Digital • Oct. 3, 2011
As a private security specialist, Lacy McKenzie prides herself on being professional. So why is she sitting in a beat up Nova taking pictures of Mrs. Dorothy Lathrop?
Two words—Harold Lathrop.
Harold’s convinced his wife is having an affair. Not one to turn down quick cash in a bad economy, Lacy accepts the job. Following Dorothy around town is easy. Watching her cavort with a handsome, sexy, younger man is not. One glance through the camera’s lens and the dark-haired Adonis has Lacy squirming.
Granger Martin has seen plenty of gold-diggers in his life, but none as out of place as Lacy. She doesn’t quite fit the profile of ‘the other woman’. No wonder Harold Lathrop chose her. With her curly red hair and ample curves for days, it doesn’t take long for Granger’s thoughts to take on a carnal nature.
Contacting Lacy at a bar was stupid. Inviting her for dinner and drinks, brainless. Taking her to his houseboat and making love to her for hours–utterly insane. Now that sex has entered the picture, Lacy and Granger are more determined than ever to uncover the truth, but it’ll take an iguana and two polygraphs to get to the bottom of this investigation… or maybe just one Hot Shot.
Read an Excerpt
Lacy McKenzie couldn’t believe she’d allowed herself to be talked into taking another investigative case. She wasn’t a field person. In fact, she hated this aspect of the job.
But the money was just too good to pass up—like all the other times, she reminded herself. And she was damn good at her job.
She stared, from within her unmarked car, her name brand sunglasses shading her eyes against the glaring afternoon sun. At this angle, the couple looked like any other mother and son out for a social lunch. Problem was this man wasn’t Dorothy Lathrop’s son. That son lived in Tucson with his wife, Betty and their three children.
Lacy wondered what he’d think of his mother if he knew she was playing slap and tickle with a man his own age. She knew how Dorothy’s husband, Harold would react to the news.
Dorothy, as if realizing she was being watched, glanced around nervously, her forehead creasing with concern.
“You should be worried, sugar momma. I have you in my sights,” Lacy muttered under her breath, while snapping another picture.
Her gaze slid to the man sitting across from Dorothy. The woman had excellent taste. She’d give her that. No wonder she was so willing to risk losing everything. He was hot. It was a good thing Lacy’s heart was fire retardant or she’d go up in flames looking at him.
She raised the Nikon to her eye and looked through the lens. A slow appreciative whistle escaped from her mouth.
Oh, he was good. Very good.
But she was better.
Lacy MacKenzie focused the telephoto lens on the black-haired Adonis who sat casually by the window in a cozy outdoor Bistro located in downtown Phoenix. His large frame dwarfed the retro chairs, as he casually shrugged out of his jacket revealing impossibly wide shoulders.
“Figures,” Lacy grumbled under her breath. It would be much easier to work this case if she could find reasons to dislike the man, but from everything she’d seen, he was perfect.
She snapped off a couple more shots, watching as the man reached over and gently touched Mrs. Dorothy Lathrop’s hand. Mrs. Lathrop blushed to the roots of her graying hair and her fingers shook as she reached for a nearby glass of water.
Lacy could almost feel the heat from his caress on her own hand. His calloused fingertips gliding over her skin. And she knew they’d be calloused. Men like him didn’t have soft hands. She took a shuddering breath. Dorothy Lathrop was one lucky woman. Married to a millionaire, and sleeping with a smoking hot boy toy.
Too bad Lacy had to put an end to her liaison.
A waiter appeared, interrupting the couple’s interlude. The black-haired man merely glanced over at Mrs. Lathrop, who shook her head. He smiled at Dorothy, as he reached for his wallet. He said a few words to the waiter, before handing over several bills.
Smooth, not too aggressive. Just like a woman wants.
Lacy grimaced. The man had heartbreaker stenciled all over him. She wondered how many victims he’d left in his wake. Dorothy didn’t stand a chance against a stud like him. Women probably wilted wherever he went.
Goodness knew he had Lacy growing faint and she was over fifty yards away. Face the facts, he’s had your panties in a knot since day one of the stakeout.
Lacy focused on his handsome face. He didn’t quite fit the bill of a gigolo, not that she had met many of them. Okay, none. His clothing was always nice, but not too flashy. He wore black jeans with a tailored white shirt that had the first two buttons open, giving Lacy a teasing glimpse of his delectable chest.
She zoomed in for a closer look. After watching him for three days, Lacy pretty much had his features memorized. He had a strong brow and a masculine nose, which looked as if it had seen a fight or two. Instead of deterring from his appearance, the slight imperfection added to it. His expression, while open remained guarded, wary. As if, responsibility weighed heavily upon his broad shoulders.
A sigh escaped Lacy’s lips. The man had shoulders made for leaning on. Focus, focus, focus. The mantra played in her head as she reminded herself again that this was work, not pleasure.
The jacket he’d had on earlier hung casually over the back of his chair. He regularly ran his free hand through his cropped hair, whether out of nervous habit or frustration, Lacy couldn’t tell. Whatever the case, the action sent the wicked strands in all directions.
