Secret Desires Pt. 16bymadam_noe©
Screeching to a halt in front of the sheriff's office, Shannon fought panic.
"Nick!" She ran inside and caught him in uniform pouring coffee from the pot.
She opened the swinging gate and ran back to him. "I think Charlotte's been kidnapped."
He ushered her to his office. "Diane, hold my calls." Closing the door he guided her to a chair and sat on the desk. "What's going on?"
"Something's wrong. Charlotte asked me to pick her up but when I got there Kelly said she'd been picked up by a Cadillac, and her cart was there. Doc Hauser said her cousin picked her up, a woman, but Charlotte only has one cousin, Brian, and his wife Margaret is hundred of miles away."
She shook as he picked up the phone and called the local phone company. After identifying himself he asked the technician for the number of the last three incoming calls to the old doctor and scribbled the information down.
"Thanks, cher." He hung up and circled one. "Hold on, Shannon, let me call the last one who rang de good doc before you."
He dialed and put it on speaker phone.
"Hello?" A woman's voice said, and it seemed familiar.
"Hi, dis is Sheriff Nick Roche of Belle Trouver. Who am I speakin' with?"
"Nancy, Nancy Hastings. What is this about?"
"Do you know Charlotte Moreau?"
"Why, she's my cousin. She's right here, would you like to speak with her?"
"Yes!" Shannon shouted.
Nick waved his hand to quiet her. "Yeah, cher."
"Hello?" Charlotte said.
"Aunt Charlotte! What happened?"
"Shannon. I'm sorry, I was about to call you. I ran into my cousin Nancy and we got to talking."
"You don't have a cousin Nancy."
"Yes, I do. You remember your great uncle Meriwether? Nancy was his step-daughter, but cousin all the same."
The phone shifted and Nancy came on. "Sorry about that. We forgot her food. I'll replace it all and have her home tonight. Sorry for the alarm."
Nick cut off Shannon's reply. "Sorry to bother you, ma'am. Take care."
He hung up and sat back. "Cher, you seem wound tight."
"I need to talk to Suzie."
"She's in with Aiden now."
"Please. I've never heard of any Nancy in the family."
He sighed but stood and lead her into a hallway. Through a window she saw Lucy and Suzie sitting at a table with Aiden who was scribbling notes even as a tape recorder rolled. Nick knocked on the door and entered and Aiden paused the tape.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Suzie, do we have a second cousin named Nancy? Great Uncle Meriwether's step-daughter?"
Her cousin looked dazed and slumped, thinking it over. "I think so. Lives in Natchitoches. But Meriwether divorced her mama back in sixty-two."
"I was supposed to get Charlotte from the Pick 'n' Save but this Nancy got her and they left her cart sitting out in the lot."
Suzie sighed. "Mama's getting old, she forgets some things. Two months ago she caught a ride with Mr. Johnson and forgot the cart, he had to circle back."
Feeling foolish, Shannon sighed with relief. "Sorry to have interrupted. Thank you."
She left and Nick exchanged a few words with Aiden and then closed the door. He put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay, cher. We been through a lot. Better to worry and be wrong than callous and be wronged."
She forced a smile.
"So you stay with me for one week, and we work off dat tension. Go home and pack now, wait for your aunt. Everything will be all right."
"Nick?" She wanted to tell him about the Don, but she'd promised Suzie to remain mum.
He pulled her into his arms and held her tight. "It will be all right. Suzie get a little community service and we find dis Don. Dat Belladonna Killer is gonna fry. You just need to relax. If I wasn't on duty, I'd relax you right now."
She laughed, just as he'd intended. "You're right. I'm going to go back to Charlottes and wait. But do my sa favor and look up Nancy. Call my cell phone."
He pulled back and smoothed her hair. "Can do."
They quickly kissed and she left, still feeling shaken. But as she drove to the swamp, Nick's words soaked into her mind. She was stressed. An unknown Don on the loose, his pet killer in jail, her father, discovered and lost in one fell swoop, and figuring out what to do about Aiden and Nick...she was going mad.
A nap would do her good.
She woke at six and took the boat back to the pier. Sitting in her car she wished she had some better way to pass the time than swatting at mosquitoes and singing along to the radio. By half past Charlotte still didn't show.
She texted Aiden she was going to be late and called Nick.
"Cher, why aren't you at my home enjoying dinner?"
"I'm still waiting on Charlotte. What did you find?"
