New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins returns to Glory, North Carolina, for another delightful story of love and laughter.
She thinks she’s Lois Lane . . .
Susan Collins always wanted to be a hard-hitting reporter, but there’s not much call for her talents in sleepy Glory, North Carolina. Then the Murder Mystery Club—a trio of enterprising octogenarians—decides to open their own CSI lab at the assisted-living center. And when strange "accidents" begin to happen around town, Susan senses she could be on to the news story of her dreams.
He doesn’t want to be her Superman . . .
Mark Tremayne has returned to Glory to take over as CFO of The Glory Examiner. His job is to keep the newspaper profitable, which means covering the annual Baptist Church Bake-Off and selling ads for the county fair—not allowing his too-sexy-for-her-own-good reporter to hare off after a wild story that could alienate some of the townspeople.
Together . . . they’re Kryptonite.
Mark’s and Susan’s viewpoints could be from different planets, but their mutual attraction is in total alignment. Despite their arguments, the indomitable redhead and the hot accountant are a sexual explosion waiting to happen. And when it does, Glory had better watch out!
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My new boss is impossible to get along with. He acts like I don’t know what I’m doing, though I’m the one with the degree and far more experience.
How can I tell this jerk to back off and let me do my job? He is the boss, after all.
Angry and Determined
Recognize your boss’s problem for what it is—an attempt at compensation for having a small “member.” Men who boss women in such a fashion usually need a good kick in the ass and a healthy dose of that medicine they sell on late-night TV that promises “instant satisfaction.”
If neither of those work, then quit. He’ll miss you and come crawling back.
The Glory Examiner
June 24, section 2B
“What is this?”
The newspaper landed on Susan Collins’s desk with a thud, slapped down by a large masculine hand.
Susan leaned back in her chair and faced her pain-in-the-ass and thankfully temporary boss, Mark Treymayne.
Fortunately for the readers of The Glory Examiner, their new editor-in-chief wasn’t intimidated by men—not even hunky, dark-haired, blue-eyed ones.
She smiled at him. So the column hit the mark, did it? Her Ways to Irk the Boss List was growing quickly. “You’ll have to be a bit more specific, Treymayne. What is what? The font? The layout? Give me some specifics.”
She reached out and rubbed the edge of the paper between her thumb and forefinger. “If you mean the stock, I’d call that thirty-pound newsprint with low-rub black ink.”
His mouth thinned with displeasure, probably because he had no idea what thirty-pound stock was, let alone low-rub black ink.
“Damn it, I’m talking about the Dear Bob column, and you know it.”
“Oh, that. Hmm. I probably wrote that two or three weeks ago. Let me see.” She tugged the paper from beneath his fist. Then, with a great deal of exaggeration, she read the column as if she couldn’t quite remember it.
Finally, she tossed it back onto her desk. “Yup, that’s a good one.”
He placed his hands flat on her desk and leaned forward. “Don’t push me, Collins.”
“Why on earth would I do that?” She met him gaze for gaze, mainly because she couldn’t look away from his eyes. They were such a vivid, sexy blue, with thick, black lashes framed by rimless glasses. Smoky, sooty eyes that were still unmistakably masculine.
Why, oh why had God put such a damnably sexy man in charge of the paper? Things would be so much easier if she didn’t have a boss who made her stomach flutter just by glaring at her.
And he did a lot of glaring. You’d think she’d be used to it by now, since they’d been working together off and on for almost ten months, but no. One laser lock from those brilliant blue eyes, and she had to fight to keep her thoughts straight.
Which was a real problem. Here in Glory, North Carolina, where everyone knew everyone else, she’d never met anyone who sparked such outrageous chemistry, and she had no idea how to react to it. She wasn’t used to feeling hot and bothered, and in defense, she found herself lashing out in a way that surprised her.
