Overview

Ezechial Zachariah McAllister is a true Texan from the top of his Stetson to the tip of his leather boots. Known to his friends as EZ, he works for U.S. Customs out of Boston. Abigail Fairfax is a very proper Bostonian and the owner of the newest art gallery in the city. She agrees to let EZ use her townhouse for a stakeout to try to catch an art smuggler, but letting him masquerade as her lover proves to be more than she'd bargained for. How long can Abigail resist until she succumbs to EZ's Texas charm and the ...
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EZ Lovin'

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Overview

Ezechial Zachariah McAllister is a true Texan from the top of his Stetson to the tip of his leather boots. Known to his friends as EZ, he works for U.S. Customs out of Boston. Abigail Fairfax is a very proper Bostonian and the owner of the newest art gallery in the city. She agrees to let EZ use her townhouse for a stakeout to try to catch an art smuggler, but letting him masquerade as her lover proves to be more than she'd bargained for. How long can Abigail resist until she succumbs to EZ's Texas charm and the masquerade becomes real?
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000128213
  • Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 206 KB

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Have you gone completely crazy?" EZ bellowed loudly enough to be heard on the streets below.

Justin Andrews leaned back in his chair and looked out his window onto those very same streets, waiting for his friend to finish his diatribe. "I am perfectly sane, my friend. I just happen to think we need to try another strategy. Something different."

"Different?" EZ sat up with a start, boot clad feet banging on the floor. "I'll say it's different. We've never done a stakeout with a civilian present." He began pacing the room. He stopped when he realized what he was doing, took his Stetson off, combed his fingers through his hair and put his hat back on. He didn't like the feel of this, not one bit.

"True, we don't usually work this way," Justin continued. "However, right now, we really have no choice. I've obtained a court order, and the taps are in place. You just have to do your job."

That was what he had been trying to do for over six months now. EZ sat down, placing his Stetson on the desk and leaned back in the chair before asking the next question. "Are you going to tell me the name of the lucky person who gets graced with our presence?"

"Abigail Fairfax."

He hadn't been overreacting, "Damn it, Justin!" he swore, rubbing his temples. The headache that had been slowly building all day suddenly intensified.

Abigail Fairfax just happened to be one of the Fairfaxes of Boston. He did not need to be spending his time babysitting a snobby, Boston blue blood. The fact was, in spite of Justin's assertions to the contrary, he was just a little suspicious of her so-called friendship with their suspect.

Justin interrupted histhoughts. "Don't even think it," he cautioned, as if he'd been reading his mind. "You and I have been over this before. There is no way that Abigail could be involved in this. Sidney is just not her type."

"Yeah, I've heard that before," EZ muttered, remembering a similar situation in what seemed like a lifetime ago. Then, it had cost him his job. This time around however, he knew to be careful. It would not happen again, he'd be sure of it. Looking up, he asked, "I know Mac will be back but only on limited duty. Are you going to assign anyone else with us?"

Justin consulted the folder on his desk. "Neil York." He closed the folder, slipping it into his desk drawer and slammed the drawer shut. "I'd rather Mac had stayed out for a while longer; give that shoulder time to heal."

EZ nodded his head in agreement. "I talked to her last week, and she told me that she'd gotten the doc to agree that she could return to work. She'll have some restricted movement in the shoulder for a while longer."

"I spoke with him as well. Seems her idea of limited duty and the doctors don't quite agree."

"You sound surprised."

"Not really; we did manage to come up with a compromise." Justin explained. "She'll be working in the house with you."

"And where will York be?"

"We're trying to get him inside at Carlton's gallery."

"Hopefully, we'll have better luck this time," EZ said, barely concealing the frustration in his voice. "Have you talked to Ms. Fairfax yet?"

Justin took off his glasses and laid them down on the desk. "Her name is Abigail, and no, I haven't talked to her yet. I'll call her this afternoon and explain what we need to do. I know she'll give us her full cooperation."

"I certainly hope so."

"EZ," Justin said leaning back in his chair, "I realize this is not the way you want to proceed." EZ started to speak, but Justin raised his hand to stop him. "Hear me out."

EZ sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm listening."

