I stood in the very hot shower and shivered. Damn it. Felt as if someone-no, make that old Pirate Sam-was watching me. Jagger did that door thing on purpose. I was convinced. He just wanted to rile me up-and I’d never tell him it worked. Arlene was busy and hurried off to do her job and the wind blew the door open because Jagger let it slam and the lock didn’t catch.
A logical explanation for everything.
I turned the water a bit hotter and wondered how Jagger knew so much about this place. He sure didn’t seem the history buff type to me or the quaint New England bed-and-breakfast type either. Then again, the guy had been a mystery to me from the get-go. I really needed to find out more about this place I was going to be living in the next few weeks-and, it pained me to say, more about Jagger.
What irritated me about him was that I knew how difficult it would be to get anything out of Jagger about himself.
When I shut my eyes to rinse off my face, he popped into view. My eyelids flew open, a droplet of soap snuck in and burned, so I screamed then said, “Okay! So it doesn’t pain me. I want to know. Leave me alone, Samuel!”
When I stepped out of the shower, I wrapped the huge, fluffy towels they provided around myself and walked the few feet into my tiny bedroom. When I looked at the side of the bed where Jagger had sat, I tightened the terry cloth as if to cover up more.
I jumped at the sound. The towel loosened and fell to my feet. “Damn it. Hold on.” I grabbed it and rewrapped myself. Had to be the maid since my room needed to be serviced. “Wait a second.” Holding tight, just in case, I touched the handle of the door, ready to turn it.
“Come on, Sherlock. I’m getting hungry.”
I yanked my hand back. Jagger! Thank goodness I hadn’t opened the door! Saint Theresa was keeping a decent eye on me-okay, make that keeping me morally decent. Damn. “What are you talking about?”
“Supper? Let’s go get something to eat. Open the damn door.”
I stepped back. What nerve! He assumed I was free tonight and, well, I was, but that didn’t make it right. “I’ll meet you in the lobby in a few minutes.”
Even with the door shut I could feel Jagger looking at my terry-cloth-clad body-and my insides fluttered, seconds before I dropped said towel.
After I dressed and undressed and redressed since, unfortunately, I wanted to look good for Jagger, I ended up in my black jeans, white shirt with matching camisole top beneath, silver jewelry and tan suede heels. It said sophisticated and hot all at the same time-at least that’s what Goldie had said when he picked it all out for me. Perfect Newport outfit.
Should also pique the hell out of Jagger’s interest.
Wishful thinking, Pauline, I thought as I left my room and started down the carpeted stairs. At the bottom near the banister stood Jagger with his back to me and obviously looking at the photos on the walls. I’d looked at them before too, but learning about Pirate Sam now, they held more interest.
One was of a beautiful lady who may or may not have been involved with the old buccaneer. Lover? Mistress? A pirate too? Or maybe his wife? I paused at the base of the stairs and wondered who would marry a scoundrel of a pirate. What kind of insane woman would let love override sense?
As if someone was behind me and had pushed, I lunged forward.
Jagger swung around in time to catch me.
Quickly I righted myself and mumbled, “Shoe caught on carpet,” while Jagger clearly said, “Save head over heels for after dinner, Sherlock.”
Certainly my face couldn’t have been as red as the heat felt zooming through my skin. I grumbled something incoherent, pulled my shoulders straight and walked out the door ahead of him-all the while wishing a gust of sea air would come along and blow me out to sea.
I could just see the headlines in the local paper:
Newport, R.I. Infatuated woman claims “ghost” pushed her into the arms of the delicious guy she’s had the hots for since day one. Guy merely shakes his head-three times.
When I turned toward the parking lot, I paused. There sat Jagger’s black Suburban. Old memories flooded back. Old memories? What the hell was I thinking? The only old memories I had in that thing with Jagger were embarrassing, humiliating, or life saving, and all were related to work.
I felt a hand on my lower back as he pushed me forward. “Forget something?”
I looked straight ahead. “Nope. My memories are clearly accurate.” With that I sped up to move away from his hold, or lose my edge here or at least my sanity. That was for sure.
This time he did come around to my side to open the door, but only because he had to unlock it first. Guess he could have done that from his side, but maybe being away from Hope Valley had unleashed some gentlemanly qualities in old Jag.
I got in and looked at the door. Wide open. I grabbed it, yanked to shut the damn thing, and when it clicked, Jagger was already sitting in the driver’s seat.
He backed out of the driveway without a word and started out down Bellevue, taking a left past the Tennis Hall of Fame, and before I knew it we had parked in some lot near the wharf. He never even asked where I wanted to go, but no great surprise, the place looked fabulous.
Lights dotted the buildings erected side by side in typical New England fashion. Each had its own character architecture, but they were all connected. The pavement was like cobblestones only larger grayish bricks. A gigantic black anchor stood as a decoration in the middle of one walkway, and three little children sat on it while their mom took their pictures.
