Secret Desires Pt. 04bymadam_noe©
"You kissed him!"
"How the heck can you tell?" Shannon growled out at Lucy's unusual greeting.
The petite redhead was wearing an oversized t-shirt that proclaimed she had PMS and a gun, her hair in a braid and her face shiny from night cream. "I can tell. You kissed Nick last night and Aiden tonight. You can't tell me that you didn't enjoy it."
Glaring, Shannon pushed her way in the door using her gym bag as a battering ram, determined not to reveal what else had happened with Nick, and what she wished had happened with Aiden. "I'm staying here tonight."
Lucy backed up to let her in the door but stopped her progress. "Oh, are you?"
"Yes, now move, this bag is heavy. My laptop is old and it weighs a ton."
At last Lucy stepped aside. "Come on in, then, but you're dishing. I just got off the phone with John, popped a bowl of popcorn, and I was about to watch The Princess Bride. You're welcome to stay, I'll make up the guest room for you."
"Which one's the guest room?"
"Well one is my bedroom, one is my office, the front left is the guest room, and the front right is my closet."
Shannon dropped her bag onto the heavy chest just inside the door and raised a brow. "You have an entire bedroom for a closet?"
"Cripes I don't even have a proper closet in my apartment. I use a bookshelf from Ikea."
"Sit down on the couch, I'm drinking wine. Let me get you a glass. Then we can paint each other's toes, it'll be like old times."
"Great." She sank onto the thick suede couch and sighed. Lucy returned, poured the wine, and Shannon filled her in on the investigation, such as it was.
"Mingham seems like a good next stop. So, you're working with our boys."
Shannon sighed and rolled her had back on the cushion. "Want to be Daphne to my Velma?"
"Oh, honey you may be as smart as Velma but we're both Daphnes. And sorry, I'm good support and I'm ready at a moment's notice to help Suzie out, but we're no longer kids. I've got work, and John, I can't get involved in the investigation. You have two cops with you, you'll be fine. The three amigos ride again!"
Laughing, Shannon shook her head. "I have a feeling we're going to find that Parker cheated the bank on the loans to buy the land. Mingham found out, blackmailed him, Parker had enough of that and his nagging wife, took my cousin, and they're spending as much cash as they can taking every damn tour in New Orleans they can, too drunk to fly to Mexico. We can't find them because they're using cash."
Lucy sipped her wine and frowned. "It'd be nice if was that simple, but I can tell you when Mingham bought the rights from Parker he paid the bank back in full. There's something else here, I just can't put my finger on it."
"Your spidey-sense is tingling? Hey!" She dodged the little throw pillow Lucy tossed. "Look, Suzie is low-rent trouble. She chases after married men and drinks too much. She'd never get involved in anything dangerous."
"Wait until you meet Mingham. Jon Bowers worked on clearing the land before Mingham's guys came in to build. He met him, said Mingham gave him the creeps."
Jon Bowers was well over six feet, build like a redwood, and chewed tobacco like an adolescent girl chewed gum. As a teenager he'd worked on the now-closed Montauk gator farm wrestling the huge creatures for sport and a scant few tourist dollars. It took a lot to scare him.
"Well, at least you get to look into this with two very hot guys. Hey, they're my friends and I think of them as brothers, particularly as Nick's my second cousin, but you always had a good thing with Aiden. Nick always had a thing for you, and you weren't too adverse if I remember."
"You're crazy! Look, when we were kids you dated Timmy Salton senior year. You don't see me trying to push you to leave John and see him, do you?"
"His wife might object. He married Kelly Dawes."
"Eww, she was flirting with Aiden tonight."
"Well Timmy got a little soft in the middle. They do have three kids, terrors every last one, not too much wrong with a little flirting.
"Shannon, look, I have to know, what made you run that night? I thought we would have our last summer together, with the boys and Timmy, getting into trouble and having fun. Then you took off without a word to anyone. What was it?"
Shannon raised her head. "Lucy, you know what it was like for me as a child. My mother left here when she was nineteen and she was the damned town bicycle. It's always been like that in my family, one slut and one pragmatic, or whatever you'd call Charlotte. I like Chicago, no one knows me, no one judges me based off my crazy family. And I want to go back to that life, I don't want to move back here."