"We're no further in this investigation today than we were six months ago, and what's worse we're getting pressure from higher up. So, unless you can come up with a better plan, we're going with this one. No one, with maybe the exception of yourself, thinks Abigail has anything to do with this."

He held a hand up to stop EZ's protests. "However, she does have a previous connection with Carlton. Which is precisely why we are going to use her apartment. Sidney would think nothing of it if I were to be seen entering or leaving the building. He knows us both and would never suspect a thing."

"I hope you're right about this." EZ couldn't fault Justin's logic. However, just to be on the safe side, he'd do a little more investigating on Ms. Fairfax after he left Justin's office.

"I'd stake my career on it. I've known Abigail ever since I was a rookie. Her Uncle Joe was my sergeant when I first started on the force. She's a friend, and I'd trust her almost as much as I trust you."

"Let's just hope that trust is not misplaced." EZ uncrossed his arms and stood up. Picking his Stetson up off the desk, he placed it on his head. "I think I'll just wander by there tonight and introduce myself to Ms. Fairfax. Sort of get a feel for the lay of the land."

"Sounds good to me. Do it on your way home. I'll have spoken with Abigail by then." Justin stood and walked the man to the door. "Trust me on this one my friend, it will be the easiest part of the whole case."

EZ wished he could be as confident.

* * * *

"All right, all right, I'm coming." The doorbell rang again as she got out of the bathtub. Abigail Fairfax threw on her terry cloth robe, tying the belt around her waist before she ran down the stairs to the front door. The answering machine caught her attention when she hurried down the hall. Justin! She had seen his number on the caller id and briefly listened to her messages but hadn't had a chance to call him back yet.

Right now, the incessant ringing of the doorbell beckoned her. "I'm coming, I'm coming." Glancing through the peephole in her front door, any further comment died on her lips. Leaning against the wall opposite her apartment door was one of the tallest men she'd ever seen and one of the most handsome.

"Oh my," she said and looked through the peephole a second time. He stood well over six feet tall, his dark hair curling out from under his Stetson and caressing the collar of his button down shirt.

"Can I help you?" Abigail asked through the closed door.

"Evening, ma'am." The cowboy leaned lazily against the wall and tipped his hat to her. "My name is McAllister." He opened his wallet and held up his ID for her inspection. "I believe Justin Andrews spoke to you about me."

"Justin!" Abigail wished now she had taken the time to call him back. She left the chain on, opening the door just far enough to give the man's identification a second look; he was with the Customs Bureau. It looked exactly like Justin's identification, and she remembered he had mentioned once or twice his friend from Texas who had come to work with him. Justin had just never told her that his friend was so handsome. When she had listened to the messages, he'd said he was sending someone over to talk to her about a case. He'd not told her the name of the person, just asked her to call him back as soon as possible so he could explain. That would teach her not to return his call.

After taking the chain off, she opened the door and stood aside, smiling politely, "Please come in, Mr. McAllister."

He seemed to fill the hall with his presence. The thick mustache that covered his upper lip was the same coal black color as his hair, and she noticed threads of gray through them both. He flashed a smile at her that was so devastating Abigail bet he could make a nun think twice about her vows.

She did her best to ignore the appreciation she saw in his dark eyes as well as her reaction to it. "What can I do for you?" She put on the same tone that she used with customers at her gallery.

"Do you let just anyone into your apartment, Ms. Fairfax?" he asked, raising his eyebrows in question. Even though she had checked his ID, she had been pretty quick about letting him in. A single woman living alone should be more careful when she answered the door these days.

"No, I don't." She glared at him. "However, you did say that Justin sent you. He has mentioned you once or twice."

"How do you know I was telling the truth? I could have a fake ID." He stepped closer to her. "For all you know I could be here to rob you." He stepped closer, still pushing her up against the wall. "Or worse."

"Well, if you are here to do harm, it's too late to worry about it now." She pushed him away from her. Damned if she'd let him see he was bothering her. "Since we are still standing here, I think it's fairly safe to assume you're not." She crossed her arms across her chest. "Now, I'll ask you again, what can I do for you, Mr. McAllister?"

He was glad to see she didn't scare easily. However, this was not going as smoothly as he had hoped. "You have talked to Justin, haven't you? He told me he would call."

