Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3) (7 page)

BOOK: Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3)
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“Yeah, yeah. You’re King of the Hook-up,” Pete mocked. “That was fine in our twenties, but now it’s getting kind of old, isn’t it?”

It took Jackson an extra moment to reply. “So the reason I was calling was…”

Pete winced, realizing that he’d stepped over the line with his friend who was changing the subject.

“Brady called.”

“Again?”

“He wants to know if you know how to get in touch with Geoffrey,” Jackson continued.

“No.” He kept his reply short and clipped, making it clear he didn’t intend to continue the conversation.

“Can you find him?”

“No.”

Undeterred, Jackson pushed on. “Brady says he needs his help.”

Pete closed his eyes and shook his head.

But of course Jackson couldn’t see that. “Pete?”

“I don’t know if I can find him,” he muttered, knowing full well he didn’t
want
to find him.

“But you’ll try?”

“For Brady,” Pete agreed.

“Maybe it’s time…” Jackson began.

“Was there anything else?” ’Pete’s tone was deliberately brusque and dismissive.

“No,” Jackson said quietly. “If you need help with the cat thing, let me know.”

“I’ll call you if I find anything.” With that, he hung up, not giving Jackson the chance to say anything else.

Squeezing his phone until his knuckles turned white and his hand ached, he frowned down at the pictures in front of him, not really seeing them.

He didn’t know where Geoffrey was. He didn’t want to know where he was.

Brady knew that.

And Pete knew that if Brady was asking him to find Geoffrey it only meant one thing: Brady was in trouble.

“Do you see something?” Alyssa asked. Stepping closer, she invaded his thoughts and personal space.

“What?”

“Do you see something in the pictures?”

“No.”

“You were scowling,” she ventured carefully. “Is something wrong?”

“Brady wants me to find someone.”

“Who?”

Pete squeezed his phone harder. “Someone he thinks can help him.”

“He’s in trouble?”

“I think so.” The idea that his friend was in danger and was going to rely on Geoffrey of all people, worried him.

She nodded. “Go home. Do what you have to in order to help Brady.”

He forced himself to keep his tone light. “Trying to get rid of me?” He stepped closer to her, delighting in the way her eyes widened and she nervously licked her lower lip.

She shrugged. “He’s more important than Mr. Burberry.”

“Don’t let Mildred hear you.” Before she could anything else, he dipped his head and traced the line her tongue had just drawn on her lip.

She swayed unsteadily.

He grabbed her hips under the guise of keeping her upright, but really it was because he wanted to catch her. The heat from her skin burned him, even through the fabric that separated them. “Sure you want me to leave,” Pete teased, but he let go of her.

Faking nonchalance, she stepped back and murmured, “The ransom isn’t due until tomorrow night. We could all use some sleep. We’ll start again tomorrow when we’re fresh.”

Pete nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Logically, her plan made sense, but all he wanted to do was convince her to come home with him.

Roscoe trudged toward them, saving Pete from embarrassing himself.

“I’m headed home,” the big man announced. “Good to meet you, Pete.” He extended his hand.

Pete shook it. “Pleasure was all mine.”

Something unhappy flickered in the depths of Roscoe’s gaze.

Not wanting him to think he’d said that because of his football celebrity, Pete added, “That was a delicious dinner. You’re an amazing cook.”

Roscoe dipped his head, uncomfortable with the compliment.

“Really,” Pete continued. “If you ever want to do it as a career, let me know. I have a friend who is always looking to hire chefs.”

“I’m no chef,” Roscoe replied.

“Diners don’t need to know that.” He turned his attention back to Alyssa. “I’m going to head out too. You’ll be okay here on your own?”

“I’m a big girl who’s more than capable of taking care of herself,” she replied coolly, some of her trademark coolness seeping in to her tone.

“I’ll send whatever I come up with to your phone?” Pete offered.

She nodded. “Thanks.” She turned to Roscoe. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

The big man shrugged. “Sure you want me? I lost the cat.”

Alyssa patted his arm awkwardly. “I told you it wasn’t your fault.”

Watching the exchange, and remembering how she’d reacted earlier when he’d told her about Roscoe’s history, Pete got the impression she felt a kinship with the wronged man. He wanted to know why. He knew he could find out with a few taps on his keyboard, but he wanted
her
to tell him, especially since he now knew it was a secret she prized keeping.

