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Chapter 1


 

The doorbell rang and Molly threw her hands up in the air in disgust. It was probably their fussy, elderly neighbor… again… complaining about the noise! Old Mr. Arbogast should try to live with the roommate from hell, and then perhaps he would understand why she was so upset! Instead, he lived with an ugly cat that growled like a dog!

Molly reminded herself not to take her temper out on the elderly man. It was not his fault that Natalie was an irresponsible ninny. She threw open the door and her mouth dropped open in shock. Instead of Old Mr. Arbogast, she was looking at a police officer. A very handsome police officer, who was not smiling. Her heart pounding, she asked the first question his presence raised, "Oh my God, please tell me my Gramma is all alright? Has something happened?" She remembered only too well the night her parents were killed and the policeman came to the door! She didn't want anyone in Natalie's family to be hurt, either! The Officer's presence was not welcomed, especially if it meant someone was hurt in some way! His knocking on their door could only mean trouble for one of them!

"Your family is fine, Miss. I am Police Sergeant O'Keefe, and I am answering a disturbance call to this residence." He did not wait to be invited inside the apartment, but cautiously made his way inside, his senses on alert for any kind of danger. He calmly shut the door while watching the little redhead put her hands on her hips in what his Pop would call 'female attitude' and would usually earn one of the ladies in the house a good spanking! Michael knew that all five of his sisters were spanked when they earned a spanking, and although his Pop and Ma never said anything, he was pretty positive that his Ma wore a tender bottom at times, too. Pop wasn't one to put up with 'female attitude'. He didn't tolerate backtalk from his six sons, either!

"Oh get real!" Molly exclaimed in irritation, her green eyes snapping with temper.

"I assure you I am very real," Michael O'Keefe replied solemnly. The woman was tiny and he was sure he could deal with her if the need arose. Still, that did not mean she was not armed, or that the female she had been arguing with was not armed and dangerous. Michael hated going on domestics alone, but this was a small town, faced with budget cuts, and after the last tax levy failed, their police force was cut. They barely had enough men and women to cover each shift, and most of the officers were forced into overtime just to keep themselves safe when dealing with serious situations. "May I have your name, Miss?" he asked in his best professional voice.

"Molly Henderson," she replied, glaring at him. "Did Old Mr. Arbogast call you to tattle on us? After all, it is eight o'clock and past his bedtime!" The last was added with sarcasm.

"There was a complaint called in. I was not informed who made the call."

"It had to be Old Mr. Arbogast!" she angrily declared, stomping her foot in pure anger. "He should be forced to try and live with that dumb blonde bimbo for just one week and then he would change his tune!" she complained. "All he has to worry about is a nasty old cat who thinks he is a dog!"

"Where is your roommate now?" Michael asked, calmly.

"When we heard the doorbell, she started cleaning up the mess in the kitchen in case you were someone important," Molly answered with a smirk, and then she raised her voice and yelled, "Natalie Jamison, the police are here to arrest you!"

"You are not funny, bitch!" Natalie's hostile voice came from the kitchen area of the apartment. "Shut your fucking mouth!"

Michael wished he wasn't in uniform, and that he had the right to turn Molly Henderson over his knee for a damned good spanking! "Miss Jamison, come in here, please." He did his best to keep his voice neutral, but firm enough and loud enough to carry the distance to the kitchen and convey to Molly's roommate that she needed to comply. He kept his dark eyes trained on the doorway, praying she wouldn't come through the opening carrying a gun or knife.

"This is so fucking not funny!" Natalie swore and Michael heard her slam something in the kitchen before she stomped in their direction. The blonde's blue eyes opened wide as her jaw dropped open when she saw Michael. He wanted to laugh, but fought the urge and frowned instead.

"Why do you want to arrest me?" Natalie asked in a tiny voice, tears filling her blue eyes.

"I am not here to arrest you, Miss Jamison. I was called on a complaint of loud voices arguing and disturbing the peace. I want both of you to sit down and tell me what this is all about." He wasn't a counselor, but if he could diffuse the situation without filing charges, all the better. It was customary procedure to ask a male to leave for the night, but when it was two women arguing, he hated to make one of them leave. "Sit down," he said a bit more forcefully when the two young women continued to stare at him in disbelief.

"You do not have the right to order us about in our own home!" Molly stood her ground and looked at him, her hands still on her hips. "You can tell Old Mr. Arbogast that we will keep the noise down so he can go to sleep. I know it is past his bedtime, the old coot!"

"Miss Henderson, you will either sit down or I will handcuff you and take you in on charges of disturbing the peace."