"I saw his number on my caller ID and listened to his message. All he said was to call him, which I fully intended to do, until you showed up at my door."

"Don't you think if he left a message, that it could mean he had something important to tell you?"

"Yes, it did," she snapped back. "He didn't sound like it was a matter of life and death so I decided to get settled before calling him back. Unfortunately, you showed up before I could do so."

He had no answer for that. Looking around, he asked her, "Is there anywhere we can talk?"

"Of course," she pointed to the room down the end of the hall. "This way."

At the end of the hall, she turned right and entered her living room. "Have a seat, I'll be back shortly." She indicated the sofa before heading up the winding staircase in the back of the room. Halfway up the stairs, she realized he was right behind her. She stopped and turned to face him, "Do you mind?" she asked.

"I told you, we need to talk."

"And we will, in a minute. Please go downstairs and wait for me. I'll be back shortly; we can talk then."

When he didn't move she shook her head. "Mr. McAllister, I'm sure it is very important. However, it can wait a few minutes while I dress. Now, please go downstairs."

He appeared ready to argue. She stared him down, not giving an inch.

"Anyone ever tell you that you're one stubborn female?" he finally said.

"As a matter of fact, yes. Your boss." She crossed her arms over her chest and waited.

"He's right." EZ turned down the stairs, and she smiled.

"Ten minutes," he said over his shoulder. "Not a minute more."

"Fine."

Abigail threw her robe off as she entered her room. Opening her closet, she grabbed the first thing she could lay her hands on. That would teach her not to return her phone calls right away. Why had Justin called her? It had to have been important. For the life of her she couldn't figure out what was he up to sending this ... this ... cowboy to see her.

* * * *

Abigail. The name fit her. She looked like an Abigail, all diamonds and ice like Grace Kelly and cool as a cucumber like Alissa, his now dead ex-wife. He would say one thing in Ms. Abigail's favor; her pictures did not do her justice.

The apartment was not what he had expected. The building, one of the old townhouses in this part of Boston, had been converted into condominiums. She must have bought both the upstairs and downstairs units, then had the staircase put in to join the two. This floor appeared to be two large rooms, the living room and what he'd assumed was a kitchen-dining room right next to it.

He wondered what the upstairs looked like, especially her bedroom. At least he assumed it was her bedroom upstairs, he hadn't seen any other rooms off the hall way. This room appeared to be a combination living dining room so the room off this one had to be the kitchen.

He'd done some checking up on Ms. Abby before coming over; she'd not had the greatest luck with her love life. He wondered if any of the men mentioned in the report ever shared her bed with her.

Whoa, cowboy, where did that one come from? "Never mix business and pleasure," he said aloud, almost to emphasize the point to himself. EZ didn't like this situation one bit. Justin had to have been drinking when he'd come up with this idea. How did he even begin to think they could use the apartment of someone connected to their chief suspect?

It's too bad Justin didn't get a chance to speak with her beforehand, but since she'd never returned his call, it wasn't worth worrying about. Still, it sure would have helped the situation if Justin had explained things to her before he'd knocked on the door.

Diplomacy had never been EZ's strong point. He'd just have to wing it and hope for the best. Taking his hat off, he brushed his hair back with his fingers before putting it back on and looking around the room.

The grandfather clock in the corner of the room struck eight. He'd specifically waited in order to give Justin time to call. "A fat lot of good that did." He walked around the apartment, not sure what he was looking for. "Interesting." He stuck his head inside the kitchen, which had a replica of an old stove. At least he assumed it was a replica. Several pots were on the window sill over the sink. "Hmm, wonder if those really are herbs?" He walked over and picked each plant up. Satisfied with what he found he turned to look at a staircase at the end of the kitchen. It was similar to the one in the living room.

Glancing around the room, he smiled. "Well, little lady, you are just full of surprises." He would have bet the farm her home would be have been done by an interior decorator, maybe one of those expensive ones on Newbury Street. After all, that was where her gallery was located. Instead of chrome and leather, he found wood and fabric and paintings. There was no way a decorator could have added the touches that made this place seem like a home. He walked up the staircase in the kitchen, curious to see where it led. He found more than he bargained for, much more.

