undercovertrouble_341-1e1.htm, page 1
She squirmed with the lure of the dark mat showing through the opening of his shirt. Imagining his naked expanse pressed against her own bare skin brought erotic images that were almost more than she could bear. She had to do something about this new development on her brain, of having sex--and she would.
"Come lie down here."
"No, thanks. Sorry. That’s a little too fast for me, Mitch."
He flattened his hand to his chest, looking wounded. "I’m not trying to seduce you. I want to show you something."
"That’s what worries me."
"God, woman, you’re skittish. The skylight rolls back. I want you to see it open."
Her naïveté was showing. If that’s all he wanted, he must think her a simpleton. But could she trust him? Could she even trust herself not to get wrapped up in his sexuality? Jen coughed to clear the sudden dryness in her throat. "Are the steaks okay?"
"I have them on low. They’re safe. How do you like it up here?"
"It’s a nice sleeping area. I don’t like heights, though, so I’m going back down." She turned and made fast tracks away from an atmosphere smoldering with possibilities.
She glanced back in time to see Mitch tossing his hands in the air. But he followed. Jen hurried downstairs and opened the front door. Her fingernails dug into her palms. She needed the fresh air, needed the sense of freedom that lay within reach at her cabin. She stepped out to the veranda.
Mitch caught the door before it slammed. "How do you want your steak?"
"Medium, please," she answered, noting the laughter was gone from his voice.
When her host returned to the kitchen for the salt shaker, the idiocy of her assumptions warred with her sense of fairness. Knowing she had overreacted didn’t help much, either. Her quick retreat was immature and not worthy of her. She could hear Mitch banging items from the fridge onto the table. He probably thinks I’m a lesbian... or working on my old maid degree.
What They Are Saying About
Undercover Trouble by Carol McPhee is a remarkable story that will fire our imagination with the combination of irresistible characters, a spectacular setting and unexpected plot twists. I guarantee that once you start, you won't be able to put it down until the last page has turned!
--Nadine St. Denis,
Carol McPhee opens this exciting romantic suspense tale with a delightful humorous touch then drives Jen and Mitch on a wild ride into the dark side. I highly recommend this enjoyable read!
PERFECT DISGUISE April 2005!
A Wings ePress, Inc.
Wings ePress, Inc.
Edited by: Leslie Hodges
Copy Edited by: Lorraine Stephens
Senior Editor: Lorraine Stephens
Executive Editor: Lorraine Stephens
Cover Artist: mpmann
All rights reserved
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Wings ePress Books
Copyright © 2004 by Carol McPhee
Published In the United States Of America
Wings ePress Inc.
403 Wallace Court
Richmond, KY 40475
Thanks to my reviewers
Dave Clark, Tim Conroy, Carla Hughes,
Lydia Filzen, Doug Thompson,
Mary Veelle, and Dr. William Weaver
who encouraged me so much with their help
And to my family
for their support.
Jen Murray flipped her red-haired ponytail as she scrambled off her chair. "There it goes again. Spooky, you noisy dog, stop barking at the damned motorcycle, or I’ll take you back to the animal pound."
Spooky let out one more squeak, then flattened his ears.
"Don’t worry, Spooks. I really wouldn’t do that."
Jen shoved the screen door wide and stepped onto her cabin’s porch. Her violent push caused a hinge bracket to slide sideways and pull from the frame, leaving the door dangling betwixt and between... not fully attached, but not landing on the warped floorboards, either. She tossed her hands in the air with the frustration of it all. "Now I’ve got one more thing to fix, pup, and you’re no help."
The puppy responded with a twitch of his ears and a quick, "Yip."
"Yeah, sure. You’ve got my number and know I’m just blowing smoke."
Stretched on tiptoes, Jen peered through the patch of trees separating her refuge from the only other cottage on the road. Somewhere out in the middle of Sawtooth Lake, the panicked call of a loon protested the cycle’s noisy invasion. The strong scent of the pines, which earlier in the day had soothed her woes, disturbed her now. They emphasized her isolation. Like the loon, she wanted tranquility.
A couple of minutes passed, then a light flickered in the residence next door. Jen groaned and turned her attention to the starry sky. She’d bought this ramshackle property to enjoy nature’s serenity, but she wasn’t getting her money’s worth.
"Spooky, wouldn’t you think that in the three days we’ve been here, we’d be able to get all the sleep we wanted?" Still grumbling to herself, she reached down and tickled under the puppy’s chin. "Both nights have been ruined by the roar of that monster’s wheels on the gravel. The freakin’ engine’s so loud the whole place shudders when he rides past."
Tonight, she’d found herself anticipating the inevitable, which not only disrupted her rest, but also distracted her from conversations with cyber friends in her favorite computer chat room.
"I’m fed up! What do you think, Spooks? Should I go over and give the rider a piece of my mind? It’s early for his nightly trip; he’s probably going out again at his usual time."
