his hot, hungry mouth was on her. Her cries filled the darkness as her fingers clawed the gold comforter on the bed. She climaxed violently. After what seemed an eternity, her legs relaxed and slid weakly from his shoulders. She hadn't been aware that Hogan had moved, but he was lying next to her, stroking her forehead, pushing the perspiration-damp curls away from her face.
"Susannah, I've spent the last few weeks slowly going out of my mind with wanting you. I love everything about you. Your smile. Your eyes. Your hair. The way you smell. I even like it when you wear that excuse of a swimsuit."
Susannah didn't speak. She felt a chill descending into her soul.
"That's why I left the suite each day. I had to walk out because I couldn't control myself. If I'd stayed another two minutes, you'd have been in my arms, and I'd have been on my way to this bed. I want you." He kissed the corner of her mouth. "I want you all night. Every night."
He wanted her. He hadn't said he loved her. He wanted. What? A week-long affair? Her euphoria vanished. She was a fool. Why had she expected more when she was the one who claimed not to believe in love? Wasn't she the one who preferred lust over a deeper emotion?
"Why, Hogan? Why me?" She closed her eyes and tried not to think. She didn't want to think. She only wanted to feel the hot desire again, not this painful need for something she claimed not to believe in.
"I don't know. Fate?" He laughed softly. "All I know is I've never wanted a woman more than I want you. Even if you're too infuriating for words." He kissed her softly. "Even when you argue, it turns me on."
"You're infuriating too," she said trying to smile and pretend that everything was all right.
"But you're also intriguing and interesting. And I want you in ways I can't begin to describe."
"Then stop talking and show me. Show me now." Susannah ruthlessly forced her pain aside and blocked out all but the way he made her feel. That's all she wanted right now – to feel.
"Your wish is my command," Hogan said as he stroked her breasts.
Her heart started beating in the now familiar rhythm. His hand slid down to the apex of her thighs. His fingertips lightly brushed the soft, damp curls. She did want him. She needed him in ways she didn't want to acknowledge. His touch felt wonderful. His hands reached hers. He laced his fingers with hers then placed her hands on his chest.
The phone rang. Susannah jumped. It rang again. She placed her hands over her ears and waited for the ringing to stop, but it went on and on until she thought she'd scream. "Maybe we should answer?"
Hogan cursed softly and grabbed the phone. "What?" he barked. "Oh, uh, yes, ma'am," he said, his tone altered to apologetic. "Just a minute please."
He held the phone out to her.
In the dim light, she could see his wry grin.
"It's your mother."
Susannah completed the free fall back to reality. She felt very naked and suddenly realized she still wore the black stilettos. She sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. There was nothing she could cover herself with except her old standby – pride. "I'll get it in my room." She pressed the hold button and all but ran.
Embarrassment burned her fair skin like the hot Texas sun as she awkwardly gathered her clothes and hurried to her room. Inside, she closed the door and turned the lock. She leaned against the door for a moment to gather her thoughts. Then she dropped her clothes and went to the bathroom for one of the oversized white towels.
Wrapped in the it, she sat on the edge of the bed, lifted the receiver, and released the hold button. "Hi, Mom, I didn't expect to hear from you so soon. You must have gone straight home."
"Yes. We did. I was so upset that I forgot to tell you Paula called this afternoon. She said it was important that you call her right away. Your cell phone goes straight to voice mail, and for some reason, she didn't want to call you at the hotel in case Hogan answered."
"I forgot to add minutes to my phone so it's turned off. Thanks. I'll do it right now."
"Are you. . . all right, sweetheart?"
Susannah assured her she was fine.
"I love you, dear. If you need me, I'm just a phone call away."
"I'm fine."Susannah replaced the receiver. Fine? That was debatable. She'd had the most mind-blowing sexual experience, and she wanted to feel Hogan inside her. Just the thought made her toes curl. She wanted him with a desire that left her frightened. That was far from fine.
She should be grateful she'd been interrupted before she'd shared that final intimacy with him. She'd been about to add folly on top of folly. She should be grateful. But she wasn't. Instead, she felt like crying.
Susannah clenched her fists and willed the heat inside her, a heat that had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with the man in the next room, to just go away.
With a sigh, she picked up the phone again and called Paula.
"Susannah. Thank God you finally called. I've been trying your cell, but I kept getting voice mail."
"Sorry, I'm nearly out of minutes so I turned it off. Did you find out anything yet?"
