Read Christmas in Texas Online

Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Christmas in Texas (10 page)

The Christmas Rescue

Rebecca Winters

Dear Reader,

We’ve all heard the expression “When God closes a door, He
always opens a window.” It’s a great saying. I’ve pondered it many times in
regard to those things affecting my life as well as the lives of others. In this
Christmas story, I decided to take two negatives and turn them into a positive.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness and joy when
the world celebrates the birth of Christ. Yet what could be more negative than
for a woman to be fleeing a terrifying situation at this time of year? And what
about a man who would like to blot out Christmas from his consciousness after
the pain another Christmas brought him?

These people meet under the most unlikely circumstances
involving a precious baby. You’ll have to read the story to find out that
miracles
do
happen, even at the most improbable
moment to two people who had a door close on them and definitely need a window
opened.

Enjoy!
Rebecca Winters

I’d like to dedicate this book to all law enforcement workers,
firefighters, paramedics and hospital workers everywhere. These heroes and
heroines sacrifice their lives and time year round, but especially during the
holidays, in order to serve the rest of us.

Chapter One

Have yourself a very Merry
Christmas.

The cheery holiday song serenaded Andrea Sinclair as she
entered the car dealership, but it did nothing to ease her fear and anxiety. She
was in a great hurry.

“Pick out any model you want off the floor, and I’ll wrap it up
for you to drive home in half an hour tops!”

At the sound of the salesman’s voice, Andrea jerked around,
clutching her three-month-old son tighter. “Are you George?”

“Oh—you’ve talked to him already?” He was clearly
disappointed.

“Yes. On the phone earlier. Could you let him know I’m here to
get the Honda?”

“Sure.” He walked away. In another minute she heard George
being paged. “You have a customer waiting out in front.”

Seconds later, a young man came bounding across the showroom
floor. “You’re Andrea?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’ve got your Honda washed and ready to go. Where’s your
Sentra?”

“In the bay where they did the inspection. I left the title on
the seat.”

“Perfect. I’ll drive it around to the used-car lot. Just walk
past these offices to the back and I’ll meet you out there.”

She handed him her car keys. “Thank you so much. You have no
idea how grateful I am.” Her voice shook despite her best effort to remain calm
in front of him.

“Hey—I made some money. It all helps this close to
Christmas.”

Christmas.

Andrea couldn’t think of the holidays now. For three months
she’d been living in fear of her husband. Escape was the only thing on her
mind.

She kissed Jack’s cheek. “Come on, sweetheart. We’re going for
a ride.”
Let’s pray we get a long way past the border
before our junker car conks out.

Outside, she saw to her relief George had parked her
two-year-old car next to the nine-year-old green one she’d just purchased. That
made it easier for her to transfer the car seat and her suitcase. The last thing
to grab was the diaper bag.

She noticed the rear windshield where the temporary permit had
been stuck on; her license plates would come later. George motioned to her from
the glassed-in office. While her baby son kept turning his head to look at
everything, she signed the papers and in a few minutes was ready to go.

“Good luck, Mrs. Sinclair. Merry Christmas.” He handed her the
keys along with the dealership’s calendar for the New Year.

“Merry Christmas to you, too. Thank you for everything.”

In a rush, Andrea got Jack settled and strapped in to his car
seat. After giving him another kiss and a plastic doughnut toy to bite on, she
got in the front seat and started the engine. She was relieved when the car
hummed smoothly to life. George had even filled the tank with gas.
I owe him.

The huge dealership sprawled across several lot lengths. She
wound around to a place where nobody would notice her and pulled out the
jaw-length brown wig she’d bought. Andrea pinned her pale blond ponytail on top
of her head, then pulled on the wig. The change was so remarkable, even she
didn’t recognize herself.

Jack would probably start crying when he didn’t recognize her,
but she didn’t have time to worry about that right now. She looked around,
buckled up and then took off. After a few minutes she reached the 285 leading
south out of Carlsbad, New Mexico, and headed for Texas.

She’d tossed her old cell phone and had bought a new one that
couldn’t be traced. No one could reach her now except her attorney, Sheila
North. The older woman had warned her to tell no one her new number, not even
her best friends. Andrea had been following her advice to the letter.

Thanks to her, Andrea had a safe place to go. She glanced at
the map she’d marked. Alpine, Texas, was her destination. If there were no
problems with the car, she ought to be there by evening. It was only a
three-hour drive. Though the sky looked grizzly and threatened rain, the bad
weather didn’t bother her. She and Jack were finally leaving.

