A Cougar-Hansen Mystery
By Lori Hughes
“Got the ME’s report. Bringing it over –”
“How the fuck did you get –”
“They put Doc through to me and she’d spewed it out before I could stop her. No big deal. Took notes.”
“Sending report tomorrow. Thought you’d want this much. I’m five minutes from your place.”
When Gritt arrived, Mike and ‘man’s best friend,’ Billy, were lying in his extended recliner like two forlorn buddies watching a baseball game. Without getting up he said, “What did Doc say?”
She ran through her notes and at the end said, “Said no rape. But definitely sex that night. Few hours before death. Small trace of semen –”
“No problem getting DNA. Could be critical.”
“Did she send it for testing?”
“Good. Leave it to me.”
She mused, “I’m thinking … as much as you don’t buy the love triangle, DNA can tell us for sure. If –”
“I said leave it to me.”
“Boss, with all due respect, I think we need to talk this through … like you always say, leave no stone unturned until we’ve looked under every rock. Cause that’s where the bad guys live. And after my chat with the hotel bartender, this rock got a lot bigger.”
“Ya’ know what the rock is? … Your head. You’re not listening.” He flipped the recliner upright and put Billy on the floor. Billy wagged his tail and looked pleadingly because he too heard the irritation in his voice. “How many times do I have to tell you to go after Goodall, not some fuckin’ fantasy in your head.”
“Excuse me … fuckin’ fantasy?” She jammed her hands on her hips. “That’s not only not true, it’s insulting. Doc’s evidence confirms – confirms – Chrystine Goodall had sex a few hours before she was murder. And she is placed at the hotel – a typical venue for an affair. At the very least, we should be looking for witnesses, interviewing people.” She stopped because he wasn’t reacting. Just standing there, staring down at Billy. Is he listening to me? “Listen, you do whatever the hell you think best. I’ll stay out of that. But, I’m tellin’ you, somebody better start questioning hotel staff and guests who were there.” She stopped again. Again, he said nothing. But he was looking at her. His rich brown eyes, usually full of curiosity, were empty. “Mike … what’s wrong?”
“Nothing … fuckin’ nothing.” He started to go to the kitchen.
Instinctively, she grabbed his arm. “Mike …?” He brushed past her. She would have reached for him again except Billy was between them. She followed. Get out of here before things get out of hand. But instinct said, stay close to him.
He wanted to tell her to fuck off and go home but he was also glad she was here. He went to the middle of the kitchen and stood on the opposite side of the butcher-block island. Billy slipped underneath and Gritt stopped a few feet away. The momentary quiet was calming.
She’d faced domestic disputes in kitchens, staring across an unknown space, watching for threatening signs. She saw the wooden block of knives just to his right, normally a potential danger. His hands were planted on the island but not in an angry grip. His face wasn’t taut nor eyes narrow and the veins in his neck were not pulsing. He looked weary.
“I think you should go,” he said.
“Shall I make that an order?”
“Won’t change anything.”
“What’s with you? It’s called insubordination?”
“Not insubordination, sir. Just want to –”
“What’s with the ‘sir’ shit?”
“Just want to make sure you’re okay … before I leave.”
“I’m fine … leave.”
“You’re not. And I’m not.”
“Not okay? Or not leaving?”
“Both. I’m not leaving and won’t be okay until I know you’re okay.” She stepped up and put her hands on the butcher block and tried to reach beyond the hollow in his eyes.
He sensed her slipping inside him, warmth rising up under his skin, blood suffusing through his arms, legs, gut. An odd fusion of strength and weakness overtaking him. He was vulnerable. There was no ‘sir,’ no ‘boss,’ no ‘sheriff,’ no ‘deputy sheriff,’ just this. Whatever this was?
She saw it. In his eyes. A relinquishing. A letting-go of something. She reached across and touched his hand. It stiffened.
The tension in his arms anchored him to the island, preventing him from pulling her into his isolation and feeding his need.
She stepped around the island, never letting go of his hand. He turned, and she walked into his arms.
He stopped breathing, absorbing the imprint of her body.
In that moment, there was more than a physical awareness, it was an undeniable connection across a forbidden divide. She felt his arousal … then the power of his embrace, the intensity of his body, the hunger in his hands. Her innermost, sexual yearning rushed to his needs.
He reached to bury himself in her. His hands gripped her buttocks. He lifted her.
His hardness pressed against her tummy and her legs opened to accept him … then her holstered gun bumped against the butcher-block. Her legs released him as she pulled her head from his neck. He let go. Not a word was said, their eyes said everything.
She whispered, “I’m sorry …”
“Oh my god … I never should have let –”
“It’s okay … I just wanted to –”
“I didn’t mean to drag you into this,” he said. “It’s my problem.”
“Our problem. Your problems are mine, mine are yours. It’s our
“Not this time. Not this part.”
“No Michael. I came to you. I know you’re hurting. You needed a hug. It’s only natural that our respect for each other spills over and triggers natural instincts … you know, natural male-female stuff … our libidos got ahead of us … no big deal.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” He went to the fridge and took out two beers. “Gritt … I’m truly sorry.”
“No need. It’s done. Over.”
“No. It’s not.” He popped the cans and passed her one.
“It is … as far as I’m concerned.” Maybe it’s not over for him … and that’s okay too. Her femininity stirred again.
He pointed between them. “We’re over.” Then put a finger to his temple like a pistol. “But I’m done.”
She mimicked his pistol action. “What’s with this?”
He blinked. “Aaah, nothing. If we don’t solve this case – soon – I’m done.”
He was scrambling. Didn’t sound honest. Whatever?
He swigged the beer. “Let’s start over in the morning – and thanks for putting up with me.”
She left behind a confused deputy sheriff and took a very unsatisfied young woman home. She went to bed and immersed herself in sexual dissatisfaction and escaped the on-the-job problems – for now.
Mike lifted Billy onto the bed and looked into his big brown eyes. “Billy, I damn near blew it tonight, in more ways than one. Almost lost my cool … she is one hot, deputy sheriff, right? … Billy? She’s hot, don’t you think? Come on Billy, agree with me … I mean irresistible. Right?” Billy blinked. “You know what happens when us guys get distracted by women? Of course, you’re too old and I’m supposed to be too smart. But you know what’s goin’ on. It ain’t an excuse, but it sure as hell has my brain bent outta shape.” He stroked Billy’s back. “I’m in a bad state. And tonight damn near fucked everything up. You know what I almost told her? … I was on the verge of giving into my sappy pain, letting my heart get ahead of my brain. I mean … I like her. She’s special, terrific woman … could share a lot with her. Trust her.” He bent down and gently lifted Billy’s chin toward him. “Personally, between you and me Billy, I have trouble controlling myself when alone with her … you know, she’s fuckin’ gorgeous. Smart. Tough. Sexxxxy.” He shook his head and dropped his eyes from Billy’s stare. “Billy, I almost told her …”
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