A walk in the park, p.1

A Walk in the Park, page 1

 

A Walk in the Park
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A Walk in the Park


  An adult hotline operator meets a man straight out of her private fantasies in this classic, must-read story from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Jackson, first published in 2013 as Smookie and the Bandit in the anthology Love Bites.

  Raquel Capers is shocked to discover that her precious pooch, Smookie, is having puppies with the dog next door. She feels it’s only fair that her neighbor, Quest Newman, help with the expenses from this unexpected development. But what’s even more shocking to Raquel is how attractive she finds Quest, and the sparks are definitely mutual. Will these two go from neighbors to something more thanks to a little help from their four-legged friends?

  A Walk in the Park

  Brenda Jackson

  CONTENTS

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Epilogue

  To everyone who enjoys reading a good romance story

  where the sexual chemistry is oozing all over the place,

  this one is for you.

  Happy is the man that findeth wisdom,

  and the man that getteth understanding.

  —Proverbs 3:13

  CHAPTER ONE

  “YES, MAY I HELP YOU?”

  Raquel Capers swallowed as she gazed into the face of the man who leaned in the doorway. She’d heard that Quest Newman was a hottie, eye candy of the third degree. However, in light of why she was there, she’d shoved the information aside.

  “Miss?”

  She blinked. “Yes?”

  “I asked if I can help you? However, if you’re here soliciting, this complex has a policy against it.”

  Raquel stiffened her spine. “I’m Raquel Capers and that’s not why I’m here.”

  “Then how can I help you?” Quest asked. She was a looker, and he could definitely come up with a few good ideas if she couldn’t. But unfortunately, he didn’t have the time. He was best man in his twin brother’s wedding and the rehearsal dinner was tonight, so he was in a hurry. Then, later, it was guys’ night out with a huge party planned. The last one his brother, Quincy, would enjoy as a single man.

  “I’m here because of your dog.”

  The woman’s words, spoken in a deep, sultry voice, reclaimed his attention. “Bandit?”

  “If that’s what you call him.”

  He straightened and placed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “I do. What about Bandit?”

  “My dog is Smookie.”

  Quest lifted a brow, wondering why she felt that information was somehow vital to the conversation. “And?”

  She crossed her arms over her chest, and his gaze automatically went to the uplifting of her breasts. Pressed against her pretty pink blouse, he could tell they were a nice, full and firm pair.

  “And it seems your Bandit is about to be a father.”

  He frowned, pretty damn certain he hadn’t heard her correctly. “Excuse me?”

  “Let me spell it out for you, Mr. Newman. Your Bandit has knocked up my Smookie.”

  “He did what!”

  Quest Newman definitely had a good set of lungs, Raquel thought. And the shocked look on his face would have made her laugh outright if the business at hand wasn’t so darn serious. But she didn’t have time for amusement.

  “That’s not possible.”

  Raquel lifted her chin and glared at the man. “Trust me, it is.”

  Quest sighed, getting annoyed. “Look, like I said, that’s not possible. I don’t know you or your Smookie, but I do know that whenever Bandit is out, he’s on a leash with me or my dog sitter.”

  “Well, on this particular day, he wasn’t with your dog sitter.”

  He narrowed his gaze. “And what particular day are you talking about, Ms. Capers?”

  “Friday, May tenth.”

  Quest knew immediately where he’d been that day. He’d gone camping with a couple of his frat brothers from college and had left Bandit, his Yorkie, with his nineteen-year-old cousin Tawny, who would dog sit whenever he traveled. While he was gone, it was customary for Tawny to move into one of his guest rooms to take care of all Bandit’s needs, which included walking him on a leash—at least three times a day.

  “What do you mean he wasn’t with my sitter?”

  “Just what I said. I was out of town at the time and left Smookie with my elderly neighbor, Ms. Albright. Well, it seems on this particular day while Ms. Albright was at the doggy park, your sitter approached her and asked for a favor. She said an emergency had come up.”

  Quest’s eyebrows lifted. “What sort of an emergency?”

  “She claimed that one of her aunts had passed away and she needed to leave town immediately.”

  Since he and Tawny shared the same aunts and all of them were alive and accounted for, he knew that wasn’t true. “And?”

  “And she asked Ms. Albright if she would watch your dog for a couple of days while she left town to attend the funeral. Being the Christian woman that she is, and since Ms. Albright had seen your sitter at the park on more than one occasion, she agreed. And when questioned, your sitter assured Ms. Albright that your Bandit was fixed.”

  Quest knew that part was far from the truth. He had meant to get it done but kept putting it off, mainly because he felt a pain between his own legs whenever he thought about it. “Bandit isn’t fixed.”

  “Ms. Albright found that out later when she walked in on them. My Smookie and your Bandit. Needless to say, she was horrified.”

  “I bet she was.”

  “She told me what happened the moment I returned to town. I called the vet and she said there was nothing that could be done, but for me to watch for any signs that my Smookie was pregnant. I did. She is. And it’s your Bandit’s fault.”