"Did I ever. You won't believe what I found out about your Mr. Hogan."
Her heart hitched. "I'm not going to like this am I?" Susannah kicked her shoes off and sat cross-legged on the bed.
"Well, that depends. I know you've dreamed about being an FBI agent so how do you feel about being undercover with one?"
"What? Hogan's FBI?" Susannah bounced off the bed. Surely she hadn't heard Paula correctly.
"That's right. Your D. E. Hogan is a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He lives in Virginia and is currently on vacation. Not due back for another two weeks."
"You've got to be kidding." Susannah's world wobbled on its axis. "Paula, that's crazy. Why would he pose as some kind of police consultant? Why not just say he's with the FBI?"
"It probably has something to do with his stepmother."
"What could his step mother possibly have to do with this?"
"Wait for it. This is seriously weird. The esteemed mayor is exactly what he seems to be, retired Army colonel, independently wealthy, so on and so on. Hogan and Bofco are old acquaintances, as in relatives. You see, Bofco's sister Yvonne was married to Hogan's father."
"You mean Yvonne, the one whose jewelry was ripped off, is really Hogan's stepmother?"
"Right. Everything you were told about her is true. I checked even though you didn't ask me to. Anyway, Hogan and Yvonne seem to have a close mother and son relationship. I found several pieces of property they own together as well as stock and other things. Weird huh?"
"Not so strange when you know all the facts." Susannah's temper began to simmer. "I think I've been set up. Hogan isn't here to get the goods on Thomas McConnell. I bet you anything he's here to steal the jewelry back for his stepmother."
"Wow. You think?"
"Yes. It all makes sense. Bofco didn't want a scandal. He wants the jewelry. Yvonne wanted the jewelry too so she got Hogan to retrieve it for her. No arrest. No scandal. So the Mayor figured Hogan had the talent to do it. I even know why they wanted me along."
"And that is?"
"Because I look like McConnell's dead daughter. They used me as bait. I guess what they wanted was for me to get him out of his rooms so Hogan could break in and find the jewelry."
Paula giggled. "Tell me, is it illegal to steal something that's already stolen?"
"Get serious, Paula." Susannah ran her fingers through her hair, tugging at the curls as if that would ease the pressure building inside her head. "And guess who's in this same hotel?"
"Yvonne the stepmom. I guess she wants to personally pick up her jewelry once Hogan gets it."
"So they used you?"
"Yeah. I wonder if Hogan's already been in Thomas's place looking for it?"
"That's definitely against the law even if stealing stolen goods isn't."
"You know what really bothers me about this whole situation? I don't know if Thomas really stole Yvonne's jewelry."
"You think they're after the wrong man?" Paula whistled. "Wouldn't that be a kicker?"
"That's what I've got to find out. In the meantime, see what you can find on Thomas McConnell."
"Will do. Watch your step with Hogan," Paula warned. "He might be charming enough to fool my mom, but don't let him get to you. He's definitely not shooting straight. Maybe his real motive in luring you down to the Cove was so he could have his wicked way with you."
When Susannah didn't laugh, Paula asked, "Hey, are you all right? I didn't mean anything by that. I was just joking."
"I'm wondering now if his seeming objections to having me as a partner were just a sham. Maybe some kind of reverse psychology to make me fight to come along."
"You think?" Paula asked.
"I don't know." Susannah brushed her hair back. "I do know that damned Luke Orland is in on this." She groaned. "By now, I don't know what to believe. Hogan could have decided to take advantage of the situation. You know, seduce the hick deputy? Or maybe he wanted to seduce me to keep me from learning the truth about who he is and what he really plans on doing. As you said, breaking and entering itself is against the law. Take your pick. Neither of the choices is very flattering."
"Something happened. Tell me. Tell me. You might as well because I'll worm it out of you."
With a sigh, Susannah filled her in on the big picture without giving any details.
"Wow. You finally fall for a guy, and he's scamming you."
"I didn't fall for him," Susannah protested.
"Hey, this is me, your best friend Paula. Remember? I know you too well so save the disclaimer for someone else." Paula's voice softened. "Seriously, I'm sorry he turned out to be such a jerk. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. He's in the other bedroom right now." Her voice hardened. "Waiting for me to fall back into his arms. At the moment, all I feel like doing is tossing his lies back in his face, but that probably isn't the wise thing to do."
Paula chuckled. "Are you sure that's all you want to do?"
Susannah frowned unhappily. "Unfortunately, it's not. But I won't get involved with him any more than I already am."
