MIDNIGHT HEAT (Midnight Cowboys)
“Johnson does what she has always excelled at doing: pairing a wonderfully unlikely pair in an inventive unique scenario and showing how they work together.” RT Book Reviews
“[Johnson’s] sensitivity to difficult topics is evident in her skillful storytelling.” Publishers Weekly on Midnight Heat
He needs to escape… Justin Skaggs is on the road to anywhere—as long as it’s far from home—when fate throws a kindred spirit across his path.
She needs to get to Oklahoma… Phoenix Montagno can’t believe her luck when she runs into the hottie from the bar. He’s the key to her getting everything she’s always wanted, but she can’t tell him that. Luckily he’s not interested in learning her story any more than he is in sharing his.
Both have secrets they don’t want to share… It’s the perfect arrangement. No personal details. No talking at all. Just two strangers sharing the cab of a truck heading the direction they both need to go . . . until they decide to share a bed, too.
Midnight Heat now in eBook, Print & Audio
The headlights hitting a bright yellow Volkswagen in the driveway caught his attention first. Followed shortly by the girl from the bar, walking away from the front door toward the car in the driveway.
What the hell?
He checked the reflective numbers posted on the mailbox and compared that to what Rohn had scrawled on a piece of paper. Yup, this was the place all right.
The only question was, how did the sweet young thing with car trouble fit into this puzzle?
The best thing to do was just ask her. He pulled up along the curb so as not to block her in the driveway.
She glanced up and stumbled to a stop when she saw the truck and trailer. He saw her eyes widen even from the distance. She continued to look surprised as he cut the engine, swung the door open, and stepped down from the truck.
After walking around the truck, Justin squinted at the Volkswagen. By the light of the street lamp he saw it had California plates. Whoever she was, she was definitely not a local, and that ruled out his real estate agent theory.
He ambled up the driveway. When he got closer to the woman, she asked, “What are you doing here?”
Amused by her questioning of him, Justin lifted a brow. “Well, howdy to you, too. And as for what I’m doing here, I was wondering the same thing about you.”
His comment seemed to stump her. “Uh, I was . . . um . . . looking for the homeowner.” She tripped over her own words, which only made Justin more interested in who she was and why she was here and acting so nervous.
Moving to her car, he leaned against the door, effectively blocking her escape should she try to make one before offering him an acceptable, believable explanation. For some reason—whether it was her body language or his gut instinct—he didn’t believe her so far.
“The homeowner, huh? And who is that?”
“Bonnie Martin.” Her correct answer, delivered in a firm tone, threw him.
“And who might you be?” Justin asked.
She hesitated just a second before saying, “Phoenix Montagno.”
He would have thought she was lying, but who the hell could make up a name like that?
Had she come back with Jane Smith, there’s no way he would have believed her.
“Who are you?” She crossed her arms to mirror his stance and turned the question back to him.
“Justin Skaggs.” He gave her a minimal answer, still not certain why she was there or trusting her completely, even if she had supplied Bonnie’s name.
“What business do you have here?” Her gaze cut to the truck and trailer as she followed up with a second question.
Justin wasn’t quite ready to answer that just yet. “I believe I asked you the same thing.”
“I told you. I’m here to see the homeowner.”
“Bonnie Martin.” He tipped his head in a nod. “Yup, that you did, but you didn’t say why.”
“That’s a private matter.”
“So is my reason for being here.” He wasn’t about to tell this stranger that the house was unoccupied. Not until he had more information on the girl.
Sad but true, even cute-as-a-button girl-next-door types could be up to no good. He figured it said a lot about his maturity that he could ignore the perky breasts beneath the tight T-shirt and remember that. He was pretty proud of himself.
“You’re not going to tell me?” A deep frown creased her brow.
“Nope.” He grinned. Justin was enjoying this back and forth with the mysterious and lovely Phoenix.
She blew out a breath and looked totally baffled at his unwillingness to give her information. “Then I guess we’re at a standoff.”
“I guess we are.” He glanced down at her car, which he was still leaning on. At first glance, the vehicle seemed just fine to him. “I see the car got better.”
He used her own words from the bar regarding the car to tease her.
“I drove it here.” She didn’t offer any further explanation.
“So I see.” Suspicious bastard that he was, Justin started to wonder if it ever had been broken down to begin with, or if she’d lied for some unknown reason.
There’d been a time, not too many years ago, when Justin would have taken this woman at face value and not cared about more than how to get her alone and naked.
Again, he supposed this was another sign of his maturity.
Sometimes acting like a responsible adult sucked.
“Well, the homeowner isn’t here, but I’ll be sure to tell her you stopped by.” He had the house key Rohn had given him in his pocket. He pushed off the girl’s car and fished out the key. He tipped his hat to the blonde as he passed. “Have a good day.”
He moved to the front stoop, opened the storm door, and slid the key into the lock.
The girl’s voice had him turning. “Yes?”
“You have the key?” she asked, though it was obvious he did.
“Yup.” He pushed the front door open and then slid the key out of the lock as evidence. He let the storm door slam closed and remained outside on the front step.
“And you know Bonnie Martin?” That adorable little furrow creasing her forehead as he confused her was too damn cute. It made him want to tease her more.
“That’s how I have the key.” He held it up, letting it dangle between two fingers for her to see. She took a step toward the house, while he stayed on the stoop, waiting to see what she had to say next. “You wanna tell me why you’re so interested?”
“I’m just, you know, interested in speaking with Ms. Martin.”
“I’m getting that. My question is, why? Who are you? And what has you driving all the way from California just to see her?”
“I told you, that’s—”
Justin nodded. “None of my business. Yes, so you’ve said before. I’m afraid I can’t answer your questions if you can’t answer mine. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a long day and I still got stuff to do.”
He waited a beat. When she didn’t offer a valid explanation for her presence or a reason for not answering what should be simple questions, he gave up. Drawing in a breath, he took one last look at the cute but evasive girl by the car and then turned back to the house.
He should have been taking inventory of the house. Seeing whether everything would fit in the trailer, how neat he’d have to be while packing it all in. Determining if he could lift the sofa by himself or if he’d have to get the neighbors’ help.
That was what Justin should be concentrating on.
Instead, he leaned against the wall to one side of the front window and peered at the driveway through the crack in the blinds.