  Quest heard a sound and glanced over his shoulder. His Yorkie, who had finished his supper in the kitchen, strolled into the living room. Quest did recall that Bandit had been in a damn good mood when he’d returned from that camping trip. Now he knew why. Too bad there wasn’t such a thing as a doggy condom. And as far as Tawny was concerned, he’d seen her several times since then and not once had she mentioned anything about leaving his dog with anyone else while he’d been gone.

  He glanced back at his visitor. “Look, Ms. Capers, I have no proof what you’re claiming is true. I will speak with the person responsible for taking care of my dog at that time.”

  “Yes, you do that, Mr. Newman. And when she verifies my story, then you can give me a call.” She all but shoved a business card into his hand. “I think it’s only fair that you share the cost of Smookie’s vet expenses associated with this pregnancy.”

  “Share the cost?”

  “Yes, share the cost. After all, it was your dog who was someplace he shouldn’t have been,” she said, moving to get in his face.

  “And if your story is true, it was your Ms. Albright who accepted the responsibility,” he said, moving closer to get in hers. He was so close he could see her hazel eyes clearly and thought they were beautiful.

  “Need I remind you that if your sitter hadn’t lied, none of this would have happened.”

  She had a point there, but at the moment he wouldn’t agree to it. “Like I said, that has yet to be proven.”

  He took a step back. His mouth was too damn close to hers, and temptation was too high. It wouldn’t take much for him to be pushed to cop a taste.

  Quest checked his watch. He needed to leave now if he wanted to be on time for the rehearsal dinner. Tawny was one of the bridesmaids, so he would talk to her then. He shoved the business card into his pocket. “I’ll
get to the bottom of this and call you.”

  “Yes, you do that.”

  She turned and walked away. It was then he saw the full picture. Her cute little outfit consisted of a low-cut pink blouse, snug-fitting black miniskirt and a pair of black polka-dotted stilettos that could probably kill. And speaking of kill, her legs were a killer pair. And that voice of hers…he could get a boner just from hearing it. She had sounded good even when her words came out stinging.

  He heard a doggy yawn and turned, catching Bandit in the act as he stretched across the floor, looking well fed and as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Little did the mutt know, all of that might be coming to an end. When you played, you had to pay.

  “So Bandit, I understand you’ve been keeping secrets,” he said, closing the door and walking into the room. The dog, with his short tail wagging, moved toward him for the pat on the head he knew was coming

  “You might have gotten laid that week, but in the end it might cost you…or should I say, cost me. If I end up getting stuck with puppy support payments, that’s a few less dog bones for you, my friend.” The dog, with his tongue lolling out, merely looked up at him with a silly dog grin.

  Quest shook his head and moved toward the table to get his keys. He intended to see Ms. Capers again, even if it wasn’t for any purpose other than to tell her she had his mutt mixed up with another.

  He glanced down at her business card. Raquel Capers. Actress. He really wasn’t surprised. She had the looks and the body for one, but what kind of work would an actress find in Talladega, Alabama? There was the Ritz Theater, which put on live shows on occasion, but was that enough for full-time work? And would it enable someone to afford a condo in Gresham Falls?

  Umm, Ms. Capers was getting more interesting by the minute.

  CHAPTER TWO

  RAQUEL LEANED BACK in her chair, propped her feet on the desk and adjusted Smookie’s position in her lap while she talked on the phone. Tonight’s caller was over-the-top, but if he was willing to pay twenty-five bucks an hour just to have sex talk with her, then she wouldn’t complain.

  She knew the picture he had pulled up on his computer screen wasn’t her, and she would never, ever on this planet do any of the things she was suggesting in this call. But she was an actress and it paid the bills.

  She stroked Smookie’s fur and smiled. “Oh, Robbie, I just love it when you talk to me that way,” she said, referring to him by the first name he was using. “You keep it up and I’ll be coming soon. I won’t be able to hold it back,” she said with a bated breath, sounding like a woman on the verge of having an orgasm any minute.

  “Then I’m going to give you multiples.”

  Yeah, right, she thought, rolling her eyes. He’d had her on the phone forty-five minutes already and had even hinted at calling 906-HOT-WIRE for an additional hour. Little did he know that chances were when he did call back, he wouldn’t get her. This was her last call for tonight.

  “You know, before this call ends, sweetheart,” he was rasping into the phone, “you can give me your address, and I can come over and continue things.”

  She rolled her eyes again. Not on your best night, bud. Besides, he’d already let it slip he lived somewhere in Iowa. Did he really assume she was the girl next door from his hometown? Seriously? In that case he’d probably be pretty darn shocked to know she lived thousands of miles away in Alabama. On top of that, instead of wearing the skimpy white negligee she’d claimed, she was in her shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops. Definitely nothing sexy about her tonight.

  “You know our policies, Robbie,” she said, not caring if he knew them or not. By the time midnight rolled around, she would have made an easy thousand or more. Not bad, when on a given day she could move around her condo and clean up while making all kind of lewd and lascivious noises. She could understand why Smookie looked at her strangely sometimes.

  Smookie.

  She glanced down at the one thing she held most precious. The last birthday gift her brother, Jordan, had given her before he’d died two years ago in a car accident. It had been her twenty-fifth birthday and Jordan had dropped by her apartment to surprise her. At first she’d been upset, since he’d known she wasn’t into pets. They required too much time and way too much attention.