The small terrier-mix looked up. His amber melting gaze had won Jen’s heart and coerced her into choosing him from a pathetic batch of dogs. His adoring watchfulness wasn’t calming her heart this night. Spooky appeared to know what she meant though, because he glanced toward the other cottage and plunked his gray, curly-haired body on the top step. He wagged his tail at the prospect of excitement.
"Okay. Wait ‘til I get a flashlight."
Rather than take the road, Jen chose a shortcut through the trees. The brambles clawing at her arms irritated her further. At the back of the log structure, she rounded the tail end of the contraption causing such a flurry in her life. In the dim light from the cottage’s windows, she noticed the Harley-Davidson logo in relief across the gas tank. The red of the letters matched the fury between her temples. She stifled the urge to knock over the gleaming black machine.
Jen rapped three times on the front door, then stooped to push Spooky’s enthusiastic paws off her legs. The door jerked open to leave her staring at a pair of huge scuffed leather boots. She took her t
"What do you want?" the deep, raspy voice boomed.
She ignored having to look up so high to meet his perturbed blue eyes. "I have a problem, otherwise I wouldn’t be here."
"Your car broke down?" After giving Jen’s figure a lecherous once over, the man stepped past her to the edge of the porch and peered down his pitch-black driveway.
She glanced in at the cozy, pine-walled interior and noted a loft overlooking a stone-faced fireplace. She turned, and with the inside light now illuminating him, swept her eyes over his brown shoulder-length shaggy hair and scruffy beard. He looked like something from a Werewolves R Us TV show. Two gold earrings glistened from one ear lobe, adding to the glimmer of three chains that dripped from his neck. His tanned, wind-worn cheeks made it difficult to judge his age, but she suspected he was at least a couple of years older than her own thirty-two. Jen stiffened her backbone.
"I live next door. I should have said, ‘we’ have a problem."
"We do?" His eyebrows lifted.
"Your motorbike is wrecking my evening’s peace. The noise wakes me up when you return."
"Hold it right there! It isn’t a motorbike! It’s a Harley-Davidson. Motorbikes are for pussies."
When she noticed his size, she intended to remain calm and controlled, but his tone made her want to throw flames. "To me they’re all the same because they have two wheels and an engine that rumbles loud enough to wake the dead. Is it necessary to rev up when you ride by my cabin? Do you have to be coming and going at all hours of the night? Some people like to get a good night’s rest, you know."
The hulk checked his watch and scowled. "It’s not bedtime yet."
"It’s not right now, but my point is that you’ll probably come past later. That’s when I’m asleep or trying to sleep. And that’s why I’m here now, to..." Damn. She was babbling. She didn’t need to explain.
"What’s that thing at your feet, your mop?"
She looked down at Spooky sitting meekly beside her. Some enforcer he was. "That’s my dog." Suddenly, Jen wondered what on earth had possessed her to be so foolish. She’d come here alone and angry at God-knows-who. She had to learn to keep a tight rein on her temper. The aftermath of her last outburst was the reason she’d come to the lake in the first place.
"He’s not much of a dog."
Temper be damned. She scowled and said, "Well, he’s not a pussy, either. You didn’t answer my questions about revving up your engine when you pass my cottage."
"I wasn’t aware I was revving up anything." The Neanderthal peered down at her, then scrutinized the darkness. "Want to come in and discuss this?"
"No!" She shivered. "Look, I don’t want to be a pain. I just want you to be more considerate and keep the noise level down."
The neighbor stepped onto the six-inch high threshold and stretched his arm to the doorjamb, facing her. A heavy drift of body odor invaded her nose, forcing her to move back. Her eyes flitted along the football-player shoulders attached to arms so firm and thick his tee shirted short sleeves had to stretch tight to enclose them. She was thankful his sleeves hid his armpits; the thought of seeing a nest of hair under each arm was enough to make her puke.
A sarcastic smile glided across his tightened mouth. "It’s hard to quiet a Harley. They’re made to rock your world."
"They’re made to give the illusion of power to those who have rocks in their heads," she replied without missing a beat. Or the illusion of balls to guys who have teeny-weeny weenies. Which probably wouldn’t be the case here. She shook the impudent thought from her head.
Jen couldn’t believe it was her usually proper self, acting like a foolhardy David against a tough-looking, bad-smelling Goliath. She had a jarring thought: with no rocks, no slingshot, just a pacifist pooch, she made a stupid David.
"I take it you’re into lumping all bikers together?" He shifted his feet and stretched taller, taking up much of the doorway’s open space.
She gulped, then took her stand. "No. I’m into wanting some quiet and a decent night’s sleep." She thought she detected a slight glint in his eyes. It could have been a spark of moonlight, but more than likely, with those overhanging, dark bushy brows, it was her imagination. The fluttering of his scraggly whiskers made her cringe at the thought that this weirdo, out of touch with soap and clean water, lived next door.