The stairs led directly to the second floor hallway which had doorways to three rooms. One of them was open, her bedroom from the looks of it. He stood spell bound by what he saw. Perfectly rounded breasts that his hands itched to touch and his mouth watered to taste. He bit his lip to keep from moaning. If she found him out here, he'd be in big trouble. But he stood there mesmerized. She pulled on a very sheer, very lacy bra, his favorite kind. Especially when it hooked in the front. She had two shirts in her hands, one a long sleeved turtleneck which would hide everything. He shook his head and said a silent prayer to the beauty gods when she choose the silk blouse instead. She bent from the waist and took the towel off her head, letting her long hair cascade down. It was almost the same color as the Palomino he kept stabled at his brother's ranch in Texas. But he'd never had these thoughts about his horse. Alissa had been a blond, but her hair had never looked that inviting. Even wet, he itched to run his fingers through it, to feel it on his skin. He'd bet Abigail's hair was as soft as that silk shirt she wore. There was just enough flesh on those curves to satisfy a man. Of course, he wouldn't dare tell her that; she'd probably slap him across the face with her well-manicured hands.

Stifling a groan, he stepped back and headed down the hall to the set of stairs leading to the living room. If she came out and found him by her room there would be hell to pay.

Downstairs, he just managed to sit comfortably when he heard her footsteps in the kitchen. He waited, and soon she came into the room balancing a coffeepot and other items on a silver tray. Even though he sat on a sofa with plenty of room for them both, he smiled when she sat on the chair across the room from him. Placing the tray on the table next to her, she poured them both a cup. EZ watched her as she added cream and two spoons of sugar to her coffee; he took his own black. Her eyes, the color of Texas bluebonnets, told everything. Right now they were telling him she was not a happy camper.

After taking a sip, she sat back. "Now, Mr. McAllister, maybe you can tell me what Justin wanted to talk to me about that was so important?"

"EZ."

"Excuse me?" She raised her eyebrows at him.

"EZ. That's my name. Mr. McAllister was my dad. We buried him three years ago."

"Your parents named you Easy?"

"Actually, it's Ezechial Zachariah, EZ."

"Ah." She nodded as if it made perfect sense to her, but he could tell she thought he was crazy.

"Call me Ezechial if you want," he offered. "My mother always does. She said EZ made me sound like one of the loose women down at the honky-tonk on Saturday night."

"I like EZ. It suits you." She smiled a perfect, polite smile that set his teeth on edge. "So, tell me, EZ, where does your mother live?"

"Texas, a few hours out of San Antonio." Yeah, she was like Alissa, he thought. Pour the coffee just so, and above all else, be sure to observe the social niceties. Well darlin' you picked the wrong man, he thought. Tonight I'm not in the mood to be either social or nice. "Ms. Fairfax, about Justin's phone call?"

Abigail set down her cup and folded her hands demurely in her lap. "Yes, what did he want?"

He wondered what it would take to shake her up. Putting that thought out of his mind, he got back to the business at hand.

"Well, ma'am, as I explained, I'm with the Customs Bureau, and I work with Justin. We're in the middle of an investigation right now."

"What does that have to do with me?"

"We need to use your apartment for a stakeout."

"You need what?" she said, alarmed. Reaching over, she snatched up the phone. "I think I need to talk with Justin."

EZ ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath before speaking. "Wait, please." If she called Justin all upset, he would be in hot water.

She stopped, sitting on the edge of the seat, phone in hand, ready to punch the buttons that would connect her call.

"At least give me a chance to explain." They stared at each other for a second, then two more. He saw her expression change, and he relaxed somewhat. Maybe she was going to listen to him.

Placing the phone back on the table, she turned her icy gaze on him. "All right," she said leaning back in the chair. "Convince me."

"What I am going to tell you is confidential information."

"Both my grandfather and my uncle were policemen; that's how I met Justin. I'm fully aware of protocol and confidentiality."

"OK." EZ sighed deeply before continuing. He hated telling her anything, but if he didn't, Justin would. "Six months ago, we got a tip that someone was smuggling valuable art work out of some Eastern European countries. We found out that they have a go-between, an American art dealer who has the illegal items shipped to him hidden in with other legitimate artwork. He then turns around and sells the illegal pieces to private collectors."

