Bending the Rules Mass Market Paperback – Jun 30 2009
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About the Author
Susan Andersen is a bestselling author and proud mama of a grown son. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over forty years and her cats Boo and Mojo. To be added to Susan’s email list to hear about upcoming releases, please visit her website at www.susanandersen.com and enter your email address on the contact page. Or become a member of her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/SusanAndersenFanPage.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Of all the rooms in all the field houses in all the parks in Seattle, he had to walk into this one?
What the hell is he doing here?
Poppy did her best to continue her conversation with the manager of the Ace hardware store. But the man had a tendency to drone on at the best of times and with the new arrival striding through the milling crowd of business owners as if he owned the joint, it was difficult to focus her attention. Her gaze kept wanting to follow his progress. That was de Sanges, right?
She just barely swallowed the self-derisive snort that tickled the back of her throat. Because, please. This might be the last place she expected to see him, but of course it was.
Considering their one and only encounter, however, she didn't feel a burning need to beat herself up for allowing her mind to shy away from the admission.
Still, the truth was, it had taken no more than a glimpse to recognize the tall, lean, muscular body she'd seen only once before. She'd documented the prominent bony nose, those sharp cheekbones and that black-as-a-crow's-feather hair. Was familiar with those long, white-nailed fingers and the dark olive skin that she had a feeling owed more to genetics than exposure to the sun.
Really remembered those dark, chilly eyes. Which she'd watched go hot for a few insane minutes last fall as they'd stood toe-to-toe in Miss A.'s parlor.
Whoa. She firmly corralled her wayward thoughts. Don't even go there, girl. Okay, so it was Detective Sheik, as Janie insisted on calling him. Big deal. But her face went hot and her mouth went dry, and she had to fight like hell not to squirm at the memory of Ava saying that for a minute there she'd feared Poppy and de Sangesa man none of them had even met until that afternoonmight start going at it hot and heavy in the middle of the parlor.
Because her friend had been right. Poppy had never experienced anything quite so visceral as what she'd felt that day with the tall, dark cop.
"Everyone seems to be here," Garret Johnson, the president of the Merchants' Association, said over the babble of conversation in the Park Department's field house conference room. "Let's take our seats and get this meeting under way."
Eking out a breath of relief at having the plug yanked on that particular memory, she watched de Sanges from the corner of her eye until he pulled out a chair at the rectangular table. Then she took a seat at the opposite end.
It would have been even better if she could've nabbed one on the same side. That way she wouldn't be able to see him at all without making a concerted effort. But Penny, the owner of Slice of Heaven Pies, beat her to the last chair on de Sanges's side. Oh, welltoo bad, so sad for her. Taking a seat across from the other woman, she exchanged idle chitchat for a few moments until the president rapped his knuckles on the wooden tabletop to call the meeting to order.
"Okay, as everyone knows," he said the instant the last holdout conversation fizzled into silence, "we're here today to decide what to do about the three boys who were caught tagging our businesses. But before we get into that, I'd like to introduce everyone to Detective Jason de Sanges from the Seattle Police Department. He's on the mayor's special task force to reduce burglaries and has kindly agreed to sit on our panel. Detective." He turned toward the cop and Poppy automatically turned in her seat to look at de Sanges as well. "Allow me to introduce you to our motley crew."
He went around the table performing introductions and, when he came to her, said, "This is Poppy Callo-way. She's not actually a merchant, but she's on so many of our 'boards' that we consider her an honorary member of the association."
It was a standing joke, since she designed the menu and Today's Specials black or white boards for several of the business owners here today.
De Sanges nodded and looked at her for a suspended instant with those dark, uncompromising eyes. "Ms. Calloway and I have met."
Everyone present turned to stare at her and she could almost taste the rampant curiosity and speculation. "Don't look at me as if I were a suspect in one of his cases," she said dryly. "You all heard about the theft we had at the Wolcott mansion a few months ago. Detective de Sanges came out to take a report when we were dissatisfied with the response we got from the first officer on the scene."