Molly looked at the tall, unsmiling man. He showed no sign of caving in to her temper as she was used to men doing. In fact, he looked positively threatening. "All right, I will sit down, but only because I want to, not because you told me to!" She took a seat on the sofa, as far away from Natalie as possible. "This is all your fault!" she hissed at the other female.

"MY fault!" Natalie responded immediately. "You are the one who is unreasonable all of the time. So what if I don't want to fucking do the dishes the very second we are done eating! You never run the vacuum until it fucking suits you! And, who ends up paying the rent every goddamn month? You always have some excuse for not having your share of the money."

"The only reason you have money is because Jimmy Parsons pays you for sex!" Molly accused, jumping to her feet and pointing her finger at the other female.

"That is not true, bitch! You are so evil minded it's not funny! My Dad gave me the money, not Jimmy… and we are in love, so there!"

"Love? You call him coming over for sex twice a week love? The only thing he loves about you is that you're easy."

"ENOUGH!" Michael raised his voice to be heard. "You are leaving for the night, Miss Henderson," he looked at Molly. "It is obvious that the second I leave the fighting will only escalate."

"She should be the one to leave!" Molly argued. The plain truth was that she had nowhere to go, and no money, either.

"Why should I leave when I've paid the rent for the last three months? I don't want you for a roommate, Molly Henderson. I want your things out of here tomorrow by the time I get home from work."

"You can't do that!"

"Yes, I can! Daddy has been after me to get rid of you and stop your freeloading for weeks now. The lease is in my name. I'm tired of fighting with you over stupid stuff like when to wash the dishes. You be out of here tomorrow by five o'clock, or I'll have you evicted. Make her leave now, Officer!" Natalie was smug.

"Let's go, Miss Henderson. You can return for your belongings in the morning." Michael did not understand why he felt as though he was rescuing the little redhead, but he did not like or trust Natalie Jamison. For one thing, her cursing made him want to wash her mouth out with soap, but he honestly didn't think she was worth the effort. There was something fragile about Molly, however, and while he thought her backside needed a good blistering, there was still a note of respect in her voice for Mr. Arbogast, even when she was angry with the man. He didn't think she was a bad person, just a young female in need of some firm guidance applied to her cute little posterior.

Molly felt as though she'd been knocked down and kicked. Where was she supposed to go? She didn't even have a car, and her finances were hopeless. At the most she had enough to get a coffee. She would have to walk to an all night diner and hope they did not kick her out. Then, what would she do in the morning? She had no place to put her belongings. She wasn't close with any of her co-workers, and frankly, she didn't want them to know of her predicament. It was a small town, and with her luck, Natalie would start spreading vicious rumors.

"This is all your fault, you know!" she said accusingly, looking up at the tall man who was right beside her.

"No, it is your fault for disturbing the peace."

"You saw what she is like!" Molly defended herself.

"Do you need a ride somewhere, Miss Henderson?" he asked in his best professional voice. His shift ended twenty minutes ago, and he wanted to get back to the station, do his paper work, and go home. He was tired.

"No!" Pride forced her to refuse his offer, even though it was a long walk to the edge of town.

"Do you have family you can call for a place to stay for the night?" he asked, feeling responsible for her safety.

"Look, you did what you came to do! Now leave me the hell alone! I never want to see you again!" Molly declared, taking her frustration out on him.

"Good night, Miss Henderson," Michael forced himself to reply in a civil tone of voice. What he wanted to do was put her over his knee and smack her backside until she couldn't sit down. He quickly walked to his patrol car, and when he passed her she flipped him off! It took all of the self-discipline he possessed to keep right on driving and pretend he didn't see the gesture.

Molly's feet were aching by the time she reached Steak and Shake. She could smell the burgers and fries and her stomach rumbled in response. The greeter seated her, and Molly asked for ice water. She didn't really need a menu, but she pretended to look. Maybe she could order something small and get coffee… She quickly checked her available cash, sighed deeply, and settled for coffee, telling the server she wasn't very hungry, just needed to have some caffeine. The motherly woman smiled at her and promised she would be right back. It did not take long for her to bring the coffee and Molly liberally used creamer and sugar. She pondered her options, of which there were few. She literally had no one she could turn to for help. Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was ten years old, and her only living grandmother took her in and finished raising her… in spite of her bad health. Now Gram was in a nursing facility, and it took all of Molly's salary to pay for Gram's care. While other young people her age were buying clothes and cars, she was scrimping and living as cheaply as she could to ensure her Gramma had everything she needed. Molly's clothes came from the Goodwill or Salvation Army stores, and up until three months ago, she'd lived with a roommate from college. Gloria understood her situation, and let her get away with being late with her share of the rent when Gram needed something. Molly always paid her back, even if it meant taking a part time job at Christmastime to make extra money. Molly did that every year, and it did help to offset her expenses, but it was still too soon for those jobs to open up, and she knew of no one looking for a roommate. Life looked pretty glum at the moment, and it was all that policeman's fault! Molly's temper simmered as she relived the experience, adding all the insulting things she should have said when she had the golden opportunity to do so.

