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Authors: Jennifer Cruise

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BOOK: Charlie All Night
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*  *  *
Charlie was feeling pretty good. He liked Eb and the three people who'd
called after Eb, the console
was state-of-the-art so it was a piece of
cake to run, and it didn't really matter whether he was a
success or
not at this hour of the night. And actually, it was fun. Once again his
life was under control. He'd have all his days to track down that damn
letter and figure out who wrote it, and then he could
play radio at
night until he finished the job and left in November.
Life didn't get much better.
Then Allie's voice came through his headphones. "Caller on line two."
"Who's this one?"
"The mayor."
He swung around to stare at her through the window, but she just
shrugged and smiled and punched
the button that transferred the call to
him.              
"Who the hell is this?
"Uh, Charlie Tenniel." He shot an agonized glance at the j digital
readout on the console. Fifteen
seconds till the last song was over.
"Well, what the hell is going on down there? Where's Bill? What is this
garbage?"
He sounded like an overbearing, handshaking politician. Charlie had met
a lot of them growing up
and he hadn't liked them. Still, it wasn't his
job to make waves. "We've been talking about the city building, sir."
"Well, stop it. It's none of your damn business."
Charlie took a deep breath. "Well, it's the taxpayers' business, since
they're going to be paying for it."
"Screw the taxpayers. You shut up about that building or I'll have your
job. I can do it, too, don't think
I can't. Bill's a good friend of
mine. You just shut up, boy."
Five seconds. Charlie knew he was going to regret it, but laying low
had been a lost cause as soon as the Mayor had started yelling. "We're
going to be on the air now, mayor, so whatever you say is broadcast.
Might want to ease up on that 'screw the taxpayers' bit since most of
them are voters, too."
"I don't
want
—"
"And welcome back, Tuttle," Charlie said into the mike. "We've got a
real treat tonight. Mayor Rollie Whitcomb has called in to talk about
the city building. You're on, Mayor."
"I'm what?"
"You're on the air."
"Oh. Well-"
"Now, you want to explain again how you feel about the taxpayers and
the
city building?"
Through the window he saw Allie put her head down on he producer's
console. Rollie must have
been right about Bill. Oh, well, win some,
lose some. He went back to listening to the mayor tie
himself in knots.
Public speaking was evidently not what had gotten him into office. His
sentences
didn't seem to have any verbs, which was par for a politician.
All nouns, no action.
When the mayor wound down, buried under his compound subjects, Charlie
stepped in. "So what
exactly was the rationale behind the new city
building, Mayor? I understand the new building actually
has less space
than the old one."
That set Rollie off again, babbling about heating bills, big indows,
all that marble, and the stairs. Rollie didn't seem to have a grasp as
to why the last three were a problem, he just knew they were factors.
"Anything you want to say about your brother, the contractor?" Charlie
asked him when he'd
sputtered to a close.
"Fine businessman. Pillar of the community. Mason. Knights of Pythias.
Proud to be in the family."
Rollie meandered on, while Charlie waited for a verb. "Does he have the
contract for the city building?" Charlie asked when Rollie trailed off
again.
"Of course not. I don't know. I don't award contracts. Building
committee. Stalwart citizens. Pillars
of the community."
Charlie gave up. "Well, thanks for calling, Mayor. I'm sure Tuttle is
reassured now."
"Proud to do my duty," Rollie said.
Charlie punched the cassette button and shoved the slide up and music
came through his headphones. Unfortunately, it was Paul Simon's "Still
Crazy After All These Years."
He was screwed, as usual. He thought about it and began to laugh.
*  *  *
Allie sat stunned in the producer's chair, not sure whom she was in the
most trouble with—the mayor,
Bill or Charlie. She'd thought that maybe
talking with the mayor would boost Charlie's credentials.
The mayor
could give his side of the situation and Charlie could discuss it with
him. Serious talk radio. Maybe a nice mention in the
Tuttle Tribune
tomorrow since the mayor pretty much owned the paper.
And then Charlie turned out to be a hell-raiser. Asking about the
mayor's brother. Sheesh.
"You still there, Tenniel?"
She adjusted her headphones. "Uh, no, he's not, Mayor Whitcomb. This is
Alice McGuffey, the pro—"
"Well, you're fired. And so is he."
Then all she heard was a dial tone.
