The Polka Dot Nude

Free The Polka Dot Nude by Joan Smith

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Authors: Joan Smith
Tags: Contemporary romantic suspense
weeks before. Just time to learn that I was doing my book, and for them to discuss it by phone. The size of the advance staggered me. No wonder he drove a Mercedes. He could have driven a team of Rolls-Royces if he’d felt like it. Ms. Barlow had signed herself “Love, Vicki.”
    I rammed the letter back in the envelope, slammed the drawer, and gritted my teeth till I had stopped panting with anger. I did a quick sweep of the rest of the cottage, but couldn’t find the diary pages. Even the kitchen—including the freezer, where I discovered a pile of frozen gourmet dinners wrapped up in aluminum foil and labeled. The ones on top were spaghetti Caruso—two of them. I had a pretty good idea what treat he planned to serve tonight, and let on he’d made it himself. He never took his head up from that damned typewriter, except to scatter rugs and tablecloths around the place.
    I didn’t know how long I’d been there, but the town where Brad was getting Grand Marnier wasn’t far away, so I went back to the window and crawled out, landing in the scrub beneath on my hands. I couldn’t get the window completely closed. I left it open an inch and ran home, with a look down the road to make sure he wasn’t coming yet. I sat on the lumpy sofa, hugging myself with my arms, as though to keep in my body all the vituperation that was longing to spew forth. “I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him with my bare hands,” I said two or three times, till the first wave of fury had dulled. “I can’t believe I’ve been such an idiot.”
    Various revenges were plotted and rejected as too time-consuming. I wanted to write up phony diaries and expose Mason to lawsuits. I wanted to run back and burn his manuscript, to phone Eileen Haddon and demand more money, to sit down and finish my own book that same day and outdo him in pornography. Him and his ranting of helping me find a significant theme for my book! The hypocrisy of it— he just didn’t want me to wander into his area of sleaze. In the end, I was too tired and defeated for any of these schemes. Mason was halfway through his book, if he was working chronologically. Chapters ahead of me. I opened a Coke, and wiped away the lone tear that trickled down my cheek. Mixed in with the rest was a regretful memory of my summer romance that never was, and never would be. He’d only found me “sensational” to get hold of my research. He thought I was a gullible dope—and he was right. First Garth, now Brad. Did I wear a sign on my butt that said “Kick here”?
    It was blind luck that Eileen found out about Hume Mason. Eileen! I should phone her, but if I did, she’d urge me on to a faster pace, when I knew in my bones I couldn’t write a word. Especially I couldn’t compete with creamy, heaving bosoms and shuddering loins. I needed a very strong shock treatment. I put on my bathing suit, went down to the dock, and dove in, without even feeling the water first. It was every bit as cold as I remembered. I swam halfway to the island, then swam back and got out, panting, so numb that all sensation was gone from my body. Only my mind was active, as active as ever, and as frustrated.
    I didn’t wait till seven to call on Brad O’Malley. I saw his car under the tree when I went to my front door. With a towel wrapped around my waist like a sarong, I strode to the door and rapped sharply.
    “Come on in,” he called from the kitchen. “Hi, Audrey. Be right with you. The beer’s in the fridge. I’m just starting dinner. I hope you like chicken liver and pasta.”
    “Spaghetti Caruso?” I called back.
    “Yeah, do you like it?”
    He hadn’t slipped the pans in the oven yet. No wild aromas pervaded the cottage this time. “Why don’t you just take one of the frozen cartons from you freezer? I won’t be joining you tonight.”
    His head peeked around the doorjamb. You never saw such a guilty-looking man. “Say what?”
    “You heard me.”
    His body followed his head around the

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