Hogan was anxious to get the whole convoluted mess over and done with. When he and Luke Orland reached McConnell's suite, Hogan rapped on the door and waited, but no one answered. Loudly, he called, "Open up, McConnell. I know you're in there. This is Hogan. Look, I'm Yvonne's stepson. I just want to talk."
When the man still didn't reply, Hogan rapped again. Exasperated, he shouted, "McConnell?"
"Maybe he's hiding?" Luke suggested.
After a minute, Hogan heard a sound. Then the door slowly opened.
"Susannah." Hogan gaped at her. His eyebrows snapped together in a scowl. "What the hell are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to stay away from here?"
"Yes, you did," she acknowledged, backing away from him.
Hogan looked around. "Then what are you doing here?"
She shrugged. He pushed past her then did a quick walk-through of all the rooms. "Where is he?"
Hogan snorted. "That sounds more like a question than a declarative sentence." He halted. "What's going on?"
Susannah couldn't lie to him. "I told him you were coming to arrest him. He's gone."
She started to smart off and say that sounded more like an exclamation than a question, but she didn't think he'd appreciate her attempt at humor. She'd promised Thomas and Yvonne that she would stall Hogan as long as possible. Diplomacy might be smarter than antagonism.
"Aw, Susannah, why'd you go and do that?" Luke asked, disgusted. "This would have been a felony arrest for me. Do you want me to put out an alert for him?"
Hogan's eyes flashed fire at Susannah. She was surprised there wasn't smoke coming out of his ears.
"Guess not. Uh, I'll see y'all later." Luke beat a hasty retreat.
When she was alone with Hogan, he said, "I don't believe this. What kind of cop are you?" He shoved his hands through his dark hair.
"A good cop. One who reads people." Susannah picked up her sun hat from Thomas's coffee table. "I think I'll go pack now."
"You just hold on. You're not going anywhere until you tell me every detail."
She ignored him. At the door, she stopped and turned. "He didn't steal from Yvonne. Not the way you think."
"I didn't know there were different ways to interpret theft."
Susannah hurried out, knowing he would be forced to follow.
"Come back here and explain," Hogan demanded, going to the door.
She kept walking down the hall. "I can explain just as easily in our suite." Her heart hammered painfully. It was really over now. She just hoped she could keep her dignity while she said goodbye.
Hogan caught up with her. "Okay. But this better be good."
They were silent as they returned to their suite. As soon as they were behind closed doors, Hogan crossed his arms and planted himself in front of Susannah. "Now give. Let's hear why you thought you should let our suspect get away."
Susannah thought about tossing those words, our suspect, back in his face. Mustering a little outrage of her own, she coolly said, "Why don't you fix me something cold to drink while I shower. I'm hot and sweaty and tired. Then you can tell me everything that you've done today, and I'll return the favor."
"You're stalling." He didn't move.
"Actually, I'm not. I really want a shower and a cold drink."
After a moment, he agreed. "Okay, but hurry."
She turned to go then stopped. "Hogan, what's D. E. stand for?"
"Why do you want to know that now?"
She shrugged, feeling a bit silly. "I just do."
The intensity of his gaze shook her. "I'd planned to tell you last night, but you ran away. Again."
She flushed. "Never mind. Forget I asked." She hurried to her room, closing and locking the door behind her. She took her time in the shower then took more time carefully applying moisturizer all over her body before slipping into white panties.
She pulled on an ankle-length white cotton dress and tied the ribbon straps at the shoulders. She studied herself in the mirror while she thought. Her heart pounded. Deliberately, she lifted her skirt and removed the panties.
Refusing to think about what she intended to do, she padded barefoot to the living room.
Hogan was stretched out on the couch. He snored softly. She picked up the soda he'd fixed for her. The ice cubes were mere slivers floating in the dark cola. She sat on the opposite end of the sectional and sipped the diluted cola. Her eyes kept drifting to him.
A light beard shadowed his face. She thought about what Grace had said about five o'clock shadow abrading a woman's tender parts. She'd laughed at the suggestion, but after last night, she knew how it felt. Longing lanced through her. Hogan had lied to her, but all she could think of was that she'd never see him again. Even if she were willing to overlook the way he'd used her, he'd never forgive her when he found out how she'd helped Thomas and Yvonne run away together.
Paula's words echoed in her mind. Why shouldn't a woman take a man for pleasure? Men do it all the time.
What was the harm in fulfilling a desire of the flesh? What harm could one night with him do? One night with everything she wanted from him.
Susannah set her glass down and rose. Her hands felt clammy and her heart pounded with equal amounts of fear and excitement. Knowing she couldn't do this in the bright glare of the afternoon sun, she walked over and closed the drapes.
Gingerly, she placed her right knee next to his thigh and eased herself down. As soon as her hips touched his, Hogan's eyes flew open. His blue gaze bored into her as she braced herself on her forearms and lowered her breasts to his chest and stretched out on top of him.