De Sanges had been dissatisfied as wellthat Ava had used one of her many contacts to have him brought in. So he hadn't been there voluntarily, and he and Poppy had definitely gotten off on the wrong foot when she'd taken exception to what she'd perceived as his lack of concern over a break-in at the mansion that she, Jane and Ava had only recently inherited from Miss Agnes's estate. Well, could you blame her? He had all but said he'd been yanked off a real job in order to look for their silver spoons.
Which was nothing short of ironic when you considered that only Ava had been born to money. Poppy and Jane came from working-class neighborhoods. They'd all met in the fourth grade at Country Day school Janie attending on a scholarship and her own tuition paid by Grandma Ingles, who was herself an alumni. Even todaydespite inheriting an estate that was short on cash but long on priceless collectibles and valuable real estateAva was the only one of them who had any discretionary income. Jane was still inventorying Miss A.'s collections and the mansion was a long way and a small fortune from being saleable, which was their ultimate goal.
Still, in the wake of Jane's run-in with the thief, they'd learned de Sanges hadn't just blown them off but had interviewed Jane's coworkers at the Metropolitan Museumhad in fact spent the most time talking to Gordon Ives. And since Gordon had eventually been arrested for the crime, Poppy thought she could probably cut the detective some slack and agree he had done his job after all.
"I'd like to open the meeting for discussion," Garret said. "I know everyone here was disturbed about how young our graffiti 'artists' were and you no doubt want to thrash out whether or not to press charges against them. Anyone whose business was tagged is, of course, free to do so at any timethis isn't a case of majority rules. But we're here to entertain all reasonable suggestions, both pro and con. So let's get some dialogue going, people."
No one said anything for a long, silent moment, then Jerry Harvey, whose H & A on the Ave on the corner had taken the biggest brunt of the vandalism, said, "I'd like to know who's going to clean up the side of my shop." He'd been the first to spot one of the kids tagging the café across from him when he'd gone to lock the front door of his funky home-decorations and art-framing shop for the night.
A few of the merchants grumbled agreement. The Ace Hardware manager pushed for pressing charges.
Poppy took a breath and quietly released it. "I have a suggestion," she said. "I know I don't have the same stake in the outcome of today's meeting as the rest of you. But I was at the Hardwire when Jerry caught the kids, and frankly I was disturbed by how young they are. The officer who came in response to your call, Jerry, said this is their first brush with the law. Rather than see them thrown into the system I'd like to offer an alternate solution that directly relates to your question."
All the merchants involved in Friday night's excitement gave her their undivided attention. De Sanges's eyes narrowed.
"I think it might benefit all of the businesses to give the kids something to keep them busy," she said. "To provide them with an artistic outlet that I believe we'd find more palatable than taggingwhich I freely admit I don't get. At the same time we could teach them to take responsibility for their actions."
"How?" Garret asked.
"First by having them clean up the tagging with a fresh coat of paint that they either have to provide themselves or work off by sweeping or handling other odd jobs for the businesses they defaced."
"I like that so far," Penny said thoughtfully. "Except Marlene's place is brick, so how does that benefit her?"
"There are gels and pastes that dissolve paint from brick, and the same rules would applythey'd supply whatever's needed."
Almost everyone noddedincluding Jerry. But he also pinned her with a suspicious look. "So where does the 'artistic outlet' part come in?"
Poppy knew this was where things could go south. But it wasn't for nothing she'd grown up with parents who got involved in causes on a near-daily basis. Not to mention the way her idea tied in to her own personal passion: bringing art to at-risk kids. Drawing a deep breath, she gave Jerry her best trust-me smile, then quietly exhaled. "I propose we keep them off the streets by letting them paint a mural on the south side of your building."
Oh, for cri'sake. Jase leaned back in his chair and examined the woman he had privately labeled the Babe. Which, okay, wasn't exactly a hardship since the whole packagethat lithe body, exotic brown eyes and cloud of curly Nordic-pale hairwas very examinable.
He knew from experience, however, that she was a pain in the ass. And didn't it just figure? She was a damn bleeding-heart liberal to boot.
Earlier, when he'd walked in and seen her chatting up one of the guys in this group of small-business owners, you could have knocked him off his feet with a blade of grass. He hadn't understood why she was here, since as far as he knew she wasn't a merchant herself. Hey, as far as he could see, she didn't do anything useful. Of course, since he had firmly resisted the urge to run a check on her after their previous run-in, he could be wrong about that.