Tourists and locals, I guessed, hustled and bustled into the shops and restaurants. The neat thing was, it all bordered the water where boats rode the light chop while tethered to the dock and the scent of salty air mixed with various aromas of cooking food. Music floated on the night’s breeze from several of the restaurants and bars while a strong aroma of fish came from the seafood market at the end of the wharf.
“This is a great place, Jagger.”
He walked next to me, doing that hand thing on my lower spine again. A girl could get used to something like that, but a guy like Jagger wasn’t about to become predictable.
“Turn here,” he said when we faced an old white wooden building.
The Black Pearl. Suddenly I felt underdressed. Then again, Jagger had on jeans and a button-down white-and-black-striped shirt. We probably made a decent looking couple-however, I was smart enough to know that term was a long shot.
I paused to look at the menu posted near the door. Hm. Pricey. Good, let him pay big bucks for assuming I’d come to dinner with him. When I started to turn toward the door, he took my arm.
He led me to the area of tables outside and behind a corral-type fence. WATERSIDE PATIO AND RAW BAR the sign said.
Oh how very Jagger-like.
And here I was worried about my outfit. We sat near the water, which actually was a neat area. Right next to me a sailboat rose up and down in a slight rhythm while moored to the dock, and as dusk approached, little tiny white lights magically flipped on around us.
The waitress came over for drink orders. Jagger got his usual beer and, after giving me the once-over, ordered me a glass of Kendall Jackson chardonnay-without asking. I was about to yell “Hey!” but realized that’s exactly what I wanted and feared if I said anything, I’d end up choking down a martini out of Jagger-spite. Usually I would have joined him for the beer, but this case, this location, this dinner “companion,” had me craving wine.
Soon our drinks arrived. Without a toast-naturally-I took a sip and leaned back in my chair damn angry that he knew I really didn’t want a beer.
“I’m starved. What do you want, Sherlock?”
“Oh.” I was nearly in a relaxed state of Nirvana but sat forward and looked at the menu. “Clam chowder,” came out first. I figured I’d try it in every restaurant in Newport until I was sick of it. I’d never had better, creamier New England clam chowder than in this town.
“What else?” he asked.
“That seems enough.” I took another sip of wine and watched him scowl at me.
“You do oysters?”
Do oysters? Even that sounded sensual coming from him. “I’ve actually never eaten one. They aren’t cooked are they?”
Jagger chuckled as the waitress came over then ordered a dozen native oysters (which I noted cost more than I’d spent on lunch for Goldie, Ian and myself), my clam chowder and two steamed lobsters.
When the waitress left, he looked at me with those Jagger-eyes. “Don’t tell me you don’t like lobster.”
“Okay. I won’t tell you.” I took a long, big sip. Somehow it gave me more stamina to deal with this guy whose knee occasionally touched mine beneath the table.
“You’ve never had one, have you?” He drank his beer from the bottle, just the way I liked it.
“Actually I have. I love lobster.” I leaned back and smiled. “Nick used to take me to Madeline’s for lobster.”
Jagger remained silent.
Ha! Nick Caruso was Jagger’s nemesis and did occasional freelance work for Fabio. Nick was as handsome as Jagger was hot and as sophisticated as Jagger was…yum.
However, they had a past, not a very jovial one, and really didn’t seem to like each other. Hence the attempt at lobster memories with Nick-whom I’d dated so briefly that I’m sure he would refer to me as “Pauline who?” if anyone mentioned my name.
Jagger drank the rest of his beer, flagged the waitress and ordered another round. I wanted to shout that I was fine, but actually thought I might need two glasses of chardonnay to get through this dinner without embarrassing myself, or antagonizing Jagger-the latter of which was way less of a possibility.
“How’s the case going?”
I looked up to see him staring, with genuine interest in his eyes. Least that’s how I chose to view it.
“Oh, well, good.”
“What’s good about it?”
“You’re not going to let up until I give you all the details. Right?” My glass was successfully empty and my tongue getting looser.
He glared at me.
My insides, warmed by the wine, shivered. So I told him everything about my case including Lydia, Dr. Cook, Ian’s filing system, and the BDD trio, leaving out Dr. Forsyth because, well, I wanted at least one thing kept from Jagger and why not a gorgeous guy?
Especially one who’d asked me out!
Besides, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jagger already knew about Neal.
“So who is Lydia’s aunt?” he asked as the waitress set this tray of jiggling oysters between us.
For several seconds I could only stare until they settled down. “I’m not avoiding your question, but if you think I’m putting one of those jelly thingies into my mouth, you are nuts.”
“You’ll try one.”
