Makeup and Murder

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Chapter 29

“Knock, knock,” Dixie said, rapping gently on Harlan’s office door. He was looking down intently at a file on his desk and didn’t look up right away.

“Harlan,” she said softly.

Harlan snapped his head up, clearly surprised at her unexpected appearance. Dixie grinned. She had made sure that she looked perfect for her visit. From her pale blush dress to her cream-colored shoes, she was perfection.

“Um,” Harlan stammered, taking her in from head to toe. “To what do I owe this visit?”

Dixie was pleased. She had managed to make Harlan Granger blush and left him somewhat befuddled.

“I was just in the area making a delivery to a customer and thought I would stop in and say hello,” she said.

“Well helloooo Dixie,” Harlan said, grinning from ear to ear.

“I thought that we should get together for coffee or something,” Dixie said. She looked at him straight in the eye, defying him to say no. It wasn’t like her to be so direct, but she was determined to change that.

“I’m free for lunch,” he said. “I can’t get away until one o’clock, but how does that sound? You pick the place, my treat.”

Dixie was excited that her plan had worked. A small part of her had expected rejection, but now that she had accomplished her goal she was as giddy as a school girl.

“Perfect!” she replied. “I’ll think about where I would like to go. Would it be okay to sit in the visitor’s waiting room?”

“Of course. There is always fresh coffee and pastries out there, not like in our break room,” Harlan said, wrinkling his nose a little. “Our coffee is more like mud, and the doughnuts are akin to day-old bagels.”

“Sorry,” Dixie said. “I could always sneak you something from the waiting room.”

“Don’t bother. The receptionist has it locked down out there. She likes to remind employees that the coffee and snacks are for visitors. She’s a real battle ax.”

“Ouch,” Dixie said, wincing. “I’ll be sure to steer clear of her then.”

Dixie left to sit in the waiting room. She flipped through a few magazines, but couldn’t find anything interesting to read. Every time someone came through the door from the office area, her heart did a little flip-flop in her chest.

“Who are you waiting for?” the receptionist asked when they were the only two people in the room.

“Officer Granger,” Dixie replied.

Detective Granger,” the receptionist corrected. She eyed Dixie suspiciously then as if she were a teenager who had done something wrong.

There was an uncomfortable silence as Dixie looked away from the receptionist, and then looked for another magazine to thumb through on the table next to her.

“Do you have a meeting with him?” the receptionist asked, clearly not satisfied with Dixie’s response.

“You could say that,” Dixie said, feeling as if she were readying to do battle with the older woman. She tried to stare down the receptionist who was now giving her the stink eye.

After what seemed like an eternity, the receptionist looked away when her phone rang, freeing Dixie from any further conflict with the woman.

Dixie found a magazine to focus on and avoided any further glances in the receptionist’s direction. She missed Harlan coming through the door and didn’t notice him until he was standing right in front of her. Startled, she looked up.

“Ready?” he asked, looking amused at her confusion.

“Oh, yeah, I’m ready,” Dixie said, reaching for her purse and carefully standing up in her high heels.

Harlan offered his arm, and he escorted Dixie out into the sunshine.

“Where are we headed?” she asked as he led her to his car.

“I thought we would go to the Rusty Pelican,” Dixie said. “they have wonderful tropical drinks, and I’m in a tropical destination kind of mood.”

“Tropical, eh?” he asked. “When is the last time you went on a tropical vacation?”

“I never have. I think I’m about due, though, Dixie replied.

“I agree. I could use one myself,” Harlan said, glancing at Dixie as he started the car.

Dixie knew that he was looking at her, but she pretended that she didn’t notice. She smiled to herself, and a sense of calm replaced the butterflies that had been flying around in her stomach.

“Where would you go on a tropical getaway?” he asked, navigating easily through the lunch hour traffic.

“I have always wanted to go to the Florida Keys. Ernest Hemmingway’s old home is there, along with a bunch of polydactyl kitties too,” she said.

“Polydactyl kitties?” he asked.

“Yeah, the ones with extra toes like little mittens,” she explained.

“I can picture you there lying on a warm sunny beach and sipping daiquiris,” he said, grinning.

“I can see myself lying in a hammock enjoying the sun during the day and visiting a honky-tonk bar at night to listen to music and enjoy seafood. I know that is touristy, but so what? It is my idea of a dream getaway. At least for a week or so,” Dixie replied, getting a little excited at the prospect of a vacation.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the Keys too, to fish. I love fishing. I make my own lures too,” he said.

Dixie thought about that for a moment. Harlan had aspects of a renaissance man, but he was tough when he needed to be. Having a man around like him could be an asset, especially if her ex ever decided to come sneaking around again.

“What’s wrong?” he asked when he saw her frowning.

“Oh, nothing. I just let my mind wander for a moment,” Dixie replied.

“I hope it isn’t about Paulina again. She’s going to be locked up for a good, long while. I doubt she’d get parole, even though she would be eligible when she’s an old lady,” Harlan said. “Don’t let her creep into your thoughts and steal your good mood.”

“You’re right. I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life, and I’m not going to squander it worrying about anyone else,” Dixie said, and she meant Mike as well.

“Good. Glad to hear it,” Harlan said, guiding his car into the parking lot of the Rusty Pelican. When they came to a stop, he parked the car and tentatively put his hand over Dixie’s.

Dixie’s face turned a bright shade of pink, but she didn’t try to pull her hand away from him. Instead, she turned and faced him.

“Let’s go in and have lunch, and then we can discuss where we’re going to take our vacation,” Harlan said, looking her straight in the eye.

Dixie found that she couldn’t look away, nor did she want to.

Our vacation?” she asked, perplexed.

“I think we’d have a wonderful time together. I thought we got along pretty well at the cabin; didn’t you think so too?” Harlan asked.

“Yes, of course. I was just surprised that you’d suggest it. We haven’t spent much time together lately,” Dixie said.

“I just wanted to give you a little breathing room. I didn’t want you to like me just because I was your bodyguard for a while. You know, hero worship,” he said.

Dixie laughed. She couldn’t imagine worshipping anyone, even Harlan. He had a lot to learn about what made her tick.

“Harlan, I may just take you up on your offer and take a vacation with you. At the very least, I think we would be great friends,” Dixie said.

“I’ll take the chance,” Harlan said, and he leaned in for a peck on her cheek.

Dixie accidentally turned her head slightly, and he planted a kiss right on her perfectly painted lips. Her heart went zing as if a bolt of electricity had shot through her.

“I think I’d like to take a chance with you too,” Dixie murmured, waiting for another kiss.

Harlan, not wanting to disappoint a lady, kissed her again. When they came up for air, Dixie was all smiles.

“I think we should go in now before someone calls the cops on us,” Harlan said.

Dixie smiled and exited the car. “I’d like to see them try.”

Harlan and Dixie smiled conspiratorially and entered the Rusty Pelican. The hostess greeted them and sat them at a secluded table under a huge, fake palm tree. A candle inside of a coconut shell flickered in the semi-darkness. After the hostess had taken their drink order of two Pina colada’s, Harlan took her hand once more and sang a little tune about Pina Coladas and walking on the beach.

Dixie grinned because she finally had everything she wanted, including Harlan.

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