Read Christmas in Texas Online

Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Christmas in Texas (17 page)

When he finally let her go, he linked his thumbs into the
pockets of his jeans to keep his hands off her. “I refuse to apologize for that.
Go to bed, Andrea. Knowing your husband can’t hurt you anymore should help you
sleep tonight. Everything will look different in the morning.”

Chapter Eight

Tortured by her feelings for Flynn and her need to do
the right thing, Andrea didn’t sleep all night and did her packing early. Once
she’d made the bedroom tidy, she showered and then scoured the bathroom. With
that done, she dressed in the red sweater and jeans, and got Jack ready to
travel.

When she checked her watch, it was close to eight o’clock, the
time someone would come by the house to bring her a rental car. Though she was a
physical and emotional wreck, she put on her best face so Flynn would never know
what this was costing her.

After a flip of her hairbrush and a dash of lipstick, she
carried her suitcase, the diaper bag and the carry-cot into the living room. The
house was quiet. There was no sign of Flynn. He’d obviously cleaned up the house
and kitchen before going to bed and was probably still asleep. The place looked
spotless.

She went back to her bedroom. “Come on, sweetheart.” Andrea
picked up her baby and wrapped him in the quilt. “We’ve got a long ride ahead of
us.” Which reminded her she needed to get the car seat out of the Volvo and put
it in the rental car.

But when she went out to the garage, she couldn’t get in
because it was locked. The only thing she could do was knock on Flynn’s bedroom
door and ask for the keys. She knocked several times without getting an answer.
“Flynn?”

“I’m right behind you.”

“Oh—” Andrea wheeled around to face a clean-shaven Flynn
dressed in a cream-colored Western shirt and jeans. He was so handsome, she went
weak in the knees. “I was trying to find you because—”

“Because you needed me to unlock the car.” He finished the
sentence for her.

“Yes. The rental-car person will be here any moment now.”

“He just left, but I sent him away well-recompensed for his
time.”

Her pulse raced with conflicting emotions. “I wish you hadn’t
done that. We went over all this last night.”

Flynn kissed Jack’s forehead. The baby wanted to go to him, but
for once she clutched him to her.

“We didn’t even get started,” he responded in the Ranger’s
voice she’d come to recognize. “I thought we’d go out for breakfast where we
don’t have to do any work and can talk. We’ll drive to Alpine.”

“Why? I have no reason to go to that shelter now.”

His dark brows met in a bar above his eyes. “That’s not why I’m
taking you there. We’ll eat at a great little restaurant first because I think
better on a full stomach. All you’ll need is the diaper bag for the baby. Shall
we go?”

It didn’t look as if she had a choice.

But of course she
did.

Flynn wouldn’t force her to do anything she didn’t want to do,
because he knew he didn’t
have
to force her. Hating
herself for showing so little backbone, she let him carry Jack to the car and
get him settled while she got into the front seat.

A cloudy sky greeted her vision as they headed for the town
that had been her destination when she’d left Carlsbad four days ago. So much
had gone on since then, she didn’t recognize herself.

They drove the short distance in silence. After they’d entered
a local restaurant and had been served their food, Flynn captured her gaze. “In
all the excitement yesterday, I failed to tell you that the accomplice who was
driving the camper was arrested. Everyone has now been accounted for.”

“That’s a huge relief. I’ll never be able to thank you enough
for all you’ve done on my case, and for Jack and me personally. I’d like to pay
you for the things you bought.”

His serious gray eyes glanced at her over the rim of his coffee
cup. “I don’t want your money, but there is something you could do for me if you
were willing.”

She finished the last of her eggs and cinnamon toast. “You mean
before I ask you to drive me to the nearest car rental so I can leave for
Carlsbad?”

He nodded. “Come with me.”

In a few minutes they were driving through Alpine to a civic
building. “This is my official place of work, but I don’t spend a lot of time
here.” He put Jack in the carry-cot and they went inside to the second floor.
Few people were about. Flynn acknowledged one of the men before he got out his
keys and opened the door marked Captain Patterson.

