Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Hotwire walked into his office and did a quick visual check of his equipment. A light flashed, indicating Claire’s alarm had gone off. He swore, adrenalin pumping into his blood, an immediate sense of impotency sweeping over him. What could he do for Claire from his home in Montana?

Nothing. He didn’t like knowing that. Not one bit.

Fortunately, the light was yellow, which meant she’d turned it off...or someone had.

He grabbed the phone and dialed Claire’s number.

She picked up on the third ring, sounding breathless. "Hello?"

That breathy little hello instantly started him thinking of her writhing in the middle of an acre of silk sheets. The predictable effect of his imagination on his cock wasn’t exactly comfortable. He grimaced. "It’s Hotwire."


"Is everything all right?"

"Sure. there some reason it shouldn’t be?" She sounded guiltier than a kid caught sneaking out of her bedroom window after curfew.

"Your alarm went off."

"Did you give the police instructions to call you if it did?" Her voice vibrated with outrage. "Don’t you think that’s a bit excessive? I do not need a babysitter. Seriously. What were you thinking? Don’t tell me this was Josette’s idea. Sheesh, I don’t know what you thought you could do about it, in any case."

He’d noticed before that she talked fast and furiously when she was concerned about somebody else, angry, or feeling self-conscious. He wondered which one she was at the moment. She sounded mad, but there was something in her voice that hinted at embarrassment too.

"Tell me about the alarm, Claire."

A big heavy sigh came across the phone line. "Classes are over in another week and a half."


"Well, my final project in my Unix programming class is due. There’s a glitch in the program and I’ve been trying to figure it out."

"What does that have to do with the alarm going off?"

"I forgot to use the remote code on my laptop to disarm it when I got home."

"There’s a keypad inside as well."

"I wasn’t thinking about the alarm. I told you, I was trying to figure out my program...I didn’t think about the alarm at all." That was definite chagrin in her voice. "Not until it went off, anyway."

"Did the police come?"

"You know they did."

In fact, he hadn’t. "Good."

"It wasn’t good. It was awful. I was a nervous wreck trying to explain the alarm to the police. What if they'd thought I was the one breaking in? After all, the house doesn't belong to me."

"That's highly unlikely."

She grunted, the sound one of pure disgust. "I was mortified. The neighbors came out and gawked. One of them even came over to make sure I was all right."

"How long did the alarm go off before you noticed it?" he asked, trying to control the amusement in his voice.

"I don’t know." She sounded petulant and he’d never heard her sounding that way.

It made him horny. Heck, just about everything she did made him want her.

"I’m surprised your neighbor came to check on you."

"He’s ex-military. A retired SEAL or something. You guys are all alike...interfering."

He laughed.

She made a sound like steam escaping a teakettle and he bit off his laughter.

"That alarm is a big pain." Something in her tone alerted him and he started running a diagnostic on the system from his computer.

"No strange phone calls, or anything?" he asked just to keep her talking while the system ran its check.

"Other than this one? No."

"There’s nothing odd about one friend calling to check on another."

"I thought you were Josette’s friend."

"Is there anything that says I can’t be yours as well?"


"Good." Then his computer beeped and he glared at the screen, wanting to bite something. "Why did you disable the alarm, Claire?"

There were probably only a handful of people in the country that could have done it without the code, which he had not given her on purpose. And according to the stats he was now looking at, she’d done it a lot faster than even she should have been able to.

"How do you know I did?"

"I ran a diagnostic."

"Oh. You mean you have my security system hooked up to your computer?"


"That’s how you knew it had gone off?"

"Uh huh. I didn’t leave instructions for the cops to call, but maybe I should fix that."

"Don’t you dare. This was humiliating enough as it is."

"The alarm can’t do you any good turned off."

"I’m not having the police out here every other day because I accidentally set it off. That’s just not on, Hotwire."

"So don’t set it off."

She was silent on the other end of the line.

"Come on, sugar. I know you struggle with focusing on the world around you sometimes, but you can train yourself to remember the alarm."

"Why do you call me sugar? I’m not a piece of candy."

"You taste as sweet as one."

"Yeah, right."

"Trust me. I’d rather suck on your tongue than a peppermint stick any day of the week."

"You’re flirting with me," she said accusingly.

"And I bet you’re blushing." She acted tough, but she reacted to the attraction between them with more vulnerability than he was sure she wanted to admit to.

She sighed, the soft sound shivering through him. "Maybe."

"You’re awfully innocent for a woman of twenty-eight."

"Innocent is one thing I’m not." The cynicism in her tone was absolute. "And how did you know how old I am? Did you hack into my identity records?"

"No. I found out the old-fashioned way. I asked Josie."


"You’re not going to sidetrack me from the issue at hand."

"I wasn’t trying to sidetrack you."

No, it probably hadn’t been on purpose. She just had a tendency to jump from one subject to another. "I’m turning the alarm back on and this time I want you to leave it that way."

"If it goes off again, I’m cutting the wires."

"You’ll do no such thing."

"Watch me."

"You do not have authorization to dismantle the alarm."

"This is not the military. I don’t need authorization. I’m the one living here. If I don’t want an alarm disrupting my life, I don’t have to have one."

"Then move out, but as her renter, you have no right to circumvent measures Josie has put in place to protect her property. The alarm and the house it safeguards belong to her, not you." The words were harsh, but he had no choice.

He couldn’t force her to keep the alarm enabled from several hundred miles away and he’d already used the argument about Claire’s own safety to no avail. She refused to give credence to his concerns, but that didn’t make them any less real. And he refused to dismiss them because she didn’t want the inconvenience of remembering the alarm.

"You’re right," Claire said, her voice subdued. "I’m just the renter. This isn’t my home. I won’t disconnect the alarm again. If that was all you needed..."

Josie was going to kill him. He’d hurt Claire’s feelings and he wasn’t all that happy about it himself. "Claire—"

"Thank you for calling to check on m...the house. As I said, everything is fine."


"I’ll try not to inconvenience you again. Goodbye."

The phone went dead in his ear and he swore pungently, glad his mama wasn't there to hear him. His army drill sergeant had never intimidated him like her five feet nothing of Southern Belle charm.

He hadn’t meant to hurt Claire and he had not called to check on the damn house. His jaw ached from clenching it as he re-set the alarm. He checked his messages and email, but couldn’t get the hurt tone of Claire’s voice out of his head. Finally, he gave in and called her again.

She didn’t pick up and he checked her schedule only to realize she had a class and would be working later that night. He left a message telling her he had re-armed the system, but didn’t know what to say to undo the damage he'd done to her feelings, or even if it was a good idea to try.


Amy said...

I loved this scene in And Able. Thanks for the excerpt

Judy said...

I really like this scene, too! It's so much fun to see how smart Claire is and how much Hotwire likes her, even though he doesn't want to. LOL! It's sweet that he wants to be her friend, and yet heartbreaking when he inadvertently hurts her feelings. Thanks for the treat!

flchen1 said...

A lovely scene--thanks for the excerpt!

Jane said...

I feel bad for Hotwire.