Read Christmas in Texas Online

Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Christmas in Texas (12 page)

With the door ajar, he could hear the nurse telling the patient
to cooperate so she could take his blood pressure. While Flynn waited for her to
finish checking the man’s vital signs, he pulled out his cell phone and primed
it so he could take pictures on the spot.

In another minute the nurse came out of the room looking
rattled. He took that moment to slip in. The patient had been hooked up to
another IV and was in restraints. His arms were covered in tattoos. Flynn
started taking pictures. The patient saw him and turned his head. So much the
better. That gave him some side-view angles for his mug photo.

He would email them to Nyall with instructions to put them into
the computer’s database for a possible match. Flynn moved over to the bed. Going
on a hunch, he said, “How much did Jerry Sinclair pay you to do his dirty work
for him?” If her husband hadn’t been in that camper, then he’d probably hired a
couple of guys to shake her up, and the other one was long gone with the
camper.

The man turned his head to the other side.

“You’re under arrest for kidnapping, stealing personal property
and attempting to cross state lines, which is a federal offense. Assaulting Mrs.
Sinclair at the gas pump adds another grievous charge to the list. They’re
stacking up against you. You want to cooperate first by telling me your
name?”

“Go to hell. I want an attorney.”

“Both can be arranged. I’ll be back. While I’m gone, consider
that if you tell me all you know about Mrs. Sinclair’s husband, I’ll get your
sentence lightened when the judge throws the book at you.”

Chapter Three

One of the police officers had brought all Andrea’s
possessions gathered at the accident site to the room. While the baby slept, she
showered and washed her hair, then changed into another pair of jeans and a blue
cotton sweater with long sleeves.

The doctor had done his rounds and declared her and the baby
fit enough to leave the hospital, on two conditions. First, he wanted her to
check in to a motel and take it easy for another twenty-four hours before she
did anything else. Second, she couldn’t leave the hospital until Captain
Patterson had talked to her again. This was a federal matter and he was in
charge of the investigation.

Andrea had no intention of leaving until she saw the Ranger
again. She owed him her life, because if he hadn’t found Jack, her life wouldn’t
have been worth living. She needed to tell him that in person.

While she drank the juice from her breakfast tray, she heard a
knock on the door.

“Come in.”

Her senses quickened as the Ranger who’d been on her mind
walked into the room. She decided he’d been up all night, since he had a
noticeable beard, but it only made him more appealing, if that was possible.

“Good morning, Mrs. Sinclair.”

“It’s a wonderful morning because of you,” she said in a
tremulous voice. Andrea started to get up from the chair, but he told her to
remain seated and finish her food. Tears smarted her eyes. “How do I thank you
for what you’ve done?”

“All the thanks I need is right here.” He’d walked over to the
crib and smiled down at her son. “He’s sleeping so soundly, you’d never know
he’d lived through such an ordeal.” He glanced at her out of eyes shot with
silver. “The fact that he’s alive is a miracle.”

“I know,” she whispered. “Your being there at the right time
was part of it. I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”

“It’s my job.”

She shook her head. “It’s a lot more than that. You deal with
life and death every day. I’m convinced you were born with the extra capacity to
help your fellow man. My baby is very lucky.”

His expression sobered as he focused his attention on her. “How
are you feeling this morning? I’m talking physically.”

“I’m much better than I thought I’d be. The doctor said I could
leave the hospital after I talked to you.”

“With the caveat that you stay at a motel in town for another
day to recover from the shock.”

The Ranger knew everything. “Yes, he did say that.”

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “I’d like you to take
a look at some pictures.” He walked over to her and leaned down while he slid
his thumb across the screen of his iPhone. An awareness of his masculinity
caught her off guard. “Do you recognize this man?”

“No. I never saw him in my life.”

“He’s the criminal who knocked you down and stole your
car.”

“It wasn’t Jerry?” She jerked her head around, but it brought
their faces so close, they were almost touching. As she jumped to her feet, he
straightened. By now her heart was thudding in her chest for more reasons than
one.

“Does this mean it was some thug who decided to steal my car in
a random act?” She couldn’t believe it.

“My hunch is he and another accomplice are working for your
husband.”

Andrea felt sick again. “If that’s true, then it means Jerry’s
still out there looking for me.”

“Don’t worry. I’m going to get you to a safe place.”

“Is there such a thing?” A tremor ran through her body. “Jerry
has eyes and ears everywhere.”