She walked in, taking a look at the generic furnishings, which
included a desk, chairs, computer equipment and a file cabinet.

After he put the baby down next to her, he walked over to the
cabinet and pulled a stack of files from the bottom drawer. To her surprise he
put them in her lap. She counted at least eight. Andrea stared up at him, not
comprehending.

“These represent cold cases. I inherited them when I was
transferred here. All except two are unsolved murders. The others are
missing-persons cases. There’s so much work to deal with in the course of a
regular day, I never get enough time to work on them. Though I’m officially back
on duty, unless an emergency arises, I’ll be working out of my house on these
until after the New Year.

“After talking to your attorney, I found out nothing’s going to
happen in Carlsbad to do with your case or the courts until after the first of
the year, so there’s no reason for you to hurry back. Therefore I’m offering you
a temporary job. I could use another pair of eyes to see what I’ve missed.”

He’d really shocked her this time. Aghast, she cried, “I know
nothing about police procedure—”

Flynn sat on a corner of his desk, studying her intently. “You
don’t need to. You have a college education and five years of working experience
behind you. If you were willing, I’d like you to try reading through each case
as if you were watching a detective story on TV. You’d have to go through them
thoughtfully, taking your time. Something might stand out you have a question
about that will lead me in a new direction.”

To spend another week with him… She could hardly breathe.

“You’re serious about this?” Andrea was incredulous.

“Deadly.”

His change of tone sent a shiver down her spine.

“Why me, Flynn?”

He took the folders from her and put them in a briefcase
propped next to the cabinet. “Last night you said you didn’t know me, and I
didn’t know you. Working together on the cases I try to solve for a living ought
to help us get to know each other on a different level. Wouldn’t you agree?”

How could she deny it?

“Sometimes I need to brainstorm, but my colleagues aren’t
always available. Your being here gives me the fortuitous opportunity to use you
and enjoy Jack’s company for a little longer. How would you like to be taken
advantage of, in the intellectual sense only, and get paid for it?”

“I couldn’t take your money.”

“Then I rescind my offer.” When his mouth lifted at one corner
like that, she couldn’t say no.

“You mean we’d be like the attorney Perry Mason and his
secretary Della Street.”

“Exactly. No romance in or out of the office. I swear it.”

If Flynn made her that promise, then she knew he’d keep it,
even if it killed her.

“They were a weird couple, weren’t they?”

He grinned. “No weirder than you and I spending a whole week
together without touching each other. It ought to be interesting.”

You mean painful.

“Let’s hurry home. I’m excited to get started. You’ll help us,
won’t you, Jack?” He picked up the carry-cot handle and opened the door for
her.

Andrea knew he was telling the truth. No matter how long he
lived, you would never take the Ranger out of him. That was something she’d
suspected after first meeting him at the hospital, but now she realized it was
the key to his fascinating personality.

Halfway home she ventured a comment. “Tell me about the murder
cases.”

“Two men were killed within three days of each other. One
happened on Chuck’s ranch a week before I moved into my house. At that time I
was in the middle of a big case and couldn’t get to it for months. That’s how
Chuck and I met. Since then I’ve done my own work on it in my spare time, but so
far to no avail.”

“What’s the name?”

“Jose Rodriguez was the decedent.”

“And the other case?”

“Luis Gonzales. He was a waiter at the Spring Inn in Fort
Davis.”

She shuddered. “Sounds like the murders were related.”

“Definitely.”

These two cases were personal and important to him. She’d start
with them, even if she couldn’t imagine being of any help. Secretly she was
flattered by his faith in her. Never would she have thought the day would come
when she would be in a position to do anything so foreign to her world. But it
didn’t matter, because she was determined to try.

Excitement filled her body to know he didn’t want her to leave
him yet. She’d been trying to keep her distance, but it was impossible. Every
second spent with him, she was falling more in love. But she didn’t think that
was the case with Flynn. Beyond his physical attraction to her, she didn’t know
how involved he could be emotionally after the tragedy of losing his wife and
child.

