Read Christmas in Texas Online

Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Christmas in Texas (7 page)

Mathilda smiled at the flowery, feminine sofa. “Men don’t care
about living rooms. The den is usually their cave. Wherever the television
remote is.”

Capri smiled. “He did enjoy our den. Lots of leather and wood.
I told him to decorate that room any way he liked, and he did. Iron stuff. Manly
things.”

“Exactly.” Mathilda nodded. “Anyway, don’t think about this. I
just didn’t want you to be surprised when Seagal tells you about Daisy.”

Shocked, she looked at her planning partner. “You think he’ll
tell me?”

“Sure. Seagal isn’t going to want you to hear it from anyone
else, least of all Daisy.”

“Oh.” Capri pondered that. “I guess you’re right.”

“I am. He’s going to want his conscience clean. He wants to
keep his marriage,” Mathilda said simply. “The best way to do that is not to
have any secrets.”

“But he wouldn’t admit he was staking out my shop,” Capri said,
and Mathilda said, “What?”

“Never mind.” Capri sighed.

“He’s staking out your shop? Is that what he was doing parked
across the street?”

“It was just an expression.” If there was an investigation
under way, Seagal wouldn’t want the details out. It would get him in all kinds
of hot water with the department. And Mrs. Penny, bless her, was the town
telephone. “I have no idea why he was parked by the courthouse.”

“You have those two darling babies to think of,” Mathilda said.
“I was married for fifty-four years. Divorce is hard on the kids, and hard on
you, too. Not that it’s any of my business,” she said, “but I wouldn’t give up
on my marriage just because of Daisy.”

“It’s not quite like that,” Capri murmured.

“Well, it’s none of my business.” Mathilda gave her a gentle
smile. “I imagine you’ll want to give up your position on the committee for the
annual Bridesmaids Creek swim. You’ve got a lot on your hands.”

Capri shook her head. “I’ll be fine. I want to stay busy.” Part
of living in Bridesmaids Creek was trying to benefit the town. The town meant a
lot to her. She’d been born here, raised here, knew most of the people. She
cared about what the citizens of Bridesmaids Creek cared about—they pulled
together through thick and thin.

“What about the charity race at Best Man’s Fork? You’ll surely
not want to co-chair that, too?”

Capri laughed. “I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying
to say I have too much to do, now that I’m a mom. That I should give up my
committees. The thing is, my grandmother had four children and held these
positions for years. I plan to do the same.”

“Of course, your grandmother had her children one at a time,”
Mathilda pointed out. “I’ve got to think it’s easier to be a mom one baby at a
time. Especially if you really think you’re determined to be a single mom.”

“I’ll be fine.” She’d have to be.

“People will still order their flowers for all their events at
your shop if you don’t sit on every committee in town.”

“I know.” If there was still a shop after Seagal finished
poking around in it. The thought that drugs were being run through her store—it
was ludicrous.

But if there were, she feared people wouldn’t want to patronize
her store anymore. Gossip would swirl for years. Illegal activity would make her
shop infamous.

She was scared. Her shop was her livelihood.

“I need my store,” Capri said, thinking about the case Seagal
was working on. Why had he been staking out her store? Had something happened?
Did he know something he wasn’t telling her?

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Chapter Eight

Capri sat in her nightgown, staring at the beautiful
Christmas tree, feeling the holiday spirit surround her despite the anxiety Mrs.
Penny’s visit had inadvertently stirred inside her—until Seagal burst through
the front door.

She stared at her husband.

“You don’t look so good,” Capri said. “What happened?”

He sat next to her on the flowery sofa. “I ran into Daisy
Donovan tonight.”

She blinked. “Is that why you look like you’ve run through a
wind tunnel?”

“I think I probably always look this way.” He turned toward
her. “There was some lip action involved, and it didn’t mean anything, and I
don’t want you to think it did.”

Capri looked at Seagal. “I already heard.”

“Oh.” His face fell. “That’s the one thing about Bridesmaids
Creek I don’t like. Gossip runs faster than an electrical current.” He drew a
deep breath. “So, who told you?”

“Mrs. Penny.”

“So the whole town will know by morning.”

“I doubt it this time.” Capri got up. “I’m going to check on
the babies.”

“Wait.” He didn’t speak until she turned to face him. “It meant
nothing.”

“We’ve been separated for months, Seagal. It doesn’t
matter.”

His expression didn’t change. Capri realized that was one thing
about her husband the cop—he’d always been good at schooling his emotions, and
she’d never known exactly what he was thinking. She looked at Seagal for a long
moment, her heart aching. “Do you want to tell me why you were sitting outside
my store?”

“What does that matter?”

“It matters,” Capri said, amazed that Seagal wouldn’t know
this.