Mark’s temper was none too even, either, which kept them at loggerheads. His idea of running the newspaper was a complete anathema to her and she was pretty sure he felt the same about her theories. Their ideas were as different as their personalities; he was precise and neat, she was more general and creative. He was the big city and she was small town. He prized organization, while she prized the freedom to create. He was all about crunching the numbers and nothing but the numbers, while she understood the value of the newspaper within the community.
No two people could be more different or have more diverse opinions on how to accomplish the same job—namely, to make The Glory Examiner the most profitable, healthiest newspaper possible.
He scowled now, which was nearly as potent as his glare. “You wrote that Dear Bob column about me, didn’t you?”
She pretended to be shocked, which was hard to do when a grin was threatening to break through. “Why, Mark! Why on earth would you think that?” She leaned forward. “Was it the part about ‘compensation’ for having a small member? Did that strike too close to home?”
She seriously doubted her annoying new boss had any “compensation” issues; he was a walking billboard for virility—which was utterly annoying at times.
His jaw tightened. “No. It wasn’t that. The article uses the word ‘jerk,’ and you called me that at last Monday’s staff meeting, when we were arguing about why we weren’t getting a new copier.”
“We didn’t argue about anything; we discussed it.”
“I would say ‘argued,’ seeing as how you threw your notebook onto the table so hard it overturned my coffee cup.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I forgot about that. OK, I’ll let the word ‘argue’ stand. But, I did not write the Dear Bob column about you.” I wrote it about my issues with you. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.” She picked up a random folder and pretended to study its contents.
Glancing over the edge, she could see him standing with his arms crossed over his broad chest, feet planted as if ready for a fight. She had to stifle a giggle because he unknowingly stood adjacent to a poster of Superman, who was in the exact same pose, only wearing a cape and blue tights.
Ever since she’d read her first comic book at age six, Susan had developed a thing for Superman, so much so that she’d decided to become Lois Lane, which was why she’d gotten her degree in journalism. It was also why her office was decorated in what she liked to call “Early Krypton.” Not only was there the almost-as-big-as-life Superman poster by Mark but also framed rare Superman comics, a hologram of Lois Lane shaking her fist at Lex Luthor while supporting an injured Superman, a vintage Superman lunch box, and other items that had once decorated her bedroom.
She wondered how Mark would look in tights, then decided she’d rather see him without tights. Under those khakis, did he wear boxers? Briefs? The man was hot enough for the cover of GQ, though the thought of him au naturel was far—
Susan almost jumped at the sudden demand. “Prove what?”
“Prove you didn’t write that damned column about me.”
“Show me the original letter.”
She sniffed. “Sorry, that’s privileged information. I never reveal my sources.”
His jaw tightened and she could see he was getting more irritated, which was kind of fun. Susan enjoyed seeing Mr. Perfectly-in-Control a bit out of control. Every clipped, well-thought-out sentence he uttered begged for a quip of some sort and she’d found she was just the woman to deliver. “I receive letters throughout the week, I select the most promising one, and I answer it.” If there weren’t any letters, then she made one up. But that was her business and no one else’s.
“Collins, the legal definition of a source is—” He began a stiff-lipped speech.
Susan let him lecture as she enjoyed the view. He had great arms, which one wouldn’t expect of an accountant. They weren’t bulging with muscles like the arms of her next-door neighbor and poker bud, Ethan; even Ethan’s muscles had muscles. But she liked a man with a bit of finesse. Someone like Clark Kent here, only with a sunnier disposition. Someone who was muscled but smooth, like Lance Armstrong or—
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?”
“Sorry, your arms—your arguments—distracted me.”
Oh God, did I really say that?
“Stop trying to change the subject,” he said gruffly. “Show me the letter that spawned this Dear Bob column.”
Why couldn’t Mark ask for things instead of demand them? She’d been in charge of her own life since she was twelve, and she wasn’t about to allow someone else to tell her what to do now, especially not in such an odiously superior tone of voice. She might not be the most sophisticated woman around, but every inch of her was independent and she liked it that way.