********************

Michael was relieved to be off duty, and know that he wouldn't have paperwork staring him in the face in the morning when he had to be at work early. He didn't know why the Chief wanted to see him, but when he was called in for a meeting on his day off, it was best to be on time. He pulled into Steak and Shake for his usual burger and chocolate shake, and to check in on his Aunt Jenny. She worked a late shift, and he liked making sure she wasn't having any trouble. She was as independent as the rest of his family, and since Uncle Ed died a couple of years ago, Aunt Jenny insisted on working to supplement the pension he left her. Michael knew she wasn't hurting for money, and he suspected she worked to get out of the house and to escape the memories it held.

"Hiya, Michael!" she greeted him the second he walked in the door and Michael realized she'd been watching for him.

He smiled and said, "Hi, Aunt Jenny! How are you tonight?" He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek she turned up.

"Why, I'm fine, sugar. How was your shift?"

"Nothing major," he stated, and then he spotted Molly Henderson, and she was giving him a hateful look. He leaned down and whispered, "Don't put me over on that side tonight, Aunt Jenny. I just had to go on a call involving that redhead over there and she is not happy with me."

"Why, she's a sweet little thing!" Jenny said in surprise. "What was wrong?"

"You know I can't tell you about that," he gently scolded, and then followed her to the other side of the restaurant from Molly Henderson.

"Do you want your usual, sugar?" Jenny asked with a smile.

"Yes, please," he replied.

"It'll be right out. Now you just relax. If that little girl starts trouble, I'll finish it!" she declared, ready to protect the nephew that was a foot taller than her and outweighed her by a good eighty pounds.

"Okay, Aunt Jenny," he answered, grinning ear to ear, thinking that his brothers would get a huge kick out of the idea of Aunt Jenny protecting him! He could feel Molly Henderson's green eyes boring a hole through him, but he had been in situations of this sort before and he chose to ignore the young female in the hopes she would behave herself.

Jenny walked over to Molly's table with the coffee pot in her hand, "Would you like more coffee, dear?" she asked kindly, sensing Molly's distress.

"Yes, please," she answered with a smile for the older woman. "Thank you so much."

"Are you sure you don't want a steak burger, dear?"

"I can't afford one," she answered truthfully, the words slipping out because her mind was on the handsome cop.

"Why didn't you say so, hon? We can't have you hungry. You just let Aunt Jenny take care of you."

She was off before Molly could stop her, and Molly felt her face burn in embarrassment. It was all that damn cop's fault! Molly jumped to her feet, her temper flaring out of control as she picked up her glass of ice water and rounded the block of booths between her and her prey.

Michael sensed 'danger' and turned just as Molly rounded the back booths with her water glass in hand. He knew immediately what she intended… After all, he had five sisters, and it wasn't the first time a female wanted to drown him! He wasn't having it, however, and he was on his feet, and had the glass out of her hand before she could throw the contents at him. "You have a choice, Miss Henderson. You can sit your butt down right here and behave yourself, or I will forget I am off duty and haul you in and you can spend the night in jail."

"You wouldn't do that!" she cried out in dismay. "I would lose my job!"

"Then I suggest you sit down and stop acting like a bratty child in need of a good spanking." Her green eyes filled with shock at his words. He read in that instant that she knew he was capable of turning her over his knee and doing just that if she provoked him, and he was provoked enough for one evening. "Well?" he demanded, well aware that Aunt Jenny was bearing down on them.

"I'll sit. Let me go," she whispered, suddenly aware that they were being stared at. If word of this got back to the stuffy law firm she worked for she would be fired. If she were fired, Gram wouldn't get the care she needed! Her face paled. "Please, I am sorry!"

"Michael, you let go of this child right now," Jenny scolded. "She's hungry," she added, as if that explained everything.

Michael couldn't resist the urge to chuckle. "Aunt Jenny, you would solve all the world's problems with food, wouldn't you?" he teased.

"It couldn't hurt anything, now could it?" she retorted. She placed Molly's handbag in the booth and urged her to sit down.

Molly had no choice. Of course, her server just had to be related to the cop! Could this day possibly get any worse?