"Nancy Hastings, retired secretary, pays her taxes and bills on time, one parking ticket ten years ago. Never married, no kids. Want me to call up dere and have de police do a drive by?"
"No, I'm just...I'm just worrying too much."
He chuckled. "You love her. Charlotte was a bit of a hellraiser in her day, let her have some fun. She just' needs to blow off steam with her little one in so much trouble. Get your sweet ass over to my house now, cher."
"All right. Can I use your shower to clean up?"
"Of course, dough I wish I could join you. Bring your suitcase. My house is yours."
"And can you give me Nancy's phone number?"
"So I can let Charlotte know I'll be at your place."
"All right. I'll text it to you."
"Thank you. See you tonight."
She hung up and stared at her bags which she had already packed into the car. She could go to Nick's, join Aiden for dinner, then wait for Nick to join them and the night to end with a bang. Or she could drive straight up to Chicago and escape every worry that crossed her mind.
With a deep breath she pulled out her cell phone and called her boss back in Chicago, alerting him she'd be back in two days. While on the phone it beeped and she got the text. Hanging up she called the number for this unknown relative Nancy and got a generic voicemail. Shannon left the message she was spending the night at Nick's and heading out for Chicago in the morning. Then she sat there for a long ponderous moment, listening to the sounds of the swamp. Yes, no matter what, she had to go back to Chicago. The question was, to pack up her life and return, or escape the hard questions facing her.
She ran once. She ran once, and she'd regretted it ever since. But if she stayed...Lucy would support her. Suzie would support her. Hell, the other kinksters in town would support her. But most of all, she would have Nick and Aiden to lean on.
She loved them. It was true. She loved them, and she didn't want to lose them. The thought made her cry out half sobbing into the night. Yes she loved them, and damn it, love hurt. Making a decision would have to wait, it was only fair to discuss it with the men she loved. That much, she knew.
The short drive to Nick's house felt like the longest of her life. A million thoughts raced through her mind, hundreds of questions. Nick would order her to come back, probably try to forbid her to go. Maybe even tie her to the bed, and that thought nearly made her drive off the road. Aiden would be understanding, but firm, and would probably swear in a low voice that if she didn't come back they would come to her. As she pulled up she smiled. They would be tough sells, but she could already feel her resolve weakening.
The front door was open and through the screen door light shone and she heard Aiden's steady voice. She grabbed her gym bag and jogged up the steps as soon as she parked.
"Hello?" She walked in.
Aiden sat on the couch on his cell phone, scribbling notes furiously, nodding to her as she came in. He wore a t-shirt and jeans, his golden hair wet from a shower, and the smell of Irish Spring soap floated to her under the heavenly scent of dinner on the stove.
"Nick," Aiden mouthed pointing to the phone. She nodded and headed inside to the bathroom.
The house still surprised her. It was homey as if generations of Roches had grown up there and left their imprint. The bathroom was old fashioned, redone in the twenties or thirties after being installed in the late teens. She knew the house had once belonged to a plantation owner, there had once been stables and slave quarters. After the war of Northern Aggression as most of the old timers insisted on calling it, the slave quarters were gone and a few citizens of money had tried living there. Then fifty years ago the stables became gator cages and it became a place to draw a few visitors every year.
Some rooms showed that money had gone into the home, others not. It made hr wonder what nick had done for the home, but she'd find out. Shannon showered quickly, shaving her legs and conditioning her hair thoroughly. She toweled off then found a blowdryer for her hair, smoothed moisturizer over her slight tan, and even painted her nails. Unable to stall any longer, she slipped on a simple dress and emerged.
Aiden was still on the phone but he was stirring a pan of sauce on the stove as he talked and peeking into the oven.
She had always been a creature given to long thoughts and consideration, but just as that orientation had as a teenager, it forced her to store up impulses until she swung her life around a corner holding on only to an urge.
Before she lost her courage she marched over and snatched the phone from Aiden.
"I love you." There was sudden silence on the phone and in the kitchen, then the pot began to bubble again.
"Put me on speaker, cher."
Shakily, she did. Before Nick could speak she met Aiden's wide gaze. "I love you, Aiden."
More silence. Dear God, what had she Done? Why had she said it? They wouldn't say it back, and now when she talked about Chicago they would get uncomfortable and force her to go and-
"I love you," Aiden suddenly said. "Both."
Fear, hope, and joy mingled as she stood there, clutching the phone, shaking. He meant it, Aiden meant it.