"What are you doing?" Desire vibrated in his low, husky voice.
"If you have to ask, I must be doing something wrong," Susannah said just before she closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his.
With a harsh exclamation, his arms came around her. His hand cupped the back of her head, holding her as he ravaged her mouth.
Susannah loved it. She wanted to be swept away. The one thing she didn't want right now was to think of all the reasons why she shouldn't do this.
Hogan broke the kiss with a gasp. He drew in deep drafts of air, but he didn't release her. "Are you sure about this?"
"Yes." She tried to capture his lips again but he turned his face away.
"You're not going to run away again, are you?"
"Why are you doing this now?"
"Just because," she whispered.
He wouldn't let her get away with that lame excuse. "Why not last night?"
Truthfully, she said, "I wanted to, but my second thoughts overruled me. Just like that night in Houston."
"You know, that night? I didn't intend for that to happen. I'm not into one night stands."
"I didn't intend for it to happen either."
"But you're okay with this now?"
"No second thoughts," she vowed.
Love 'em and leave 'em. Maybe Paula was right. Maybe she'd get him out of her system this way. Then she'd be the one in the power position. She'd walk away rather than being left behind.
"I think we should talk first." He smiled and tugged at the silky curls on the crown of her head.
"I don't want to talk. I want to feel." She rotated her hips against him and was rewarded by his hands sliding onto her skin. Heat flared in his eyes. "You're quite the temptress, aren't you?" He pushed upward against her.
She felt his rock-hard erection. "I want you inside me."
He groaned. "Don't even talk. I don't know how much control I've got after last night."
"I've been in control all my life. Now, I want to be wild. Make me wild, Hogan."
Hogan took her mouth in a long drugging kiss, fueling her desire. He whispered against her lips, "I think this is inevitable. It's just been waiting to happen since the day I met you."
"On that we agree." Susannah smiled, pleased by his acknowledgment of mutual desire. "Come on, Hogan," she whispered. Her tongue flicked out and teased the corner of his mouth. "Let's be wild together."
"Your wish is my command," he said. Suddenly, he flipped their positions. His body pressed her into the cushions. He lowered his head and captured her mouth again. Susannah felt an urgency she couldn't fight. Didn't want to fight. "Take me to bed."
He didn't speak. He rose and lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. His arms trembled as he leaned over her. "I promise, sweetheart. You won't regret this."
She raised up on her knees and said, "Take your clothes off."
He didn't argue. Instead, he probably set a speed record for undressing. She smiled, enjoying her moment of power. "Lie down next to me."
He did, not saying a word, just branding her with his gaze.
She reached out with both hands and stroked over his chest and down, down, drawing a groan from him. "You did this to me to me, remember?" Her fingers trailed along his belly and circled the hard staff that visibly throbbed. She put both hands around him and squeezed. He grew harder. Thicker. He groaned as if in pain, but his eyes never closed. She wanted to make him cry out the way she had. She lowered her head and took him in her mouth.
He jerked and cursed, his voice harsh with strain. "No! Stop." His hips bucked, and his hands pulled her away.
She raised up and ran her tongue over her lips. "Salty," she whispered.
The pupils of his eyes were so dilated that his blue eyes seemed black. Suddenly, he sat up and jerked her dress over her head. She heard it tear, but she didn't care.
She'd succeeded. This was what she wanted. Wild abandonment. No thinking. No rationalization. No excuses. Hogan tossed the torn dress to the floor.
His voice was a breathless whisper. "No bra? No panties? You tease."
"What can I say? I'm shameless."
"Thank God." His hands slid along her shoulders, down her arms. "Beautiful."
And Susannah felt beautiful.
Then he kissed her, and his hands went to her breasts. And she wanted to weep with joy at the now familiar sensation.
"I want to go slow," he murmured. "But I don't think I can."
Susannah felt his hands tremble. He strung kisses down her throat. Then his mouth closed over a rigid nipple.
Susannah bit down on his shoulder to keep from crying out. Her hips jerked. Blood thundered through her veins and beat in a frantic pulse between her thighs. When she thought she couldn't stand it another moment, his mouth left her breast.
"You have perfect breasts," he said as his index finger traced lazy circles around her throbbing nipple then he lowered his head to her other breast.
His hungry mouth suckled until she thought she would melt. Hot wetness pooled between her legs. Mindless with sensation, she pounded his back with both fists. "Forget slow. I want you inside me."
Hogan's hand slid down her body. His fingers slipped through the swollen folds. She cried out as he slid one finger into her cleft. "Is that what you want?"
Her head tossed side to side. She gritted her teeth and vowed not to beg.
He slid another finger into her, stretching her, making her crazy. "This?"
By now, she couldn't have spoken if she'd wanted to. She could only gasp for breath.