In any case, the president of the Merchants'Association had explained it when he'd said that Calloway was a board member.
Well, of course she was. He should have figured that out for himself after meeting her and her two rich-girl buddies last fall, when they'd used their connections with the mayor to have him yanked off a job where an old lady had been hospitalized by a mugger in order to look for their missing tea towels.
Okay, so it had turned out to be more than thata lot more. But contrary to the Babe's accusation that he couldn't be bothered to do his job, he had been following the exact letter of the law when he'd told her there wasn't much he could do for them. But he'd nevertheless been digging into Gordon Ives's background when he got the call that a patrol officer had just arrested the man for another break-in at the Wolcott mansionthis one involving a threat against Jane Kaplinski's life.
All of which had squat to do with today's situation. He listened for a moment as Calloway outlined her harebrained scheme. He kept waiting for someone to shoot it down, but when he instead saw several of the merchants nodding their heads, he couldn't take it any longer. "You're kidding me, right?"
Slowly, she turned her head to look at him. "Excuse me?"
"I figure this has to be a joke, because you can't possibly be serious. They broke the law. You want to reward them for that?"
Her eyes flashed fire, giving him an abrupt flash of his ownof déjà vu. Because he was no stranger to that phenomenonher eyes had done the exact same thing when she'd leaned over him in the chair where he'd sat in the mansion parlor, taking their report last year. Serious chemistry had flared to life between them, but he was damned if he planned to fall prey to that again.
Maybe she was thinking along the same lines, because she didn't climb over the table to get in his face the way she had last time. Instead, she said coolly, "No, Detective, I am not kidding. I'm pretty darn serious, in fact. These aren't hardened criminals we're talking aboutthey're children, the oldest barely seventeen."
"Yeah, they start 'em young these days," he agreed.
"It's not as if they committed a violent crimethey didn't mug an old lady or attempt to rob someone at gunpoint at the ATM machine." Her eyes narrowed. "Or commit a burglary of any kind," she said with slow thoughtfulness, and he could almost smell the circuits burning as she followed that thought to its logical conclusion.
"They didn't commit a burglary," she repeated, gazing around the table at the other occupants. Then she looked him dead in the eye. "So why are you sitting on this panel, again?"
Excellent question. When Greer had offered to put his name in for the mayor's task force he'd given his lieutenant an immediate and firm "Thanks, but no thanks." Then, like an idiot, he'd let Murphythe old cop who had stepped in years ago to take him in hand before the de Sanges genes could screw him up entirelytalk him into changing his mind. Murph had insisted that if Jase wanted to wear those lieutenant bars himself somedaywhich he didhe needed to start making his name known to the powers that be. And a good way to do that was to be part of these task forces even if this particular one was more about election-year public relations than the war on crime.
So here he sat, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
Not letting his thoughts show, however, he merely met her suspicious gaze with the cool straightforwardness of his own, evincing none of his reluctance to be part of this dog-and-pony show. "Because this is how we so often see it begin. Baby street punks grow up to be full-fledged street punks. Today it's tagging or stealing some other kid's lunch money at schoolif they even bother to show up at school, that is."
"So perhaps we should make that a condition of my proposal. No school, no participation in the art project."
Slick, he thought with unwilling admiration, but said as if she hadn't spoken, "Tomorrow it's mugging some little old lady in the parking lot at Northgate." Pulling his gaze away from the Babe's, he included the entire table of merchants in his regard. "Or right here in your own community."
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'm glad I gave Poppy's story a chance. The chemistry between Poppy Calloway and the hero Jason de Sanges is there from the beginning. As Poppy and Jase over come their first impressions of each other which had them thinking each other was hot, but not what they were looking for in a date; you find yourself involved in the story and caring about the two main characters as well as the secondary ones--not only Jane and Ava (her friends), but the troubled teenagers she is trying to save.
