Authors: Josie Brown
Tags: #action and adventure, #Brown, #chick lit, #contemporary romance, #espionage, #espionage books, #funny mysteries, #funny mystery, #guide, #handy household tips, #hardboiled, #household tips, #housewife, #Janet Evanovich, #Josie Brown, #love, #love and romance, #mom lit, #mommy lit, #Mystery, #relationship tips, #Romance, #romantic comedy, #romantic mysteries, #romantic mystery, #Romantic Suspense, #Suspense, #Thriller, #thriller mysteries, #thrillers mysteries, #Women Sleuths, #womens contemporary
Jack chuckles, too. It’s great to hear his laugh again.
“You know, Jack, you haven’t mentioned Valentina since she was ID’d as Father Casari’s shooter.”
The smile disappears from his face. “What’s to say? The hit just earned her a few notches closer to Number One on the FBI and the International Watch lists.”
“Was that Ryan’s consensus on the matter, too?”
He shrugs. “If you’re wondering what our little powwow was about, it’s exactly what you’d imagine. He wants to make sure I won’t have a problem exterminating her, if and when the opportunity presents itself.”
Ryan’s question proves he and I are of like minds, which may not speak well for Jack’s and my relationship. “Well, will you?”
Jack’s hands stiffen around the steering wheel. I imagine them grasping my heart, and squeezing a little too tight. “We’ve already had this conversation, Donna. As far as I’m concerned, when I learned Valentina left me for Carl, she sealed her own fate.”
I wish I could believe him, but I can’t.
To be honest with myself, I guess I won’t, until I see it with my own eyes.
My silence must speak volumes to him because his gaze shifts toward me. “You once said the same to me. About Carl, remember?”
How can I forget? I’ve had two chances to put a bullet through Carl’s heart, to shatter it, the way he did mine on the day I found out he’d faked his own death in order to join the Quorum for a payday that has nothing to do with faith, country, or family.
No, I’m not being melodramatic. A woman scorned doesn’t mince words. She’ll cast a deserter out of her life with the dried-eyed efficiency in which she’d shear the dead blossoms from her garden.
Granted, she may pause when faced with the thorny dilemma of killing the man with whom she bore three children, even if his hit is government sanctioned. But never doubt she’ll follow through, especially when she’s discovered that he also left her for another woman.
In my case, learning that Valentina ran away with Carl has a way of stripping
rose of any bloom.
I take Jack’s hand in mine and kiss it tenderly. This tells him all he needs to know:
I too have already shed my ex.
Does it surprise me when he takes me in his arms and carries me upstairs to our bed?
No, not at all. The one thing better than make-up sex is revenge sex.
But Jack’s touch is anything but tender. The buttons of my blouse fly off when he rips it away from my chest. With a hand on each shoulder, he twists the thread-thin straps of my camisole and pulls it straight down. Do my breasts pucker with goose bumps because of the sudden exposure to the cool air, or are they aroused in anticipation of the touch of his tongue?
I realize it’s the latter when he cups them both in the palms of his large hands, hefting them as if they were solid gold. Although his fingers are warm, my nipples harden as his thumbs roll over them oh so gently before taking them in his mouth, one by one. His lips are warm. A current of desire surges through my veins as his tongue gently circles them. I would stroke his head if I weren’t afraid that it would signal him to stop.
It’s the very last thing I want him to do.
Instinctively, he knows this. Why else would he drop one hand to my mound and the other to my ass? The one behind me finds the sweet spot where the curve of my cheeks meet. With fingers as light as feathers, he teases, squeezes and tickles me into a spasm of naughty joy, while the thumb of his front hand strokes and strums until I’m damp, giddy and aching to feel him inside of me.
As if reading my mind, he places my hands on the dresser and arches over me. When he enters me, I gasp. The size and thickness of his member should no longer surprise me. And yet, when he plunges deep inside me, it always feels like the first time.
Without missing a beat, we find our rhythm. Our grunts start out soft, but get louder as the tempo of our passion crescendos into a mutual orgasm…
Until he collapses on top of me, exhausted.
I revel in the afterglow when suddenly the worst thought in the world crosses my mind. Was he was making love to me, or wishing I were her?
Lovers are like songs. Sometimes it’s hard to get them out of your mind.
And yes, for that matter, Carl hit all the high notes too.
Despite all that has torn us apart, I know for a fact that Carl would love to come back to me. He’s made that clear.
Too bad. It’s wishful thinking on his part.
Why is it we always want what we can’t have?
Only one live blossoming plant captures the essence of Christmas: the poinsettia! Its flaming red flower and dark green leafy stalks are the ideal colors of this special time of year.
Talk about perfect timing! The poinsettia, which blooms in early December, holds it flowers sometimes into February. And since the poinsettia is a perennial, you don’t cut and toss it after the season. Instead, prune it well, and feel free to leave it outside after the last frost. It loves moist soil and direct watering. Remember, let any excess water drain off!
So that its flaming color returns, come fall, move it back inside for two months, into a space that gets no light at all, like, say, your dungeon! Its reddening blossoms will give any captive you have down there something to smile about.
Hilldale’s Santa is the jolliest of elves.
His sky blue eyes twinkle every time a child leaps into his laps. His “Ho, Ho, Ho” is deep and strong and has them squealing back in delight. After divulging their secret toy fantasies, he nods slowly, then taps the side of his head as proof he’s already put it on the top of his list. While handing them a lollypop, he tweaks their noses and sends them on their way. Thirty seconds with him is all they need to be assured that all is indeed right with the world.
And that their mothers and fathers aren’t pulling the wool over their eyes about this Santa dude.
