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Mistress christmas, p.14
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       Mistress Christmas, p.14

         Part #1 of Wild West Boys series by Lorelei James
 
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Page 14

  Author: Lorelei James

  Don’t you mean a whole lot you have to confess to her?

  When several minutes passed and he hadn’t heard any sounds drifting from the bathroom, he sat up. What if she’d fallen down? The woman was hot as sin, and yet, he couldn’t deny her tendency toward clumsiness, that was somehow…utterly charming.

  He yelled, “Holly? Baby? You okay?”

  No answer.

  A funny, panicked feeling rooted in his gut. Nick raced to the bathroom. Empty. He ran out into the main room and flipped on all the lights. His clothes were in a pile right where he’d left them last night. Hers were nowhere to be found.

  His eyes locked on the keycard sitting atop the desk.

  Dammit. She’d just snuck out? Without a word to him? Why?

  Nick jerked on his jeans, threw on his shirt and pulled on his boots. He found his truck keys in the pocket of his coat. He patted the right back pocket of his jeans and came up empty.

  “Oh no. Oh hell no. ”

  Frantic, he crawled around on the floor. Looked under the chair, in the couch cushions, under the bed, in the bathroom, on the shelf in the closet, in the dresser drawers and he didn’t find it.

  He stared at the rumpled bed and then the door and yelled, “Fuck! I don’t f**king believe this!”

  Mistress Christmas was long gone. And so was his wallet.

  Chapter Eight

  All morning Holly felt so guilty she couldn’t concentrate. She wondered if Nick had gotten mad when he’d woken up and found her gone? Or worse, maybe he’d been relieved? Either way, she’d realized running out had been a childish reaction and she owed him an explanation. For everything.

  But her search for his telephone number in the Denver metro area business and residence pages produced no results. True, her own number was unlisted, but that was pretty much standard for a single woman.

  What if he’d given her a fake name?

  Dammit. Her limited “morning after” experiences left her no choice but to call Ivy, ask her advice and come clean about what’d gone down with one of her club’s customers after hours. She touched the receiver. Then slowly took her hand back.

  She’d make that call. Right after lunch. All morning she’d been too jittery to eat, but now she was starved.

  No. You’re stalling.

  Holly plopped her purse on her desk. She browsed the take-out menu beside her blotter. Rooting around absentmindedly in the inside pocket for her wallet, her hand brushed unfamiliar, nubby leather. She gasped and yanked her hand back as if it’d connected with a snake.

  Heart thumping, she peered inside. Not a snake, but something made of…snakeskin.

  “What the hell?” She lifted out the surprisingly heavy wallet and had a memory flash. Right after she’d arrived at the hotel, Nick had grabbed her purse and tossed it aside. Faced with the sexual heat in his eyes, she really hadn’t cared what’d become of her purse or what’d been in it.

  Then Nick had taken the first condom out of his wallet and whipped it aside too. Evidently his billfold had landed on top of her assorted purse wreckage, and in her haste to leave, she’d inadvertently shoved his wallet in her purse along with everything else.

  Now you know where he lives. Now you can find out if he was who he said he was.

  No. That’s snooping. That’s wrong.

  But don’t you think he’ll want his wallet back?

  Yes. She needed a minute to think.

  Take your time but you know what you have to do. You know what you want to do.

  As the voices warred inside her head, Holly stared at the black snakeskin, as if it really were coiling and hissing for her attention. Taking a deep breath, she flipped the bi-fold wallet open…and froze clear to the marrow of her bones.

  “Oh shit. Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit. ”

  Nick West was who he said he was. But the badge on the inside flap of his billfold told her he’d left out one teeny tiny detail: Nick West was a cop.

  “Oh shit. Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit. ”

  She reached for the phone.

  ***

  “This is Detective West,” he snapped.

  “No offense, but you sound pissed off. ”

  “Newsflash: I am pissed off. ”

  “Like that’s news?”

  Nick growled. Which only made his brother laugh.

  “Is this a bad time?”

  “No worse than usual. ” Nick inhaled and exhaled slowly. “Sorry, Blake, I didn’t mean to snap at you. ”

  “I’m used to it, I work with Dad every day, remember?”

  “Yeah. Speaking of…why are you calling me at work in the middle of the day? Don’t tell me Little Bo Peep has lost your sheep again and you need an ace detective to find them?”

  “Fuck off. ”

  He grinned. “That joke never gets old, does it?”

