Home > Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(16)

Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(16)
Author: Pippa Grant, Lili Valente

“I was talking about the vulgar products littering our town,” he snaps. “Things like this should never see the light of day.”

“Well, that’s going a little far, isn’t it? There’s nothing shameful about these toys. What’s a shame is that we treat something natural and beautiful like it’s a dirty secret,” I reply, completely channeling my sister now. But it feels good. Right.

“There are laws and rules against dumping pornographic materials. You can’t just—”

“Whoa, hold up. Are you saying you think I did this?” All those righteous feelings dissolve into a ball of unease.

He stares me down with that wrinkly-eyed, grandfatherly glare. “We got six news trucks from Atlanta pulling into town. Awful darn good for business to get all this free publicity, isn’t it?”

“To show our town split and divided?” I point to the line of citizens marching with Stop Corrupting Our Children and Sunshine Must Go signs. “We would never pull a publicity stunt that would hurt anyone, including the town itself.”

“Sheriff, we all know about your inferiority complex,” Ruthie May interrupts, “but if you don’t want those news vans getting pictures of our square dressed up for Playtime at the Kinky Corral, grab a bag and get to work.”

“Where were you last night?” the sheriff asks me.

“At h-home,” I stammer. “Savannah’s house. All night.”

“Alone?”

“She wasn’t alone. She was with Ryan O’Dell.” Ruthie May winks at me. “I want details on that later, by the way.”

“All night?” the sheriff asks.

“Incoming!” someone yells.

We all duck, and another dildo whizzes over our heads.

“Ava Leigh, you play dildo-ball on your own time,” Ruthie May hollers. “Right now, we need to get this square cleaned up.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” the teenager replies. “Can we keep a couple of these?”

“Only if you promise not to use them for anything other than dildo-ball. They’re not sanitary. You understand me?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Those are evidence,” the sheriff growls.

“You’ve got pictures, sheriff,” Ruthie May snaps. “And by now, those girls’ fingerprints are all over those. Help or get out of the way.”

“We’ll help,” a soothing, familiar voice says. Tingles race down my spine, and despite everything wrong in the square this morning, when I turn to look at Ryan, I’m smiling.

He smiles back, and my insides flip upside down. “We’ll take two bags each, Ruthie May.”

“Two? I’ll do three before you’ve filled one.” Blake grins at me. It takes me a minute to recognize him with the long hair, but he has the O’Dell build and smile. “Hey, Cassie. Great to see you again. Hear you’re keeping this old guy in line.”

“Mostly just his raccoon,” I reply.

Ryan and Blake both laugh. Jace cracks a half-smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.

Ruthie May smiles broadly, and I have no doubt the whole town will soon be debating how many children Ryan and I will have by the time I’m thirty.

“Miss Sunderwell,” the sheriff starts again.

I shake open my trash bag. “Excuse me, sheriff. I have community service to do.”

Ryan, Blake, and Jace follow me toward the end of the square near Maud and Gerald’s donut shop and bakery along Main Street. They each have a trash bag in hand and another in a back pocket. The volunteers have made a lot of progress, but there’s still so much to do, and no one’s tackled this corner yet.

And as promised, Ryan’s brought gloves.

I’ve never wanted to kiss a man over rubber gloves before, but I definitely want to kiss him now.

“What’s with the sheriff?” he asks.

Gloves on, I bend to grab a dildo by the base with two fingers and drop it in my trash bag. “Not enough fiber in his diet?”

Blake laughs. Jace cracks another half-grin.

“If he’s giving you trouble—” Ryan starts.

I grab a packet of lube, and my cheeks are on fire, but I reach for a butt plug too. “He’s just doing his job.”

“He should be asking to see Maud’s webcam footage,” Jace says, pointing to the bakery with a dildo he’s just grabbed.

He looks down at what he’s pointing with, sighs, and stuffs it in his trash bag.

Ryan glances back at the sheriff, then hands his bag over to Blake. “You wanted to fill three of these. Here you go.”

“Ah, taking the lazy way out,” Blake says with a grin.

“Helping build your character,” Ryan replies.

A familiar laugh rings from across the park. Olivia’s under the shelter in the center of the square, playing tug-of-war with George and a string of anal beads.

“Your raccoon’s quite the ladies’ man,” Blake says. “Maybe you can take him on your next date.”