In fact, before she’d accepted the position of editor of The Glory Examiner, she’d been the county dispatcher and had worked with the sheriff, Nick Sheppard. They’d gotten along fine, since Nick knew her limits and never stepped on them. Mark, meanwhile, pushed them every chance he got.
She showed her teeth in a not-so-nice smile. “Ask nicely and I’ll let you see the letter.”
He grimaced out a “please” that had a damn you tone to it.
Sheesh. He was so uptight. Which was a pity, as he was so intriguing in a Clark-Kent-nerd sort of way. The trouble was that there wasn’t enough common ground between them to strike a match. When Mark’s sister, Roxie, had asked Susan to become editor of the newspaper, she’d jumped at the chance. Little did she know then that the job would come with the caveat that Roxie’s big brother would oversee the financial side of the paper until it began to operate in the black.
Susan cast a glance at Mark from under her lashes, noting the way his dark hair fell over his forehead and made his eyes seem bluer. While she admired his looks, he remained stubbornly aloof and she knew very little about the actual man. She knew he owned an accounting firm in Raleigh and that he was divorced, but everything else was pure speculation. Rumor had it that Mark’s ex had been as wild as she was beautiful and—if rumor was to be believed—he was still pining after her even now, two years after the divorce.
Perhaps he thought all women were unstable, which was why he didn’t trust Susan’s instincts with the newspaper.
If only he understood that she loved her job and was good at it, everything would go smoother. She was an excellent editor, a good writer, a thorough investigator, and she knew everyone in town. People trusted her because she’d been the calm voice responding to every 911 call to the sheriff’s office. Now she was wearing a different hat, but one that still served her town.
She waved her hand at Mark. “I’ll find the letter and bring it to the next staff meeting.” That would give her time to write one.
“Collins, while I may get on your last nerve, I’ll thank you to remember that I’m a licensed accountant.”
“So I’m not a pushover. Not for the IRS and not for you.” He rubbed his chin, his eyes suddenly glinting with sardonic humor. “In fact, I’ll wait while you locate the letter from ‘Angry and Determined.’”
Now, that could be a problem. To buy some time, she said “Fine!” and opened a random drawer and dug through all the pens, rubber bands, and a variety of Post-its.
He crossed his arms. “You don’t have it, do you?”
“Of course I do,” she replied in a lofty tone. “I just haven’t filed it yet, so I can’t lay my hands on it at the drop of a hat.”
He glanced around at the piles of papers and books. “You file?”
“Once a year, whether my office needs it or not.”
He grinned and shook his head. “I couldn’t work like this.”
“And I couldn’t work at your desk, either. It’s too sterile.”
He stiffened, his smile disappearing. “My office is not sterile.”
“There’s nothing on your desk. Not even a pencil holder.”
“I like it clean.”
“You like it barren. Deloris Fishbine came in yesterday to talk about the new library reading room and thought your office was a spare. She even asked if we’d donate the space as a call center for the next library fund-raiser.”
He pointed to her desk. “Find. The. Letter.”
She sighed and opened another drawer, this one filled with coupons and recipes she’d been meaning to take home and transfer to her cookbooks. As she pretended to search the drawer, she looked at Mark from under her lashes.
He was so attractive, his dark hair mussed and his glasses slightly off center. She felt an almost physical pull to lean across the desk, straighten his glasses, and plant a kiss right on his firm lips. Her cheeks warmed at the thought.
She looked up from the drawer. “Wait. I just remembered … I think I filed it already.”
He lifted a brow. “Just find it.”
She pulled a random stack of files forward. “Do you know that Dear Bob is one of the most popular features in the paper?” She was extraordinarily proud of that, since she’d come up with the idea for the column three years ago and had worked hard to convince then-editor Ty Henderson to give her a chance to make it work. And he had, too, until he’d been arrested for kidnapping and extortion and a bunch of other charges.
“I know the Dear Bob section is popular,” Mark said. “I’ve seen the results from the focus group. That doesn’t make you less responsible for the content. If anything, it makes you more so.”