His jaw hardened. “It doesn’t matter. If your husband had
nothing to do with this, then he doesn’t know where you are. Just the same, I’ll
have my department contact the police in Carlsbad and have him picked up for
ignoring the restraining order, and they can question him.

“If it turns out he planned this kidnapping, then he knows it
failed and the police are looking for him. He’s now a fugitive and I’m going to
catch him.”

He’d said that with spine-tingling conviction. She shivered
when she looked at him. Those gray eyes so warm and tender last night had turned
to flint. Jerry would be no match for him. Captain Patterson was a different
breed of man.

While she stood there trying to absorb everything, Jack started
fussing. She turned to the crib, but the Ranger had gotten there first. “May I?”
he asked. “He and I got acquainted last night. I wonder if he’ll remember me
feeding him a bottle.”

She smiled. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Go ahead.” After what
he’d done, Andrea couldn’t have denied him if she’d wanted to.

He handled her baby so expertly, he had to be a father himself.
“Hey, little guy. How are you this morning?” He put him against his shoulder and
walked the floor with him. “I bet you’re glad to be back with your mommy.”

To her surprise Jack didn’t fight being held by him. “I think
he
does
remember you.”

“Maybe it’s my grizzly beard.”

She chuckled. “Do you have children?”

He kissed the baby’s head. “I did have a daughter. She and my
wife, Michelle, were killed in a plane crash two years ago. Katie was only six
months old.”

“Oh no—” Andrea was devastated by the revelation. There’d been
no miracle for him. “It’s not fair,” she whispered.

“I was thinking the same thing about your situation.” He
flicked her another glance. “Since you need another place to stay until
tomorrow, I’m taking you home with me. It’s the best way I know to keep you safe
if your husband is in Fort Davis waiting for you to be released from the
hospital. After what you’ve been through emotionally, you and the baby need to
get your strength back without any worries.”

Andrea was suddenly short of breath. “I couldn’t ask you to do
that.”

“Since your case has become my responsibility, you’re under my
protection until your husband’s whereabouts are accounted for. I’m off duty
until the day after Christmas. If we go to a motel, it won’t have all the
comforts of home and that’s what you and your baby need. But it’s your decision,
Mrs. Sinclair.”

He’d probably been up twenty-four hours straight by now and was
dying to go home. Of course he was! But because of her, he couldn’t unless she
went there with him. This would be one small way to pay him back. “Then Jack and
I would be very grateful to accept your hospitality, but only as long as you
call me Andrea.”

“That works both ways. The name’s Flynn. While you get
organized, I’ll take Jack’s car seat and install it in the back of my truck.
I’ll ask the nurse to wheel you out to the front doors of the hospital. See you
in a few minutes.”

* * *

F
LYNN
WALKED
OUT
to the parking area. Most of the
cars had been cleaned off, but a few were still covered in snow. He scanned the
lot for signs of a camper, but didn’t see one. The storm front had moved on,
leaving the sun trying to break through clouds.

While he warmed up the truck, he installed the car seat. As
long as he was still alone, he called Nyall to let him know his plans and
learned his boss had put out an APB on an older-model truck camper. Flynn asked
him to get the police to check on the female flight attendant living in
Albuquerque. Maybe Jerry Sinclair was with her, since they’d been involved for a
long time.

They chatted a minute longer, then he drove around to the
hospital’s main doors. No sooner had he jumped down from the cab than he spied
Andrea and the baby being pushed out in a wheelchair. With her hair the color of
a fine white wine, he’d notice her anywhere.

“Perfect timing,” she said as they met under the parapet. Her
startling blue eyes smiled at him.

“I’ll load Jack first.”

“There you go, sweetheart.” She handed him the baby.

He could smell her fragrance on the baby and his blanket. “Come
on, little guy. We’re going to my house.”

Strapping him in was quite a different proposition from last
night when he’d had to release him from his prison. As he went back for the
diaper bag and suitcase, the baby started to cry.

“Uh-oh. Here—” She handed Flynn a baby toy from the diaper bag.
“He likes this blue doughnut the best.”

Flynn could understand why. Her son looked up into eyes that
color all the hours he was awake. In a minute the baby was content and
everything was loaded, including the attractive mother strapped in the front
seat.

He forced himself to look away, needing to concentrate on his
driving and watch for any truck campers she might recognize. “You’re seeing Fort
Davis under unusual conditions,” he said after they’d taken off.

“So I gathered from the weather forecast yesterday. Considering
the time of year, everyone got their surprise white Christmas. It looks pretty.”
She was staring out the side window. “To be honest, I’ve been dreading it since
Thanksgiving.”