Ryan and I share a glance. He grimaces, and I giggle. George was not a ladies’ man last night.

“C’mon, Cassie. Let’s go see Maud.” He takes my garbage bag and holds it out to Jace, who’s staring at Olivia with his jaw ticking. Blake notices and grabs my bag too.

“Lazy, both of you,” he teases. He elbows Jace. “Earth to loverboy.”

Jace jerks away. “I’m going to get a ladder,” he mutters.

“I get it. Abandon the youngest. That’s always how it is.” If Blake’s really put out, his amused grin doesn’t show it.

“You’re not the youngest,” Ryan reminds him.

“I’m the youngest in the country at the moment. Go on, go talk to Maud while I do all the hard work.”

He winks at me, and the playful banter between the two brothers makes me want to hug Savannah so badly I can hardly breathe.

I miss my sister.

“You okay?” Ryan slips an arm around my shoulders, and the pain in my lungs eases.

I nod. “Let’s go see Maud. I’m not letting Savannah come home to a mess.”

He hooks his hand through mine as we step over butt plugs and feather ticklers and head to the street, and an electric current shoots up my arm.

He still likes me, despite the toilet trouble.

I squeeze his hand. “Thank you.”

“For rescuing you from the dildos?” he replies with a teasing grin.

“Ugh, that too.”

“They really bother you.”

I step over an extra-large model that looks like it could cause some damage. “I’ve just never been as comfortable with talking about sex as Savannah is. I’m missing that gene, I guess. Or maybe I was old enough to understand what my parents really meant when they told us to stay away from certain people while we were on set for her show. Or maybe it’s just that everything was so public when I was little, that I like privacy in everything now.”

“Ah, privacy. That anonymity you love in San Francisco.”

I sway into him while we step off the curb to cross the street, and the brush of our arms makes me tingle more. “Yeah. But being anonymous in a big city hasn’t brought me out of my shell. I should be grateful to whoever tossed these dildos. Maybe I’ll touch enough of them today to get over blushing every time I look at one.”

He grins down at me. “I like your blush. In fact, I’d like to watch your whole body blush.”

I bite my lip. “I’d like to enjoy my body and not worry if it’s blushing or not.”

“God, Cassie, now I’m getting a little uncomfortable.”

“What? I’m sorry—oh.”

He makes a subtle adjustment to his pants. “Don’t be sorry. I like the thought of you enjoying yourself. I just like the thought of you enjoying yourself with me even more.”

“Me too,” I say, blushing again, though by this point I don’t care.

He likes me. He really likes me and is attracted to me and maybe it’s time to trust that I can handle a sexual relationship with another adult.

Maybe it’s time to trust that I’m not a natural screw-up. That I am beautiful and special and worthy, and that I deserve happiness and pleasure.

We walk into the bakery, and my mouth waters at the scent of donuts and cinnamon rolls. Gerald looks up from behind the glass counter and gives me a squirrely eyeball. “Look who the raccoon dragged in,” he grumbles.

“Morning, Gerald,” Ryan says easily. “Y’all still have cinnamon rolls?”

“And donuts?” I add hopefully.

“All out,” he says.

“Gerald! We are not.” Maud hustles out of the kitchen, glances at my and Ryan’s joined hands, and her face crinkles in a huge smile. “Coffee and treats on the house, just to apologize for someone being rude. Sit, sit, you two. How was your bike ride yesterday? Cassie, did you really flip upside down on the zipline? It happens, honey. And I’m sure Ryan was there to catch you.”

She’s piling a plate with cinnamon rolls and muffins and donuts while she talks, and we both know the price of breakfast is some good, juicy gossip. “We have to get back to the park,” I tell Maud, “but we were wondering if we could see your webcam footage from last night?”

“Of course you can.” She plops a second plate on the counter and turns to grab two coffee mugs. “Gerald, go get the computer.”

“Ain’t got anything on it,” he grumbles.

“We don’t know until we check, now, do we?”

Sixteen

Ryan

* * *

Forty minutes later, we’re back in the park with no more information than we started with, because Maud and Gerald’s webcam didn’t record anything last night but the scrap of black fabric someone tossed over the lens. Whoever did this knew the town well enough to know where the security cameras are.

I figured it was a local, but the confirmation of the fact still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve come to expect better from the citizens of Happy Cat. We gossip and take sides, but most of us have respect for the town and personal property.

   
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