"Shoot. Why not? Especially since you know the score. Forewarned is forearmed. Love him and leave him. Men do it all the time."
"You can't be serious."
"Why not? Give me one good reason why a woman shouldn't take her pleasure with a good-looking man and then dump him. Strike a blow for all the women who've had that happen to them." Paula laughed but there was no amusement in the sound.
"Sounds like I'm not the only one with a man problem," Susannah said gently. "What happened?"
"We're talking about your problem, not mine. Let's just say, I wish I'd used the good professor instead of the other way around, but I've learned my lesson. Go get him, girl. Give him what he deserves."
"Don't tempt me. I just may do that."
"Like I said, men do it. Why shouldn't we?"
On that provocative question, Susannah said, "I'll think about it. Call you tomorrow."
She replaced the phone just as Hogan tapped on her door. A storm of mixed emotions flooded her. She stared at the door.
Just listening to his voice made her nipples harden. What was worse was his low, tender voice made her ache to feel his arms around her. She squeezed her thighs together and tried to ignore the pulse pounding low in her belly.
Where the heck had her hormones been when she'd been in high school or college? Had they been hibernating during her previous relationships, just waiting to booby trap her life? She'd never felt this way before, and she didn't particularly like it. Why did her darned body pick now to make its needs known? And why with Hogan?
"Are you hiding from me?"
"No." Maybe Paula was right. Why shouldn't she give in to her desire for him? She moved toward the door and laid her palms flat against it as if she could feel his heat through the wooden panel. Play with him for a while like Paula said. She suspected that's what Hogan was doing. Just toying with her.
What if she used him for her pleasure instead of the other way around? Men did it all the time. Why shouldn't she? She ached to be with him. To join her body to his.
"Are you all right?" When she didn't answer, he tapped softly again.
Susannah jumped back. She forced herself to reply. "Yes. I'm fine." Her heart pounded so hard she thought it would leap from her chest. She covered her eyes with her hands. Think. Think. What should she do?
She couldn't take Paula's bold suggestion. That way lay insanity not reason. "I find that I have a really bad headache." She cringed at voicing the oldest excuse in the world.
She heard the humor in his voice and in her mind's eye, she saw his face and the sexy, crooked grin that usually accompanied his teasing voice.
"I think I could cure what ails you if you'll open the door," he suggested. "In fact, I know I can."
She resented the effort of will it took to resist the temptation he offered. "It's not becoming for a grown man to beg," she said, testily. Silently, she added, Take that, you lousy FBI agent.
"Some things are worth begging for." After a moment, he said, "If you change your mind, I'll be in the other bedroom. It's just down the hall from here. Remember? I'll leave a trail for you to follow so you won't get lost."
"Don't bother. I won't be changing my mind. Not ever."
"Not ever? Never's an awful long time. My dad always taught me to never say never."
"My dad taught me something important too."
"Yeah, I'm aware of that. But you're not a hurt little girl any more, Susannah" When she didn't say anything, he finally said, "Goodnight."
"Goodnight," Susannah replied, relieved that he'd given up.
The tension drained out of her body, leaving her limp and exhausted. Feeling older than her years, she returned to the bathroom and scrubbed the makeup from her face and slipped into a sensible night shirt. She left the pile of clothing where she'd dropped it, too tired to be neat. Then she turned the covers back and crawled into bed. Alone. Incredibly alone.
Unfortunately, Susannah found she was too tired, maybe too emotionally upset, to sleep. Her thoughts circled, always coming back to one subject. Hogan. Exhausted, she forced herself to think about the theft of Yvonne's jewelry. Had Thomas really taken it? If so, where was it?
The more Susannah stewed the worse she felt. She'd been so naive from the beginning. Surely Uncle Barney hadn't known all the details or he wouldn't have let them make a fool of her. Just wait until she told him how his good friend Walter had played them for suckers.
And D. E.– trust me – Hogan? What had he planned? A little bonus roll in the hay with the local deputy to top off his larcenous vacation? How funny he must have found her ambition. She punched her pillow into submission. She knew what had to be done.
Exhausted and with a decision made, she fell asleep. Even in her dreams, she couldn't escape him. She found herself taking Paula's advice, seducing Hogan, again and again. Each time before they joined their bodies together, she awoke, heart pounding and body trembling in frustrated desire. Despite everything, she still wanted him. Finally, in the early hours of morning, Susannah asked herself the dreaded question.
Was she in love with Hogan?
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