If anyone could relate…

Lunchtime traffic on the main street had picked up. He pulled
into a drive-through to get them a hamburger. Once they’d finished eating, he
drove to the next corner and headed for the new housing development where he’d
bought a small one-story house with vaulted ceilings. Flynn had chosen it for
all the windows and the illusion of space. When he’d lost his family, every
dream had been shattered and a light had gone out. Since then he’d had to depend
on the sun to help him get up and face the next day.

“I’ve been gone three weeks, so let’s hope my cleaning lady has
been doing her job.” He hadn’t expected to wind up this last murder case until
the New Year.

He pulled into the driveway and pressed the remote so they
could enter the garage. Seeing his gray Volvo reminded him he hadn’t driven it
in over a month. When he went to the grocery store later, he’d take it to make
sure it still ran.

After he shut off the engine, she turned to him. “I’m aware you
weren’t planning on company, so please don’t apologize for anything. To be
honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to repay you. Rest assured that one
day I
will.

Her sincerity touched a chord inside him. In fact, everything
about her appealed to him. With her wavy blond hair framing classic features,
she was a natural beauty. He found he couldn’t take his eyes off her. The sound
of the garage door closing alarmed the baby, who started to cry, breaking the
moment that had Flynn spellbound.

He levered himself from the cab and went around to undo him.
“Come here, buddy.” It tickled him that when he held Jack against his chest, he
stopped crying.

“My son was rescued by a Texas Ranger and now it appears you
have the golden touch,” Andrea said in a teasing voice. She’d come up behind him
holding her purse and the diaper bag.

Flynn smiled before reaching for the blue doughnut that had
fallen. “We’ll see how long it lasts.” He unlocked the door into the
laundry-room area that led to the kitchen. Except for the cleaning lady and his
family, no woman had crossed his threshold since he’d moved here. He’d never
expected it could happen under any circumstances. What in heaven’s name had
possessed him?

* * *

A
NDREA
TOOK
THE
BABY
from him and
waited in the kitchen until he brought her suitcase in from the truck. Their
eyes met.

“I love all the light! The furnished apartment I’ve been
renting is in an old neighborhood where everything was built in the fifties. You
know the style—California claustrophobic and cheap with that recessed lighting
and heavy drapes. You can breathe here.”

“I like it. In Houston, where I used to live, I also had a much
older two-story house with more bedrooms and a big wooded yard, but a place that
size is no longer necessary.”

She heard the pain in his voice. “Well, this is lovely and
looks brand-new.” The walls were a creamy sand color with matching carpet
throughout.

“I’ll show you around.”

She followed him to the open living room with its gas log
fireplace. With a flick of the wall switch, he turned it on and it started
throwing out heat.

Through the French doors she saw a den with a
comfortable-looking leather couch and chairs. One part contained a table with
computer equipment. On another wall stood an armoire with a television.

Farther on through the house she discovered two large-sized
bedrooms at either end of the hall, each with its own bathroom. “My sisters
decorated for me,” he said. “They know I like traditional furnishings. This one
with blue accent colors will be yours and the baby’s while you’re here.”

He sounded as though she might be his responsibility for a
while, but she didn’t dare impose on him after tonight. “Thank you. I don’t see
a speck of dust. Looks like your cleaning lady has done a great job.”

“I’ll have to tell her. Now, while you two get settled, I’m
leaving to buy some groceries and a few items you’ll need for Jack. Is that
brand of formula the one you like best?” She nodded. “Good. I’ll pick up some
more and a bundle of disposable diapers.”

“Flynn—I-I’d rather go to the store with you.” Her voice
faltered.

“You’re supposed to be resting. Doctor’s orders, remember?
Don’t worry. My house is under twenty-four-hour surveillance effective
immediately. Your only concern should be to relax. I won’t be long.”

After tousling Jack’s hair, he left. She retraced her steps to
the living room and saw him back the Volvo down the driveway. The moment was
surreal.

Andrea looked around, admiring the tasteful furniture and wall
decor. Everything was beautiful, but it didn’t feel lived in and she knew
why....

One thing his house and her apartment had in common. There was
no sign of Christmas.

Jerry had turned her world into such a nightmare, she’d
forgotten what it was like to live an ordinary, happy life. As for Flynn, he
didn’t want to be reminded of what he’d lost. Yet in his grief, he’d reached out
to her and Jack, knowing the joy she felt in being reunited with her son. He was
such a good man.

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