It frightened her she might not have what it took to hold him
for long once the initial thrill wore off. The only thing to do was make the
most of this week with him and fill each moment with memories she could hug to
herself.

After a tour of Alpine by car, he drove her up to the McDonald
Observatory to take a look around. They ended up away from home all day. Jack
had been so good the whole trip, but even he had his limits and was fussing by
the time they got back to Fort Davis.

While Flynn insisted on bathing him and putting him to bed with
a bottle, Andrea busied herself in the kitchen making a salad and sloppy joes
for dinner. She was looking forward to the rest of the evening. With Jack in bed
for the night, she could begin the job Flynn had hired her to do.

Chapter Nine

“Captain Patterson?” He opened his eyes. The nurse
stood in the entry. “Are you up for a visitor?”

Flynn frowned. “No one knows I’m in here.”

“Well, this woman does. She’s waited several hours and is so
frantic to at least get a look at you, I hoped you wouldn’t mind.”

“Flynn?”

His heart missed a beat when he saw Andrea in the doorway
holding Jack in his carry-cot. “What are you doing here? How did you know? I
told Deputy Arnold not to say anything specific.”

“Don’t get mad at him. He obeyed you to the letter. That’s why
I guessed something terrible had happened to you. Somehow I knew you were in
here. I just knew it. Can I come in?”

“What do
you
think?”

She walked over to the bed and put Jack down. “Where are you
hurt?” Her beautiful tear-filled blue eyes roved over him anxiously.

“My lower left leg has a superficial wound from a gunshot, but
it’s been treated and wrapped. I didn’t need surgery, only a pair of crutches.
It’ll be good as new in a few weeks.”

“Thank heaven. Oh, darling—” She lunged for him, throwing her
arms around his neck. Maybe he was dreaming that she was squeezing the life out
of him.

“The thought of anything happening to you… I couldn’t stand it.
I know I shouldn’t be saying this to you, but I love you. I’m so in love, I
can’t hold the words back.” She kissed every inch of his face, then covered his
mouth with her own.

At the first touch of her mouth, Flynn found himself devouring
her until they were both breathless. When she eventually lifted her head for air
she said, “I’ll stay with you as long as I’m welcome. Now that you’ve been
injured, you need a nurse. I want to be the one who takes care of you. No one
else is allowed. I’ll be your legs until you’re up again. I’ll cook and clean,
whatever you want.”

He pressed another hungry kiss to her lips. “What I want is to
leave this place and get you and Jack back home with me. As soon as they bring
in my crutches, I’m free to go.”

“It’s a good thing I brought the Volvo. We can call one of your
friends later and ask them to collect your truck for you, wherever it is.”

“Deputy Arnold is taking care of that as we speak.”

“Darling—I know you’ve been through a horrific ordeal and you
need to rest. We’ll talk about everything after we get home later. Right now I’m
going to sit here and watch over you while you sleep.”

“Only if you get up on the bed and lie with me.”

“Flynn—I can’t do that.”

“I thought you said you’d do whatever I wanted.”

“Well, I suppose I could try.” She removed her parka and inched
her way onto the bed on his right side, taking great care not to hurt him. He
pulled her down so she half lay against him.

“Now kiss me again,” he whispered, needing her mouth as he
needed the sun.

Two hours later a nurse walked in, announcing she had his
crutches. A starry-eyed, red-faced Andrea, whose lips were swollen from his
kisses, had to make a hasty retreat off the bed. The noise woke Jack, who was
disoriented and started fussing.

“Don’t go far,” Flynn called to her.

“I’ll be in the lounge.”

* * *

T
HANKFUL
FOR
HER
BABY
,
she took him out to feed him while the nurse helped Flynn get ready to travel.
When he appeared in the wheelchair a few minutes later, she saw they’d wrapped
his leg from the knee to his toes and put a sock on him. He held his cowboy boot
in one hand, his crutches in the other.

He had a slight pallor, but all in all he looked so wonderful,
she thought she might jump out of her skin with happiness.