  “Says you. If I wanted to be insulted, I’d beg Chet and Remy to keep me company at the Rusty Spur. ”

  Times were tough for ranchers and Blake moonlighted as a bartender at one of the local honky-tonks. “They ain’t nearly as entertaining as I am. ”

  “That’s true. Especially not lately. ”

  Chet and Remy were the wildest of their West cousins, although tame compared to their McKay relatives. “Why? What’ve they been doin’?”

  “Nothin’. Tryin’ to get Colt’s house done before more snow flies. ”

  “How is Colt?” Life had thrown the West and McKay families a number of curve balls in the last few years. After their cousin Dag West’s unexpected death, their cousin Colt McKay had seen the light and stopped his own spiral toward an early grave. Between Nick, Kade McKay and Colt’s younger sister, Keely, they’d found a rehab place in Denver and Colt had been sober for two years. Every day Nick worked with families who hadn’t been so lucky.

  “Colt’s good. Like I said, his new house is almost finished. He’ll be livin’ up the road from Chassie, Trevor and Edgard. ”

  Nick lifted his eyebrows. His family avoided gossip of cousin Chassie’s unconventional new lifestyle with her husband and his best friend. But that wasn’t what’d gained his attention. “Colt’s moving out of the Boars Nest? Permanently?”

  “Guess so. Cam bought both him and Buck out because he wants to live alone. ” Blake sighed. “I don’t blame the man for his bitterness after what happened in Iraq, but he’s kinda puttin’ his family through the ringer. Cam won’t let no one help him. And we’ve all offered, believe me. ”

  “It’s been what? Ten months? Since his injury? He’s only been back in Sundance four months. He’ll work it out, if the meddling McKays would just back off and give the man room to breathe. ”

  Blake went silent.

  “What?”

  “Speakin’ of meddlin’ families…the real reason I’m callin’ is Ma wants to know if you’re comin’ home for Christmas. ”

  Nick sagged back in his chair with familial guilt. “I don’t wanna think about anything having to do with the word ‘Christmas’ today. ”

  When Nick didn’t elaborate, Blake drawled, “You gonna explain that to this lowly shepherd?”

  With frustration riding him, Nick blurted out how he’d hooked up with Holly. Probably made himself out to be a fool, but hell, it wasn’t the first time Blake’d heard about the dumb things his brother had done, and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

  Blake didn’t immediately toss out a smartass remark. Once again, Nick appreciated his younger brother being even-keeled and not prone to sarcasm.

  “You really like this Holly woman, don’t you?”

  Damn. Blake was intuitive too. “Yeah, I do. That’s why it made me crazy this morning when she was gone along with my wallet. If she needed money that damn bad, why didn’t she just ask instead of stealing from me?”

  “I know you see the shittiest side of humanity on a daily
basis, bro, but in this case you need to give Holly the benefit of the doubt. There’s gotta be a logical explanation for what happened. For all of it. ”

  A huge weight seemed to roll off Nick’s shoulders. “That’s what I’m hopin’. ”

  “Besides, you know where she works. ”

  “True. ”

  “Hate to cut this short, but I got sheep bleatin’ my name. What should I tell Ma?”

  “That I won’t be home because I gave up Christmas for Lent. ”

  A soft laugh drifted through the receiver. “Better I tell her that, than you were literally deep in the throes of Holly-day festivities last night. ”

  “Funny. ”

  “Good luck. Trust your gut, it ain’t failed you yet. And remember it don’t gotta be a holiday for you to come back here and visit. I miss your ugly mug. ”

  “Same goes. ” Still feeling guilty, Nick hung up and looked at the clock. One hundred and eighty-seven minutes until Sugar Plums opened—not that he was counting or anything.

  ***

  Dishes clattered in the background. As the scents of soy sauce and grease permeated the air, Holly’s stomach roiled. She wished she’d chosen a different lunch spot.

  After the waiter had taken their order, she leaned across the table. “You haven’t said a word since we sat down, Ivy. ”

  “I’m thinking. ”

  “About what you’ll do if he arrests me?”

  “For what?” Ivy asked. “Ending up with his wallet was an accident. And I know you well enough that I doubt you snooped through his personal effects, besides the accidental peek you got of his badge. Did you?”

  Holly stammered, “N-no! I’d never do that. ”

  “See?”

  “But what if he arrests me for…” she lowered her voice, “…solicitation?”

  Ivy’s eyes narrowed, reminding Holly that Ivy had been a top-notch criminal defense attorney previous to her stint as the proprietor of a high-class strip joint. “Did he ask you to give him a lap dance?”
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