She looked quizzically at him. "I've heard a rumor about some smuggling going on. I can't see what it would have to do with me."

Shaking his head, EZ continued, "We know who one of the people involved is. We just haven't been able to get enough evidence to arrest him or his accomplices."

"Isn't it normal procedure to use a vacant apartment?" Abby asked. She remembered her Uncle Joe doing stakeouts when he was a detective.

"Normally it would be, but there aren't any vacant." He turned and looked toward the windows. "He lives in the apartment building across the street."

Abigail's glance followed his to the apartment across the street. "Sidney? You think Sidney is the go-between?" She laughed. "I've known him for a long time. I used to work for him. Believe me, he would not do something like this."

EZ took out a notebook and began to read. It was all fairly routine information, most of which she probably already knew, or at least suspected. "Sidney Carlton Archer III. Born June 12, 1950, in Hamilton, Massachusetts. His parents were relatively well off. However, when his mother died, his father began to drink away most of Sidney's inheritance. When he died, what little money remained had to be used to pay off his father's debts."

"So, not everyone has perfect parents."

She sounds like she speaks from experience, he thought before continuing. "He recovered some of that money running a relatively successful art gallery. He began major renovations on his gallery and home."

"I'd heard he'd received an inheritance from an aunt."

"He also began having showings of Eastern European artists."

"I know all this Agent McAllister. I've met some of these people." She crossed her arms over her chest. "Tell me something I don't know."

"More than one of these artists is suspected of smuggling valuable art work into this country." He gave her a look of exasperation. "Several times there have been extremely large deposits into his account. Larger than you would expect from any gallery, unless you were Sotheby's."

That certainly got her attention, he thought, as he watched her walk over to the window, staring across the street at Sidney's apartment. He would have given his share of the ranch to know what was going on in her mind. He could see the tension in her shoulders and neck. He fought the urge to go over and help ease it away, an urge that went against all rules, both his and the government's. He thought she'd forgotten about him, but then she spoke.

"If there is a question of his income, shouldn't the IRS be involved?" she asked.

"They are."

"Oh." She continued to look out the window.

"If it helps any, I do have orders to disturb your life as little as possible." He watched as her spine straightened just a little bit, and she turned around.

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?" She turned away from him. "I still can't see Sidney involved in something like this."

EZ had been trying to be diplomatic, but diplomacy only went so far. Her cooperation would make life easier, but it was not a requirement. He started reading once again from his notebook.

"Sidney has had several relationships, all with women who stood to inherit large amounts of money."

"So, he's had more than one woman in his life. The last I heard, that was not a crime." She had turned again to look out the window, her back ramrod stiff. The little itch at the back of his neck told him she was hiding something, but what?

"No, it's not," he snapped back.

Abigail walked over and sat back in the easy chair. "He travels in the same circles I do. We both know people who will inherit money someday. Someday I stand to inherit a lot of money, but I've never had a relationship with him, at least not that kind."

"It wasn't for lack of trying on his part." EZ held his notebook up. "I have a list of women Sidney has been involved with, including Ms. Abigail Fairfax, age twenty-eight at the time in question, who worked for him for three years, quitting suddenly for unexplained reasons."

"That is enough!" She slammed her hands on the side of the easy chair. "How do I know you aren't fabricating some of this just to get me to agree?"

"You don't," he said, a small part of him pleased that he'd gotten a reaction out of her. "You can always call Justin and let him verify my story."

Abigail leaned over and once again picked up the phone from the table beside her. "I think I'll just do that." She dialed Justin's number and waited for him to answer, all the while her eyes never leaving EZ.

Her gaze followed him as he roamed around the room, when he moved the curtain aside and glanced out of the window and again when he turned from the window and sat on the sofa, scanning the pile of magazines on her coffee table. He looked as much at home here in her Boston living room as she was sure he did back on a ranch in Texas.

"Justin? I have someone here who says he works with you. A Mr. McAllister?" She drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair.

"Abigail, I wish you had returned my call. I wanted to speak to you before he got there. He hasn't insulted you or anything, has he?"

"Not really," she sighed. "He just took me by surprise."

"I'm really sorry Abigail. If there was another way to do this, I would, but we're really stuck."

"I can't believe that mine is the only unit that's available. The last time I talked with the superintendent the upstairs unit was empty."

