Home > Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(17)

Hosed (Happy Cat #1)(17)
Author: Pippa Grant, Lili Valente

News crews are set up all over the park, interviewing protesters and volunteers alike while the teens huddle behind the playground. Jace is pulling sex toy ornaments off the trees, and Blake is the proud owner of three full trash bags.

“You want to take these home?” he asks me. “Make art out of them?”

“Art?” Cassie says.

“You can’t weld silicone,” I tell my brother.

“Lots of handcuffs in here,” he replies with a grin.

“Savannah doesn’t sell handcuffs,” Cassie says. “Long story involving an anti-nuke protest when she was twelve.”

“So these aren’t all Sunshine Toys?” Interesting.

“Some of the dildos definitely aren’t, and I think the butt plugs are cheap knock-offs,” Olivia announces. She points to Blake’s bags. “May I please have those? I’m sorting the evidence.”

“Uh, yeah.” Blake’s brows are up toward his hairline, which is understandable. I don’t know if any of us saw Detective Olivia coming, but he recovers quickly. “Where do you want them?”

She smiles. “Over in the picnic shelter, please.”

“You got it.”

He hustles across the park, stopping along the way to grab more litter.

“Olivia, that’s a great idea,” Cassie says. “Thank you.”

“Ruthie May suggested it.” Olivia touches my arm. “And, Ryan, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. When is George Cooney’s birthday?”

“Ah…sometime in April?”

“Oh, no. I was afraid of that.”

Cassie presses her lips together and grabs a bag, abandoning me to pick up lube packets and errant cock rings, which is oddly arousing.

But then just about everything about Cassie is arousing.

I blink back at Olivia. “April is a bad month for raccoons?”

“I was reading his star chart. Now’s a critical time for George to find a mate. If you haven’t found a mating in captivity group yet, you need to, like yesterday.”

“Oh. Ah, I see. Thank you.”

She nods. “You’re welcome.”

She floats off to gather more bags of trash, and I catch up to Cassie. Her pigtails are touching the ground as she bends over to snag a trio of feather ticklers while a parade of protesters march by twenty feet away.

“No More Sunshine! No More Sunshine!”

“That would be really funny if it wasn’t my sister they were talking about,” Cassie tells me. “Here. You can put your dildo in my bag.”

I drop the litter in, and we both reach for a string of anal beads on the ground.

She snorts a soft laugh. “It’s like Lady and the Tramp, the X-rated version.”

“By all means, they’re yours.”

We’re both laughing when the sheriff ambles back over, sluggish but determined. “Miss Sunderwell, we didn’t finish our conversation.”

He’s holding handcuffs.

Seven pairs, to be exact. Four fuzzy pink, two fuzzy black, and one fuzzy leopard print.

“Hold on just a minute,” I growl.

The sheriff shoves all seven pairs into a trash bag and ignores me. “Miss Sunderwell, I need you to come with me.”

“Why?” I demand.

“I didn’t do this,” she tells the sheriff.

“Then you won’t have any issue coming on down to the station to answer a few questions.”

I step between them. “You can ask her questions right here.”

“It’s fine, Ryan.” She puts a hand on my arm, and my skin crackles with suppressed energy. I want to toss her over my shoulder, carry her to my truck, and take her away from all of this. “It’s easier to talk away from all the gossip anyway.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“No, you stay and finish cleaning up,” she says. “It’s okay. I’ll be fine. And if I can help figure out who did this, all the better.”

“Cassie—”

She goes up on tiptoe and kisses my cheek. “He’s not a dildo. I can handle him.”

And now I’m lightheaded.

She pulls away, fluttering her fingers. “Thank you. For everything.”

Blake steps up next to me, grinning, while Cassie turns and walks away with the sheriff.

“Somebody’s got it bad,” he says.

Yeah. I do.

But she’s not in Happy Cat to stay, and with a baby on the way, Jace is going to need me here at home more than ever. There’s no future in Cassie and me.

But that won’t stop me. I know that the way I know the summer sun is hot and that George won’t make it out of downtown without adding another strand of anal beads to his collection.

I’m back on another twenty-four-hour shift Monday at the firehouse. I haven’t seen Cassie since she left me in the park yesterday morning, and I’m trying to ignore the itching in my skin from wanting to confirm with my own two eyes that she’s doing okay.

