I Love Lacy, page 1
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
I Love Lacy
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I Love Lacy Copyright © 2008 Lillian Feisty
Edited by Nick Conrad.
Cover art by Syneca.
Electronic book Publication February 2008
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/)
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
I Love Lacy
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Benadryl: Warner-Lambert Company LLC
Candid Camera: Candid Camera, Inc.
Chevy: General Motors Corporation
Dodge Ram: Chrysler Corporation
eBay: eBay, Inc.
Glock: Glock Inc. Corporation
I Love Lucy: CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Jell-O: General Foods Corporation
Nordstrom: Nordstrom, Inc.
Prius: Toyota Motor Corporation
Ruffles: Frito-Lay North America, Inc.
Seinfeld: Castle Rock Entertainment
Trivial Pursuit: Horn Abbot Ltd. Corporation Canada
“Mason O’Malley, PI.”
“Help! Someone’s stolen my priceless tiara!”
He should have known better than to pick up the phone. Mason closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose and wondered why the hell he’d volunteered to man the office yet another Saturday. Because your partners actually have lives, remember?
“Hello? Are you there?”
“Yes.” Unfortunately. “I’m sorry Mrs.—”
“Miss. Miss Kane.”
“Miss Kane. So. Someone has stolen your tiara.”
“My priceless tiara.”
“Your priceless tiara.”
“Yes. And I need an investigator to track this thief down before something terrible happens!”
Mason sighed. “Something terrible?”
“Yes. You see this is a very special tiara. I need it to do my job!”
“Are you a beauty queen?”
“No, a food critic.”
Yup. A real wacko on the line right now. As one-third of the investigative team of O’Malley, Pinswick and Rose, he was fairly used to dealing with the odd crazy call. Still, he’d never fielded a desperate call about a tiara before.
Needless to say, he had to ask. “A food critic who needs a tiara?”
“Yes and I need it if I want to do my job to the best of my God-given capabilities.”
Mason closed his eyes and shook his head, again wondering why he’d chosen to leave the Reno Police Department and take up private investigating.
Long pause. Then, “So? Are you coming here or what?”
Christ, did he have to? Surely there was something else very important taking place that required his assistance. A wife wanting to know about her husband’s late night activities, perhaps. Or a lost kitten. He looked through his open door to where his secretary, a vampirish-looking girl with a pierced chin, was returning from her third coffee break that morning. With a heavy sigh, she saw down at her desk, plopped her pierced chin into her hands and proceeded to stare out the window.
He snapped his attention back to the phone. Miss Kane had a sassy little voice. “Yes?”
“I’ve been robbed and I want my tiara back!”
“Are you aware that we require a retainer?”
“Are you sure? It’s a rather large fee because it’s, um, Saturday.”
“Money is no object.” She was silent for a minute and then, “Please. I need your help.”
Defeated, he dropped his chin to his chest. “What’s your address?”
Lacy Kane threw open her closet doors. What did one wear when one was about to go after a thief who’d stolen a priceless tiara? First she eyed her shoes. Well, black boots were a given. In fact, she thought as she pulled out a pair of knee-high lace-ups, a girl could never go wrong with a nice pair of boots. But what to go with them? Pants may have been appropriate, but since she didn’t own a pair of those it wasn’t really an option. Finally she settled on a black mini dress and black leggings.
She hoped this Mr. Mason was good at his job. She didn’t have much time. She’d been a disappointment to her mother her entire life, and losing her family’s legacy would probably result in being disowned altogether.
Her heart was in her throat as she laced her boots. Flighty, irresponsible, a let-down. She’d been hearing it since she turned five and her mother realized her daughter was more interested in baking cookies than mixing herbs. Mama had tried everything to dissuade her daughter’s interest in food, including making her eat nothing but cabbage soup for a week when she was ten. But nothing had worked, and Lacy’s special olfactory skills only heightened her interest in culinary delights.
The doorbell snapped her out of her depressing reverie. It had taken awhile—and a pretty penny—to get someone who could install the tune to I Love Lucy as her doorbell chime, but, just like on so many occasions in her life, she had been persistent and had ultimately prevailed.
Her heels clicked on the hardwood as she crossed her house to the front door. Please, Gods. Please let this investigator be able to recover my tiara. If they didn’t succeed soon the whole state of Nevada could be subjected to low culinary standards. That would not be good, especially when she’d worked so hard to eliminate the ninety-nine-cent buffet.
Throwing her shoulders back, she pulled open the front door.
Her stomach dropped. The man standing before her gave new meaning to the phrase Reno’s Finest. Except he wasn’t a cop—he was an investigator. Still he was fine. More than fine, actually. Tall and broad, he had wavy brown hair that was a bit too long and big brown eyes that sized her up in under a second.