Hogan maneuvered over her, his gaze locked with hers. His fingers slid inside her then out, caressing her, spreading the slick wetness. She moaned. She couldn't help it. Her eyes closed. His fingers pulled out. Her hips lifted in protest.
Then nothing. When she heard the sound of plastic tearing, she opened her eyes and saw him sheathing himself in a condom. She didn't think it possible that her heart could beat any harder, but it did. "Now?"
Instead, his fingers slid into her again. Oh, it felt so good, but she wanted, "More."
His fingers slid out even more slowly than before. This time he spread the moisture he'd gathered over his hard shaft. He was beautiful. Her legs opened in invitation.
"There's something I want more precious than the gift of your body." Hogan said, moving between her outstretched legs. His hands cupped her breasts, thumbs tormenting the throbbing nipples.
"What?" Susannah gasped even as Hogan guided himself into her.
"I want your body," he whispered, "but more than that, I want your trust." He plunged into her, burying his shaft deep inside her.
Hogan's mouth covered hers. His tongue plundered her as his hips bucked against hers. She met him, stroke for stroke. With each stroke he seemed to get harder. Thicker. Faster. The tension built inside her. Such exquisite torture. She held him as if she'd never let him go. A moment later her body stiffened. Hogan pumped faster, harder. Susannah felt the contractions start, squeezing around him. She cried out, and he hammered into her willing body until he was spent.
She wanted the feeling to go on and on. She wanted only this, to be in his arms and to have him inside her.
Hogan collapsed on her, his body as slick with sweat as hers. Gasping for breath, her heart still thundering, she whispered, "Again."
Hogan half-laughed, half-groaned. "Give me about a half hour to catch my breath, okay? I'd kiss you, but I don't have the strength."
Susannah kissed him. Opening her mouth, she sucked his tongue into her mouth. Her hands stroked his buttocks. His tongue joined hers, mimicking what their bodies had just done.
She felt him stir, getting hard again as he lay inside her. "I don't think you need thirty minutes," she whispered.
"I think you're right."
To her delight, she was.
Desire filled the room again with its musky perfume. Her nails dug into his back as her hips rotated against his, asking for what only he could give. And he gave and gave until the moon rose over the ocean.
When they were too tired to love any more, they lay together, sated like lovers of long standing, her head resting on his shoulder. And that's when the enormity of it hit Susannah. She felt utterly lost and alone.
"Tell me what you're thinking," Hogan said suddenly, brushing a curl from her forehead.
"I'm too tired to think about anything," she lied.
"You don't regret this, do you?"
"No. Not at all. If I'd known it could be like this, I'd have stayed that night in Houston," she teased, refusing to let him see how she really felt.
"Ah. Houston. I'm glad you left me that night. I wouldn't have wanted you to link your first time with me with the other emotions of that day." He raised up on his elbows and forced her to look at him.
"I really don't want to talk about that." Susannah blinked rapidly. She felt so lost. After a minute, she said, "Thank you for then. You were incredibly sweet. Listening to me. Holding me when I cried. Letting me leave without trying to stop me. And thank you for tonight."
Then she said pleaded exhaustion and turned on her side. Hogan held her and lay spooned against her. She couldn't stop the tears that streamed from her eyes as she cried silently. Maybe some women could use men for sex without consequences. But she wasn't one of those women.
After a few minutes, she felt Hogan move. He left the bed. She heard him in the bathroom then he returned to the bed. He reached for her.
Hastily, she wiped her face with the hem of the sheet.
"Hey, what's the matter? Don't cry." He reached to stroke away a tear that clung to her eyelashes.
Susannah couldn't be with him another minute. Knowing that she'd never see him again, it hurt too much to stay.
She had to make him leave.
"Oh, I always get so emotional afterwards," she said, aiming for a worldly, sophisticated tone. "You know how it is when you have really great sex." She faked a smile.
Hogan frowned and his fingers stilled. "Great sex? Was that what we had?"
She affected a yawn. "Of course. What else would it have been?" She hated the way she sounded, but it was the only way she could protect her heart.
His frown intensified. Did he expect her to declare her undying love? So he could laugh when he left her?
"I see." He fell silent. After a minute, he sighed and got back in bed, turned on his side, and pulled her against him. Susannah lay with him curved around her. She closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. So much emotion filled her that she felt as if she would choke. She felt his lips on the side of her neck.
"I'm too tired," she whispered just as his hands cupped her breasts and began to stroke the sensitized nipples. His hands were sure as he fondled her, stroking and lightly tugging on the swollen peaks.
Like an arrow, desire pierced her. His hand drifted downward. His fingers fondled her. She couldn't stifle her gasp or the instinctive movement of her hips.
His breath was soft against her neck. "Are you sure you're too tired?"
Susannah rolled onto her back. Her arms clasped him fiercely. "Maybe I was mistaken. I don't think I'm too tired after all." The damage was done.
What difference would it make if she loved him one more time?
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