She sat back and tried to figure out the probable outcome of the mess
she'd created. Bill wouldn't fire
her, she was pretty sure. He wasn't
that dumb, and if he was, Beattie wouldn't let him.
Charlie could be vulnerable, though. And it was her fault.
All right, she'd just go in first thing in the morning and tell Bill
she'd called the mayor.
Then the phone rang and she got back to work.
At one, Allie shut down the phone lines at Charlie's request. By then
he'd talked to eleven callers about the building, all of them telling
him he was right and one asking if the mayor was drunk. "No, I think
he
always talks like that," Charlie said, and the caller said, "And we
voted
for him?" There were a
few nonpolitical calls: one male caller
wanted to know what he'd said to the lady in the bar, and four female
callers offered to show him the city and let him insult them all he
wanted. "Get me out of this," Charlie said to Allie from the booth, and
she shut down the lines for the night.
"Go home," he told her through the mike. "Stewart's here if I need
anything technical. I'm just going
to play music from now on. I don't
ever want to hear about the city building again."
Allie had been working since four, Charlie's show was off to a better
than great start, and besides, guilt was making her groggy. She'd done
her job and then some. "Thanks," she said. "I'll take you up on that."
She gave Samson to Charlie and told him how to feed him and then
watched while he gave the puppy a bottle to the rhythm of Gloria
Estefan. Samson was almost lost in Charlie's big hand, and Allie forgot
her career entirely as she watched him try to drip the formula into the
puppy's mouth. Sam tried to drink a little and then gave up, but
Charlie kept on coaxing, his blond-brown hair shining in the booth
light like brass as he bent over the little body, massaging Sam's tummy
with his thumb. "C'mon, Sam," he coaxed softly, and Allie shut her eyes
and prayed the puppy would make it.
She really didn't need any more trauma. She was due for a success here,
and Sam might as well share
it. "He's going to make it," she said out loud, and Charlie looked up
at her and said,
"Well, we'll give it
our best shot. Go on. You're beat." And she nodded
and left the booth.
Charlie sounded even better at home when she was in bed, wrapped in her
quilt. His voice was sexy
and soothing, and he played a lot of
different music including one memorable triple play of Boyz II Men,
Aaron Copland, and the Everly Brothers, always leading so smoothly into
the songs as part of his patter that it seemed like the music was part
of what Charlie was saying.
She was almost disappointed when he wrapped up the show at two.
"Well, that's it for tonight, folks. Grady Bonner's coming up next with
some background on crystals
and healing and your sun sign's lucky
numbers for tomorrow, and he tells me he's also going to be
playing
some whale songs a little later. Now, for those of you who haven't
heard whale songs, that probably sounds like a joke, but keep an open
mind and you'll hear music that is truly unearthly. And
to get you over
to Grady, here's Judy Collins doing her duet with a whale. Listen
closely out there,
this is the music of the deep."
Collins's "Hunting the Whale" began and Allie closed her eyes and
listened. The song was so lovely
that the last notes seemed to hang in
the air next to her.
Then she heard Grady's reedy voice saying, "This is Grady Bonner taking
you into the hours when the city sleeps. If you missed Charlie
Tenniel's show just before this, you missed what he said about our
lovely city building. There are so many old voices echoing through the
old city building. Tearing it down would be ripping those voices apart.
Go to the old building tomorrow, feel the power in it, and then go
to
the mayor and tell him that destroying that structure is destroying the
spirit of public service in this
city. And now, before I begin
tonight's discussion on the healing power of the crystal, let's listen
to a recording of some North Atlantic whales.
This one's for you, Charlie."
Good for Charlie,
Allie
thought.
He's got Grady on his side.
She felt
comforted by that. Grady might
be a little strange, but his people
instincts were excellent. If he liked Charlie, Charlie was good people.
She turned off her light and listened in the dark to the whale songs,
and she drifted off in a dreamless sleep.
She hadn't been asleep more than half an hour when Charlie poked her in
the back.
5
"Hey." Charlie sat next to her on the bed and propped his feet up. "Did
you listen to the rest of the show?"
"Yes." Allie rolled over and stretched a little to wake up. "Now I know
why Bill hired you.
You're great."
"Thank you."
She squinted at him in the dim light from the window. He was dressed
only in his sweatpants and
he was holding a carton and chewing
something. She struggled to sit up, and he reached over her
and turned
on the lamp, blinding her.
"What are you eating?" She shielded her eyes until they adjusted to the
light.