"They sold it. The new owners will be moving in a few days."

"How convenient," she snapped.

"I'm sorry Abigail. You know I wouldn't ask unless I had no other option available to me."

"I know that," she said. "But how could you even think Sidney is a criminal? I mean, really Justin--Sidney? Be serious."

"I've never been more serious about anything. We both know Sidney doesn't have enough brains to mastermind something like this, however he is involved, big time."

"Are you sure of this?"

"Please, Abigail, just trust me on this one. If Sidney thinks he's being followed or his phone is being tapped, he'll clam up or worse yet, leave the city. He's certainly not going to suspect anyone he sees coming in and out of your building. Least of all, me, or anyone who is with me."

"All right, Justin." She sighed. "You know I'll help in any way I can. But this had better be only for a short time."

"It is dear heart, trust me."

"You're about the only man I do trust."

"Abigail, one more thing, about EZ..."

"Yes," she said glancing across the room at the man in question. "He isn't what I expected from one of your agents."

"I realize he's a little rough around the edges, but he's a good man."

"If you say so," she muttered before saying good-bye and turning back to EZ.

He'd been perusing her bookcase while she was on the phone with Justin. Her collection of romances was interspersed with books on art and history. Right now he was looking at the book on the end table.

"I'm glad to see that my library keeps you so entertained, Mister McAllister."

"I told you, call me EZ." He held up the book. The scantily clad couple on the cover did not leave much to the imagination. "What's the matter, Abby darlin'? Your social life a little slow lately?"

"That is none of your business." She walked over and yanked the book out of his hand. "And my name is Abigail or Ms. Fairfax, not Abby."

He raised a brow in reply. "Did Justin tell you what you wanted to hear?"

"Not really, but he did verify your story." Just then her cat decided it was time to make an appearance. Coming across the room, she jumped up on the table and began bumping EZ's leg with her head, begging for attention. "Micki, get down from there." She stood and went to move the cat, but EZ scooped the animal up in his arms.

"That's all right. She just wants to make sure her house is safe. Don't you, darlin'?" He began to scratch between the cat's ears, and soon Micki was purring like a motor boat.

She slowly sat down and watched in amazement. Usually if a man came into the house, Micki ran and hid. A black and gray striped tiger cat, she was the first pet Abigail had ever owned. Until now Justin had been the only male Micki even tolerated in the same room. Never had she allowed a man to pick her up and scratch her. She'd gotten the cat at the animal shelter, and the people there thought she may have been abused by a previous owner.

EZ put the cat down, smiling as he watched the feline walk away, satisfied at having had homage paid to her. "We were talking about Justin," he said to her.

"Yes, we were," she snapped. "According to him, the easiest way to do the surveillance is from here. So I guess I'm stuck with you, for now."

"Try not to sound so enthusiastic about it."

Abigail chose to ignore his remark. "I do have one question," she said.

"OK." He sat down on the arm of the other easy chair. "Shoot."

"What am I supposed to do while you're here? I can't very well leave. I have a gallery to run and a major show coming up soon. If I left now, Sidney might get suspicious.

"Who said you had to leave?" EZ was not going to debate Sidney's innocence or guilt, at least not right now.

"But will you be here all the time? I do have a life you know. It will be hard to do anything if I have to worry about who I'll run over every time I turn a corner."

"Just carry on with your life as you normally would."

"Right," she snorted in disbelief.

EZ ignored that. "It's not like there will be a lot of people here. It will be myself, my partner and occasionally Justin and one other officer as well."

"Meanwhile, I'm expected to carry on as if there weren't two police officers camped out in my house?"

He looked around the room. "Actually, we're customs agents, and we'll try to stay out of your way as much as possible."

"I'm sure you will," she replied.

He ignored the sarcasm in her voice. "We promise to stay out of the rest of your apartment, especially upstairs, unless invited." EZ knew that last line was uncalled for, but something about this woman made him want to tweak her buttons. After all, he'd heard her tell Justin she would cooperate. Apparently, they had different ideas on what cooperation meant.

Abigail disregarded his comment. "Justin never did explain to me. How do I justify all the sudden comings and goings? After all, you don't exactly look like the type of people I'd normally be entertaining."