Jason de Sanges, a child of the foster care system, comes from a family where the men are in and out of jail. He is the exception due to the caring intervention of a crusty cop. Jase lives by the rules in order to manage his surroundings and in his mind not become like his father and brother. Enter Poppy Calloway, a free spirited artist, who challenges Jase's rigid unbending rules. When the two are thrown together overseeing three young artists who defaced public property, the sparks fly!
Throw in some mystery with the romance and Susan Andersen has produced a great read! This is Susan Andersen at her best.
Poppy was, and still is, the 'hippie' of the trio. Raised on a commune and the benefits of granola, she uses her talents to work with 'at risk' children. But even she isn't sure how to react when her latest project acquires an overseer...Detective de Sanges. This would be the same man who makes her girly parts not just hum, but break into full operatic arias! If only he wasn't so...by the book...frustrating...really, really HOT.
Jason comes from a family of cons and he's pretty sure the only thing keeping him from the same fate is his devotion to rules and regulations. So when his boss orders him to take part in Poppy's program for some 'good ink', he goes...but not happily. He's already had one run-in with Ms. Liberal and doesn't want another...no matter how smoking hot she is.
I like plots where the main characters are very different, yet manage to find a compromise. The electric attraction between these two almost singed my fingers and Andersen can definitely 'bring the heat' when it comes to love scenes. She also manages to focus on the problems of 'at risk' kids without preaching to the audience and that takes a fairly deft touch.
There were no real stutters or holes in Susan Andersen's latest. My biggest beef was with Jason's refusal to grow past his teen version of his character. There was a time or two when I wanted to smack him upside the head...or was praying that Poppy would! Other than that minor annoyance, it was a very fun read with a good bit of humor.
Poppy Calloway always believed in giving back to her community and letting others have a second chance. When some first time offenders spray paint some walls in the community, Poppy wants to give these teens a chance to make it right. This doesn't sit well with Detective Jason de Sanges.
Detective Jason de Sanges doesn't see much good in the world around him. The males in his family seem to spend more time in jail then out of it. Luckily Jase had a met a cop who took an interest in him growing up and Jason walks the straight and narrow 24/7. He tries everything he can to get out of helping Poppy with her little "community art project."
Jason grudgingly gets in the spirit of working with Poppy and her teens. But spending time with her has him rethinking some of his strict by the book rules. She gets under his skin and makes him think he can have it all. Poppy sees more in Jason then just the strict layman, can she help him to see that they have a chance to beat the odds?
Bending The Rules is a book you will want to re-read several times. It stays with you long after you are done. It is very sexy, sweet, and emotional and has well written characters. Susan Andersen books are keepers for me. I can't wait to read the next book in this delightful series.
Jase is further upset when his superiors think Poppy's idea is terrific. Making matters even more poisonous to the cop is he is named to supervise the teen artists. Finally the topper to his anger is his attraction to Poppy upsets him further. That is until a series of accidents that he believes were intentional makes him feel the need to keep his pain in the butt woman safe even if she is a flying liberal.
The incredibly deep cast including tertiary characters makes for a strong upbeat good contemporary romantic suspense. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the lead pair butt heads and never slows down as free spirit Polly teaches by the book Jason CUTTING LOOSE (Poppy's friend Jane's story) is okay in moderation unlike the men in his family who spent time in jail while he grew up in foster care. Though similar in tone to CUTTING LOOSE even with the suspense subplot, fans will enjoy the education of Jason.
Poppy is dedicated to giving back to the community, especially by inspiring teenagers with an outlet of drawing and painting. De Sange is a by-the-book police officer who knew only too well what could happen once a person starts leading a life of crime due to his family who have been in and out of jail his entire life. When these two are thrown together to oversee the punishment of three teens who are caught tagging some buildings by having to repaint them, it's like oil and water, but there's an attraction there that just will not go away.
I loved the lightness of the book and the great interactions, not only between Poppy and Jason, but between Poppy and her "sisters", Poppy and her teens, and Jason and the teens. This is an easy read which made me breeze through the book in a number of hours. I am wondering who will star opposite of Ava in the next book and I really hope it's going to be Finn and not Cade Calderwood Gallari.
Overall, if you've read Cutting Loose and liked it, you'll love Bending the Rules!