Drawing her knees up to her chest Lucy set her glass down on the coffee table. "You didn't answer my question."
"Oh, God," Shannon groaned, closing her eyes. "Fine. That night, the night of graduation, Nick kissed me. Before I had time to freak out at how wrong that was, Aiden was there, saying it was all right, saying...they could share me, if I wanted."
Suddenly Lucy whooped and laughed, punching her lightly on the arm. "Sport sex. Most of us had to wait until college for that. That's it? That made you run?"
"I had to get out of here. I was too young to deal with something like that. Besides, as tempting as it might be those are the last two men on earth I'd ever choose for such a...thing. They're bossy and territorial and it would never work."
"Wrong, wrong, and wrong. I've never seen men so able to share anything in my life. I never quite thought that would extend to a girl, but seriously...have you looked at them? Hey, can women write letters to Penthouse?" It was Lucy's turn to dodge a pillow, though she deftly caught it. "All right, it sure as heck ain't my job to seduce you, that's for the boys. I'm your friend, so my job is to help you with your bizarre phobias."
"Bizarre? This from the girl who's terrified of water slides?"
Lucy glared. "That is a perfectly real fear when all the water around town has gators in it."
"Bobby Jackson's pool? Hey!" Shannon ducked the throw pillow and it hit the floor behind her.
"Look, I can understand freezing up because of some scary new sexual possibilities when you were a teenager but you went to college, you've been on your own a while, you've made all the same mistakes I did, we all do. It's gotta be somethin' more. You're right, we're adults, you're in town for a short spell, so there's nothing wrong with a little sport fucking, and I seriously doubt those boys would turn down that offer. There's something you're not telling me."
"More wine. I need more wine for this." Slowly Shannon rose to pour another glass, steeling herself. "I keep thinking about my mother. I barely remember her, I mostly remember her arguing with my dad. And every single time I've let myself think about Aiden and Nick over the years, I seem to think about her.
"So last year I contacted the navy, since they handled everything. There was a witness to their accident. In fact, it was my mother's lover. My dad had apparently found them, dragged her off, and was driving recklessly. He followed, saw them get t-boned by that truck.
"It got me thinking. I checked my dad's records, their marriage certificate. They met when my mom was three months pregnant, got married when she was six. That means my real father is someone here. Charlotte said she was here then, left suddenly, met my father on leave in New Orleans.
"You see, someone in this town is my father. Charlotte might know, some of the old gossips might know, or none of them. Maybe he does or doesn't. The longer I stay the more I know I'll be tempted to look into this, and I just can't.
"Every moment I spend here is like vines growing over me, roots I thought I'd cut taking hold. They'll strangle me, I just know it. I'm sorry Lucy, I love you, but I just can't move back here and face that. Every man over fifty could be him. Hell, it could even be Jon Bowers," She tried for humor. "Aiden and Nick...they're too serious. When they look at me, they talk about the future. So what am I supposed to do? Give up my life, move back to town to try and turn some kinky sex into something serious, become a shade of my mother?
"No," Shannon sighed with a shake of her head. "I need to keep it nice, neat, and clean. I need to go back to my life and forget about all the secrets buried here."
Lucy put her hand on Shannon's shoulder. "Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry. I get it, you don't have to say any more. Look, I'll drag the boys down by their ears and tell them to lay off. You three just find Parker and Suzie, stick his ass in jail, and scare her straight, then you go on home and forget this little town. Be one of the ones who makes something of herself, and keep a spare bedroom for when I visit, okay?"
"Thank you," Shannon smiled, hugging her, "but don't say anything to them, or anyone. I'm not ready for anybody to know, not even Charlotte. Aiden and Nick's fathers luckily aren't candidates. Nick's father was long gone before I was even a dirty thought, and Aiden's parents didn't move back here until he was two."
"Well, that's a relief. Come on, let me get some bright pink polish for our toes, we'll turn on the movie, and I'm going to tell you all about John. Let's just be girls tonight and think about things that don't matter."
Shannon smiled as her friend hopped up. Her best friend. It was a great thing to have one.
The house was incredible. Set far off from the parish road it was butted right up against the bayou. It was huge, sided in cypress and faded grey with age. It was old, true Victorian, but the porch showed signs that repairs were needed. There was a separate garage, solid and cypress as well, but one window was boarded up with plywood. Through the trees she knew the old ring would be standing, where in his youth Jon Bowers had wrestled gators for loose change.