"Sweet-and-sour pork. From some place called Mrs. McCarthy's Chinese.
Want some?"
"Yes. McCarthy's has good stuff, but Joe won't let me eat there." Allie
yawned and took the fork
from him and poked it into the take-out
carton. "He says it's not authentic."
Charlie snorted. "Sure it is. Authentic Irish-Chinese."
Allie chewed the pork and then looked dubiously at the size of the
carton. "Did you get anything else?"
"No. I didn't know you'd be hungry, too. There's plenty of this,
though." He took the fork and the
carton back.
He looked great in the lamplight naked to the waist, his long legs
stretched out on her bed. Allie hauled
her mind back to the radio
program and tried to make her voice noncommittal. "So what's your next
move here?"
Charlie grinned at her. "Well, I figure if I can get your nightgown
off, the rest will be easy."
Allie stomped down on the hot little thrill the thought evoked and
looked at him with what she hoped
was contempt.
Charlie said, "Joke. Sort of."
She shook her head. "Not your next move on me, you dang fool. The city
building. Give me the fork."
"Ah, you liked Eb. So did I." Charlie passed the carton over. "I may
wander up north and meet him.
My kind of guy"
"The city building," Allie said around a mouthful of food.
"I think it should be saved, but I don't particularly want to do it.
Especially if it's going to make people
call me that much." He shook
his head. "Some mighty pissed people out there when they heard about
the mayor's brother. And the mayor didn't do himself any good, calling
in like that." Charlie took the carton back. "I wonder if it's true?"
Allie put her chin on his shoulder to look into the carton. He had
great shoulders and Chinese food. At
the moment, he was the perfect
man. "I wouldn't be surprised. Hurry up with the fork." She reached
around his arm, enjoying the slide of her skin on his, and took the
carton from him after he'd taken a bite.
Charlie chewed and swallowed. "If it is true, the mayor's an idiot."
Allie snorted. "Do you have any doubts?"
Charlie recaptured his carton. "I don't want to talk about the city
building tomorrow night."
Allie looked at him, half-naked in the lamplight, and felt a growing
hunger for more than Chinese.
No, she told herself. "You're missing a
great opportunity."
"Screen the callers."
Allie looked at him, dumbfounded. "You want me to tell them they can't
talk about the city building?"
"I don't care what you tell them. Just don't put them on the line with
me."
She looked at him in disgust. "You're a wimp." Okay, he was a sexy
wimp, but he was still a wimp.
She reached for the carton to distract
herself. "Give me the fork."
"It's all gone." He put the carton on the floor.
"I'm still hungry."
Charlie grinned at her, and she forgot she was annoyed with him. After
all, he'd done a great show.
After all, he was Charlie. In her bed.
Half-naked.
Turn back now
, she told
herself.
Get out of this bed.
Charlie leaned toward her. "You're always hungry. You're the most
orally fixated woman I've ever known. Not that I'm complaining."
Oh, boy. Allie threw back the covers and started to get out of bed, and
he caught her nightgown and pulled her back. "Where are you going?"
She pried her gown out of his fingers. "I'm hungry. Really. I feel
empty."
"No problem." Charlie pulled her down on top of him, and she meant to
push herself away, but he was
so warm, she leaned into him instead. He
felt wonderful under her. "Empty I can solve," he told her. "And I'll
make sure you get to sleep, too. Eventually." He kissed her neck.
She propped herself up on his chest and steeled herself to say no. "I
thought we'd talked about this."
Charlie stroked her cheek with his finger. "We did, but you look awful
good rumpled. How about one more time? I'll move out to the couch
tomorrow, I swear."
"This is not a good idea." She pushed away from him and changed the
subject to distract him. "You know, you have a great voice. I was
concentrating on your body and your face before, and I didn't
really
appreciate your voice until I heard you on the air. It's incredible. I
bet you were turning women
on all
over the city tonight."
He tugged her back down to him, and she shivered when he said, "How'd I
do with
you
?"
"Not bad." She moved against his warmth. "Thanks for Patsy Cline."
"My pleasure. Kiss me."
Don't do it
, she told herself,
but she kissed him, anyway, and his
mouth moving softly on hers
distracted her while he pulled her
nightgown up and ran his hands over her naked back. She felt
the heat
start again, and she stretched against it.
What could one more night hurt?