Thus far, Trisha isn’t buying it. Her arms stay crossed at her chest as our place in line snakes closer to Santa’s ornate chair.
In order to coerce Trisha into believing, I’ve bribed both Mary and Jeff to come with us.
“I’ll ride along, but if you think I’m sitting on some old perv’s lap, you can just forget about it,” Jeff warns me in a whisper.
I look him straight in the eye and mutter back, “First, up until two years ago, you thought he was real, so cut out the tough-guy routine. Second, the moment Trisha stands up, we’re all taking off. If she questions why you and Mary didn’t tell Santa what you want, you can say you felt guilty that the line was so long, and you wanted to make sure the other kids had a chance, before the mall closes.”
Mary snickers. “That is
She’s baiting me, and I know it. She’s still hurt because Trevor is crushing on me. At the same time, she knows I’m doing everything I can to discourage it. And yet, his last three visits to our house included too little shooting of hoops and too much mooning over me as I fussed in the kitchen.
I know that letting her go wild with my credit card in Forever 21 won’t heal her heart totally, but maybe it’ll get me out of the doghouse through the end of the holidays.
Finally, it’s Trisha’s turn. I have to nudge her close to Santa’s beckoning arms. Mrs. Santa is a come-hither blonde in a tight, low-cut red jacket lined with white fur and adorned with tiny silver bells that jingle with each jiggle. When she bends down to hand Trisha a gingerbread cookie, Jeff’s curiosity gets the better of him. He ducks in order to see what goodies she’s hiding under her much-too-short red satin skirt.
I smack his head so that he stands up straight, then I place Trisha on Santa’s lap.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” Santa goes in for a chin chuck, only to have Trisha slap his hand away.
Santa’s smile wavers. “Feisty, aren’t you? Remember, Santa only visits
little girls and boys.”
“Boys and girls aren’t the only ones who can do bad things. Aren’t parents naughty, too, if they tell lies?” Trisha looks just beyond Santa, at me.
“You’re right, little one. Telling lies is naughty, no matter what your age,” Santa proclaims loudly. “Isn’t that right, Mrs. Claus?” He winks knowingly at his blonde sidekick.
She doesn’t have a belly laugh. Her giggle emanates from her diaphragm and shakes her breasts so boisterously that the tiny bells on her fur collar tinkle and chime.
Gimme a break.
I have to snap my finger in front of his leering puss to keep his eyes on the prize: my daughter’s faith in humanity.
Okay, really her faith in me.
“I’ll just bet you’re having a bad day, right, little girl?”
Trisha nods as if sentenced to the gallows.
“I’ll tell you what. You whisper right here in my ear what is the one thing I can put under the tree to make you happy, and believe me, by Christmas morning all will be right with the world.”
I hold my breath as he sits through Trisha’s scrutinizing stare. Finally, she nods. I finally let out with a sigh as she cups his ears to whisper what I already know is her wish.
Santa chuckles loudly and proudly. “Now, promise me you’ll be good for a whole other year.”
“I cross my heart,” Trisha declares solemnly. “And you’ll be good, too! Right, Santa?” Her eyes look over his head, to me.
What have I done now?
Santa smiles and nods. He’s just about to say something when a shout rings out. “You liar! How could you!”
A woman pushing a stroller with a toddler boy shoves her way through the line until she’s standing in front of Santa. Taken aback, he stands up, and Trisha topples out of his lap. “Honey? What are you doing here?”
“Catching you in the act! Your little plaything over there left this in the back seat of our car! I found it in Little Alvin’s booster seat!” She holds up a tiny silver bell, then tosses it at Santa, hitting him squarely in the eye.
“What? Wait a minute! You mean to tell me
you’re married… to her?
”All the blood leaves fake Mrs. Claus’s face as she glares at Santa. “But you told me the baby gear and toys back there were being dropped at Toys for Tots!”
Santa’s real wife opens her eyes even wider. “You’re giving away your own son’s toys?”
Santa flinches. “Of course not! I—I lied to her!”
“Why, you son of a—” Fake Mrs. Santa slaps his face.
Mary is smart enough to cover Trisha’s ears and hustle her down the aisle before Mrs. Claus takes a swing at him, too.
I think that’s enough holiday cheer for one afternoon.
I head out of the mall, pulling Jeff behind me, but it’s a struggle. “Mom, let me stay!” He pleads. “I don’t want to miss any of this if it turns into a catfight!”
The coded instructions delivered onto my voicemail by Hilldale’s foremost librarian, Miss Marion, is short and sweet. “The book you reserved,
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, has been returned.”
That is Acme’s way of telling Jack and me that our mission’s directives are ready for pick up, from Abu, and that we’ll find his ice cream truck is on the far side of Hilldale Park.
“Why would we want an ice pop? It’s cold outside!” Mary protests as Jack and I herd Jeff, Trisha and her out the door.
“Mary dear, we live in Southern California. Winter is optional.”
She shrugs. She knows I have a point. If the temperature here drops below fifty, you’ll see people in bubble boy jackets.
While the kids make up their minds, Abu hands me a Yosicle Torpedo. I laugh out loud when I see what he has for Jack: a Captain America Cyclone. “How appropriate.”
Jack nods. “Yeah, well, someday they’ll make a Bond pop, and I’ll have to switch.”
I shake my head. “I can just imagine it being gold, and tasting like a martini, shaken not stirred.”
Abu warms his hands on his biceps. “I’ve got to get a different franchise for the winter. Business has been deadly.”
Jack looks at him as if he’s crazy. “I’d think that’s a plus, considering this sideline is just a front.”