How could a haircut remind her so much of sex? Lacy crossed her legs. He’d probably done it on purpose.
Purposeful or not, that thought didn’t stop Lacy from picturing the man in her bed, asleep on his stomach, white sheets draped around his trim waist, his dark head resting on her pillow.
Her body clenched and began to ache in places that hadn’t seen much action over the past few years.
Twice he glanced her way as if he sensed her watching him. Lacy’s pulse skittered. Her body’s reaction to this man intrigued and infuriated her. She prided herself on her sense of control, but with him, it was different. There was no control.
For a few seconds, Lacy stared, arrested by his piercing blue gaze. Paul Newman and Daniel Craig should be so lucky. She forced herself to breathe. What would it be like to have that attention focused on her? The thought had Lacy’s nipples quivering.
Can nipples quiver? She wasn’t sure, but hers were giving it their best shot.
In different circumstances, she’d consider this guy her ideal type. Strike that, she did consider this man her ideal. Not that he’d notice her.
‘There’s nothing wrong with average’, her mother used to say.
She agreed. Lacy glanced into her side mirror, her attention narrowing on her face. Her features had character. Well as much character as a round face full of freckles could have anyway. She knew she didn’t exactly stand out in a crowd, but she made the best of what she had. Besides, it’s not as if she scared dogs and small children away with her appearance. At least not after she’d had a shower and put on a little makeup to tone down the freckles.
The man looked in her direction once again.
Lacy crouched down, even though she knew he couldn’t see her from her vantage point. Her traitorous stomach flip-flopped as her body responded, despite her efforts to remain disinterested.
Quit looking at him as if he were a giant bowl of ice cream.
She could tell even from this distance that the man was tall. Lacy made a sound that could only be described as a wistful gurgle. Something about tall men always curled her toes.
Probably just gas from last night’s Mexican dinner.
Lacy glanced down at the couple’s clasped hands. A stab of discomfort, suspiciously similar to jealousy, pierced her composure. How could she be jealous over a man she’d never met?
She fixated on the twined palms. The man’s hands were big with long tapered artistic looking fingers that could wreak havoc on a woman’s body. Lacy groaned. He could play Mozart’s fifth symphony over her anytime. She snapped off a picture of his mouth. His lips were the stuff fantasies were made of.
There had to be a law against looking that good.
Lacy shook her head, tossing her red curls over her shoulder in the process. She shot frame after frame of the man, reminding herself that, gorgeous or not, he was a home wrecker.
A beep signaled that her digital camera was nearly out of memory. Lacy placed the camera in her lap and popped open the side. She gathered the card and placed it in a black storage pouch that was next to her on the ripped front seat of her old Nova. She tossed a new memory card into the camera and took a few more shots.
She’d eventually have enough evidence of adultery to present to Mr. Harold Lathrop.
Lacy hated that part of her job, but you had to take the bad with the good when it came to investigations or so the field agents at her company had said before she’d had to let them go. Unable to make payroll, she’d had no choice.
That’s why she was here on stakeout, why she’d taken the job in the first place. The payout would get her company, Mac Investigations, back on sure footing.
There was only one teensy, weensy problem. She didn’t have definitive proof that Dorothy was schtooping someone else. Lacy hadn’t actually caught the couple in a compromising position, unless holding hands was now adulterous.
They’d been careful to avoid hotels and motels, but it was only a matter of time. The couple would eventually check into a room and when they did, she’d capture the moment for Mr. Lathrop.
Until then, Lacy was left to ponder why she’d never even seen this man kiss Dorothy Lathrop. If they weren’t having sex, you’d think there’d at least be some kissing going on.
The thought of watching the two lovebirds make out left a decidedly unsavory taste in Lacy’s mouth. The only one who should be kissing him was her.
Like that was going to happen.
Lacy needed more time, more proof. That would be the only way she’d be able to collect the enormous sum Mr. Lathrop dangled in front of her face like a giant radioactive carrot.
She had to get closer, even if that meant connecting to the suspect in a bit of undercover work. Lacy rubbed the scar on her chin, a little reminder of the last time she confronted a suspect. Unease skittered along her spine. The chance of an attack occurring again were slim, but not out of the question.
When she’d had a team of investigators working for her, she’d easily avoided any case that would require her to make contact with a subject. Instead, she’d thrown herself into the day to day running of the business, which meant rarely leaving the office. The downturn in the economy and her ex-fiance changed all that.
Could she get past her fear?
Lacy didn’t know. Something about this man made her want to engage the enemy.
Right now however, she needed to get home to check on Freddie. He was probably starving. Her meeting with Harold Lathrop was set for five tonight at the stylish teppan restaurant Kirin.
It should only take an hour tops to fill him in on her progress. At least she hoped it wouldn’t take longer. Given twenty-minutes, Harold Lathrop could bore a rattlesnake cross-eyed.