She opened a drawer and picked out a thick file and slapped it down on top of the newspaper. “I’ve kept every letter that’s been sent to Dear Bob over the past two years.” She eyed the folder. It was thick, but not that thick. She reached back into the drawer, grabbed another fat folder, and tossed it on top of the first one. “That’s all of them.”
“Good God, there must be hundreds.”
“Thousands.” She stood and collected her interview notepad and pencil. “The letter I answered in this week’s column is in one of those files … somewhere.”
“I don’t have time to read through all of these.” He pushed the files her way. “Find it.”
She used her hip to close the drawer. “I would, but I have an interview with the mayor about the budget cuts that may affect the local animal shelter’s no-kill policy.”
Mark shook his head. “What kind of a filing system do you have?”
“A very private one that only makes sense to a trained journalist.” What was in those two folders, anyway? She eyed them for a moment. Ah, yes. One held her office expense invoices, while the other contained … she wasn’t sure what, but the folder was dusty so it couldn’t be anything important. She gave a fake sigh. “Before you go through those files, I should warn you about certain women’s issues.”
He removed his hand from the top folder, his blue gaze suspicious. “What women’s issues?”
“Lots of women write to Bob requesting information on lumps, cysts, periods, menopause—that sort of thing.”
He looked at the folders with a mixture of horror and fascination. “No way.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets. “You know, Collins, I think I’ll let you find the letter after all.”
Thank you, God. She scooped up the folders, dropped them into a drawer, and slammed it shut. “I always have to cull the letters to find something that might make a good interpersonal sort of story.”
His suspicious look returned. “For some reason, I feel like I just got played.”
She lifted her chin and said in a cold voice, “Sir, I am not a liar.” I’m a bluffer. And if you weren’t such a starched shirt who never played poker, you would recognize the difference.
“What you are is a troublemaker,” he stated.
She fluttered her lashes. “Why, sir, ah do believe ah am offended!”
He grinned and Susan’s stomach tightened. He looked so approachable when he smiled. So cute. She really wished he wouldn’t do that.
She grabbed her purse. “I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to catch the mayor before he follows his secretary home for their daily slap and tickle. After that, I have a source meeting at Micki & Maud’s.”
“Drinking a latte and gossiping with my sister is not a ‘source meeting.’” He tucked the newspaper under his arm. “I’ll cede your point on the Dear Bob column this one time, only because I don’t have time to comb through your mess of an office. But I still have my suspicions. You made the exact same Cialis statement in the hall yesterday.”
Good God, he’d heard that? What else had she said? Surely that wasn’t the worst. “You shouldn’t eavesdrop.”
“And you shouldn’t complain so loudly outside my office door.”
“If someone hadn’t made a storage room out of the break room—”
“We have a break room.”
“That closet?” she scoffed.
“It’s bigger than our offices.”
“That’s another prob—”
He held up a hand. “Collins, don’t start.”
She scowled, but knew she’d be wasting her breath. Mark had never seen the old newspaper office in its heyday. When he’d arrived the place had been a hot, dusty mess, and before she’d known what he was about, he’d cleaned it all out and erected this appalling cubicle farm. Dilbert would be proud.
“Fine. My meeting’s in five. I’m off to City Hall.” She tucked her notebook into her purse and moved around her desk. Unfortunately, the size of her cubicle forced her to squeeze past Mark, who just stood there, the amused look on his face letting her know that he was perfectly aware that he had her cornered.
Susan wasn’t a timid sort of woman, so she stood where she was, well within his personal space, so close she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.
That was a bit disconcerting. Not only was she even more aware of the intensity of his blue gaze, but she could smell the spicy scent that always seemed to surround him. She didn’t know if it came from his shampoo or if he wore cologne, but the scent was tantalizingly faint, making her want to lean closer and take a deeper breath. She was just about to do that when she caught his amused gaze.