Her pulse hammered.
“I’m Detective Mason O’Malley. Are you Miss Kane?” He had a voice like amused thunder—and a very spicy scent. She inhaled the organic smell and immediately felt lightheaded.
“Miss, are you okay?” The man jumped across the doorway and took her shoulders in his large hands. “Have you been assaulted? Are you hurt?”
“No, I haven’t been assaulted.” Looking up into his big, brown eyes, she slowly shook her head. “I just got woozy all of a sudden.” It was him—he was making her dizzy and the closer he got the worse she felt. Or better she felt. She couldn’t decide. All she knew was that her senses had gone high alert and her nerves had started to tingle.
She tilted her head to the side and sniffed. “Are you wearing eucalyptus oil?”
“Must be your soap then. You’re going to have to shower before we begin.”
He jerked his hands off her shoulders. “What are you talking about?”
“You need to wash off.” Her skin heated, her nose prick
“Are you insane?”
“No, I think I might be allergic to eucalyptus. I feel faint.”
He drew back even more than he already had. “Don’t faint.”
“I won’t if you wash yourself off.”
“But what about my clothes? Aren’t they also, er, contaminated?”
“I’ll wash them quickly while you shower.” She felt her face heat. Sometimes being an Aromatherapian was damn embarrassing.
“Okay, miss. What’s going on here?” He looked around the room. “Am I on Candid Camera?”
She paused. “Is that show still on?”
He blinked. “I don’t know.”
She grinned. “I loved that one where they did the thing with the sodas. That was so funny!”
He wasn’t smiling.
“Not a Candid Camera fan?”
“Miss Kane. You called me away from a very busy day at the office. Can we please get down to business?” He pulled out a notebook. “Now. You want to report a theft.”
“Yes.” She walked toward her kitchen.
Thump, thump, thump. His booted footsteps followed her. “What was stolen?”
“My tiara. My—”
She rummaged through her cabinet and pulled bottle of Benadryl. “Exactly.”
“When did you first notice it was missing?”
She messed with the bottle cap, but it wouldn’t budge. Darn childproof caps. “This morning.”
Rolling his eyes, he yanked the bottle out of her hand, effortlessly opened it and handed it back. Show-off. “Where did you keep the tiara?”
She spilled a few tiny pink pills into her hand. “In my living room.”
“Was anything else stolen?”
“Just this tiara.”
“Yes.” She popped the pills into her mouth.
“Did you just take three Benadryl?”
“That’s a lot of medication for someone your size.”
“How many do you usually take?”
She shrugged. “I’ve never taken any before.” But her nose was stinging and if he wasn’t going to shower she needed to dull what she assumed was an allergic reaction to his scent.
“I tried to tell you I was sensitive to smells. I mean, like, I’m really sensitive. I could have a severe allergic reaction.”
“And Benadryl helps?”
“I hope so. I’ve never—”
“Taken any.” He shook his head. “Miss Kane, tell me the truth.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Are you a nutcase?”
Taking a deep breath, she clenched her fists at her side and tried not to punch him. No! she wanted to yell. She wasn’t crazy. She was an Aromatherapian!
Problem was, it always sounded crazy when she said that.
She came from a long line of Aromatherapians. Most people didn’t believe there was such as thing as having supernatural aroma-detecting abilities, but Lacy knew for a fact it was a genuine skill, a skill she didn’t always have the ability to keep leashed. Her mother thought it was because she never learned how to concentrate. Lacy remembered the hours she spent attempting to learn how to meditate. Much to her mother’s displeasure, Lacy could never center herself the way the rest of her line was able to do.
But it was the overreacting to scents that really made her mother unhappy.
Certain scents could make her do crazy things. Like that time she was walking through Nordstrom. Someone had sprayed her with a perfume called Senseless and sure enough, she’d rushed right upstairs and purchased a pair of palazzo pants.
An oversized detective who seemed overly in touch with his masculinity probably wouldn’t believe her if she explained her genetic makeup. Best not to say anything.
“Miss Kane.” His brow was furrowed into little lines and she wanted to trace them. “Do you have any idea who might have taken this tiara?”
She cleared her throat and met his eyes. “I thought maybe Ralph.”
“Yes. He’s my cousin. He was mad that my grandmother left it to me while he inherited her collection of ceramic pigs.” She shrugged. “I keep telling him those pigs could go for a mint on eBay.”
He shook his head and scribbled something in his notebook. “Cousin’s last name?”
“Court. Ralph Court. He lives a few miles from here, but he’s not there. I checked.”
