Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction
A shadow fell over his rugged features. “I wouldn’t plan on it
being that soon.”
“Then I’ll move to a motel. You told me you go back on duty the
day after Christmas.”
“I don’t think you understand. I’ll be working your case until
everything’s tied up and you’re safe. Until further notice, you’re my
responsibility and my house is the best place for you.”
She averted her eyes. “Flynn—that could mean more than a few
“It could. But let’s not worry about it. You have no family, no
job. Do you still have the furnished apartment to return to?”
“No. I paid the last month’s rent when I left.”
“Then there’s no problem with you staying under my roof.”
“There’s a big problem,” she fired back. “When people find out,
“They do anyway, so let them. They know nothing about what
you’ve been through, but I do. That’s all that’s important here.”
The ring of steel in his tone sent a shiver down her spine.
There were times he could be so tender, she wanted to cry. But there were other
times like now when the tough Ranger in him took over.
He hadn’t been able to save his own wife and child, but she
sensed he had a vested interest in Jack since finding him in the storm. She knew
he would do whatever was necessary to make him and her secure for as long as
need be. Deep down inside, Andrea had to admit she loved that quality in
“If I’m going to stay, then I need something worthwhile to do
to earn my keep.”
“Let me think about it.” He didn’t sound as stern as before.
“If you want to know the truth, I’m glad you weren’t able to talk to the
prisoner. You’re a good-looking woman. Cooper would have baited you for the
sheer enjoyment of it. Nothing would have been accomplished except to add to
“You’re probably right about his being cruel.”
You’re a good-looking woman.
He’d paid her a compliment in a context he would have used with
any woman he was protecting to put a point across. Was there anything personal
behind it? She didn’t know.
But there was a part of her that wanted to think it was
Isn’t that right, you foolish girl?
Full of good food, Andrea relaxed as they headed back
to Fort Davis. She couldn’t believe she’d developed feelings for Flynn already.
The more time she spent with him, the worse she knew it was going to get.
Somehow she had to find a way to hide her emotions.
Changing the subject, she said, “Do you have any movies we
could watch after we get home?”
“My favorite is in my stuff somewhere. I haven’t seen it in
“Then it’s an oldie?”
“Yes, but still post-Jurassic,” he said in a teasing tone. To
her relief he sounded more lighthearted again. They drove into Fort Davis and
before long reached the house.
Flynn seemed to love taking care of Jack, so she didn’t say
anything as he carried him inside. When they reached the living room, he put him
down on his back. “It feels good to stretch, doesn’t it, buddy?”
Jack was wide awake, full of excitement. He watched Flynn flip
the switch for the gas fire and turn on the tree lights. His blue eyes followed
the master of the house everywhere he went. The touching scene caught her off
guard, causing her eyes to smart.
To her dismay Flynn trapped her gaze and couldn’t have helped
but notice she’d teared up. “Are you all right?”
She wiped the tears away with her fingers. “I’m just so
grateful to you.”
He sobered. “That works both ways. On the way back from Van
Horn the other night, the thought of coming home to this empty house was
unbearable. Having you here is a gift to me, so that makes us even.”
Andrea believed him and nodded. “I’ll be back in a minute.” She
walked into the bedroom to take off her coat and freshen up. When she returned,
Flynn got up from the floor where he’d been playing with Jack.
“I’m going down to the basement to hunt for my box of old DVDs.
Don’t go away.”
The second he started to leave, Jack began crying. She reached
for the baby to comfort him, then turned to Flynn. “Did you hear that? You’ve
got an admirer. Don’t be too long or we may have a disaster on our hands.”
He smiled at her from the kitchen. “Hang in there, Jack!”
She carried him around the room and they looked out the front
windows until Flynn returned. “That was fast.”
“My sisters marked all the cartons during the move. That made
it easy.” He opened a shoe box and filed through the disks. “Ah—here it is.” He
handed it to her.
A Christmas Story.
Her eyes flew to
his. “This is my favorite, too. I fell in love with Ralphie. He was the cutest
boy I ever saw. It never felt like he was acting.”
Flynn nodded. “He was like every kid who ever wanted one
special thing for Christmas and he wanted that Red Ryder BB gun. I was seven
years old at the time this movie came out. When his dad finally told him to look
behind the desk for his present, I bawled my eyes out.”
“So did I. Did that movie sow the seeds for you to become a
“Probably that and a dozen other reasons.”
“There was a murder case in Houston involving an employee at my
father’s insurance agency. The police bungled it and it took several years
before the killer was caught. I was so sure I could have handled it better, I
decided to go into law enforcement.”