She parked next to a Ford Explorer and before she could get out Nick was on the porch.
Out of uniform he liked like the ultimate bad boy fantasy. His black t-shirt was tight and showed his colorful sleeve tattoo, his jeans equally tight and dark, loosening slightly over his motorcycle boots. If he was wearing his diamond earring she couldn't tell as his pitch hair was loose, flowing down to his shoulders in loose waves.
Leaning against one of the pillars he crossed his arms, sleek muscles flexing. "Good morning."
"Morning, sheriff," she muttered. He grinned at that and she pulled her bag out.
"Always nice to hear my title. We'll be taking that beast of a car." He motioned to the explorer. "You want to put yours in the garage?"
"I'll do it." He jogged down and grabbed the keys from her hand before she could stop him, winking as he jogged past to the garage.
"Hey!" What surprised her most was that he didn't grab her or try to kiss her, and she stood there in shock as he danced around, tossing her keys in the air and catching them.
"It's ten feet. I've been dying to drive that for eleven years. Give me a break." Undoing a padlock he swung the doors open to reveal a beater pickup and his shiny Harley. She watched as he moved the bike over to make room than sprinted for her car with the glee of a small child on Christmas morning.
The front door slammed behind her and she turned to see Aiden emerge, also in jeans and a t-shirt, though his jeans weren't quite so tight and his shirt was navy. The view was different but equally nice. Both men gave her a slight jolt along the nerves, a keening heat she was desperate to ignore.
His hair was still damp and he was barefoot with a cereal bowl in hand, spoon in mouth. He smiled at her looking far too energized for the morning. She herself had gone jogging before breakfast and it always left her groggy. "Hello, have you had breakfast?"
"Lucy cooked. Best pancakes ever. If she ever dumps John I might just propose marriage."
His eyes lit up as Nick revved the engine, grinning at her dirty look. "Does that mean you're thinking of staying?"
"No." She had to look away from his suddenly cool, assessing expression and watched Nick glide her car into the garage with a improvised rebel yell.
He hopped out and locked up, coming up to drape an arm over her shoulder as Aiden ate another spoonful. "You eat already, cher?"
"Lucy made pancakes."
"And you didn't bring us none? You a bad girl."
He softened his suggestive tone with a goofy smile but still she stepped out of the casual embrace. "Why are you both dressed like that? It's Friday, not the weekend yet."
"Takin' a page from your book, cher. Aiden told me you had better luck with Little Johnny, so we thought no uniforms might relax people." He dropped his voice to whisper into her ear. "If you like, I'll put it on later for you, but the Velcro is stuck on, can't sew."
Laughing, she attempted to treat it as a harmless joke. "I'm good. So what's the plan?"
"I'll find my shoes and we'll find Mingham, see if he can fill us in on what might be on those property records and deeds Parker took. Also see if he might know where Parker got off to."
Shannon smiled at Aiden. "That simple?"
He gave her a pointed look. "Some things are. I'll be right back, best call and make sure he's not on a job site."
When he disappeared back inside she turned to Nick. "What happened? You used to be the brooding one and he was happy go lucky. Now you're a twenty-four hour smart-ass and he's Debbie Downer."
Nick's smile slipped a little. "Cher, you really wan' me to answer dat?"
Shannon's cheeks heated even as her hackles raised. "I'm not being mean. I'm in town long enough to find Suzie and then I have a life to return to. I'm not here to stir up the past, I'm just here to get my cousin home safe to her mother."
"You sure about dat? Seems to me you left a life here."
Aiden's return cut off her reply and he hit the keychain, making the Explorer's tail lights flash as it unlocked. "Shotgun!" Nick called, grabbed her bag and jogged to the SUV.
"Shh! You'll wake the gators," Aiden called as they hopped in. Nick passed the bag over the seat to her, dropping it into her hands.
Settling in, Aiden turned to address them both. "Mingham's out until noon at the earliest. Shannon, you mentioned Finnegan's office is closed until Monday...maybe we can find him at home. It'll give us time before heading up to Natchitoches."
"Sounds like a plan," Nick said, and they were off the unknown.