“Goodnight,” Alyssa said, her gaze darting from one man to the other. “Thanks again for your help.”

Pete headed home to find out why the kidnappers were asking for $120,000 and who might have a grudge against Mildred Michelman.

He also had to do that favor for Brady and track down Geoffrey… the brother he hadn’t spoken with in three years.

 

 

Chapter 11

 

Alyssa lay in bed, knowing she should get up, but not wanting to. For one thing, the guest room of the Michelmans’ home had the most comfortable bed she’d ever experienced. For another, she hadn’t gotten much sleep, and the little she had, had been filled with dreams of erotic couplings with Pete Hanlon. Dreams so intense, that when she awoke, she found herself tangled in the luxurious bed sheets, panting with desire.

Now she had to get up and face Mildred Michelman, a woman she’d let down. Throwing her arm over her eyes, she sighed her frustration.

She didn’t belong here, not in this bed, not in this situation. All she’d ever wanted was to be a cop. When that had been taken away, she’d lapsed into a weird existence, unsure of what she wanted to do next.  Brady’s offer of the protection job had seemed like a good way to pursue the personal security field, but things weren’t working out the way she’d hoped.

Her cell phone buzzed on the night table. She picked it up and saw she had a message from Pete.

He hadn’t found a reason for the kidnappers wanting such an odd amount of money for the cat’s safe return, and as far as he could tell, Mildred, a pillar of the community, known for her philanthropic efforts, had no known enemies. He went on to say that there were only two people who would benefit if something happened to her: her husband, Lester, and her former sister-in-law, Edith, who was living out her days in an assisted living facility that Mildred paid for.

She wrote back her thanks, then considered the ceiling, which was painted with a calming cloud motif, trying to figure out how to proceed.

Her phone buzzed again. This time it was Pete calling.

“Hello?” Her voice, still scratchy with sleep, was barely audible.

“Still in bed?” His tone, deep and softly intimate, made her body tingle.

If she’d had any sense, she would have told him she was up, but instead, a naughty facet of herself made her admit, in a breathy whisper, “Yes.”

She was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the call and then silence. She just knew he was imagining her in bed, probably fantasizing about what he’d like to do to her. The knowledge was a heady power that made her entire body heat and heartbeat speed up.

He cleared his throat, endeavoring to sound as normal as possible. “Don’t you have work to do?”

Enjoying the fact there were no direct consequences with flirting over the phone, she teased, “All work and no play makes me a dull girl.”

“You could never be dull.”

She grinned. “You don’t think so?”

“I knew it the moment I first saw you.”

“Oh yeah, when was that?” She remembered when she’d first seen
him
. He’d been laughing with his brothers Tom and Danny by the bar at the rehearsal dinner for Tom and Jane’s wedding.

“You were on your way into the rehearsal dinner,” Pete said without missing a beat. “You were wearing a black dress and when you bent over to get the cake out of the trunk of your car…” His voice caught.

Her own throat had gone dry hearing the passion in his voice.

A single, quiet knock on her door startled her.

As she watched, it swung open. She scrambled to pull the sheets up to her chin, despite the fact she’d slept in one of her police academy T-shirts.

Pete poked his head in. She could have sworn she spotted a flash of disappointment in his eyes when he realized she was covered.

He stepped inside, carrying a steaming cup. The scent of fresh brewed coffee filled the room. Holding her gaze, he continued his earlier story as he moved closer to her. “When you bent over to get the cake, your dress rode up.”

She blushed, remembering how short the dress had been. She’d borrowed it from Jane, who’d assured Alyssa it was perfectly decent, but she imagined how high the hem could have climbed as she’d bent over.

“So you tugged it down,” Pete continued, putting the cup on the coaster on the night table. “And you blushed like an innocent schoolgirl. I knew right away you could never be dull. Just like now.”

He skimmed her burning cheek with a single finger, causing a shiver of desire to wrack Alyssa’s body.

He watched her reaction with satisfaction before bending to whisper into her ear, his breath tickling the sensitive skin. “I knew then I wanted to get you into my bed.”