“I’ll get the car.” She put Jack back in his carry-cot and they
went outside to a sun-filled morning. In a minute she’d brought the Volvo
around. While the nurse helped Flynn into the front seat, Andrea went back
inside for the diaper bag. When she came out again, the nurse was waiting for
her.

“Here’s a prescription for pain pills and an instruction sheet
for his general care during recovery.”

“Thank you so much.”

“The doctor will want to see him back here in three days to
check his wound. Make an appointment with the outpatient desk and see that he
gets plenty of sleep. That will help him heal faster.”

“I will.”

On their way home she said, “Do you have any idea what pure joy
it gives me to be taking care of you for a change? After I get you home in bed,
I’ll pick up your medicine and anything else you require.”

He reached out and put a hand on her thigh. “There’s only one
thing I need.”

“First you’re going to sleep. Doctor’s orders.”

“Will you sleep next to me?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll put the playpen right by us.”

“Yes.”

“Heaven.”

Yes, yes and yes.

* * *

T
HREE
DAYS
LATER
,
after lots of sleep because of the pain pills, the doctor told him his leg was
healing nicely and applied a fresh bandage. By the time Andrea had brought him
home from the hospital and had served him a big lunch, he felt like a new man
and could handle his crutches without a problem.

Friends and colleagues dropped by throughout the day to see how
he was doing. Andrea had called his sisters and they’d gotten on the phone with
him several times. Gratifying as it was to be the recipient of so much love, he
missed being alone with Andrea. When his boss finally left the house, he told
her he’d had enough.

“Will you put Jack up on the bed? I want to play with him
before you put him down for the night.”

“He’ll love that.” She spread out the quilt so her little guy
could see Flynn, who handed him the baby rattle. He liked it because he could
bite the handle.

Andrea sat down on the other side of the bed to watch them
interact. Flynn would shake the toy and then Jack would get all excited. His
shining blue eyes looked up adoringly at him.

She had the same problem when it came to the gorgeous man lying
there. He’d become the center of their world. Little did he know she’d meant it
when she’d told Flynn she would stay with him for as long as he wanted her.

In the midst of all the fun, Jack suddenly gave a big yawn.
They both laughed uproariously.

“Is he trying to tell me I’m boring him?” Flynn teased.

“Not at all. But after so many visitors popping in and out,
he’s had a surfeit of attention and is worn out. I’ll change him and put him
down with his bottle.”

Flynn leaned over to kiss him. “After you’re through, come back
in here. We need to talk. For one thing, Riley has invited us over to his house
for a big New Year’s Eve bash. I told him I’m all for it, but needed to check
with you first.”

Her heart turned over. “That sounds fun, provided the doctor
says it’s all right. You have an appointment that morning.”

“Anything you say, Nurse Ratched,” he baited her with a deadpan
expression.

Laughter bubbled out of her before she carried Jack to her
bedroom. Her dear little baby fell asleep drinking his bottle. He’d never done
that before. She kissed him and put him in the playpen bed. Then she hurried
back to Flynn.

His long, hard body lay there in a new pair of navy sweats. The
pant leg hung loose around his bandage, making it comfortable for him while they
had guests. She got a thrill out of simply looking at him.

The second he saw her, he patted the bed. With an eagerness
that was embarrassing, she stretched out next to him. But when they kissed, he
seemed to forget he had a wound that needed to heal. She forced his shoulders
back down.

Leaning over him she said, “No, darling. Keep that up and
you’re going to injure yourself. If you feel this good already, then don’t do
anything that could prevent your leg from getting better. Right now I want to
hear what happened to you when you left the house three days ago. Don’t leave
anything out.”

Flynn let out a sigh and grasped her hand. “I went out to
Chuck’s ranch to talk to Juan, the hand who’d worked with Jose. Because of your
idea, I asked if Jose had a girlfriend. Wonder of wonders, it turns out he’d
been seeing Juan’s sister.”

