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Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Mystery · #2189684
The Red Gown

CHAPTER 9


MICHAEL SILENTLY let himself into his grandmother's house just at dawn. The early morning light filtering in from the curtained windows showed him a sleeping form, beneath the mound of covers, on the couch.

         Is Tony still here?

         His fingers clutched the blankets near the top of the sleeping person and pulled them slowly away, to reveal the face.

         "What the... Oh no!" he exclaimed softly.

         His voice and the sudden draft of cold air must have awakened Rebecca, for he saw only a glimpse of her tousled hair and sleepy eyes before she launched herself at his waist, bowling him over. They landed in a heap of surprise and a tangle of blankets. The lamp on the end table bounced as they hit the floor and toppled over. A loud crash exploded into the room.

         "Dammit, Rebecca! What are you doing here?"

         "Michael!" Her muffled voice seemed like a shout, as she tried to untangle the covers. "I came to see Sarah last night. You're the detective, didn't you see my car parked across the street?"

         "No, I didn't." Michael cleared his face of her long hair. "It's still dark out, and the street is lined with cars."

         Brilliant light flooded the living room from the dining area. "Need any help, Michael?" a groggy masculine voice asked.

         A bare-chested and sleepy-eyed Tony stood in the doorway, his eyes wide. Michael saw the panic in Rebecca as she looked down at herself.

         Lying atop him, her silky, red sleeveless nightgown pushed up to reveal a long expanse of thigh. The scooped neckline hung off her shoulder, if he hadn't been cupping her left breast in his hand, he would have had a clear view down to her waist. She yanked the gown down to her knees and half-heartedly slapped Michael's hand away.

         "Oh. I guess you don't," Tony said and grinned as he turned away.

         Michael stared at Rebecca as if he'd never seen her before. His confusion, however, didn't prevent sheer instinct from responding to a beautiful, half-naked woman sprawled on top of him.

         Her eyes opened even wider as he moved his hand from her breast to around the back of her neck. Gently he eased her face toward his.

         Her long tresses fell forward as he kissed her, the silky strands caressing his face. He leaned back in wonder.

         From their first meeting he had liked her spunkiness, but he hadn't let himself be drawn to her as a woman. Until now, he'd denied, to himself, that he found her attractive.

         But that notion was gone! He wanted this beautiful creature right now! So much for the nonsense of it not being the right time to get involved with anyone. Resisting this urge was too much for him to handle.

         He knew Rebecca didn't want him to stop caressing her when she leaned toward him and joined in the heady onslaught. She shifted to a more comfortable position between his jean-clad legs.

         Her hips pressed into him, and his desire escalated. He stroked the satiny smoothness of her bare thigh. She pressed herself against him and groaned softly.

         The next moments vanished behind them until slowly, common sense returned. He forced himself to stop. "This isn't a good idea," he whispered his lips against her throat.

         "Why not?" she purred, still pressing herself against him. "Tony went back to bed." Even with the blanket between them, he knew it didn't hide his arousal. "And I know you want to." She ran her fingers through his hair then dropped her hands to his chest and started unbuttoning his shirt.

         Her enthusiasm,, that sexy red nightgown, and her long hair tumbling over her bare shoulders all combined to cripple his good judgment, but he managed to lay a hand over hers to stop her fidgeting with his buttons.

         "Michael?" Rebecca whispered. "What's wrong?

         "For one thing, we're on Grandmother's living room floor, and she's standing in the dining room doorway with a big, silly grin on her face."

         Rebecca looked over her shoulder. The red in her face almost matched her gown. Moaning softly, she rolled off Michael and buried her face in the covers.

         "My goodness! You two are up early! Breakfast, anyone?" Sarah said. "I'll have it ready in a jiffy." She turned toward the kitchen.

         With the rattle of pans from the kitchen, Rebecca sat up and pulled away from Michael.

"So, you forgot where we were, too, eh?" He sat on the floor, his hands dangling between raised knees.

          "I feel like I'm sixteen again." She combed the hair back out of her eyes with her fingers.

         "You look it, too. But it suits you. Nice gown."

         She found the teasing gleam in his eyes, along with ruefulness, and warmth surprising. "It's your grandmother's."

         "No way." The sheer, red, and sexy garment brought a grin to his face.

         Rebecca smiled. "She loaned it to me last night, said it was my color."

         "She's right about that," Michael cleared his throat. "You wear it well."

         "Coffee's ready," Sarah called from the kitchen.

* * *


         Rebecca grabbed her clothes from a nearby chair. "I'm going to get dressed. Sarah can explain why I'm here. And you can clean up the broken lamp. It was your fault for scaring me."

