Maggie's Hunt, page 8
“An understanding?” Chuck asked with a smile.
Maggie looked over at Chuck as she gently broke out of Hunt’s arms. “Okay, I want a straight answer. Which one of you turkeys invited Michael here this evening?”
Natalie looked guilty. “Maggie, I just thought that the two of you should sit down and iron out your differences. Uncle Michael needs your help. This election will not be easy. He’s going to need all of us to pull behind him.”
Maggie shook her head. “Remind me to do you that large of a favor one day,” she retorted.
Natalie’s face fell. “Was it that bad?”
“No, we cleared the air. I don’t think that we’ll ever be close friends again, but we’re not mortal enemies.”
“That’s good,” Natty replied softly. “I hated having to lie to Uncle Michael about knowing where you were.”
“You didn’t have to lie about my whereabouts. I’m sure that he knew all along where I was. Otherwise, the FBI would have been looking for me, as a kidnap victim.”
Natty smiled. “You are probably right. Uncle Michael always was very protective of you. Too much so, at times.”
Hunt smiled. “Chuck, do you happen to have an open bottle of champagne around here somewhere?”
“I just thought that we ought to drink a toast to marriage,” Hunt said mischievously.
“Marriage?” Natalie and Chuck said nearly in unison.
Maggie looked at Hunt and shook her head in dismay.
“I just thought that since Natalie’s Uncle Michael knew about it, that we’d let her in on it, too,” Hunt said softly.
Maggie laughed. “Of course, Hunt. But, I’ve had too much to drink as it is. I’m tired and I think that I’ll go to bed, now.”
“Not so fast,” Hunt replied easily as he took her hand. “Stick around a little while longer.”
Maggie looked at Hunt’s strong hand encasing hers. Then she looked into his eyes. There was both humor and confidence there. Too much confidence. “Which dan?” she asked Hunt quietly.
He smiled at her. “Somehow, I thought that you would guess.”
“Is it a secret?” Maggie asked quietly.
“It’s always better for people in the public eye to have a secret or two. There is a certain advantage for the public not to know that someone like myself can take care of himself,” Hunt replied quietly.
“In case of kidnapping, you mean?” Maggie asked, her voice flat.
“Or something worse,” Hunt responded honestly.
Maggie nodded her head in acknowledgment. Fifth degree black belt. She had worked for years on achieving hers. “Same rank that I hold.”
“Randori in the morning after breakfast?” Hunt asked.
That might prove interesting, Hunt. Yes.”
Natalie laughed. “Oh, this I have got to see.”
“It’s your house,” Maggie replied lightly. “Now, it has been a long day filled with surprises of all sorts. I really need to go to bed.”
Hunt smiled gently at her. “Of course. Sleep well, Maggie mine.”
The lone man stood some distance off from the house. He watched the light go on in one of the third floor bedrooms, the bedroom usually occupied by Margaret Mary O’Shay when she visited with her friends.
The boss, whom he knew only through the bulletin board and one brief, electronically disguised, telephone call, had already transferred $5,000 earnest money for the job into his Grand Cayman bank account. There would be another $45,000 when the job was successfully completed.
Sunday morning should be just about right, the man thought. A single shot from his suppressed .44 auto mag or from the .308 rifle which was similarly suppressed, as she was coming out of Church should just about do it.
The man took one last look at the window, before he walked away into the night.
It was early Saturday morning when Maggie awoke after only three hours of sleep. She hurriedly showered in the en suite bathroom and dressed in her white cotton judogi. Chuck was always up early. She could almost always count on finding him in his private dojo. Randori, free style judo play, with Chuck was always a challenging experience. Today, it would be more so, because she had to pump Chuck for information about his college roommate. Getting information out of Chuck, if he didn’t want to tell, was next to impossible.
She brushed out her long hair and pulled it back in a single braid, before making her way downstairs.
As she expected, Chuck was in his dojo. What she hadn’t expected, but should have, was that Hunt would be with him. She stood for a minute at the doorway watching the two of them engaged in free style martial arts play which was a mixture of several different fighting styles. She did have to admit that the two tall men were exceptionally well-matched.
“Time out,” Hunt called as he nodded towards the door.
Chuck smiled as he saw Maggie. “Come on in, Maggie. You can rescue me from your fiancee.”
“Too much competitor for you?” Maggie asked with a laugh.
“He’s wiping the floor with me. Maybe he’ll be a bit more gentle with you,” Chuck replied, sounding amused.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, Hunt?” Maggie asked quietly.
“More like having woken in the wrong bed,” Hunt told her with a smile.
Maggie blushed hotly. “Hunt . . . .”
“Want to move up our date for randori to before breakfast?” he offered. “I love watching you blush . . . .”
“You would,” she charged.
“Sure. Why not?”
After little more than an hour, they called a halt to the match by mutual consent. Maggie smiled at Hunt.
“You’re good,” Hunt said with respect.
Maggie nodded as she picked up two towels. “You took the words right out of my mouth.” She tossed him one.
