Friday, December 13, 2013

Stake Out For Love by Margo Hoornstra

Part Two

She could only look at him and shake her head. “You have the keys, don’t you? We both know how much you covet driving, especially when you’re on duty. Why would I ask you to give that up? It’s a holiday. I’m feeling a touch of the benevolent, giving spirit.”
She accidentally brushed against him to climb into the passenger side and flinched. Posture rigid and all business, game face on, she shut the door and secured her seat belt. All the while, the heat of that casual touch stayed with her.
Shake it off.
He slid in behind the wheel, and the interior of the squad car compressed. Closed in and cozy, having him in the seat beside her.
Kind of like those rare mornings when they happened to have the same day off. They’d celebrate by spending the first half of it in bed. Not necessarily making love the whole time, though that was always a welcome option.
Mostly, they’d snuggle side by side, holding hands, talking about their future.
“So how many kids should we have?” It was always his question.
Her answer was always the same. “As many as we have.” Then in those last few months before their break up, she’d add an internal qualifier. Just not right now.
Keeping silent was preferable to chancing a repeat of what had become the same argument. The product of a big family, Tony couldn’t wait to start theirs. She wanted to put off having children until she was more established in her career. He couldn’t understand why.
He’d start with a promise. “I’ll share the caregiving.”
Her counter offer would be the same. “Fifty-fifty?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Does that include carrying, giving birth and nursing for the first six months?”
When she put it that way, he never could come up with a suitable answer. “I’m sure we could figure something out.”
Figuring something out just didn’t cut it for her.
The radio crackled as dispatch sent a patrol unit to a domestic dispute. Glancing up, Holly was startled to see they were already downtown. Tony jockeyed the car into a spot at the far end of the church parking lot behind a cluster of trees and tall bushes.
Putting the gear shift into park, he turned to stare out the driver side window. “Well, look at that.”
“Look at what?” She glanced over to follow his gaze.
The Interdenominational Church was putting on its version of a living Nativity. A man dressed in a robe and headpiece stood to one side of the display holding the reins of a real live donkey. Others in costume, the three Wise Men among them, walked from the church parking lot towards the arch that represented that long ago manger. The woman picked up a swaddled bundle she held close as her husband wrapped his arm around her shoulders. They gazed with awe and love at their child.
“It never gets old, does it? Watching that miracle.” Before she could stop it, her whisper broke into the stillness.
“It sure doesn’t.” His tone was low, his voice more of a shaky exhale.
Pleasantly surprised at his show of emotion, Holly raised a hand she was about to rest gently on his shoulder. She blinked back tears as she sought to ignore the huge lump of regret gaining ground at the back of her throat. Maybe Tony was right and they could figure it out, work through their differences.
His head lifted and something made her pull back. By the time he’d fully turned her way, his face was unreadable.
“I wonder what kind of permit they had to pull to bring that donkey into town.”
She took in a quick breath as the tears dried up and the lump disappeared. “I don’t know. Why don’t you go over and ask them?”
The snarky retort was so not what she’d intended. Except he started it.
“Naw. It’s not that important. I’m going to get something to eat before we get started.” He pointed to his right. “That deli over there is still open. You want anything?”
She shook her head. “Thank you, no.”
As Tony’s fingers wrapped around the door handle, he gave her a quick look over one shoulder. “Just asking. I figured it’s the gentlemanly thing to do.”
“Don’t feel obligated to act like a gentleman on my account.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back.”
A blast of cold air washed over her as he opened the door to get out then shut it behind him.
Leaning back in the seat, Holly scowled up at the ceiling.
Men! From now on, she was determined to live without them. Especially the one who just left.

Hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped, Tony made his way around a thorny bush to head down the alley.
Man oh man. He sure was screwing this up. Big time.
His first chance in over seven months alone with the love of his life. Determined to put his best foot forward, what did he do? Inserted the damned thing firmly and directly into his mouth.
A ragged breath whooshed out on a frigid cloud in the below freezing night.
He should have had the guts to shove it, heel and all, down his throat.
Good going, asshole.
The idiotic donkey remark had the expected effect. After making it, he’d watched the glimmer of hope lighting her eyes dim. He could have kicked his own ass for being the cause. The highly insensitive donkey reference. Where the heck had that come from?
Nerves. Because seeing a couple, any couple, with the child they shared hurt so much he couldn’t deal with it. A damned lame excuse for hurting Holly the way he had.
Careful to use the back entrance into the deli, he noted they closed in an hour.
A tall, thin teenaged boy with a Santa hat riding low on his forehead looked up from behind the counter. “Merry Christmas. What can I get you?”
“Merry Christmas.” He hadn’t said those words to anyone the past few weeks.
Mainly because, without Holly at his side, he wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. Or do much of anything. Except eat when he could work up an appetite, which wasn’t often. Sleep when his extended pity party shut down long enough to allow it. And work. Oh, and through all that, do his darnedest to ignore the big gaping hole in his chest where his heart was supposed to be.
“Cranberry muffins are on special today.” The clerk eyed him expectantly.
Cranberry muffins. Holly’s favorite. “Two coffees to go. And a bag of those muffins. Half a dozen.”
“You got it. I’m baking a fresh batch. They should be done in about five minutes.”
“I’ll wait.”
The clerk put the cups of coffee in a cardboard container. Tony carried them over to a table by the window where he took a seat.
When he volunteered to help out the local department, take the afternoon shift on Christmas Eve so some of his buddies with families could have the night off, he accepted the possibility he might run into Holly, and figured he’d somehow deal if he did. He never expected to be matched up with her for an entire twelve-hour shift. He was equally stunned, though maybe he shouldn’t be, to discover it hurt too much to even look at her. For that ungodly long amount of time.
She was more beautiful than he’d allowed himself to remember. Dammit.
The face of an angel. Those big, gorgeous blue eyes of hers. How many times in the past had he found himself lost in their depths? Content to stay where he was. Not caring if he ever found his way out.
Not even the unflattering man-cut style of a department issue shirt and pants could hide her curves and velvet skin. A body he’d come to know as well as his own. And cherished far more.
Long brown hair. How he’d relished the silky mass draped across his chest as they made love.
Hair that she’d pulled straight back from her face to pack tight into a frickin’ old lady bun at the back of her neck tonight.
What he wouldn’t give to yank out the pins and bury his face in its fragrance. Too bad it wasn’t going to happen. Tonight—or ever.

Join me here tomorrow for part three of Stake Out For Love. If you like what you've read so far, do I have a deal for you. My latest release Only If You Dare is free on Amazon now through the 14th.

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Merry Christmas!


Christine DePetrillo said...

Love Tony! Can't wait for Chapter Three!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Chris. He is basically a good guy, he just doesn't know it yet. ;-)

Jannine Gallant said...

Are these two miserable or what? Waiting for their HEA. It's gotta happen.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Jannine. HEA? Maybe, maybe not.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

You do this so well: write conflict. I struggle with it. Love how you have them at odds and yet yearning at the same time. Great job.

Alicia Dean said...

Aw, poor Tony. He's hurting so badly. I am rooting for him!!! Can't wait to see if they get their HEA...they were obviously meant to be together forever. Great job.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Vonnie. High praise from a fellow writer I respect. Thank you.

Alicia. On behalf of Tony (and me), I thank you.

Diane Burton said...

Awww. He's still sweet on her.