Hastily, she straightened. “I will be late for my meeting if you don’t move.”
Mark glanced at the Superman clock that adorned the far wall. He was certain Susan had plenty of time to make her meeting; the entire town wasn’t much bigger than a gnat’s ass. But that was Glory’s one and only claim to perfection; it was a one-note town from top to bottom. There was one post office, one dentist, one cop, one restaurant, one hair salon, and (thankfully) one newspaper. If monotony was your thing, Glory was the town for you.
Not that he was a small-town snob: he just enjoyed Raleigh too much not to be aware of Glory’s obvious shortcomings. It always had been and always would be too small, too tightly knit, a gossip hot zone.
His gaze dropped to Susan’s breasts. They were another hot zone, but an infinitely more enjoyable one. The thought surprised him. Since his divorce women had come and gone, but none had engaged him like this one. Fortunately for them both, their attraction was based on the determined desire to best one another, whether between the sheets or in the boardroom. As soon as one of them acknowledged defeat, he was certain their unruly passion would disappear.
Susan frowned up at him, a flicker of uncertainty in her blue gaze. “Are you going to move?”
No. No, he wasn’t. He was usually cool and in control, but ten months of being dogged by a pert, sassy, too-knowledgeable-for-her-own-good newspaper editor was really getting on his last nerve. Worse, he was beginning to savor their altercations and the low simmer that always hummed between them.
Susan stood just a bit too close to him, wearing jeans that fit her lean curves like a loving hand. Her well-worn scoop-necked T-shirt was thin enough that he could make out her bra beneath it, and one lacy red bra strap peeked out as if daring him to imagine what she’d look like without the shirt. His cock ached at the sight … and that was just from thinking about her clothes. When he thought about what came with those clothes—the long, long legs; the creamy skin; the dark red hair; the full, wide mouth and her blue, blue eyes—it wasn’t just his cock that ached, but his entire body.
He’d never had such a fierce case of pure lust in his life, not even for Arlene. And the memory of that short, purely physical, and brilliantly wrong marriage shouted that he should ignore any hottie who made his libido fire up like a pressure cooker. So far, the memories were fresh enough that he’d been able to comply.
But now, looking down into Susan’s upturned face, her hair pulled back in an elegant ponytail, her full lips moistened by a swipe of pale pink gloss, her blue eyes fringed by a ridiculous sweep of thick black lashes, his determination to stay aloof seemed mighty stupid. And that, more than anything she might ever say or do, irritated him to the bone. “You’re a smart one, Collins. You figure out a way to get me to move.”
Her eyes blazed at the challenge. “I could stomp your foot.”
“And slip past while I was hopping around like a cartoon rabbit?” He rocked back on his heels and smirked. “It won’t work. I may howl, but I’d be damned if I’d move.”
She crossed her arms, the gesture pressing her breasts against the thin T-shirt and making his heart stutter. “What do you want, Treymayne?”
He leaned forward to place a hand on the top of the cubicle wall by her head. What did he want? He was almost afraid to answer that question himself, so instead he asked her. “What do you think I want, Collins?”
Susan’s heart thundered. His body was now holding her prisoner. Oh, he wasn’t touching her—that would be too heavenly. As irritating as this man could be, he was damned tasty. Maybe a good roll in the sack would cure them both of their case of the crankies—but she was sure the suggestion would send Mr. Clean Living into shock. To be honest, it sort of shocked her, too.
It was a pity she wasn’t the sort to engage in a brief, no-holds-barred casual fling. Such an opportunity was rare in a town like Glory, where everyone knew everyone else or, worse, was related. Perhaps the time had come to rethink that particular view. She was healthy, over thirty, and it had been a long, long time since she’d felt this sort of attraction for anyone.
She found herself looking at his mouth, hard and masculine. A wave of lust hit her and she had to bite the inside of her lip to keep her expression neutral. Why didn’t she throw herself into a lovely flirtation with Clark Kent here? What could it hurt? Heck, it might help ease the endless conflict. And the fact that he’d be leaving soon was a huge plus—there’d be no fallout.