“That matters, and Daisy kissing me doesn’t?”

She nodded.

“I was just sitting there, Capri. Oh, you think I was staking
out your shop.”

She didn’t say anything.

“You’re mad about this case, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am. No matter how many times I try to tell you
that there’s no way drugs ever went through my store, you don’t believe me.”
Capri got more upset just thinking about it. “And I did see the squad car go by
several times, by the way. I know that was your doing. But you weren’t going to
tell me that, either.”

He shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re mad about the case,
and not Daisy.”

“I might be tomorrow. Give me time. It’s just that all this
other stuff crowds it out. I think I’d rather deal with Daisy than with you not
believing me.”

“Capri, you don’t know how the drugs are being transported or
where they’re being hidden.”

“They are not in my store,” Capri said.

“Maybe you’re right,” Seagal said, “but they were in your
arrangements. That means someone was keeping an eye on you, at least enough to
know when you’d be making your deliveries.”

“It’s dumb, Seagal,” Capri said. “The whole thing was a
coincidence.”

He considered that. “Possibly. But not usually with drugs.
People generally aren’t very coincidental about where they hide stuff that’s
worth five thousand dollars.”

Capri blinked. “That much?”

He nodded. “Why do you think I’m here? Because somebody stuffed
a few joints in a flowerpot?”

“I don’t know. I thought…I thought you were just being your
typical overanalytical, overprotective self.”

Seagal stared at her. “Are you saying I’m no fun?”


Fun
is not a word I would use to
describe you.”

“You think our marriage wasn’t fun?”

He sounded either perplexed or astounded. “Not when you were
being super-cop,” Capri said. “I understand it’s your job, but you could be a
bit overbearing. I loved you, in spite of it, but then I began to realize your
life was all about something that had nothing to do with me. And it’s the reason
you’re here. You wouldn’t have come back to me if there hadn’t been a case in my
shop.”

Seagal stared as his wife exited the room. He turned to look at
the Christmas tree and the pretty colored lights. There was a gold star on top,
and tons of silvery beads twining through the branches. He’d spent hours trying
to get the tree right to surprise Capri when she came home from the
hospital.

But she thought she was just a case to him.

* * *

C
HRISTMAS
E
VE
FOR
the floral
business—at least in Capri’s shop in Bridesmaids Creek—was busy until at least
noon, every year. People wanted last-minute gifts to take to the in-laws, and
last-minute deliveries of arrangements, especially if someone hadn’t gotten to
the end of their shopping list.

She’d dumped most of the work over the holidays on Jade and
Kelly, but, wanting to make certain that every last detail was seen to before
the shop closed for Christmas, Capri decided to ask Mathilda Penny to watch the
babies for a couple of hours while she went to see if there was anything she
could do to help.

That meant slipping out past Jack, the ever-present bodyguard.
After she’d told Seagal he was overbearing, she’d found him gone this morning.
Jack sat in her kitchen, munching on a bagel and sipping hot coffee.

She hadn’t batted an eye. She’d said good-morning and gone to
check on the babies.

Now Jack sat outside in the cold, keeping an eye on things,
probably bored stiff. Seagal was carrying this whole thing too far, in her
opinion, but that was Seagal. He carried cop work past the point where normal
people would give up.

“Jack,” Capri said, “I’m going to the shop. If you follow me or
tell Seagal, I will tell Kelly that you snore and that you have a fetish for
garlic.”

He blinked. “Seagal will kill me.”

She nodded. “That sounds like a personal problem to me, to use
one of Seagal’s favorite and irritating expressions.”

“Capri, I just don’t think this is a good idea. Something tells
me it’s not. I get these tickles—”

“You’ll really get a tickle if you rat me out.”

He appeared to consider his options. “Can you be gone for only
an hour? And keep your cell phone on you so I can text you if Seagal’s coming
back? I don’t think I have to tell you that Seagal will be mad at both of
us.”

“The good part about that is that I’m getting a divorce from
Seagal in two days, and you’re not, partner.”

“I don’t think you really want a divorce, Capri.”

She thought about Daisy kissing Seagal, felt a flashing knife
stab her heart. “Maybe I don’t, but I know it’s for the best. Seagal married me
before he really had a chance to think it through.”

“Yeah, because he couldn’t believe the hottest girl he’d ever
laid eyes on had asked him out,” Jack said. “And after he saw you at the annual
Bridesmaids Creek swim, he was determined to have you. It was the bikini. Seagal
said he’d never realized how fast a red bikini could blow his mind. He was
talking about the bikini, but he fell for the lady wearing it, that much was
obvious.”

She hesitated. “Did he really say that?”