She eyed him for a brief moment. “Have you solved all the cases
you’ve been given?”
He rubbed the side of his hard jaw. “No. There must be half a
dozen cold ones sitting in my files. They haunt me.”
“I’m sure they do, but since it’s Christmas Eve, let’s only
think happy thoughts. I’m one person who can testify you’re the best of the
best. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me and
Jack.” She gave him back the DVD. “Now it’s time to put my baby down for a his
“So soon?” Flynn actually sounded disappointed.
“He’s not going to like being away from you, but if he stays on
his routine he won’t get cranky. You don’t want to know what that’s like.”
“Mother knows best.” He kissed Jack’s temple. In the process
Flynn’s cheek brushed hers. She knew it was by accident, but rivulets of
magmalike heat worked their way through her body. “While you settle him, I have
an errand to run, then we’ll get down to some serious movie watching.”
* * *
a few purchases, his cell
phone rang. When he saw the caller ID, he walked to the end of the aisle where
he could talk in private and clicked on. “What have you got for me, Nyall?”
“Plenty. Stanley Cooper said you told him you would cut him a
deal with the judge if he told you what he knew, so he fingered the guy who was
driving the camper. His name is Ray Hollis. The police picked him up at his
rooming house in Carlsbad. The camper belongs to the P.I. firm. I talked to the
police chief there and learned they’re investigating the owners as we
“Good. That’s a few less vermin off the streets. What
“Your instincts were right on about Sinclair.”
He gripped his phone tighter. “What do you mean?”
“The police found him hiding out at his girlfriend’s apartment
in Albuquerque. He’s been arrested and transported to the jail in Carlsbad.”
“They run to type, don’t they?”
Flynn should have been elated to learn that the husband who’d
made Andrea’s life a living hell had been captured. But he knew that the moment
he told her Jack’s father was in custody, everything was going to change. When
he thought of her leaving and taking the baby with her, his body broke out in a
cold sweat. He wasn’t ready for that yet.
“You’re free to interrogate him, but Flynn—it’s Christmas. I’m
ordering you to try to enjoy it before you leave for Carlsbad.”
The second Nyall mentioned Sinclair, tight bands had
constricted Flynn’s lungs and still wouldn’t let go, but he answered, “That’s
one order I intend to obey.”
After a surprised pause, Nyall asked, “Since when?”
Since you don’t want to know and I can’t
“Like you said, it’s Christmas.”
Nyall would have assumed that after Andrea had been released
from the hospital, Flynn would have made arrangements for her to sort out her
life while she stayed at the women’s shelter in Alpine where she’d been headed.
But something earthshaking had happened to Flynn and he wasn’t about to explain
why he’d caused things to go in a different direction.
The security Flynn had hired to keep a watch out for Sinclair
was strictly private and paid for with his own money, not public taxpayers’
dollars. The two retired police officers who could use the additional income
knew better than to make a peep about this. Now that Flynn no longer required
security for Andrea and Jack, he needed to let the officers know, but he’d phone
them when he got back to his car. As for Andrea, Flynn had no more excuses to
keep her with him and needed to come up with another plan.
Fifteen minutes later he pulled into the garage. He’d made up
his mind about one thing—if she asked him any questions about her case tonight,
of course he would have to tell her the news.
But if fate was kind and she enjoyed the movies until she went
to bed, then he wouldn’t say anything until tomorrow after they’d enjoyed
Christmas and she’d opened her presents. Knowing her husband had been arrested
would be his final gift to her. They’d go from there, because he’d made up his
mind she and Jack weren’t leaving Fort Davis for a while.
No sooner did he walk into the house with his packages than she
met him in the kitchen looking worried. “I’m glad you’re back.”
His dark brows furrowed. “Is there something wrong with
“No. He should stay asleep until his eight-o’clock bottle. You
need to know your house phone rang a while ago and I heard the message. Someone
named—Tonto?—said he was coming by the house at six to see you and bring you a
Flynn chuckled. He might have known Chuck’s curiosity couldn’t
leave things alone. He’d realized something was up when he’d caught Flynn buying
baby formula. No doubt he’d gotten on the phone to their friend Riley. It
wouldn’t surprise him if they both showed up.
Andrea looked flustered. “It’s almost that time now. If you
didn’t get here soon, I didn’t know whether to answer the door or pretend no one
was here. I turned off the Christmas tree lights just in case.”
“Don’t be nervous. He’s a good friend who runs a saddlery shop
here in Fort Davis. I have a gift for him, too. When I moved here, he offered to
let me board my horse at his ranch and we became friends. When he checks fences,
I ride with him if I have the time.”