Alyssa’s eyes drifted closed and she bit her lower lip as heat pooled in her core.

Straightening, he told her matter-of-factly, “You should come downstairs when you’re ready. Roscoe’s baking cinnamon buns.” Without looking at her, he strode out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Alyssa took a very quick and very cold shower, guzzled the coffee, and got dressed, all the while thinking about how when she’d danced with Pete at Tom and Jane’s wedding, he’d flirted nonstop with her. She’d been attracted to him, but hadn’t wanted the complication of a relationship.

She still didn’t.

Or did she?

Carrying her empty cup, she followed the scent of something delicious to the kitchen. Roscoe and Pete were in there, talking baseball or maybe it was basketball. She recognized the names being bandied about from news reports, but since she wasn’t a sports fan, she couldn’t identify what teams they went with.

“Morning,” Roscoe greeted. He held up the coffee pot. “Refill.”

“Please.”  While he poured, she risked a sidelong glance at Pete.

He wasn’t looking at her. Instead, he was studying something on the screen of the laptop computer he had perched on the counter.

“Find something?” she asked.

“Not for you,” he murmured. Then, realizing how that must have sounded, he looked up and explained. “It’s about Amy Winn’s father.”

“The woman Brady quit his job for and went chasing all over the world?”

“He didn’t quit his job for her,” an unfamiliar male voice argued.

All three of them swiveled their glances in the direction of the newcomer. The young man in his twenties carried a cheap briefcase and wore a light yellow bowtie.

“Who the hell are you?” Alyssa snapped, startled that a stranger had gotten into the house.

“I’m Gerald,” he explained.

“How did you get in here?”

“I let him in,” Pete interjected mildly. Before she could ask him
why
he’d done that, he explained, “Mildred asked me to.”

Putting her hands on her hips, Alyssa fixed Gerald with a stare that had been known to frighten career criminals. “What are you doing here?”

He fiddled with his bowtie nervously. “Mrs. M. asked me to come. I’ve been working on paperwork for Mr. Burberry and she wanted—”

“Paperwork for a cat?” Alyssa interrupted.

“He’s Brady’s intern,” Pete supplied helpfully. “Brady says he’s a boy genius. Is that true, Gerald? Are you a boy genius?”

Embarrassed, Gerald shook his head.

Roscoe, searching for something in the refrigerator, urged, “Stop teasing the kid.”

“Brady’s not here,” Alyssa reminded the room. “So could someone explain why his intern is?”

“Mrs. M. wants a trust set up for Mr. Burberry,” Gerald explained. He waved the briefcase as proof of his claim.

Alyssa took another gulp of coffee like it was a shot of liquid courage. “A trust for a cat?”

Gerald nodded. “In the event of her death…”

A timer dinged.

“They’re ready,” Roscoe announced cheerily, hurrying over to pull a baking pan out of the oven.

“You want a cup of coffee, Gerald?” Pete offered.

“Yes please, sir.”

“For the love of God, man, don’t call me sir,” Pete instructed. “It makes me break out in hives. Now her on the other hand,” he pointed at Alyssa, “make sure to call her ‘ma’am.”

Alyssa was still hung up on the information Gerald had revealed. “So you’re telling me the cat has inheritance coming when Mildred dies?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Don’t you dare,” Alyssa warned the younger man.

Gerald blinked, confused. “Ma’am?”

“Don’t call me ma’am.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Gerald slapped a hand over his mouth as though to stuff the “ma’am” back in.

Everyone began to laugh.

Alyssa wasn’t sure if it was because the situation was really that funny or if it was because they were all so tense. It didn’t really matter.

All that mattered was, in that moment, in that kitchen that smelled of heavenly baked goodness, with those people, she felt like she was part of something again.

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Roscoe made up a tray of coffee and cinnamon buns for Mrs. Michelman to eat in her bedroom, which Gerald delivered, leaving Roscoe, Alyssa, and Pete to dine in the kitchen.

He and Alyssa discussed what he’d discovered in his searches the night before while Roscoe puttered around.

Alyssa seemed more relaxed than usual, joking around and speaking in the warmest possible terms when conveying her appreciation of Roscoe’s baking.

BOOK: Catnapped! (A Matchmaker Mystery Book 3)
7.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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