The words almost had me grabbing a stupid oyster and sucking it down as the guy at the next table was doing. He actually looked as if he was enjoying it. But on principle I waved my hands at Jagger. “Nope. My clam chowder will fill me up, and I won’t be able to see if Newport lobsters are better than the ones at Madeline’s.”
Had Jagger just flinched?
Or, more than likely, was I imagining things? Okay, more like wishing about things like he’d flinch out of insane jealousy that I’d dated Nick. It was more likely that the wine was playing horrible tricks on my mind and making me insane.
Before I could take another crazy sip, Jagger leaned forward. He held his hand out toward me and in it was one of the smaller oyster shells with the little meat glistening in the light and a dollop of cocktail sauce decorating the top.
I looked at Jagger.
He sat silent.
My mouth opened-on its own, I swear!
And before I knew it the slick oyster was inside my mouth.
My hands flew to my face, but suddenly Jagger’s were holding them in both of his. “Chew.”
Now “chew” is not exactly in the top ten sensual words of any vocabulary in any language that I know of, but damn if it didn’t sound so hot coming from this guy that I quickly started to chew (merely to get it out of my mouth). Then my jaw slowed. The salty flavor permeated my tongue, which soon recognized the spicy sauce. I savored the taste. My tongue ran across my lips to get every morsel. I actually and without any effort or logical memory-sighed.
And I thought the wine nearly had me in Nirvana again.
“Well?” he asked as he took his napkin and with the very tip wiped oh so gently across my lips.
Even a freaking Jagger-napkin wiping had me nearly undone.
I swallowed nothing and smiled. “Good. It was good.”
When he gave me his “cat that ate the canary” look I wanted to smack him, but-and this had to be the aphrodisiac effects of the damn mollusk-when his look turned into a grin, I wanted to kiss him.
I was in trouble now.
Wine. Oysters. Moonlit night. And, Jagger.
If I made it through this meal (without ripping his clothes off) I should be awarded some kind of prize for stamina and self-control.
My first choice in prizes said, “Another?”
I could only nod. This time he pushed the dish toward me and said, “Help yourself.”
Somehow the second oyster didn’t have the same effect on me, but it was delicious, and I polished off three of the smaller ones before my clam chowder arrived.
“So,” Jagger said, after finishing his second beer. “What about Lydia’s aunt?”
I set down my spoon in case he said something to upset me, and I had the urge to fling a dollop of chowder in his direction. “Why do you keep harping on her? The aunt?”
He turned to the waitress, who was a few tables over, and lifted his beer bottle. She nodded as if she recognized the universal sign for “hit me again.” Then again, reading Jagger was something I sure wasn’t very good at. Hopefully this waitress was better at it than me.
She must’ve been because within seconds-or so it seemed-she had set another bottle in front of Jagger. Poor thing, I thought, he’s gotten to her too. I’m sure she’s never moved so fast in her waitstaff career.
Jagger took a sip and looked at me. He had this way of pulling words from my mouth with those damn dark eyes. Sometimes, I noted, they took on a deep brown-very much like my favorite chocolate. Other days and only in a certain light, they appeared more black with specks of gold. Then there were times when I saw a hint of hazel.
Today was a chocolate day and no wonder the waitress was falling all over herself.
“Well, I’ve only met Lydia once at The Market. Man, they have the best clam chowder-”
Jagger glared at me. “I’ve had the chowder in every place imaginable around here, Sherlock. I don’t need a Zagat’s rating review.”
“I…um…so…where’s the best?” I took a long sip of wine, which emptied my glass. The guy had my dander up, so I looked toward the waitress and held up my glass.
She turned away without a glance.
And I knew she saw me.
I curled my lips and looked back at Jagger. “Get me another one.”
He smirked and waved at the girl, who didn’t even have to come see what he wanted. Soon I had my third glass of wine in front of me, and as much as I told myself to go slow, that I wasn’t used to so much wine, the thing was half gone in a heartbeat.
“Show…so…” Oh, boy. Was the dock moving? I inhaled the fresh ocean air to clear my head. “So, why are you so interested in the aunt?”
He shook his head-twice.
No one ever wanted Jagger shaking his head at him or her-especially me. Then again, I think I was the only one he ever shook at. I’d scored the number of shakes from one to three with one being merely annoyed and three…suffice it to say, no one wanted three shakes.
I got to buy some time when our dear waitress who just about threw my lobster in front of me (okay, the wine was blowing things out of proportion) went to help Jagger with his bib. She fussed and fussed tying and retying all the while I’m sure she was suffering-make that enjoying-some pheromone-induced episode.
Jagger suddenly took her hand. “Fine. That’s fine, honey.”
I’m sure she wouldn’t wash her hand that night.
I stuck my bib on-crooked-while Jagger yanked his off and grabbed a claw from his dish. When he went to crack it with the tools set before us, he said, “Olivia Wheaton-Chandler owns…Highcliff Manor.”