“I’m his partner. I hear everything. I don’t have to make stuff
up, Capri.”

It was almost too good to be true. Her heart wanted to hear all
this so badly. “Seagal never said he thought I was hot.”

Jack laughed. “Capri, do you really think Seagal would settle
for a chick who wasn’t hot?”

“You’ve got to stop saying
chick,

Capri said, “before some woman slaps you silly.”

“I’ve heard that,” Jack said. “I’ll wait until it happens. I
like living dangerously.” He looked at her with a curious expression. “Didn’t
Seagal ever tell you that your red bikini sent the flag up his flagpole?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“Well, it’s Seagal. He’s…like John Wayne. I’ve been his partner
for a long time, until he got into the Rangers. You sit in a car with someone
for a few years, several hours a day, you know what they’re thinking before they
say it.” He thought for a minute. “In fact, I knew he loved you before he even
told me. Or you. It’s probably a toss-up if he told me or you first that he
loved you, but I knew it before he figured it out himself. He’s a bit slow where
women are concerned, don’t you think?”

Capri’s breath stilled. “I never thought so.”

“Yeah. Pretty much he’s slow. That’s why he dated Daisy. She
was willing to do the work as far as asking him out and stuff.”

“I asked him out on our first date.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, “and the shock made him giddy as a boy at
the State Fair. He never saw that coming. He couldn’t talk about anything else
for three days. Believe me,” Jack said, “trapped in a cruiser with Seagal
yakking about the hottest chick in the county is not pleasant.” He sighed. “In
fact, now that I think about it, Seagal’s focus is exactly what makes him
perfect for the Rangers. God, he’s a pain in the butt.”

That much Jack had right. The rest of it she couldn’t say. How
much was Jack building Seagal up to her, and how much was truth? “I’m going now.
Do not tell Seagal I’ve left.”

“I’m going to have to leave Bridesmaids Creek,” Jack said.
“I’ll drop you a line from whatever outback I have to hide in.”

She smiled. “Your aunt came in the back door. She’s busy with
the babies. You don’t have to sit out here, Jack.”

“I think I saw someone had put some cupcakes under a glass dome
in the kitchen,” Jack said hopefully.

“And your darling aunt just brought over a half turkey breast
and all the sides for Christmas Eve dinner. Help yourself.” She walked down the
steps.

“Isn’t that for your and Seagal’s Christmas dinner?”

She waved a hand at Jack and kept walking. He was the
partner—he ought to know better than anyone that there was no need to pretend
that there was going to be a Christmas for her and Seagal.

* * *

S
EAGAL
COULDN

T
BELIEVE
his eyes when he saw his delicate wife go into her store.
Today of all days he’d needed her to stay put. “Darn, Jack,” he muttered. He put
the binoculars back up to his eyes, watching the loading area. Nothing seemed
out of place. Yet the department had been tipped off that today was the day for
a “delivery”—something that had been mentioned directly by Taylor Kinsler to an
undercover cop posing as a buyer.

According to Kinsler, Capri’s shop was perfect because the
fragrance of the flowers covered up the smell of something more pungent.

And the fact that Capri’s husband was a Ranger was even better,
Kinsler had said. No one would suspect them of running any drugs through a shop
owned by a cop’s wife.

It made Seagal’s blood boil.

No one knew better than he did how hard Capri had worked in her
shop, wanting it to be a place her grandmother would be proud of. Capri had
loved her grandmother with all her heart, and when she’d been left the business,
Capri had taken it over with appreciative enthusiasm. In some ways, working
there made her feel close to her grandmother.

Capri knew that the business had kept their family going
through the hard times. Capri had gone to college, thanks to the shop. Capri’s
mother had worked there, too, but she hadn’t loved it like Capri. His wife had
so much talent with making things beautiful.

She made his life beautiful.

And those babies just knocked him to his knees. In his mind,
Capri’s beauty went all the way down to her soul.

It tore him up that her shop was being used for illegal
purposes. She’d be heartbroken.

He’d save her that if he could.

It was going to take vigilance to stamp out this operation.
Seagal moved the binocs to his eyes again, watching every movement behind the
plate-glass windows beneath the cheery awning. No one would think the charming
store hid contraband. Customers went inside, wrapped in their warm coats to ward
off the chilly temperature outside, and came out with smiles on their faces,
carrying armfuls of flowers or pots of poinsettias.

He wished Capri hadn’t decided to work today. But he should
have figured she would—her customers meant too much to her to leave them without
her careful eye on their Christmas arrangements and gifts.

He loved that about her.

In fact, he loved everything about his wife.

Suddenly, screams erupted from the flower shop. It sounded as
if they were coming from the loading area. Seagal took off running, his heart in
his throat.

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