Hustled To The Altar

By: Dani Collins



“What about when we pretended to be deckhands on my boat and chartered it to those tourists?”

“It was a nice day and they were nice people.”

“That woman almost pushed me overboard when you told her I was a smuggler!” Their role-playing games always seemed to evolve into a competition over who could be more outrageous.

She stifled a grin.

“See? You loved it.” Renny was always pretty, but when something grabbed her, really caught her attention, she sparkled. He loved seeing her catch fire like that.

She frowned and began chewing the side of her thumb.

He wondered what was making her so tense. Lack of sex, maybe.

“Those were just games,” she said. “It’s not hard to fool a few tourists and some nerdy convention goers.”

“I’m not a nerd.”

“You hide it better than most. The fact is, a professional criminal isn’t going to be as gullible.” She lifted her hands to pull her flying hair off her face.

The pine-scented air cooled as they gained elevation. They were approaching the outskirts of a town big enough to service the ski resort further up the hill.

“Besides, he would recognize me,” she added.

“So we’ll buy you some spray-on hair color and a pair of glasses.”

“With a fake nose and moustache, maybe? You’re dreaming. A superficial disguise isn’t going to fool anyone.”

“Sure it will, especially if you distract him with a bra that pushes your boobs up to here.” He cut his hand into his neck.

“You’re nuts.”

“We could try that, too, but it won’t have the same effect.”

She turned her face away.

“I know you’re laughing.”

“No, I’m not.” Her voice was strained.

“Hey!” he said with a zing of discovery as he spotted a Walmart. He slowed to turn into the parking lot. “This’ll have everything we need.”

“Con—”

“Quit telling me why it won’t work. We won’t know unless we give it a shot.” He parked and climbed from the car. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t want to.” She stayed in the car, her brow crinkled in distress.

He pushed the door shut and waited.

She didn’t say anything.

Despite knowing she was tough enough to handle anything, he felt a little compassion. She was more sensitive than he was and usually wound up doing some hand-wringing over the innocent bystanders in their escapades. When she had wanted to come clean to the tourists on his boat, he had distracted her with a quickie in the galley. Sex wasn’t an option this time and railroading her didn’t seem to be working.

“What’s wrong?” he finally asked.

“Jacob—”

“Doesn’t have to know. It’ll be our secret.”

“Con, you don’t get the concept of marriage at all, do you? Married people don’t keep secrets from each other. A woman doesn’t conspire with one man the day before her wedding to another.”

“So tell him what you’re going to do.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not exactly . . . it’s kind of . . . regular people don’t—”

“I have a feeling you’re trying not to insult me. Look, I already know Jake lacks imagination. What’s his idea of a good time? Dinner and a movie?”

“Believe it or not, the ability to arrange an afternoon in a shark cage is not the top item on my list of qualities I need in a man.”

“You told me you liked it. Geez, you try to show a woman a good time . . . . ”

“Con, you have a wonderful imagination, but not everyone is capable of living on that same plane of existence. I enjoy visiting, but Jacob wouldn’t understand. His mother heads the women’s group at her church and his father is a professor of ethics at the university. These people are ultra-conservative, ultra-ordinary, ultra-respectable.”

Ultra-anal-retentive. “And that’s what you see in him? His parents?” He leaned down so his forearms rested on the top of his door.

She looked at her hands and tested the edge of her thumbnail. The cuticle was a mess but the nail was perfect. “I’m just saying he wouldn’t understand.”

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