Hustled To The Altar

By: Dani Collins

He raised his brows.

“It’s romantic!”

He pulled back onto the road without saying a word.

Renny slouched in her seat, thoughts ominous. Gradually the beauty of the approaching Bitterroots lightened her mood. She loved this part of the country. It was the first place she had felt settled.

And she was leaving it.

Her mood dipped toward sour again.

“So . . . ” He leaned his forearm on the back of her seat and toyed with her blowing hair. Tingles raced down her nape. “Six months without sex?”

“Did I say I’ve been without sex for six months?”

“You’re awfully snippy. Haven’t seen you this uptight since you first came to live with Gran.”

She shifted away. “So you dragged me away from Jacob to tell me you don’t like him. Fine. Opinion noted. I’m still getting married tomorrow. You didn’t have to go to this extreme to make your point.”

“Actually, I had another reason. See, I’ve been giving this situation with Felix some thought.” He scraped the backs of his fingernails under his chin.

“No, you haven’t.”

“Hear me out. I’m thinking of a sting.”

Dormant parts of her sat up and rubbed gleeful hands. A bubble of excited laughter rose to the back of her throat and she fought it back with a cough. She had considered the same thing as soon as Gran had told her what had happened, but she had fought the urge. Walking away from her shameful past had been a rough road, most of it uphill. Any backsliding she’d done had been with the man next to her and, even though he’d found her an exciting companion for a few harmless forays into role playing, he hadn’t been prepared to make that kind of woman his life partner. And he didn’t even know what she’d done! She couldn’t run a sting with Con. It would raise questions about why she was so good at confidence games. Besides, lying to people was a step backward and it would mean lying to Jacob, too. She couldn’t hurt him. She shook her head.

“No,” she said firmly.

“So you’ll think about it,” Con said.

She groaned in frustration.

He grinned. She had hesitated too long before answering him. Part of her wanted to do it. Good, because he really wanted to put the screws to this jackass who had messed with his grandmother.

“I got in this car because I understood all I had to do was point out Felix Newman to the police,” Renny said.

“My way would be more fun.”

“You’ve told me a thousand times you don’t do games with partners.” She had her nose in the air, as if that particular preference of his bothered her.

It bothered him to realize he had automatically unrolled this as a partners game when, as she had pointed out, he usually went on the assumption that there could be only one winner in any game and he was it.

“There’s a difference between partners and allies,” he pointed out, pleased it occurred to him.

She raised her brow, unimpressed.

“Come on, cookie. You liked pretending you were a hooker at the Games Convention.” He had worried she was bored last year when she had moved through the exhibition a lot faster than he had. When he had caught up to her, he had propositioned her loudly enough to raise eyebrows.

“That was just goofing around. Sexual fantasy, in your case.” She lowered her lashes.

He knew she was remembering exactly what kind of sexual fantasies they had explored. He could have dwelt on the memory for the next half hour, but he had to stay focused on the task at hand: persuading her to con a conman without letting on he knew she could do it.

He had never told her he knew where she had come from. All his staff underwent security checks. Renny’s had been more rigorous than most because she had been hired to work with Gran. Digging into her “sealed” record hadn’t been strictly legal, so he hadn’t bothered mentioning it. She appeared to have rehabilitated herself and Gran liked her, so Con had hired her. As for the actual crime, he had pulled some wild stunts in his adolescence, so he didn’t judge.

Even so, he’d given her plenty of opportunities to talk about it. She never had. He wondered if he should bring it up now. No. He couldn’t be sure how she would react. Better to let her believe he simply admired her ability to play a role.

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