"And what kind of people do you entertain? People like Mr. Archer across the street?" He jerked his head back toward the window, glaring at her, daring her to fight him on this.

"My friends are none of your business, Mr. McAllister," she bristled, rushing past him to pull the drapes closed. "But then I doubt you even have friends, except maybe your horse." She turned to find him right there standing next to the window. He'd imprisoned her with one arm on either side of her, his hands braced against the wall.

"At least I can trust my horse," he said taking a strand of her hair and twirling it around his finger.

She held her head high, determined not to let him see her reaction to his nearness. "And I can trust my friends."

"Can you?" He took a finger and ran it along the v of her blouse. "You can always tell people I'm your latest lover."

She slapped his hand away. "You must be kidding!" Ducking under his arm, she began to pace the room her hands clenched into fists at her side.

"Why? Am I that repulsive?"

"No, you're not, but.... "She stopped, realizing what she had said.

"Ah ha! So you do find me attractive."

"I didn't say that!" she replied a little too vehemently. She was not above appreciating a good looking male when she saw one. However, just because he filled a pair of jeans better than any man she had seen in a while and the deep rumble of his voice sent her hormones flying didn't mean she'd do anything about it.

"Yes, you did." He moved a little closer to her. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

"A cowboy who quotes Shakespeare?" She stood her ground; damned if she'd let him know just how much he affected her. "I suppose you could be considered attractive." Abigail let her gaze roam up and down his body, mimicking the look he had given her when he first entered the apartment. She sat back down in the easy chair. "In a primitive sort of way."

EZ leaned over her, his hands on either arm of the chair, capturing her there. She stopped breathing, and some part of her mind registered the long slim fingers and large hands that grasped the arms of her chair. That same part of her wondered how they would feel on places, other than her neckline which still burned from his touch. She could not help staring at the muscular arms and broad shoulders that set her heart beating faster as she imagined being held in those arms. Tilting her head back, she also wondered if the mustache that covered his upper lip would tickle a woman when he kissed her. She'd never been kissed by a man with facial hair.

Then she made the fatal mistake of looking into his eyes. Images of satin and steel, hot sultry summer nights and even hotter bodies flashed in front of her. What was happening? She licked her lips and swallowed hard, swaying towards him. As if in a trance her lips slightly parted.

As quickly as it began, it ended. EZ playfully flicked a finger down her nose. "It looks like even you like it coarse once in a while, Abby darlin'." He left her there and went to pour himself a second cup of coffee.

Abigail's face burned with embarrassment, even as a fire continued to rage throughout her body. "My name is Abigail!" She sprang out of the chair. It was bad enough she had made a fool out of herself a few minutes ago. Did he have to make matters worse by calling her by that dreadful name?

She walked over and poured her own cup of coffee before turning to look out the window, opening the drapes she had previously closed. "What you need is a lesson in manners."

"Let me guess; you'd be only to happy to teach me?"

"Yes, I would."

"I'll keep that in mind, darlin'." He had joined her at the window as they watched the traffic on the street below. "Do you have a spare room?" he asked her, suddenly changing the subject.

"What?"

"A spare room, do you have one?"

"Yes, I do. It's the guest bedroom. Why?"

"I thought we would take turns bunking there, if you wouldn't mind. If it's a problem, we'll use your sofa. I promise to have everything out of sight each morning before you leave for the gallery."

"We?" Abigail continued staring down at the street below. She had been so worried about having this man in her house she had completely forgotten about anyone else who would be around.

"Yes, we. I told you my partner would be here. One of us will be on duty at all times. Mac and I have worked together for a while." He spared her a quick glance before turning away. "You two should get along just fine."

Picking his hat off the table, he got ready to leave. "I'll be here early in the morning, probably before you leave for work."

She turned to face him. "Wait a minute, cowboy. I haven't agreed to anything yet."

EZ strolled back across the room, leaning down close to her face. Her body, ever a traitor to her common sense, responded instantly. Raising her face to his, she unconsciously licked her lips.

Smiling knowingly he flicked a finger down her nose. "Oh, yes, you have Abby, darlin'." Turning, he walked down the hall, whistling.

"I'm not your darlin'!" she yelled out at him as he closed the door behind him.

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