Now that she thought about it, this man was a rare, golden opportunity, and if she didn’t snag him, someone else would. Probably one of her closest girlfriends. Connie, who ran Micki & Maud’s Diner with her mother, had been casting eyes at Mark since he’d arrived in town. Of course, Connie cast her gaze upon every eligible—and not-eligible—man who came her way, so perhaps she was a poor example.
Still … Connie wouldn’t hesitate, so why should Susan? Didn’t she deserve a little warmth and excitement in her life? Heck, yes.
She slipped her arms around Mark’s neck, rose up on her toes, and laid a good one on him. His eyes widened, his hand dropped from the wall, and his mouth opened in surprise—which allowed Susan to slip her tongue between his lips and do something she’d been dying to do from day one. As her tongue touched his, instant heat flooded her and hot passion swept over her from head to toe. Good God, why didn’t I do this months ago?
Susan’s searching hands and tongue blew every thought from Mark’s head. When her tongue touched his, his hands naturally found her rounded ass as he cupped her to him and molded her even more closely. She moaned against his mouth, her tongue driving him wild. Pure passion roared through his body and he soaked it up. It had been so long since he’d felt such a physical thrill for a woman—any woman. He ran a hand up her back and cupped the back of her neck, her silken ponytail trailing over his fingers.
She tightened her hold around his neck, lifting to him, moaning as he deepened the kiss. For a few glorious moments, he didn’t think, didn’t measure or weigh the cost of what he was doing, he just did.
Susan broke the kiss and nipped at his bottom lip, her even white teeth gently teasing his sensitive skin. Damn, the woman knew how to kiss! Blazing desire raced through him as he saw that her eyes were closed, her thick lashes crescents on her creamy skin, a few pale freckles sprinkled across the bridge of her delicate nose. She was so naturally sexy, and didn’t even know it. It was hard to believe that anyone who saw Susan would think—
Saw? Oh, God. The shade is up and our windows are directly opposite City Hall’s. If just one person happens to look outside, they’ll see— He dropped his hands from her waist and stepped back, straightening his glasses, which had gone askew.
Susan blinked sleepily, as if just waking.
Mark raked a hand through his hair. “Damn it, we shouldn’t—” Then his gaze locked on her chest, where her nipples clearly showed through her lace bra and T-shirt. I need to impose a dress code. “While on company property, proper, well-lined underwear will be worn at all times.”
Susan slid her fingers along her bottom lip, the sensual gesture making his cock harden even more. “I’m impressed. That was a good kiss.”
He straightened his shoulders. “It shouldn’t have happened.” He nodded toward the open blinds.
Her smile seemed to freeze in place. “What’s wrong, Kent? Afraid someone might see you kissing the help?”
“Clark Kent.” She jerked her head toward a framed comic book on the wall over her desk. “That’s you to a T. Uptight, follow-the-lines, never-have-fun sort of guy.”
Mark didn’t like that description one bit. “If I’m Clark Kent, then I suppose you’re Lois Lane,” he scoffed.
“I could be.”
“She was always getting in trouble so that Superman had to rescue her. That’s a bit lame, isn’t it?”
Susan tsked. “You need to get out of the fifties, Kent. Nowadays Lois is mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
Mark glanced at the framed comic book, a bit surprised. “Really?”
“Yup. Lois is a kick-ass journalist now. Independent and capable of saving her own life—and Superman’s sometimes, too.”
“I haven’t really kept up.”
“Obviously. But then, I don’t know the tax code. To each his own.” She leaned a shoulder against the wall, turning slightly toward him. She should be moving away from him, yet her instincts screamed at her to do the opposite. The kiss had unfuddled her brain, and now she knew what she wanted: more of Mark Treymayne. Lots more. She wanted to shock and befuddle him, make him think about her without the irked expression he was wearing now.