"Cher, I love you. You too, homme, I love you."
Shannon sank to floor, knees crumpling as hysterical relief claimed her. She began laughing and Aiden turned off the burner on the stove and knelt by her. He grabbed the phone and put his hand on her shoulder. "Nick, hurry your ass up and get home. We're going to celebrate. I'll get Shannon warmed up."
Nick laughed. "Headin' out now, soon as I get Casey to cover my shift."
Aiden hung up and pulled her into his arms, crushing her in a hug. Shannon stopped laughing, but her head swam. Without a word Aiden kissed her, and it was desperate passion without artifice. She responded fully, burying her fingers in his hair, and her body heated.
Aiden pulled her up and slung one leg over his until she straddled on bulging thigh. Gripping her hips he massaged and she began to rub herself. He loved her, he did. She had always known it, but the fear that it was an illusion, that her leaving all those years ago had killed it, haunted her. But it was real, it was real and she felt it in his kiss, in his touch. Her own love poured from her. If Nick were with them it would be perfect, but in that moment it already was.
She tried to smooth her hands under Aiden's shirt but he caught them and stopped her, pulling back. "Not yet, sweetheart."
"I know what you feel, it's what I feel, but I want us, all of us here. You know you do too."
Sighing she nodded and pulled back, and together they stood. "Aiden?"
"I never knew I could...that I would...love two people."
"Neither did I, but for years I have. Nick too, though he wouldn't admit it until now. You were the stubborn one." He kissed the bridge of her nose and turned to open up cabinets.
"What are you looking for?"
"Champagne. When Nick comes home we need a toast, then bed, then dinner."
She laughed at his smile. "Let me check the liquor cabinet."
She found it in the dining room and there was no champagne to be had. "No luck," she called.
Aiden sighed. "I hate to ask this, but I have to save the damn sauce, but if I'm in the same room with you I am going to jump you. Why don't you go back into town and buy some."
Looking him up and down from his bare feet to his tousled hair, she knew if they wanted to wait for nick she had to cool down. Love was a shockingly powerful aphrodisiac. "Fine."
"My treat," he said, reaching for his wallet.
"No, Aiden, it's mine. Like you said, I've been the stubborn one."
Shaking his head he put the wallet back with a smile. "I love you."
"Love you too." It felt natural. She wanted to scream and dance and twirl, but she wanted to do it with both men. "Champagne, we need the damn champagne," she muttered under her breath.
Finding her keys she slammed out the door, grinning like a fool, and jogged to her car.
"Hold it," a deep feminine voice with a strong Texas twang called.
Looking around, Shannon was puzzled. "Adele?"
The mother of Charles Mingham, the belladonna Killer, stepped into the dim light from Nick's porch. She was still regal looking and cool, even with a gun in her hand.
Shannon dropped her keys and held up her hands. "What do you want?"
Her mind dizzied once more, Shannon tried to shake it off. "What?"
"Don't pretend you don't know, Miss Moreau. Your slutty little cousin had it, now you do."
"I don't have any photograph."
Adele stepped closer. "The photograph of the head of the Piemente family, this so-called Don. Don't play stupid. If I have to waste time, I will blow your pretty little head off and then kill you little aunt and your men and search everyone's home if I have to."
"You won't. Maybe me and Charlotte, but Nick is a sheriff and Aiden is a federal agent."
Adele laughed. "Like I have any fear of killing cops. You got shit for brains, don't you?" She rolled the gun lazily in her hand and then pointed it square at Shannon's chest, showing she knew how to handle it. "Don't play stupid. Be smart, make a deal. Give me that photo and I give you your aunt back."
"You took her!"
"You really are stupid, ain'tcha?" Adele cocked her head, steel-grey hair swinging lightly in the night air. "Of course I did. She's tied up in m'car." Adele's head jerked towards a large SUV pulled off the drive in the old public parking lot from the gator farm days. "Only took three hours to beat it out of her Suzie gave you the photograph before she went to jail."
Shannon closed her eyes for a moment. She didn't blame Charlotte for the lie, if Adele had beaten her...Shannon's experience at the hands of Adele's son made her forgive the old woman and understand.
"I have the photo inside this house," Shannon said quickly. Aiden had his gun somewhere inside, Nick probably had a shotgun and a rifle like every other good ol' boy in there too.
"Then let's go."
"Let my aunt go first."