“I decided to go up to my folk’s place in Vermont today, instead of tomorrow. Want to come along?”
“Now that was a gracious offer,” Maggie replied, wiping her face with the towel.
Hunt smiled at her. “Well?”
“I think that I would like that,” Maggie responded quietly.
“Are you sure that they won’t mind having someone drop in on them unexpectedly?”
“Mom enjoys having people around. Besides, she’ll be so glad to welcome home the prodigal son, that I could bring home an army, and she’d welcome them, just because they brought me.”
“Are you really a ‘prodigal’, a recklessly wasteful, extravagant, lavish, person?”
Hunt smiled at her. He shook his head negatively. “I keep forgetting how much you like words. My sister Marie is the same way. She is almost impossible to beat at Scrabble. You’ll like Marie.”
“Will she be there?”
“Eventually. After the term at her school ends, she and her kids will be at the Inn. Right now, though, the group will be limited to Mom, Dad, and the twins. So, will you come with me?”
“I think that I would like that,” Maggie said.
“Good. We’ll drive up after breakfast.”
“I doubt that your convertible could make it through the snows. I have a four-wheel-drive Jeep.”
Maggie smiled slightly.
“Look, Maggie, I know that I’m moving this along at a faster pace than you are comfortable with. But, at the moment, we are both free of commitments. Isn’t whatever exists between us worth exploring?”
Maggie nodded. “I think that it might just be.”
Susan McLaughlin sat across the breakfast table from her husband in the Georgetown townhouse.
“Well, Mike,” she said as she read the draft announcement of his candidacy which would appear in the papers. “There will be no backing out after this announcement is made.”
“Not in the least,” Susan responded quietly. “I think that I am going to like living in the White House. All we have to do is to convince the voters you are the best man for the office.”
Michael smiled. “That isn’t going to be easy, darling. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
“I’ve never been afraid of hard work, Mike.”
“No,” he replied with a laugh, “You never have been afraid of much, have you, darling?”
“Very little,” Susan admitted. “I didn’t know that Margaret was working for Guy.”
“For several years.”
“Obviously, she has been quite successful,” Susan replied thoughtfully.
“Then, she won’t be back to hit the campaign trail with us?”
“That’s too bad,” Susan replied. “For all of her faults, Margaret is a well spoken, attractive, young woman who makes a good impression.”
Mike smiled at his wife. “She assures me that she is fully in support of the candidacy.”
“That’s good. Do you suppose that I should write her a note thanking her for her support?”
“That would be a nice gesture. It’s well past time that the two of you buried the hatchet.”
“I wasn’t aware that there was any hatchet to be buried. Margaret was simply reacting as any young girl her age would have reacted to having the rug pulled out from under her. You were one of the only links that she had left to her parents. She had to feel that I was trying to take her mother’s place. I don’t blame her for the unfriendly way that she acted towards me. I probably should have tried to be kinder to her. Looking back on it, I didn’t help the situation any.”
Michael smiled at his wife. He took Susan’s hand. “You did the best that you knew how. I can’t blame you for the situation.”
“I know how much Margaret means to you. I should have been more sensitive to the situation,” Susan replied.
Michael reached over to her. He placed two fingers gently under her chin and urged her head up so that she was looking into his eyes. “Do you ever regret marrying me? Your life could have been much more peaceful if you had married some younger man.”
“How could I regret the best decision that I ever made?” Susan demanded. “I love you, Michael. With all my heart.”
Michael smiled. “I do love you, Susan.”
Susan smiled as she rose from the table and walked the three steps to her husband. Standing beside his chair, she asked, “What is on your schedule for today?”
Michael smiled at his wife. “Nothing at all until late afternoon. I was going to read some reports this morning after I swim.”
“Can it wait?” Susan queried as she lightly ran her fingers through his hair.
Michael caught her hand, pushed his chair back from the table, and pulled her into his lap. He smiled at his wife. “You are insatiable, woman,” he said, trying to sound irritated.
“Oh, no, darling,” she very nearly purred. “I am very capable of being satiated; and of satiating you. Let’s go back to bed, Mike.”
Maggie was puttering around in the kitchen, making coffee and mixing up the batter for the waffles Natty loved, when Natalie came into the kitchen. Chuck was in his study. Hunt had gone upstairs to shower and change before breakfast.
“That coffee smells rank,” Natalie groused.
Maggie smiled at her friend. “Now, I believe that you are pregnant,” she said in amusement. “They tell me that coffee is one of the first things that pregnant women lose tolerance for.”
“I’m surprised to see you up this early. I thought that you would surely be sleeping in, pampering yourself.”
“Speaking of sleep, how did you sleep?” Natty asked.
“Like a log in a flooding river,” Maggie answered as she walked over to the breakfast nook and took a seat at the table there.
“That turbulent, eh?”
“Something like that.”
“You and Hunt. That surprised me. I know that you can be impetuous. But, I never thought of him in that way,” Natalie said quietly.
