Debby Conrad, author

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Prying Eyes

Genre: Romantic Suspense
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Angela paced the living room floor, waiting for Joey to come home. He was twenty minutes late, and he knew he wasn't allowed out after dark, especially on his bike, and especially on a school night. She was thinking about calling Cindy Carlson to see if Matt had come home yet when she saw headlights coming down the dirt road and then turning into her drive. She pushed her face to the living room window for a better look, and when she saw it was a police cruiser, she flew out the front door.

Oh please, God, don't let him be hurt. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her son sitting in the back of the cruiser. Both he and Matt seemed unhurt.

"Joey," she said, hugging him when he stepped out of the car. "What happened?"

"Nothing happened. We didn't do anything. Honest, Mom. He just gave us a ride home, that's all."

Angela hugged him tighter. "Thank God you're all right."

"Mom." He squirmed out of her reach. "Stop treating me like a baby."

Angela straightened her shoulders and let him go. "I was worried about you."

Joey looked down at his feet. "I'm sorry."

She turned her attention to the policeman as he got out of the car. She'd barely noticed him until now. He was tall with dark hair and was wearing a uniform; a light gray shirt with dark gray pants. Opening the trunk, he pulled Joey's bike out and set it on the front lawn. And then, his eyes slowly met hers.

Recognition hit her deep inside as if she'd been punched in the stomach. Trying to find her breath, she wished she had somewhere to turn, somewhere to hide, but it was too late. It had been thirteen years since she'd last seen Roman MacKenzie. She hadn't even known he was back in town, let alone that he was a cop. By the look on his face, she knew that he recognized her, too.

He didn't say anything; he just stood there. All six foot, two inches of him, staring back at her while the porch light cast shadows on his square jaw. His dark brows drew together in a frown, then his left brow rose a fraction.

A shiver ran through her as she watched his gaze travel down the front of her tank top, lingering on her breasts for the briefest moment, and back to her face again.

"Hello, Angel." His voice was barely more than a whisper. Roman had always called her 'Angel'.

Joey gave Roman a funny look, then grabbed the handlebars of his bike and started wheeling it toward the back of the house. She licked her lips and crossed her arms in front of her. "It's Angela," she said in a shaky voice.

Dana bounced down the front porch steps and stood next to her sister.

"What's going on?"

"I'm not sure," Angela said, looking at Roman, waiting for him to explain. She prayed he didn't notice her quivering bottom lip or her trembling hands.

His gaze darted between Angela and Dana. "After my sister called, I found Joe and Matt over on Maple Street, and I thought I'd better bring them home. It was getting pretty late."

"What was Joe doing way over on Maple Street?" Dana asked.

"Maybe you'd better ask him," Roman said. "Neither of the boys seemed to want to tell me, but I suspect they were up to no good from the way they avoided my questions."

Angela refused to stand on her front lawn, discussing Joey with him. She'd handle her son by herself, the way she had since the day he was born. "Well, thanks for bringing him home safely." Turning away from Roman, she grabbed her sister's arm. "C'mon, Dana."

"You're welcome," he said to her back with just a hint of sarcasm.

She opened the door to the house, waited for Dana to precede her inside, and then quickly closed it hard. Not once did she look back. Not even when she heard the car back out of her drive and speed away.

"Hubba, Bubba, be still my heart!" Dana blurted, flopping down onto the nubby green sofa. "Was that guy gorgeous or what!"

Angela shook her head slightly, feigning stupidity. "What guy?" Her hands were still shaking, but obviously her sister hadn't paid a bit of attention. Thank, God.

Dana's mouth dropped open. "You're kidding, right? Tell me you didn't notice the way that guy was put together. What was his name?"

"Roman MacKenzie." Angela had said his name a little too quickly. "And no, I didn't notice the way he was put together."

"How could you not notice? You've been without a man for way too long, dear sister, if you didn't notice him."

Angela heard the screen door flap shut in the kitchen. Two seconds later Joey flew past them and bound up the stairs. He was halfway up when Angela stopped him. "Hold it!"

"Mom, please. I gotta get a shower. This bug spray is making me sick. I might even throw up if I don't get it off soon." He wrinkled his whole face for effect and brought his hands to his stomach.

He'd used bug repellant plenty of times, and it had never made him sick before. She had a feeling he was stalling so she couldn't quiz him about why he'd been late. But what if he really was feeling sick? Sighing, she said, "Fine, but then we're going to talk."

Without answering, he raced up the stairs. Seconds later, she heard the water running. And then Dana started in on her again.

"Roman MacKenzie," she drawled. "Even his name is sexy."

Angela rolled her eyes and headed for the kitchen. She heard her sister behind her as she closed and locked the back door for the night, then turned off the porch light.

"You're not gay, are you?" Dana asked. "I mean, it's okay if you are. I'm cool with it."

Angela spun around to face her. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Dana. Just because I didn't go ape shit--excuse my French--over him, doesn't mean I'm anti-men or anything."

"Really? Because I can't remember one man that you've ever bothered to look at twice."

"That's because I haven't met anyone who I felt deserved a second look." She walked to the kitchen sink, filled a glass with water and took a sip.

"Roman MacKenzie definitely deserves a second look."

I used to think so, too. Her sister had no idea how deceiving looks could be. "You don't know anything about him, Dana." She set the glass on the black speckled counter.

"And you do?"

Angela closed her mouth for a moment, then slowly said, "I didn't say that. Besides, I'm not interested. Let's just drop it, okay? I'm tired and I want to go to bed."

Dana hurried behind Angela as she made her way through the house, turning off the lights. On the stairway, she said, "Just tell me one thing, Angie. Is Roman MacKenzie hotter than Joe's father?"

Angela whirled around and pinned her sister with a look. "Good night, Dana."

Mumbling something under her breath, Dana slammed down the hall to her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

In her own bedroom, Angela was relieved Dana was through giving her the third degree. At least for tonight.

Is Roman MacKenzie hotter than Joe's father? she'd asked.

Angela's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Dana," she whispered. "Roman MacKenzie is Joe's father."

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