         By the time Rebecca came back, Tony had returned and the meal was on the table, Sarah chattered nonstop during their breakfast of fresh fruit and whole wheat pancakes. She never mentioned the earlier interlude, and she didn't seem to mind the broken lamp. To Rebecca's apology, she claimed it was one she never liked anyway.

         "Thank you for staying last night, Tony." Sarah patted the young officer's hand. "After a second break-in, I would have been scared to death."
         "Glad to do it. It's good you had an extra room."

         "Yeah," Michael said, "but that put Rebecca on the couch, and stirred up that whole ruckus."

         "Oh. That's what did it, huh?" Tony's contagious grin spread around the table.

         "Well, I've got to get home and change in time to get to work," Tony said as soon as they finished eating. Michael grabbed the bag of sugar cookies, he had come to pick up. "Me too. See you later." Both men headed toward the door.

         "Not so fast, buster." Rebecca caught up with Michael at the front door. "I'm going with you to get the figurine."

         She was wearing the same navy blue pants and a blue and white sweater from yesterday. "Don't you want to go home and change, too? I won't have time to wait. I'll meet you later."

         A shower sounded heavenly, but that missing file had her worried. Is he the one who took it from her apartment? If he did, what else was he hiding from her? "I'd love to. But I don't trust you."

         "You didn't seem worried about that earlier."

         Temper flared in her eyes. "This has nothing to do with sex," Rebecca informed him. "This is business."

         "I've got to get to the station and see Floyd before everyone else shows up for work. You can't come with me, but I promise I'll call you later."

         "No. Either you show up with the figurine in one hour, or I'm going to tell Sarah everything that's happened."

         "You wouldn't."

         "Try me. It's my life being threatened, and I'm not going to just sit by and see what happens next."

          "It's seven o'clock now. I'll meet you at your apartment at nine-thirty," he said firmly. "And if the door is open, don't go inside alone, like you did last time."

         "Michael, dear," Rebecca said sweetly, tapping his chin with her finger. "Okay, nine-thirty, but if you don't show up on time..." Her voice trailed off as she slid a finger down over his broad chest, stopping on the zipper of his jeans. "I'm going to drive you nuts."

         He stepped away from her intimate touch. "You're driving me nuts already," Michael said. She knew she he'd be there.

         "Oh. You can handle it. I'm sure you can," Rebecca murmured. "You'd better show up."

         "I'll be there."

         "I hope so. I hate to deny myself."

         Her own words astounded her, but boldness came along with her feelings for Michael. Never in her life had she run after a man. Now that she was, she had the feeling he wanted to run away from her.

         Maybe running was the right move. Was she running headfirst into another disaster? Was he being honest with her? Was he playing her along? Either way, she intended to find out and hoped she didn't get hurt this time.

         Two hours later, after a refreshing shower and a change of clothes, Rebecca was at her desk fact-checking a report due the next day. She had just gotten off the phone with cheerful Ester.

         "You misspelled 'drunken bum'," Michael whispered in her ear.

         Rebecca let out a squeal and swung her swivel seat around, her heart pounding. "You're going to get killed doing that someday! And besides, I don't use phrases like that in my reports."

         "Sure you did, right here." He pointed to a paragraph in the middle of her screen...'inebriated'...see, I told you. You spelled it wrong."

         "Haven't you heard of knocking?"

         "The door was open."

         Behind him, sunlight spilled in through the opening. "No, it wasn't!" Rebecca jumped up and walked over and pushed the door closed. She rattled the knob. "Try again Michael, it's still locked."

         "You call that flimsy thing a lock?" He held up his Master Card. "I popped it open with my credit card. Use the deadbolt from now on."

         She'd take his concern for her a lot better if he didn't always supplement it with an order. "What's in your bag?"

         "A lock for that closet door with the elevator in it and the tools to install it. It won't take long, and none of the places we're visiting open before ten," he added before she could lodge a protest.

         Rebecca frowned. "I don't know." She wanted a lock on the door, and yet the place wasn't hers. "The owners are pretty particular about making changes."

         "Too bad."

         "You're not dressed for messy work," Rebecca commented. He was wearing dark slacks and an aquamarine, button-down shirt with long sleeves. The color made his tan seem even darker and his hair an even lighter shade of brown.

         Michael set the bag down and pulled out a drill. "I'm a big boy, I can take care of myself."

         "I'll tell them a cop put it on for me." Rebecca pointed to the front door. "While you're at it, fix my deadbolt. I don't use it because I can barely turn the key in the lock."

         Rebecca turned back to her computer, intending to get more work done. But it only reminded her of her earlier suspicions. She turned around. Before she could allow her feelings for Michael to take her anywhere, she was going to take the bull by the horns.

         "Michael." Rebecca waited until he looked her way, wanting to gauge his reaction to her question. "Did you steal a file from my desk yesterday?"
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