Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series! If you’d like to support this and my other work, go to www.CushingHorrors.com and become my patron! You may also enjoy the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY as well as my other books. Now… On with the show!
SEVENTEEN – RENDEZVOUS
Cassie Peters felt exhausted. She’d spent most of the day trying to track down Grant Winslow.
She told herself that she just wanted to talk to him, find out what his intentions were toward her best friend.
But if she had been absolutely honest with herself, she would have admitted that she thought he was hot. She wanted to get to know him better. Maybe more than better.
She’d tried most of the tricks she knew. Calling his house and talking to his servants. Calling his work and talking to his answering machine. She used the Internet to try and trace his habits. She chatted up her friends who worked in stores he might stop in, and asked an ex-lover on the police force (with whom she was still on speaking terms) to keep an eye out for Grant or his jeep.
None of it had worked.
On the verge of giving up, she’d gone to the Green Leaf Tea Room, hoping to get some hint from Madame Meg.
And there he was, seated at a booth near the door, munching a late dinner of ratatouille and couscous. He waved as she entered the room.
“Hey, Cassie. C’mon over. Have a seat.”
“Oh, hi, Grant,” she said, trying to act casual. “Don’t mind if I do.”
“What brings you here this time of night?” he asked.
“I was looking for Ivy. She hasn’t been home all day.”
Grant stopped chewing. “You think there’s something to worry about?”
Cassie laughed. “Oh, no. Nothing like that. I just wanted to chat.” She paused and looked into his green eyes. “Have you seen her?”
“No, not since you picked her up at my house the other day,” Grant said, swallowing a mouthful of food. “You sure she’s okay?”
“I’m sure,” Cassie said, smiling. “If she weren’t, her uncle Daniel would have the police out in force.”
“And you’re sure they’re not?”
“They didn’t mention it when I called the house. I didn’t see any cops on the way over here.”
“Mm. I’m sure she’s probably okay then.”
Cassie looked at Grant from beneath her dark eyebrows. “You’d worry about her if she wasn’t. Wouldn’t you?”
Grant shot her a funny look. “Of course I would. What kind of question is that? She’s a friend of mine.”
Cassie dug her toe into the hardwood floor and turned her heel out, exposing her silk-stocking-clad calf. If Grant noticed, he didn’t react. “Is that all she is?” Cassie asked.
“You’re her best friend, supposedly. Why don’t you tell me?”
Cassie wrinkled her nose. He was sly, this one. “Well, I know she likes you,” she said. “But then… so do I.”
A light bulb went on over Grant’s head.
“Ah, so that’s where this is headed,” he said. “Sorry, Cass. I wouldn’t say I’m spoken for exactly, but I kind of have my sights set on someone else right now. You understand.”
“Anyone I know?”
Grant smiled slyly. “I’ll leave that for you to figure out.”
Cassie pouted. “You’re not gay, are you?”
Grant laughed. “And would you be so crushed if I were?”
Grant took a sip of his 7-Up. “Well, you needn’t worry on that account.” He spotted a copy entering the restaurant and hailed him. “Hey Rick! How you doing?”
Rick waved and walked over to the booth. Grant stood and shook his hand. “Richard, how’s it going?”
“Not too bad,” said the cop.
“You on duty? Why don’t you join us?”
“I just got off, and I’d be delighted.”
“Officer Rick, Cassie Peters,” Grant said, by way of introduction. “Cassie, Officer Richard Christopher—the only honest cop in Frosthaven.”
Rick laughed. “I hope not! Sometimes I feel like the only cop, though. Boss has had my butt running all over town lately.”
Cassie shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you.” The newcomer was handsome.
“Cassie Peters…” the cop said thoughtfully. “Did you used to date someone on the force?”
Cassie tried not to blush. “That was a long time ago. And, speaking of time, I should get going.”
“What’s your hurry?” asked Grant. “Did I forget to mention that Rick is also Frosthaven’s most eligible member of the force?”
Rick rolled his eyes. “Jeeze, Winslow, take it easy. You trying to blow it for me before I’ve hardly met this lady?”
Cassie smiled at him. Officer Rick was easy on the eyes, all right, but not what she was looking for tonight. She turned to Grant.
“I actually do have to go,” she said, rising from the booth and straightening her short skirt. She fumbled in her purse for her keys. “I’m not really in any hurry, but I was looking for Ivy, remember?”
Grant smiled. “Oh, yes. I’d almost forgotten.”
Cassie sashayed toward the door. “If you see Ivy,” she said, “have her give me a call.”
“I will,” said Grant.
“Nice meeting you, Rick,” she called back. As the door closed behind her, Cassie quietly muttered, “Shit!”
“Was it something I said?” Rick asked.
Grant chuckled. “More likely something I said. I don’t think Ms. Peters is used to being turned down.”
“Ah,” Rick said, smiling. “I remember hearing that about her.”
“Anyway,” said Grant, “how have things been?”
Richard leaned back in the booth. “Not too bad,” he said. “Assuming of course you’re not bothered by lack of sleep, or domestic violence, or an old lady shooting her husband of fifty years, or some hooker biting a guy’s dick off.”
“Damn,” Grant said, putting down his drink. “Now I know why I didn’t become a cop. Did we know the dick?”
“Not really. Belonged to some asshole who works at the Automart. Lost it cheating on his wife. Serves him right, you ask me.”
“That’s a rather harsh brand of justice.”
“But swift and sure,” Rick said, smiling. “I mean, it’s not that I don’t have sympathy for the guy. I’ve been feeling pretty itchy myself lately. But I’ve got no respect for someone stepping out on his lady. I figure he got what he deserved.”
“Well, if being horny is a capital offense, I figure we’re all headed for the chair,” Grant replied thoughtfully.
Rick looked at his friend in mock surprise. “You telling me that even the cool and collected Mr. Grant has been feeling randy lately?”
Grant snorted, shook his head, and smiled. “I figure I’ve been on shore too long.”
“The way I figure it, you’ve been out of port too long.”
Grant took a sip of his drink. “Well, anyway, I’m too much of a gentleman to pay for my relief like that car salesman—even though I’m not tied down.”
“Good thing, too,” said Rick. “I’d hate to have to bust your ass for solicitation.”
“Maybe I could bribe my way out of it. I’m rich—in case you haven’t heard.”
“Well, you’re talking to the only honest cop in town—in case you haven’t heard.”
Grant smiled. “I’ll bill you for that line later.”
“Shoot. That’s how you rich folks get so rich, taking advantage of us working stiffs,” said Rick. “Man, I’m starved.” He turned and called to a nearby waitress. “Hey! What’s a guy have to do to get some service around here?”
The girl nodded in his direction and hurried to fetch a menu. “Sorry, officer. I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
“Chill out, Rick,” Grant said. “You just got here a couple of minutes ago.”
Rick rubbed his hands through his short black hair. “Sorry,” he said, “guess I’m a bit irritable. It’s been a long week and I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m pretty beat.”
TO BE CONTINUED…