The man shifted his posture again and placed one hand on his hip. "Not that I need to explain, but alongside your cabin the road rises and gives me a rush when I go over it at high speed. I didn’t think about the noise disturbing you. Hell, I never noticed the old dump was occupied."
"It’s not a dump. It’s a fixer-upper. That’s why I bought it."
"You bought it? As in... paid cash?"
"At least there’s nothing wrong with your hearing. I’m Jennifer Murray. It looks like we have the... ah... misfortune of being neighbors."
"I was hoping my run of bad luck had started to change."
His words brought a smile to her face.
He shook his head. "Thanks to you, my luck is getting worse."
Jen’s smile disappeared; her fingernails dug deep into her palms. "If you have to be racing the road like a teenager, tone it down when you pass by my place."
"And if I don’t?"
"Then I’ll be forced to take drastic action." The nerve of this guy. She made a quick turn to her left and fled off his porch.
"Hey, Jennifer Murray! Take your mop with you."
Jen twisted in mid-flight, glowering back. To her chagrin, she saw Spooky sitting quietly, staring up at the giant with what might be construed as adoration. Fast backtracking brought her within inches of the man she vowed to dislike for eternity. Scooping the puppy into her arms, she retreated.
"By the way, baby cakes, I’m Mitch Waverley... the misfortune’s all yours."
~ * ~
When the fuming neighbor rounded the front corner of his cottage, Mitch switched off the light and hurried to a back window. The hostile woman was standing by his Harley. He watched her bend over and rise with the squirming pup in her grasp. "Smart mutt to get away from that redheaded witch’s control," he muttered. She headed for the trees, checking over her shoulder as she hurried, then disappeared.
Mitch blew off his exasperation at the audacity of her badmouthing his Harley. The tiny cabin next door had been vacant for at least five years. There was little chance it would be rented, let alone sold. This area should have been checked out thoroughly before I moved in. They said no one lived near and the inhabitants at the other end of the lake enter by a different route. That’s why this cottage was chosen: it affords privacy and safety for what needs to be done.
"What would possess anyone to move here in September?" he griped aloud. "The air’s warm now, but soon it’ll be as cold as my bitching neighbor. Bet it’s not even winterized. Looks damn suspicious to me."
Mitch had become accustomed to having conversations with himself of late. Ever since he’d got the word he’d soon be called to testify. His testimony would put away certain bikers from a motorcycle gang heavily involved in Nova Scotia’s crime. It was the gang’s boss, Bull, he’d dearly love to get the goods on though.
The last few months at the lake had been a breeze. During the day he could roam the woods, canoe, swim, and enjoy sunbathing nude. Free to travel at night with his fast, splashy mode of transportation, Mitch reveled in the excitement and danger of undercover work. Action was his game. Still, when he arrived back in the early hours, he always breathed a sigh of relief that he’d made it safely and undiscovered. Once he testified, his cover would be blown, and he would go back to his detective duties with a nice promotion. He had no ties on his life and that’s how he liked it up until now. Maybe when he settled back into less
He didn’t need this ridiculous inconvenience of having a neighbor who might get nosy about his habits. And he didn’t need someone criticizing how he rode his favorite toy. With her living here, it could be risky for him and, if things get rough, place her in danger without her even knowing. Unless... she was a plant. One phone call should clear that up.
Mitch hit the redial and growled into the receiver. "Don, we have a problem." He pictured the burly sergeant at home in his overstuffed chair, woefully sniffing his unlit Cuban cigar.
"And a good evening to you. What is it, Mitch?"
"You light up yet?"
"Nope. You know I gave up the habit."
"There’s a vicious, power-hungry witch living in the cabin next door." Mitch tugged at the phone cord in frustration.
"There can’t be."
"I want her out of there. Now!" Mitch’s fist pounded the wall for emphasis.
"Who is she?"
The sergeant was asking him? "You’re the one that’s supposed to have the area down pat, Don. Name’s Jennifer Murray, about five-foot-seven or eight. I’d say early thirties." Mitch’s memory skimmed down the curvaceous breasts accentuated by the white sleeveless stretch-knit sweater she’d worn with her navy short shorts. "Hundred and thirty pounds or so, long reddish hair." He hadn’t been caught off-guard too much to notice the way the light fired her ponytail tresses. Partial to red hair, he’d had a hankering to reach out, undo the elastic, and finger comb the tangled curls.
"Any other information?"
Yeah, Mitch thought, she’s cute as a button. The sergeant’s hacking cough forced Mitch to back away from the receiver. His action struck him as absurd. Did he really think he could catch something over the phone? Must be the fact she’d riled him. "I’ll take a run over and get her license number. Should have done that first. Her sexy presence must have knocked me off balance."