She pulled the nightgown over her head, and his hands were on her
instantly, cupping her breasts,
making her draw a sharp breath. She
touched him, too, then, stroking down his chest with her fingertips,
over his sweatpants until she felt him shudder. He stripped off his
pants, and she stroked him again, and she felt his fingers dig into the
soft flesh of her hips as she moved to meet him. They tormented each
other, touching and kissing and sliding together, gasping small laughs
as they collided in heat until Allie thought she'd scream if he didn't
take her. "Now," she said finally. "Please, now."
"Wait a minute," he said, and reached for the condom in his pants, and
then he said, "Come here." and pulled her over on top of him. "Stay on
top of me this time. You'll like it better."
He was lovely and hot under her, and she stretched against him,
forgetting her panic from the night before. "I wasn't afraid of you,"
she said against his mouth. "It wasn't you."
"I know." Charlie's hands smoothed over her. "You just don't like being
out of control."
"Maybe." Allie was distracted; he was moving under her now, pulling her
hips up to his, spreading
her thighs apart with his legs.
"Whenever you're ready." Charlie kissed her shoulder. "Just don't wait
too long, or I'll lose my mind."
Allie propped herself above him, dizzy with heat. "What do you want me
to do?"
He pulled her closer. "Just ease yourself over me and make me the
happiest man in this city."
She laughed softly. "There are other guys in this city making love
right now, you know."
"Not with you." He smiled up at her, and she wanted him so much she
ached with it. "Allie, I want
you so much."
Allie blinked at him, surprised out of her own thoughts. "Me?"
He laughed softly. "Yes, you. Can't you tell I'm interested?"
He was hard between her thighs, and she rocked a little against him and
watched him close his eyes. "Yes," she told him, laughing again at how
easy he was to distract. "I can tell. But I thought for a guy,
it
didn't make any difference who..."
His eyes snapped open. "You thought wrong." His hands were suddenly
tight on her waist, as if he
were trying to make her listen harder. I'm
going nuts right now only because I'm with you," he told her, and she
lost her breath at the intensity in his voice. "You make me crazy. I've
been thinking about you
all day." He let his head sink into the pillow.
"Now, will you please get a move on here? I'm not kidding about the
crazy part."
She took a deep breath and found him with her hand. He held her hips so
tightly she knew she'd have fingerprint bruises the next day, but it
was erotic to have his hands on her that hard. She guided herself over
him and eased him a little way into her, carefully, tentatively. He
felt wonderful, and her heart pounded and she felt her blood begin to
rush and she stopped,
trying to keep from lurching out of
control.
Charlie made a sound way back in his throat, but he didn't push.
She was doing it all.
"Oh," she said and sank her hips down to his, and he felt so good that
she moaned, and Charlie threw
his head back on the pillow and bit his
lip.
"Charlie." she whispered.
"Don't mind me," he said through his teeth. "This is just ecstasy."
Allie moved against him slowly, holding him hard inside her, feeling
her skin heat, trying to keep her breathing slow as she watched his
face. He wasn't kidding. He was in ecstasy.
And I'm doing this
, she
thought. She squeezed him with the muscles inside her and her heart
pounded as she watched him suck
in his breath. Then she moved her hips
against his, and he moved to meet her, and her blood began to bubble.
She licked her lips and breathed in and thought,
God, I'm powerful. No
wonder men love sex
so much.
She eased herself up until she was sitting, straddling him until he was
high inside her. He ran his hands
up her body, cupping her breasts, and
she leaned against his hands, relishing the pressure there and in
the
center of her body, and the prickling in her veins, and she began to
move against him. She could
feel the pressure growing, little flames of
heat licking inside her as she rocked against him. The licking flames
flared into a hot spiral, and she knew that it was going to explode,
that she'd feel him
everywhere, that she'd lose herself in him and be
gone again, and she wanted it more than
anything
and still she clutched,just a little, as it began to go. Then Charlie
arched up to hold her, dragging her
down to his warmth, and she was
wrapped safe in his arms as he moved convulsively inside her.
"Come on,
Allie," he breathed in her ear, and she pressed herself hard down
against him and then everything
did explode in a kaleidoscope of surge and flame, and she rocked
against him over and
over, sobbing, until he cried out in his own
climax.
She clutched at him until even the tiny aftershocks inside her were
gone, and when they were both breathing again, Allie whispered, "I
don't
want you to move to the couch," and Charlie held her tightly
and said,
"I wouldn't dream of it."
BOOK: Charlie All Night
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