“Impetuous, moi?” Maggie responded with mock incredulity.
“Who was the one who decided that Dani and I should accompany you as you took a walking tour of the Left Bank after dark when we were in Paris at the cooking school?”
Maggie laughed. “Well, at least, I wasn’t the one who went bar hopping with Rusty. Speaking of Rusty, I heard from her the other day.”
Natalie smiled. “I heard from her the other day, myself. She filed for another patent. I’ve lost count now on how many she holds. I always knew that she would be successful.”
“Some people have all the talent,” Maggie said. “She asked me to test a new type of body armor that she is developing.”
“She expects you to be shot at?” Natalie asked with a laugh.
“No, silly, she wants me to wear the vest and pants to test them for comfort and mobility levels. Both pieces are sitting up in my suitcase right now. Rusty says that she has already tested them for effectiveness. She thinks that they will be comfortable to wear, but she wants another opinion.”
Natalie smiled. “Is there anything that Rusty isn’t interested in?”
Natalie shook her head. “You may be right. Now, change of subject. What did you tell Hunt about Uncle Michael?” Natalie asked.
“Nothing. I’m sure that he overheard the conversation between Michael and me. He knows more than I am really comfortable with his knowing,” Maggie replied. “Why are you asking?”
“He was asking all sort of questions about him.”
“What kind of questions?” Maggie demanded softly.
“Questions. You know. General stuff. About you and Uncle Michael. Your relationship. Michael and Susan. Michael and Guy. Michael and me. Susan and you. That sort of thing.”
“I see . . . .”
“Are you really going to marry him?”
“I don’t know,” Maggie admitted. “Why don’t you like him?”
Natalie shrugged. “He’s just too smooth, too hard . . . .”
“Twisted steel and sex appeal,” Maggie said softly.
Natalie laughed. “Something like that. I know that he has a reputation as a hot shot businessman. He’s made fortunes for himself and others. Still, there’s an edge about him that didn’t come out of working in banking. Even on the level he works. I can’t shake the feeling that he has been involved in something dangerous. I know that sounds strange.”
Maggie looked at her friend for a moment. “Not so strange, really.”
Natalie smiled softly. “Are you making waffles?”
“I thought I would.”
“Good. Chuck gave me a new waffle iron for my birthday. It makes waffles which look like Mickey Mouse.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Maggie replied, starting to laugh.
Natalie laughed also. “Swear to God. I’m serious.”
“This, I have got to see.”
The four of them sat around the breakfast table eating their “Mouse” waffles which were smothered in out-of-season, fresh, sliced strawberries from Natalie’s greenhouse.
The conversation was general.
“How long will it take you to pack?” Hunt asked Maggie.
“Are you leaving us?” Natalie questioned.
“Hunt invited me to go with him to meet his parents,” Maggie replied.
Chuck smiled. “Oh, yes?”
Natalie lifted an eyebrow in query. “Have fun.”
“You don’t mind my leaving my car here, do you?” Maggie asked.
Chuck laughed. “It will be safe, Maggie. Don’t worry about it. You just have a good time with Hank, Helen and the horrible hordes.”
“Horrible hordes?” Maggie questi
Hunt laughed. “Easy, Chuck. They’ve grown up now. Chuck remembers the twins from our undergraduate days. They were nine or ten. They ran away from home and appeared at the dorm. We had to keep them for two days before Mom could get there to retrieve them.”
“Your poor mother must have been frantic,” Maggie said.
“Oh, Helen took it in stride. But, those were the longest two days of my life,” Chuck said with feeling.
Natalie smiled. “You’ve got some long days ahead of you, Chuck.”
The big blond man put one hand on his wife’s, still flat, stomach. “Sprout will behave.”
Natalie turned pale. “I wouldn’t bet on it. He’s already making his mother sick.”
The three of them watched Natty flee the room.
“Should you go to her?” Maggie asked in concern.
Chuck shook his head. “She doesn’t like me hovering over her. If she needs me, she’ll ask for help.”
Hunt took her hand. “Since you cooked breakfast, Chuck and I will load the dishwasher and clean up. Why don’t you go get showered, and pack. I want to be on the road in an hour or so.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Maggie had packed her bags, stripped and remade her bed, and dressed in jeans, a green angora sweater, and her boots, before Natalie knocked on the door.
“Magpie?” Natalie asked softly as she popped her head into the room.
Natalie walked into the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind herself. “I want to talk with you.”
“Are you okay, Natty?”
“It’s just morning sickness. The doctor says that it will pass.”
“That’s precious little comfort when you are losing meals,” Maggie remarked dryly.
“The baby is worth the effort,” Natalie assured her.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“You and Hunt.”
“What about Hunt and me?”
“Don’t rush into anything, Magpie.”
“I have no intention of doing that.”
“Now, don’t go getting offended. I’m sure that Hunt is a good man, basically. He and Chuck have been friends for a very long time. But, just be careful will you?”