“Heard you and Cassie are a thing,” Jojo says while we’re washing the fire truck in the early morning. “And she’s still planning on going back to San Francisco.”

I make a noncommittal noise, because this is the part of small-town living I hate the most. I don’t know what Cassie and I are—friends, yes. Attracted, yes. Beyond that? I have no idea.

But everyone’s already deciding for us, and already finding the fly in our relationship ointment.

“She really get grilled by the sheriff for eight hours yesterday?”

“No.” I’m not the biggest fan of Sheriff Briggs but I’m not going to lie about him. She texted me three hours after she left the park to let me know she had to do inventory at Sunshine Toys to make sure nothing involved in yesterday’s defacing of downtown had come directly from the warehouse.

She refused my offer of help, so instead, I spent the afternoon coaxing George home and welding art.

Without dildos or handcuffs. I work in large reclaimed scrap from the junkyard and not much else.

Jojo’s staring at me. “You two break up already?”

“What? No. We’re not—she’s my neighbor. We hang out. Touch her and die.”

He grins. “Noted.” He swipes the red truck with a rag, pausing to rub at a spot. “Did your neighbor spend the night in the slammer? I would’ve volunteered for jail if I knew I was going home to those protestors.”

I grunt. “You ever wonder why so many people are opposed to the factory?”

“Sex is sacred,” he says with a shrug.

“Is it? Because who’s sleeping with who is a big topic around here.”

Jojo frowns thoughtfully. “Would it be in bad taste to ask if you need to get laid?”

I toss a wet sponge at him. He ducks it, snickering. We both straighten when Jessie steps out of the firehouse and onto the concrete pad with us.

“You missed a spot,” she says dryly.

Jojo tackles the smudge while she circles the engine. When she reaches me again, she’s frowning. “Heard you’re seeing Cassie Sunderwell.”

“Gotta take a bio break, Chief,” Jojo calls.

Chickenshit.

“We’re friends,” I tell the chief.

“She talk to you about the factory?”

That itch I get when one of my brothers is in trouble takes root in my spine. “Mostly about how holding down the fort here is different than programming computer games in San Francisco.”

“Report came back on that lube fire.”

“And?”

“Doesn’t look good. There was some sabotage on bottle labels that looked pretty intentional.” She leans in and touches the C in Happy Cat on the side of the truck. “Heard Savannah wants to sell the factory.”

“She’s gone through some big life changes,” I hedge. “Cassie says she’ll be back.”

Jessie studies me with sharp blue eyes. She’s never been one to tolerate bullshit, and I can tell she thinks I’m bullshitting her now.

“What’re you getting at, Chief?” I ask.

“Factory’s losing money. Worth more if it burns down than if she sells.”

My fingers curl into fists, and water drips from the sponge in my hand. “Cassie and Savannah wouldn’t burn down their own factory.”

“Not gonna argue that. They’re the last people I’d suspect.” She rocks back on her heels. “Under normal circumstances, that is. But nothing about the last few months has been normal for Savannah Sunderwell. I’m reminded of that every time I pass my neighbor’s sheep pen.”

I shake my head. “She wouldn’t burn down her own factory. Neither would Cassie.”

“There anything you wouldn’t do for your brothers, O’Dell?”

I think about Jace, about impending fatherhood, about him being saddled with Ginger for the rest of his life.

About what I wouldn’t do for Blake. Or Clint.

It’s a fuzzy, fuzzy line. But there is a line. “One or two things,” I grit out.

“I like the Sunderwell girls. And I agree. I don’t think they’d do it. But who else would?”

“There are people protesting that factory every day of the week, and even more mad at Savannah for accusing Steve of fornicating with a sheep. Better question might be who wouldn’t?”

“Sheriff’s on it,” she tells me. “But if you hear anything, you let me know.”

Our radios squawk to life. “Possible HAZMAT situation at Gordon’s Taxidermy Shop. Station Two, respond.”

We all leap for our turnout gear.

“Ten bucks says it’s a live squirrel high on weed, because what other HAZMAT is he gonna have?” Jojo says as we load up. He grins. “And another ten that you and Cassie are outed as official by this time tomorrow.”

“Save the gossip for the locker rooms,” Jessie orders. She flips on the lights and sirens, Hank cranks the engine, and we’re off.

   
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