She had a premonition Jerry would try to break in to her
apartment tonight. He’d been harassing her with phone calls and emails, telling
her no restraining order could stop him from talking to her. But she wouldn’t be
there. Not ever again. He’d violated his supervised visitation rights for the
last time.

When he couldn’t find her car, he wouldn’t have any idea where
she’d gone. She wouldn’t put it past him to threaten her friends if they didn’t
break their silence, but it wouldn’t do him any good. Her friends knew nothing
and Andrea had left no clues.

Twice en route she pulled into a rest area, once to change Jack
and another time to feed him. Each time, she removed the wig while she took care
of him. Her little darling was being so good.

Replacing her disguise, she got going. Now a heavy rain was
coming down. After a few miles she saw the big sign she’d been waiting for at
the side of the road. A cry of relief escaped her lips. Welcome to Texas. Drive
Friendly—Texas Way.

“It won’t be long now, Jack.” She consulted her map. When they
came to Fort Davis, she’d buy dinner and gas up. Alpine wouldn’t be that much
farther away. For a distraction, she turned on the radio and listened to the
news. The weather forecast was predicting snow in the Davis Mountains. The
newscaster said it was a rare occurrence and warned people in that area to be
prepared.

Andrea switched off the radio. So far there was only rain, but
she was anxious to reach the next town just in case she ran into a blizzard.
She’d stop at a drive-through for a hamburger and then feed Jack. If the weather
got really bad, she’d find a motel for the night and drive on to Alpine
tomorrow. Anxious as she was to put distance between her and Jerry, her first
priority was her darling son, whose routine had been disrupted enough.

The sky had grown dark as pitch, which might explain why there
was little traffic going in either direction. She was slogging through a slushy
downpour when suddenly snow started in earnest. Soon she came to the outskirts
of Fort Davis; Alpine was only twenty more miles.

Debating whether to stay here or go on, she spotted a
convenience center at the next corner and pulled in next to the nearest pump. No
matter what, she needed gas. A camper van pulled up to one of the other
pumps.

“I’ll be right back, Jack.” Reaching for her credit card, she
jumped out into the snow. The temperature had taken a plunge; at this point, a
motel sounded good. Anxious to finish her task and find lodging for the night,
she’d swiped the card and started to release the gas nozzle when she was
suddenly knocked from behind and thrown forward into the snow.

* * *

F
LYNN
P
ATTERSON
DROVE
his truck along 118 headed for
Fort Davis. The violence of the elements matched his mood and kept sensible
people off the roads. Visibility was bad, and he pulled over to the side of the
road to adjust his windshield wipers so he could see. The snow hit him like an
arctic blast, but he relished it. Anything to drive out the pain.

Three days, and Christmas would be here. If he could just
burrow into this freezing wilderness and not think until it was all over, he
might survive to live again for another year.

For what?

If his psychiatrist heard him ask that question again, he’d
tell him he needed to check in to the hospital for some intense therapy. His
siblings would fall apart if they knew his state of mind.

What do you mean
if
they knew, Patterson?

No one talked about the Christmas season around him, not his
family, not his friends or colleagues. The time of holiday cheer represented a
loss to him too terrible to revisit. He was thankful that his married sisters
lived in Houston and knew enough to leave him alone.

While he drove, he could hear the chatter of the dispatcher
taking calls at police headquarters. It kept him distracted. Flynn had just
solved a big murder case near Van Horn and was officially off duty. He had one
choice at this point. Go home and get reacquainted with the three-quarter-full
bottle of Jack Daniel’s in the cupboard.

It would take the entire contents to blot out the pictures of
his wife and daughter, killed on a commuter flight from Dallas to Houston two
years ago.

It had been only three days before Christmas....

Pain welled from his gut, filling his eyes with tears. As he
was attempting to choke them down, he saw something on his left that jerked him
back to his surroundings. Snow had been falling steadily, but he’d noticed that
a set of car tracks coming from the opposite direction had suddenly disappeared
over an embankment.

He did a quick U-turn and drove to the place where the tracks
went off the road. They were almost buried now, but whoever had lost control of
the car had to have done so in the past five minutes. He called Fort Davis for
backup and gave the coordinates, then he turned off his engine.

Pulling on his gloves, he grabbed his flashlight and stepped
sideways down the deep culvert. An older-model green Honda had rolled several
times and landed on its roof.