Lacy glanced longingly at the man seducing Mrs. Lathrop. “Why do you have to be the bad guy?” she asked, muttering to herself.
Her mind wandered to another time not long ago, when she’d allowed herself to be attracted to another handsome man. He’d trampled her heart and walked away with over half of her company. It would be best if she remembered that fact. Circumstances may change, but men were all the same.
* * * * *
Granger Martin couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that he was being watched. On more than one occasion, he’d glanced out at the street half expecting to see someone staring at him. The hair on the nape of his neck had been standing on end for the past forty-five minutes.
Every muscle in his body coiled, ready for a fight, but every time he looked, there was no one there. He rolled his shoulders as tension took up permanent residence in his neck.
Granger had grown increasingly restless over the past few months, ever since his sister Cara announced her impending nuptials to his best friend, Brandon. He was happy for them. Truly.
The duties of best man may have factored into the stress, but that didn’t explain the reason he’d suddenly become dissatisfied with his life.
A certain leggy redhead flashed in his mind and he almost groaned aloud. Granger had spotted the mystery woman several times with Harold Lathrop. Typical old millionaire with his arm-trophy. The problem was, ever since laying eyes on her, she’d haunted damn near every waking moment he’d had.
Granger didn’t want to think about the nights. They were far worse. The woman had a starring role in every one of his erotic dreams. He shifted in the seat as he recalled their last encounter. She must have been a gymnast in another life.
Several vehicles zipped along Central Avenue. Workers from nearby office buildings scurried like ants to a picnic, charging to the various eating establishments in search of lunch. It was a busy area, at least in the daytime.
Granger had thought it a safe enough location to bring his client and get more details of exactly what else she wanted from the Martin Detective Agency, but now he wasn’t so sure.
Someone was out there. Watching. But why?
“Granger,” Dorothy Lathrop sniffled, drawing his attention back to the middle-aged, mousy-haired woman sitting across from him. “I just don’t know what I’ll do without Harold. You know our thirtieth anniversary is on Friday.” Her red nose and watery eyes spoke volumes of her torment.
“I remember.” Granger grasped her hand lightly in an attempt to reassure her. He had seen this same scenario many times before. A man reached a certain age and then panicked as realization of his mortality struck.
The result of this panic normally took the form of a younger woman who had enough silicone in her body to qualify as a car bumper. Of course, men weren’t the only ones who cheated. Granger encountered many wives out looking to add a spark to their love life. Some even had the nerve to come on to him.
Granger didn’t do married in any way, shape, or form. It wasn’t his style. Infidelity was just one of the many reasons he’d vowed never to fall in love and get hitched.
Sex was a different story.
As long as you were honest with the person, letting them know upfront that you were only looking for a physical relationship, then there was no chance of any misunderstandings or feelings getting hurt.
Granger grimaced. He hadn’t had to worry about it for a while, because lately he’d lost all interest in casual coupling. He hadn’t been laid in over three months, which was strange in itself, considering how much he loved sex–and women.
That said, Granger wasn’t about to be elected poster child for celibacy or monogamy any time soon. Celibacy, he decided was akin to hell on earth and monogamy. . .well, it was highly overrated.
Granger knew his parents’ and his sister Cara’s relationships were universal flukes, exceptions to humanity’s rule.
Their kind of happiness only happened once every thousand years, so he was out of luck. Granger shrugged away the discomfort that thought brought. The disquiet occurred any time the topic of relationships entered his head, which lately had been too damn frequent for his tastes.
Granger gave himself a mental shake and then glanced down at the notes he’d made. “Are you sure these are the only other places Mr. Lathrop frequents?”
Dorothy Lathrop picked up her napkin and dabbed at her nose. “Absolutely.” She nodded. “Harold loves Kirin and Tiki Ranch in Scottsdale. He is nothing if not a creature of habit. Or at least he used to be.” She sniffled again. “And to think I was planning a surprise anniversary party for him.”
“Now we don’t know anything for sure,” Granger said, not believing for a second that it was the truth, since he’d spotted Harold the week before with the leggy redhead.
“Really?” the hopeful tone in Dorothy Lathrop’s voice sliced him.
“Really.” Granger managed a smile. “I have enough information to continue with the investigation, so let’s get out of here.” He urged, before Dorothy broke into a full on wail. Granger couldn’t handle tears. They damn near ripped his heart out, not that much was left of it after so many jaded years spent on the job as a private investigator.
True love was for suckers and cons.
Granger helped Dorothy Lathrop to her car, opening the door for her, before climbing into the passenger seat. He’d had her meet him at the agency, because he’d needed her to fill out more paperwork and submit an updated photo of her husband before he could continue with the investigation. She’d insisted on driving him to lunch.
Granger wished now that he’d driven his own vehicle, that way he’d be able to scout the area before leaving. Someone was out there, watching. He felt it in his bones.
Too bad he couldn’t do anything about it, especially with Dorothy in the car. She was already upset. He refused to add to her distress.
* * * * *