  However, once she’d looked in the box at the snow-white toy poodle puppy staring back at her, she’d been smitten. And now, almost two years later, she truly didn’t know what she would do without her Smookie. The dog was everything Raquel had needed after Jordan’s death. Smookie was her baby.

  Moving her hand to gently caress Smookie’s soft belly, which showed signs of protruding, Raquel thought, My baby is about to have a baby. Possibly more than one. According to Dr. Jones, a toy poodle Smookie’s size and age could have up to four.

  That thought made her think of Quest Newman and his Bandit. She frowned. Just like a male to make a hit and then run. But if he thought he was going to get away with it, he had another thought coming. “I have to believe he’s going to do what’s right,” she muttered aloud.

  “Precious, what did you say? It feels right?”

  Raquel blinked, remembering she still had Robbie on the phone and she was supposed to be rubbing her hand over her breasts. “Yes, Robbie, it feels right,” she purred.

  She glanced over at the clock. Less than ten minutes to go. She hoped she could last that long, since she was getting sleepy. She would never forget when her best friend, Whitney Frazier, had come up with the idea of starting what she’d called Companionship Plus. Whitney had purchased one of those 900 hotlines and gone into business. She had talked Raquel into being her first phone actress and, within less than six months, Raquel had made enough money to quit her day job as a claims adjuster for an insurance company.

  Then Whitney began throwing the what-ifs out there, and suggested that with Raquel’s voice—one that a lot of guys described as sultry—they could start the hot wire, a special line just for Raquel. The callers would pay a premium because they would feel they were getting exclusive services. It had worked. Raquel’s income had nearly tripled.

  Although the sex conversations could get rather explicit and graphic at times, she still couldn’t believe how much money men would pay for such foolishness. Now, almost a year later, she considered herself an actress, because acting was what she did. Her role as Precious was to make men happy by fulfilling a fantasy.

  Overall, being a phone actress had definite perks. Including being able to work in the comfort of her own home, and speaking to a lot of interesting guys who just wanted to talk and needed someone to listen. Most wanted to fulfill their fantasies over the phone, fantasies they felt they couldn’t share with their wife or significant other.

  And now Companionship Plus, in which she was a silent partner, employed more than two hundred other women across the country, providing most of them with extra incomes earned from the privacy of their own homes, working schedules that were ideal for them. Most handled the hotline, but twenty had advanced and, like her, worked the hot wire exclusively. She preferred letting Whitney run the business while she worked with the staff on the phones.

  The beep sounded, letting Robbie know he had only a minute left. “I enjoyed talking to you tonight, Precious. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up in person one of these days.”

  She frowned, thinking she definitely hoped not. “Yes, maybe we will. It was nice talking to you.”

  Moments later she hung up the phone and stood, cuddling Smookie in her arms. “That was the last call for the night, Smookie. Thank goodness. Time for us to get ready for bed.”

  After taking a shower, she moved around her condo, cutting off lights and making sure all the doors were secured. It was on nights like this that she missed Jordan something awful. It had not been unusual for him to drop by her place after one of his late-night poker games. In fact, he’d been on his way to a poker game when a drunk driver had lost control of his car and plowed into Jordan’s.

  Her baby bro
ther. Her only brother, who’d been only two years younger than her, had lost his life instantly. Leaving her all alone with no other relatives close by. Her parents were living in England. After retiring from the military seven years ago, they had decided to make Europe their home.

  Less than an hour later, Raquel was cuddled beneath the covers with Smookie lying on top of them beside her. Raquel couldn’t stop her thoughts from drifting to when she’d confronted Quest Newman earlier that day. All the talk she’d heard from the women out walking their dogs was true. He was good-looking, well built, sexy and just all-around luscious. But her business with him took top billing over all that. She would see if he kept his word and followed up with her.

  What if his dog sitter lied? Then it would be her word against the sitter’s. She wondered if they could run DNA testing on dogs. She rolled her eyes, not believing she would consider taking things that far. If Quest Newman didn’t believe her and refused any responsibility, then she would take care of Smookie’s expenses herself. She could certainly afford to do so. It was just the principle of the thing.

  Yes, she thought as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. It was the principle of the thing.

  * * *

  QUEST STARED AT HIS COUSIN, trying to get a grip before he opened his mouth to speak. “So you’re telling me that everything Raquel Capers said is true?”

  Tawny shrugged, trying to keep the “Busted!” look off her face. “Well, I can’t validate her claim that Bandit actually copped some off her doggy, since I wasn’t there to see it for myself,” she said. “But then, knowing Bandit like I do, I don’t doubt it. You know what they say, ‘Like owner, like doggy.’”

  He frowned. “And what do you mean by that?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Come on, Quest. You know what I mean. You’re a Newman. You and your brothers like females, and evidently so does your dog. Besides, Bandit’s a male—four years old—which is a lot of years in human years. He needed a woman. All men do.”

  Quest rolled his eyes. “We’re talking about a dog, Tawny.”

 
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