Before he could reach the accident site, Flynn heard a baby
screaming its lungs out. The cries came close to sending his heart into cardiac
arrest. He flashed the light around. Glass was everywhere. The front passenger
door had come off. Items from the car were scattered in the snow.

He made his way to the open rear window and saw the baby upside
down in its car seat. On instinct, he reached to feel the seat belt and undo it,
allowing the baby to fall into his arms. Flynn clutched the terrified infant to
his chest and raced up the embankment to his truck.

Whipping off his winter parka, he wrapped the little boy in
it—at least he assumed it was a boy by the blue jeans and baseball shirt he was
wearing. Then he turned on the heat full blast while he examined him. By some
miracle he didn’t see any blood, but hypothermia could have set in.

The baby was in hysterics, haunting Flynn. “Don’t die on me,
little guy. Please don’t die.” He picked him back up and cuddled him against his
shoulder, talking to him the way he used to talk to his precious Katie to
comfort her.

“There’s probably a mother down there unconscious or worse,” he
told police dispatch. “I haven’t heard any other sounds, but the hell of it is,
I can’t go check while the baby’s clinging to me. He’s been traumatized by
what’s happened.”

“Understood.”

“Where’s the damn backup?”

“They should be there any minute, Captain Patterson. Hold
on.”

Flynn had never been so torn in his life. If that were his wife
down there, and no one was helping her… He had to find out.

Hardening himself to the baby’s cries, he laid him down on his
side on the front passenger seat. The vehicle’s interior was nice and warm.
“I’ll only be gone a minute, buddy. I promise.”

Leaving the baby still wailing, he grabbed his gloves and took
off down the embankment again. The ghastly scene tore at his gut while he
hurried around to the other side of the car. The driver’s door had flown open
and he saw the body of a man dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He’d been flung
several yards away and lay facedown in the snow.
Another
driver who hadn’t fastened his seat belt.
Flynn saw no signs of
anyone else.

He hunkered down to feel the pulse in the man’s neck. He was
alive and breathing, but without help, he wouldn’t last long. In case he’d
broken something, Flynn didn’t dare move him.
Please, God.
Get that ambulance here.
The baby needed his
father. Heaven knew he needed his son.

The faint sounds of the baby’s cries galvanized him into
action. He spotted a diaper bag farther afield and stole over to reach inside.
Sure enough, there was a bottle of ready-mix formula and a baby blanket. Leaving
the rest of the accident scene untouched, he grabbed both and hurried back up to
the truck.

He brushed the snow off himself and climbed in the cab. “Here I
am. I’ve got something good for you.” He opened the bottle and turned the nipple
around. “Come on.” Flynn gathered the baby in his arms and put the nipple to his
mouth.

At first the baby fought him. He was a strong little thing,
probably about three months old. Flynn kept at it, coaxing him until he finally
gave a huge trembling sigh and started drinking the cold formula. Every so often
he’d stop swallowing and cry. “I know how you feel, but you’re okay now. Come
on. Be a good boy and drink some more for me.”

After several urgings, the baby began to relax against him,
bringing back memories of comforting his six-month-old girl when she’d bumped
into a chair or pinched her little fingers by accident while learning to crawl.
It had taken time for her to get over her frights, too.

Babies were a miracle, so fragile in some ways, so strong in
others. The poor little guy had been hanging there upside down, but somehow he’d
survived.

He heard a knock on the window and let out a hallelujah.

“Everything all right in here?”

“Yes, but the driver down there is barely hanging on.”

“We’re already bringing him up. Why don’t you hand me the baby
and I’ll take a look at him in the ambulance.”

“That’s all right. I’ll carry him over.” One more upset could
bring on another fit of hysterics. Flynn got out of the truck, shielding the
baby, who’d drained his bottle. Except for an occasional shudder, he seemed more
at peace.

By now the police had arrived and were going over the accident
scene. When everyone was ready to head into town, Flynn reluctantly handed the
baby to the paramedic. That was a mistake. He started crying again. “You go on,
Captain. We’ll take good care of him.”

Flynn had to steel himself to turn his back on the boy. He
followed the ambulance through the snow to the hospital E.R. in Fort Davis, not
able to get there fast enough. The second he shut off the engine, he shot out of
his truck and hurried inside with the officers and paramedics. One of them took
the baby to the nursery. Flynn wanted to go, too, but he couldn’t. He was the
first responder and had to make a report.

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