Mason looked up. “You went after him yourself?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“He’s a possible suspect. Next time call the police.”
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. A really deep breath. Then he exhaled. “Before you go after him.”
“Well, you’re here now.”
“I have total faith in you.”
She nodded. “You smell incredibly competent.”
He blinked. “Okay, so where was your tiara before it was stolen?”
“I keep it in a safe.”
“Does anyone know the combination?”
“No. No one.” She put a hand on her kitchen counter. The Benadryl didn’t seem to be working. His scent was getting stronger and a tingly feeling was starting to flutter around in her stomach. But at least she didn’t feel dizzy. She loathed fainting. She hadn’t fainted since that one time in college when a sewer pipe had broken underneath the math building. The smell had been awful, just awful…
“Hey, are you okay?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Is she okay? She’s as big as my right arm and she just took three fucking antihistamines.”
She waved at him. “Hello? I’m here. I can hear you.” Yes, she could hear him and he had a really nice, deep voice. In fact everything about him was nice.
How strange. Now the eucalyptus smell was getting stronger and mixing with something else. Him. Spicy and unique.
She could smell the coffee with cream he’d had earlier and, yes, he’d had a waffle for breakfast. And hash browns with pepper but no ketchup.
She put a hand to her forehead. “Oh shit!”
“It’s getting worse!”
“What’s getting worse?”
“My state. Or condition. Or whatever you want to call it.”
“Yes! I think the medicine is making it worse!”
He pulled a cell phone out of his blazer pocket. “I’ll call an EMT.”
“No, that’s not necessary. It’s just that I’m an Aromatherapian.” Okay, it looked like she was telling him after all. Hopefully he had an open mind.
“What the hell is an Aromatherapian?”
“It means I react very strongly to scent. Antihistamines must heighten the condition. Huh. Who knew?”
She took a step closer to him. Blood pounded in her ears as she inhaled deeply through her nose. Peppery eucalyptus coated her nostrils, her throat and her mouth.
And then desire, pure and strong, settled deep in her belly. She took another step toward him.
He took a step back. “What are you doing?” He clutched the phone to his chest as if the gadget would protect him.
His deep voice sent a shiver up her spine. “I asked you to take a shower. I mean, I guess it doesn’t matter. It would have happened eventually.”
The wall stopped him. “What would have happened?”
“I’m reacting to your pheromones. I didn’t understand at first because it’s never happened before. I mean, there was that one time in college, but that was purely sex. This is deeper. Much deeper.”
“Okay, obviously the drugs are making you even nuttier than what I suspect is your normal state.”
Closing in on him, she shook her head. “I’m not a nut.”
He slid his phone back into his pocket. “I beg to differ.”
“I’m not, I swear. I’m an Aromatherapian.”
He closed his eyes. “Oh good. I feel so much better.”
Mason was wondering if he was the crazy one. He couldn’t believe he had a hard-on the size of the fucking Empire State Building. She was crazy. Had to be. But his cock didn’t seem to care at all about that.
If only she wasn’t such a tight little package. Petite body with high, perky tits. Red hair that reminded him of old-school movie stars. And huge blue eyes that he could stare into for hours.
Stare into her eyes for hours? Where had that thought come from? He shook his head.
“It’s just Mason.”
“No, Detective O’Malley.”
“Please kiss me. I want to see what happens.”
Christ, so did he. He wanted to push his way into her mouth, see what she tasted like. He shook his head but leaned down a little.
She moved closer, so close those damn perky breasts of hers nearly touched his chest. “Just one kiss,” she breathed.
Then she was right there. She went on her tiptoes and he felt her warm breath on his neck. “Please,” she whispered in his ear.
“Fuck,” he growled and pulled her mouth to his. Usually he took his time kissing—usually he knew a girl more than ten minutes before locking lips—but now he didn’t hold back. He thrust his tongue into her mouth and satisfaction settled in his belly when she melted against him. She wrapped her hands around his head and pressed herself against his chest. Their kiss became deeper, stronger. Erotic in a way he’d never experienced.
She was tugging at his T-shirt, lifting it up to expose his belly, his torso. When she pulled away to look at him he took in her swollen lips and flushed skin. His cock jerked in response to her obvious arousal.
“I need to smell you.”
He held his breath as she bent down before him, her warm breath sinking through the cotton of his shirt as she lifted the fabric a bit.
“Yes.” How was this happening? What was wrong with him? He’d just met this woman. But there she was, on the floor. Dropping to her knees. Running her nose lightly over his stomach, his hips. His exposed skin prickled at the sensation. When she licked around his belly button he barely restrained himself from taking his cock out and pressing the hard tip to her pink lips.