Why? The kiss had begun well, and he’d taken it over as soon as his libido had checked in. For a moment, she’d thought he might devour her. She shivered at the memory. Oh, yes, I want more of that.
Mark glanced at the clock. “You’d better go. The mayor will be waiting.”
She caught sight of the time and grimaced. “Oh, I’m late!” She brushed past him, her entire body still aflame.
“When you’re talking to the mayor, ask him if he wants a few more ads for Founders Day.”
“I can’t do that; it’ll seem like bribery. You know, ‘Buy some ads from me and I’ll make you look favorable in this article.’”
“No one would accuse you of doing such a thing.”
“The mayor would. I won’t compromise my integrity as a journalist just to sell ads, Mark.” She sent him a hard look. “If we would focus on improving the content and making the paper more worthwhile, using good reporting and engaging photography, then we’d have more readers and could charge more per ad.”
“It’s my job to decide the price points, not yours.” He held up a hand when she would have argued. “That’s a conversation for another time. You have an interview and I’ve already made you late as it is. I should regret that, but …” His gaze flickered across her.
Oh, Lord! He was right. Heart racing, she hurried to the door. “We’ll discuss this later.”
His eyes glinted, and to her surprise, a faint smile lifted one corner of his mouth. “Later, Lane.”
She grinned back like the biggest idiot in the world, feeling strangely light and airy as she ran down the stairs. That devastating half smile, paired with those steely blue-gray eyes, made her tingle.
She’d clearly been using the wrong tactics on Mark Treymayne, but today’s little kiss had given her a new path to follow—and follow it she would. She wasn’t the sort of woman who avoided romantic relationships. If the opportunity came, she went for it. The trouble was that the opportunity rarely came. Oh, she’d had offers … more than one might expect from such a small town, so the problem wasn’t availability. The problem was that she was inordinately picky.
It took a lot of—well, everything—before she felt even a flicker of interest. She wanted it all; someone who was intelligent and sexy and funny. A real life super man.
In the last ten years there’d only been one man she’d felt anything for, and though he hadn’t met all of her requirements, she’d allowed herself to be charmed into a relationship. He’d turned out to be a complete putz with a liar’s tongue and a cheater’s heart. That had hurt, but it had also confirmed one thing: picky she was, and picky she’d stay. It just made life easier.
She glanced at her wristwatch as she took the last few steps into the lobby. A hot fling with a Clark Kent look-alike was exactly what the doctor ordered. What could it hurt? By the time things went awry, it would be time for Mr. Too Uptight to return to his offices in Raleigh. The entire scenario was perfect; it was just a pity she’d wasted so many months before realizing it. Well, that little mistake could be rectified by—
“On your way somewhere, Miss Susan?”
She grinned at Ray Dobbins, who put down his ever-present crossword, but didn’t rise from the overstuffed lobby couch that he constantly occupied. The old man was a relic of a time gone by when every large building had a doorman. The bright orange ‘Security’ written on the tag hanging from Ray’s blue blazer was a mere courtesy title; everyone in town knew the man was nearly blind and couldn’t work up a run to save a life, even his own. Just walking across the lobby to the fountain to get a drink left the man wheezing like a slit tire. Still, he was an institution and she couldn’t imagine the building without him.
“Yup,” she said. “I’m interviewing the mayor.”
“Give ’em hell. Charlie Harkins is a crook.”
She pushed open the heavy door and grinned. “So I’ve heard. Back in a few!”
Ray waved and returned to his crossword as she went outside in the sunshine and hurried toward City Hall. This would be a good article; she could feel it. All she had to do was fight Mark for the proper amount of column space; lately he’d become almost miserly in allocating it, preferring to hold it for ads. Her smile faded. Truly, the man needed a lesson in newspaper management. Perhaps she’d take the time to give him one. After a few more of those hot kisses, of course.
Her smile back in place, she raced up the steps to City Hall, her notebook already opened to a blank page.
© 2010 Karen Hawkins