"Picture first," Adele snapped coldly, shaking her head. "Go on, git." She shook the gun towards the house.
Suddenly Shannon saw Nick, uniform shirt off, crouched and quickly running up the driveway with his gun in his hand. Sadly, it was a long drive and he was still far away. She prayed Aiden would be out of the way as she turned and lead Adele back to the house.
"Why did they send you? Your son worked for the Piementes, you supplied him with his belladonna, but why you now?"
She opened the door and Aiden was nowhere to be found. Adele was right behind her and jerked her forward, gun in her back. Shannon's heart thundered furiously. Where the hell was Aiden? A glimpse into the kitchen said it was empty, and she had about a minute to stall before Nick arrived.
"Suzie gave me a stack of pictures," Shannon said, turning. "She hid it. Which one am I looking for?"
"Are you retarded, dear child?" Adele puffed out air, raising her bangs. "Thank God you're pretty. You think somebody sent me, some mysterious Don sent an old woman to do his dirty work? You little idiot, it's a picture of me you're looking for!"
"You're the don?" Shannon asked before the world exploded.
From the dining room Aiden came out with a roar. He tackled Adele and her gun went off. Shannon felt a sting at her temple as they crashed to the floor. A second later the front door was thrown open and Nick was there, roaring as Aiden pinned Adele. Behind him sirens blared and lights flashed as cars came rolling up.
There was chaos. There were deputies and men in suits pulling in, arguing. Nick and Aiden were jerked back by others, But nick fought his way back into the argument as even more arrived. Shannon shook her head as paramedics waded in and came to her.
They examined her head, asked her name, had her look at a light as the men came to near-punches. The argument was over who arrested Adele and it was down to Nick in fine form as angry sheriff, and an older man in a rumpled mis-matching suit who Aiden called "sir."
"You were shot," one paramedic said in a blasé manner. Heavyset she shifted, tsking. "Just grazed, though."
The skinny male paramedic, as pale white as his partner was dark mocha, rolled his eyes. "Barely scratched, actually. We're going to bandage you up here, but not take you in. We got a rider already."
"Charlotte?" Shannon asked and the male nodded. "Is she all right?"
"Somebody punched her up. She's a salty dog, though," the woman said, her nametag reading BRENDA.
MORTY sighed. "She's going to be all right. Minor contusions, possible concussion and she's dehydrated. Deputy is with her right now, we have on an IV but she has to go in. Sheriff found her and called us."
'Thank god," Shannon said.
Brenda finished putting the bandage on and backed away. Looking at the room she moved aside and Shannon saw Adele being led out by Nick's redheaded deputy. Most of the suits were following, arguing, but Aiden held back as Nick continued out.
Turning to her, Aiden started at the sight of the paramedics leaning over her. "Shannon!"
He jogged over as Morty helped her to her feet. "Aiden, what's happening?"
"I-" A guilty look swept over his face and he smoothed his hair back. "I heard you talking to her and I did something stupid. I called my office and then Nick, but nick was already here. He found Charlotte down the road, left out as gator bait. Adele, she's the don, the missing don we've been tracking all these years. What happened?"
"When her gun went off it..."
"It grazed her," Brenda said. "She'll be okay. She gonna stay with you?"
"Keep watch on her, we're taking her aunt to the hospital now."
Aiden grabbed Shannon and swept her into his arms. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I wasn;t thinking. I saw that gun on her and I just lost it. I tackled her and I shouldn't have."
"It's okay, Aiden." She was trembling though. So many close calls in such a short time, her nerves were shot.
The paramedics waved as they went out and then the suits came backin.
"Aiden?" The one she assumed was his boss asked.
"What happens now?" Shannon whispered.
"More questions. You have to go in with Nick now, he arrested Adele for assault, kidnapping, and I'm sure he'll get a whole host of other charges on her soon."
"Homme, cher," Nick called through the screen door. "Cher, you all right to come with me?"
She looked at Aiden and forced a smile. "That celebration is going to have to wait."
Shannon broke away from Aiden with a sigh. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm sick to death of cops."
"There'll be time soon, we can celebrate day after tomorrow. Just go now." He squeezed her hand and then she left.
It was over, all over. Aiden's case would close soon, a huge trial would begin, and life would become a circus. Aiden's words rang in her ears, but she knew he was wrong. Soon Aiden would have to pull Adele away from Nick's custody, and Suzie and Charlotte would be caught up in it all. Their celebration might have to wait a year or two.