We resume the story from where it left off last week with Suzie and Drew together in the kitchen.
It had been so long since anyone had comforted Suzie. Thinking back, Suzie couldn’t remember anyone comforting her quite this way, ever. Drew’s arms around her were strong and firm, but held her loosely enough that if she really wanted free, she could simply stand. Instead, she curled up in his lap like a cat.
She had her eyes closed. They felt raw and gritty, though she hadn’t really cried, just leeked a little. It was simply too frustrating knowing what her son was going through, and here she was, powerless to do anything about it. She sighed, relaxing into Drew’s warm support until she felt Drew’s lips on hers.
She should have pushed him away, refusing him. Kissing him felt like a betrayal, though logically there was no one more appropriate for her to be kissing. He felt so good she simply couldn’t believe she deserved it.
“Drew.” She broke the contact. “We shouldn’t.”
“I know. You’re cooking.” He glanced at the pan sitting on the stove. There was nothing in it and the flames weren’t turned on. It would keep.
“No. I mean Miranda and Vin.” Suzie glanced at all three kitchen doors as if her room mates might appear in any one of them at any moment, then scolded herself they were hardly likely to be coming in from the back yard, especially since the door was locked.
“What about them?”
“What if one of them walked in on us?”
“Last I saw they were going into Vin’s room. I don’t think we’re going to see them again anytime soon.” Drew raised her hand to nibble on the sensitive underside of her wrist.
She wriggled, but didn’t pull away. The feel of his mouth on her both please and irritated her. Didn’t he take her problems seriously?
“I still should cook,” she muttered.
“Mmm-hmm,” he agreed while working his way up her bare arm. “Yes, you should. It’s your night to cook.”
“You don’t have to sound so pleased about it.” She shifted in his lap, seriously considering putting some distance between them.
“I like your cooking. I also like to cook. Maybe we could cook something together?” The grin on his face made it clear he intended to do the kind of cooking that should be reserved for the bedroom.
He made it sound so easy. Cook together, make love, live together for who knew how long, but nothing was so straightforward. In the first place, she was his landlord. Surely he could see the problem there. In the second place, he was the reason Ben had to move out. Suzie tried not to hold that against Drew, and suspected he didn’t even realize it, but a grain of frustration wouldn’t go away. In the third place, she didn’t want to fall in love with a man who was going to simply up and leave some day.
Suzie shoved her way out of Drew’s lap.
If Drew moved out, could Ben come back? It would depend on why Sean and Joseph were interested in him. Suzie’s creeping concern was that the men had developed an interest in Ben that had nothing to do with Drew, Vin, or the case. Until Sean and Joseph were in jail, her son would not be safe.
“What are you doing to close the case?” Suzie rounded on Drew. “Have you found the Smash Master? Is it one of them?”
His face became as expressive as a marble bust of some 18th century nobleman, and his spine as stiff. “I’m doing everything I can.”
“No you aren’t. You aren’t using me, or Miranda, or even Vin.”
“I did use Vin, and look what happened to him.” A hint of temper came through the words. Drew slowly stood. “I can’t risk anything like that happening again.” He leaned over the kitchen table, his weight on his knuckles.
“And what are you going to stop it? We are all adults here, now. We can take responsibility for ourselves.”
“Yes, but I am the only one in this house hired to work the case.” He straightened fully, and crossed his arms. Something about the motion – the way his dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up bunched and pulled or the way it narrowed into his pants – made her very much aware that he was a powerfully built man. Suzie straightened. She wouldn’t let him intimidate her.
“Which reminds me, how is Vin supposed to pay his rent now that he’s unemployed?”
“You’ll have to take that up with him.”
“Or you could hire him back.” Suzie glared at him. Was he being deliberately obtuse?
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“Why not!? Is there a rule that says people the FBI hires for a particular job can’t finish the job if they get injured?”
“Well, no, but….”
“So you add insult to injury by taking way his livelihood.”
“What livelihood?” Vin appeared at the doorway from the central hall. He looked from one to the other of them.
“Stay out of this, Vin. I’m trying to get your job back.”
“Don’t bother.” Vin crossed his arms, and leaned against the doorjamb.
“I beg your pardon?” Suzie could feel her jaw hanging open, and made a concerted effort to close it. Vin didn’t want his job back? He certainly didn’t look concerned.
“If I’d wanted to deal with all the rules and regulations, I’d have stayed in the FBI to begin with. Me and them aren’t a good mix. Present company excepted,” he tossed the last comment at Drew while he sauntered toward the fridge.
“Wait a minute,” Drew said slowly. He pivoted to follow Vin’s progress across the room. “You’re still working the case, aren’t you. After I specifically told you not to.”
“What of it?” Suzie said in place of Vin.
“You AND Vin? And perhaps Miranda too?” Thunderclouds built over Drew’s head.
“You can’t stop it, so you might as well let us know what you do. Then we’ll let you know what we do.” She nodded agreement with Vin, who took a beer out of the fridge and grinned his reply over the top.
“No. You will stop it now.” Drew lost all interest in Vin, and directed his full attention at Suzie.
“Or what? You’ll arrest us?” She felt daring as she lifted a shoulder to go with her taunt.
“If I have to.”
“No you won’t.” A niggle of doubt in the back of her mind said he might, but she ignored it. She hoped he’d ease her fears by capitulating.
“Yes I will.”
“No. You won’t.” She said it louder, willing it to be true.
“Yes, I will!” He went toe to toe with her. He was so big, and so strong, and so blasted determined. And he was too close. Way, way too close.
“Ooooohhh! Men!” Suzie spun on her heel to stalk out the door.
“Hey! Where are you going? Aren’t you cook tonight?” Vin yelled after her.
“You cook!” She yelled over her shoulder. She charged down the hall toward the staircase. Didn’t anyone in this house understand how she felt?
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