“That sounds wonderful. It must be very relaxing for you.”
“I love it. Have you ever ridden?”
“A few times at a riding stable with friends when I was a lot
younger. It was fun.”
Maybe he could do something to put a little more fun like that
into her life. “Give me a minute to put these sacks in the bedroom, then we’ll
celebrate with the treats I bought. Do you want to find some cups? There’s a
tray in that bottom cupboard on the left.”
He left the food sitting on the counter. Before going to his
bedroom, he turned the Christmas tree lights back on. Later on, after she went
to bed, he’d wrap the gifts he’d just bought and put them under the tree.
On his way back to the living room, he grabbed the presents
he’d purchased a few days ago for Riley and Chuck. He’d planned to leave them on
their doorsteps tomorrow, but it seemed that effort would no longer be
necessary. After turning on some Christmas music, he joined her in the
“Have you tasted the cheese ball?”
Andrea gave him a guilty smile. “It’s nummy.” She’d arranged
everything on a tray with the crackers. He picked up a cup of eggnog and drank
“This is really good. What did you sprinkle on the top?”
the reason. I didn’t know I
even had any. My sisters are nothing if not thorough.”
“It’s clear they love you.”
“The feeling’s mutual. I take it you were an only child.”
“Yes. My parents died in a car accident when I was seventeen. I
went to live with my great-aunt until she died.”
“That must have been very rough.” His husky-sounding comment
coincided with the ringing of the doorbell. Flynn finished off the rest of his
drink. “I’ll get it.” He headed for the front entry hall and opened the door.
Sure enough, his two buddies stood there with gifts.
Chuck knew that Flynn wouldn’t have answered the door if the
witness-protection excuse was on the up and up. That’s why his grin was broader
than usual. Oddly enough, Flynn had told his friend the truth at the store, but
it came with a unique twist that had a stranglehold on him.
“The same back to you. Come on in and meet Andrea. She and her
son are under my protection for a little while.”
Their smiling eyes relayed private messages before they put
their gifts under the tree.
“Guys? I’d like you to meet Andrea Sinclair from Carlsbad, New
Mexico.” They walked over to the coffee table. He saw their eyes ignite with
male interest as he made the introductions. “Help yourself to some Christmas
cheer and sit down for a while.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Chuck murmured.
“I take it you two are headed for the Crandalls’ party.”
Riley nodded. “Our families are meeting us there. But we
decided to take a little detour in the hope of talking you into coming with us.
You missed it last year. Bring Andrea and the baby with you. The more the
She shook her head. “I couldn’t, but you go, Flynn.”
In the background he heard the baby. Chuck’s eyebrows lifted.
“Uh-oh. Sorry. I guess the bell woke him.”
“I’ll see to him,” Flynn said, anticipating Andrea’s next move.
“You need a break. Stay with our guests and I’ll bring him out so the guys can
He left for his bedroom and opened one of the boxes. Inside was
a little red Christmas stretchy suit and a red hat with white trim and a white
snowball on the top. By the time he walked into the other bedroom, Jack had
worked himself up, not liking to be ignored.
“Hey, it’s okay, buddy. I’ve come to rescue you.” Flynn picked
him up and kissed him until he quieted down. Then he changed his diaper and put
the new suit on him. “I was going to give this to you in the morning, but I
think doing this now is even better. Let’s see how this hat looks on you. Some
good friends of mine are waiting to meet you.”
As those blue eyes reminiscent of Andrea’s stared so sweetly at
him from beneath the hat’s white trim, Flynn felt his heart melt. He grabbed a
bottle of formula and carried the baby into the living room. “Guys? Meet Jack
Sinclair. He’s come straight from the North Pole.”
“Oh, Flynn—” Andrea’s cry among the guys’ comments contained
all the emotion he could have hoped for. The light from the tree glinted in her
tear-filled eyes. She looked so beautiful, he could hardly breathe. He had to
force himself to look at the others.
“I think Jack could win the cutest three-month-old of the year
award, don’t you? This little dude wanted to join in the fun, but he’s still
underage for eggnog.”
His friends cracked up. With wide grins, they took turns
holding him. They were fathers themselves and got a big kick out of this. Flynn
pulled out his phone to take pictures. Jack didn’t like it and reached for
Andrea. That gave him more opportunities to catch the precious moment on camera.
She sat down on the couch to comfort him.
“Something tells me he’s hungry. Here you go, buddy.” Flynn
handed Andrea the bottle so she could feed him. Within seconds, peace
Turning to his friends he said, “More eggnog, anyone?”
Riley smiled. “Thanks, but we’d better get going.”