"Don't cry, Miss Henderson," Michael said softly when he realized she was doing her best not to burst into tears. "Why don't you let me call someone to help you?" he asked in a gentle tone of voice.

"There is no one," she informed him. "My only living relative is in a nursing home. I don't have many friends here, and none who can help me. They all have their own problems."

"I'm sorry to hear that. What about a motel room until you can find another place to live?"

"That would be nice if I had more than two dollars to my name. You threw me out on the street… I have nowhere to go!" She saw the guilt in his eyes. "You could have tossed Natalie out. She could go to her parents' house and stay."

"Is the lease in her name?"

"Yes."

"Do you owe her rent?"

"Yes, I do, but I don't get paid until the fifteenth. I planned to pay her then."

"Did she agree to that?" he asked.

"Yes, she did. I explained that to her when I moved in. I get paid twice a month, on the fifteenth and the thirtieth. She said that was no problem."

"Why didn't you pay her on the thirtieth?" Michael knew he was being nosy, but there was something about this young woman that tugged on his heart.

"I had another commitment that comes first. Natalie knows about that, too!"

"Car payment? Credit cards?"

"No. I don't own a car because I can't afford one! I take care of my Gramma," she added. "She is my responsibility. She raised me and took care of me, and now it is my turn to take care of her."

"Here you go," Jenny broke into their too serious conversation as she sat large platters of food in front of them. She also brought milk shakes for them both and winked at Molly. "Now don't you fret; Michael is buying." She giggled and then walked away.

"I did not order this," Molly said helplessly. "I told her I couldn't afford food…!"

"Aunt Molly thinks that food will save the world. Go ahead and eat, Molly. I'm buying," he said with a smile.

"Only because she is forcing you to buy!" Her pride was rearing its ugly head.

"Molly, eat your meal right now or I swear by all I hold sacred I am going to turn you over my knee right here and right now and give you the spanking I've wanted to give you since you answered the door earlier tonight."

"You can't do that!"

"I can do that. I am bigger than you, and I am stronger. I assure you it might not be the smartest thing to do under the circumstances, but I am out of patience. Now, do I need to spank you before I can eat my dinner, or are you going to be smart and eat?" He heard her stomach rumble then. "Good grief, Red, you are hungry. Stow the pride and eat, please?" He felt terrible for putting her in such a predicament. She was basically homeless right now and it was his fault for not making sure she had somewhere she could go.

Molly wanted to cry, but she was hungry, and the hunger won out. Her food supply ran out two days ago… and she was starving. "Thank you, Officer. I will pay you back on the fifteenth, I promise."

"This is my treat, Molly. Please don't insult me by refusing a simple meal. This isn't some fancy restaurant… and I can afford to feed a guest."

"Thank you," she whispered, remembering the manners Gram taught her. She then attacked the French fries with gusto.

Michael quickly realized that Molly Henderson hadn't eaten for a while. She wasn't just hungry; she'd been starving herself to have money to pay for her grandmother's care. He tried to put himself in her shoes, but couldn't. He had a huge family, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, not to mention all of his aunts and uncles and cousins and their families. Michael was rich in family. It was hard to imagine being all alone in the world. He was startled to realize he wanted, no needed, to help little Molly. He did not try to talk to her while they ate their meal. She cleaned her plate, and sipped her milkshake to the very bottom of the large glass.

"That was really good," she told him with a contented smile.

"I know; it's one reason I come here so often after work, or during work, depending on the shift."

"You also come here to check on your Aunt," Molly said, startling him.

"Don't tell her that, or she'll come undone all over me," he whispered as Jenny headed toward their table.

"Did you two get enough to eat?" she asked with a big smile.

"I sure did, Aunt Jenny," he answered.

"Me, too. It was really good, and I thank you for taking care of me," Molly said emotionally.

"It was my pleasure, dear. I hope you two got things straightened out?" she asked.

"I was over-reacting, and I am sorry for that," Molly said contritely.

"I am sure Michael knows that, dear. Now, you be a gentleman and see this child home, young man," Jenny ordered in the same tone she used when he was much younger and she wanted to be obeyed.

"I will take care of Molly, Aunt Jenny, I promise." He leaned down to kiss her again, and then handed her the invoice and money to cover it. "Keep the tip this time, Aunt Jenny!" he ordered sternly.

"It goes into the jar for our cause of the moment… You know that, Michael." She winked and then giggled.

Michael took Molly's arm and led her outside. She tried to pull free when he tried to put her into his car. "Get in, Molly."

"No! You are a stranger, and I don't get into cars with strangers, and I won't pay for dinner the way you seem to think I will!"

"Those words have earned you a bona fide spanking, little girl!"

To be continued…

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