“You’re kidding—”

“No. Never underestimate a woman’s intuition. You’re brilliant!
Juan told me his sister Maria Luz had been raped for being friends with Jose.
She went to live with a cousin who works at the Rivera farm in Alpine where they
do winter farming. I called for backup and drove out there.

“No one on the premises would tell me where to find her, so I
began a search. Juan had shown me a picture of her so I’d know her. I eventually
came upon her in the cantaloupe field, but the sun had already gone down and it
was getting dark.

“When I got there, she refused to talk to me and told me to go
away because there were spies everywhere watching her. I broke her down by
telling her I’d talked to Juan and learned about the rape. At that point she
admitted to it, but she’d been warned to say nothing about Jose’s or Luis’s
murders to anyone or she’d be killed.”

“So the two murders were related. That poor girl. Did she know
who did it?”

“Yes. Jose told her who was after him before he was killed. I
told her if she’d come with me, I’d take her to a safe place where no one could
get at her, but she was too afraid. While I was trying to convince her to go
with me, someone with a rifle took a shot at us and it hit my lower leg.”

“It could have been so much worse,” she lamented.

He kissed her fingertips. “But it wasn’t. I covered her with my
body while my backup exchanged fire. The killer was caught and arrested. He’s
another Hispanic who works for a white guy who deals in drugs and hate crimes
against Hispanics. Maria has been taken to a safe place where she can get
help.”

“I’m so glad for her.”

“So am I. And now, thanks to you, I’m several steps closer to
getting this ringleader.”

“Oh—I forgot! Just a minute. I want to show you something.” She
rolled off the bed and hurried to the den where she kept her notes. In a minute
she was back and handed him the list of murder statistics she’d been working
on.

After studying them, he looked at her. “Where did you get all
this?”

“Promise you won’t be mad at me?”

“As long as you don’t leave me, there’s no worry about
that.”

She hoped he meant it. “I called all the Ranger regions and
identified myself as one of your research assistants so they’d give me
information. It worked like a charm. I want you to take a look at the Hispanic
murder statistics from Reeves County that haven’t been solved yet.”

“I’m staring at them. The last one was only three weeks
ago.”

“Do you think the same ringleader ordered those executions,
too?”

“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out in case he could still
be hanging around. Because of this information, I’ve got to get hold of my boss.
This can’t wait.”

Flynn was on the phone for twenty minutes talking Ranger
business and strategies. When he finally hung up, she could tell he was dying to
leap off the bed and get back on the job. Being on home rest was purgatory for
him.

“What?” he asked as she looked at him.

“I’m sorry you can’t go after that lunatic yet.”

Suddenly the tension left him. “You know me too well
already.”

“I’m beginning to.”

He shot her a worried glance. “Is it a huge turnoff for
you?”

“What do you mean?”

She heard his sharp intake of breath. “Not every woman could
handle what I do for a living.”

“My son might not be alive if you didn’t do what you do by
sheer instinct. I’ve decided that loving you is worth every second we can be
together, however long that will be. Is that enough of an answer for you?” she
asked softly while her heart pounded out of control.

“I only require the answer to one more question. After that I
plan to kiss you into oblivion.”

“The answer is yes,” she said, anticipating what was on his
mind because it had been on hers since the beginning. “I’ll marry you the second
my divorce is final. Do you know of any way to speed up the process?”

His eyes blazed like silver fire. “I’m working on it. Have I
told you
you
rescued me the night you came into my
life? I was on my way home to finish off the Jack Daniel’s and sleep through
another black Christmas, but only got as far as the car accident.”

That was a night she wanted to forget. She grinned at him. “I
saw that bottle on the shelf.”

“Yeah? If you checked today, you’d notice it’s still there
without a drop being drunk.”

“That’s good.”

“That’s because I’ve found something much better. You have my
permission to pour it down the drain, because I’ll never need it. You and Jack
are all I want. We have a whole new life to plan out. While we’re waiting to say
‘I do,’ come here and let me show you the many ways I love you, Andrea.”

* * * * *

Keep reading for an excerpt from
The Cowboy Soldier’s Sons
by Tina Leonard!

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