Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Capri held the broom over the stranger’s head, prepared
to whack him to kingdom come if he so much as moved. The man lay on the shop
floor, looking as though he was going to have a pretty good headache from Jade
whacking him with a big glass vase.
“Call the police, Jade,” Capri said.
“Wouldn’t it be faster to call your husband?”
“Call 911!” Capri said. “If Seagal comes, he might kill this
unfortunate thug, especially if he finds out he threatened me.”
She searched the man’s pockets, pulling out a knife, and a
small gun. “I know what this is,” she said. “It’s cop-issue. This isn’t
She kept one eye on their prisoner while Jade talked to a
dispatcher. But she wasn’t shocked when Seagal practically tore the glass door
off its hinges. In fact, she’d have been more shocked if he hadn’t materialized
like Super Ranger. “What took you so long?”
Seagal grunted, turned the guy over with his boot. “Nice goose
egg. Your work?”
“Jade’s.” She decided to leave out the detail that Jade had
snuck up behind the man while he was threatening Capri.
Seagal cuffed the man, then radioed for an ambulance and
backup. “Just in case,” he told Capri.
“Of course. I guess you’ll want me to close the shop?”
He looked at his wife. “I asked you not to move from the house,
even had a bodyguard posted on you, and here you are. Would you close the shop
if I asked you to?”
“I just figured,” Capri said stiffly, “that the little men with
the yellow caution tape and chalk outlines might show up sooner than later. I
figured they work best in a non-crowded environment, and that they like their
crime area kept sacrosanct from Christmas shoppers spreading yuletide
He didn’t smile, even though he wanted to. “Do you know where
the drugs are?”
“He didn’t say anything about drugs,” Capri said. “He told me
to close the store early. Apparently I did last year, and since I wasn’t closing
early today, it was messing up his schedule. I didn’t close the store early last
year, did I, Seagal?”
He smiled. “I think we might have closed it about thirty
minutes or so early.”
She frowned for a moment, thinking, which he thought was
darling. “Ohh. That’s right. I did close early.”
“We thought it was best not to scandalize the shoppers,” Seagal
She blushed the color of Christmas punch. “They’ve been
planning this caper for a year?”
He shrugged. “We’ll know when big boy wakes up.” He gave the
prone man another nudge with his boot just as the ambulance and backup arrived.
“After you give your statement, could I talk you into going home? I’ll sweep and
lock up. I’m sure Jack’s about to have a nervous breakdown. What did you bribe
“Not much,” Capri said. “Just some food.”
Seagal sighed. “And his aunt is there, watching the babies? She
brought goodies, I’m sure?”
Capri nodded. “He’s probably eating our Christmas dinner right
He wasn’t surprised. Local cops filled the store, working the
crime scene, taking Jade’s statement, looking for contraband.
“Check this out, Seagal,” someone said, dragging a huge pot
decorated with ghosts and pumpkins and bats from under the counter.
“Not Christmas-friendly,” Seagal said to Capri. “That I didn’t
She stared at the pot. “I never looked twice at that.”
“Because it’s not Halloween. No one would be looking at fall
“Decor, even,” Capri said. “You’re picking up some decorating
“That’s right,” Seagal said, his tone slightly amused. “Take
her statement so she can go,” he told an officer. “Her children called. They
want their mother to come home to read them
“I believe that’s the father’s job,” Capri said.
“Really?” Seagal stepped a bit closer. “Am I being
Capri met his eyes. She glanced at the thug being taken off on
a stretcher, and the uniforms crowding her small shop. “Consider yourself
He nodded, his heart lifting with hope. “Tell the twins Daddy
will be there after he finishes with the holiday mischief. I have a few details
to wrap up.”
Capri went to Jade, offering to drive her home. Jade said she
was fine, and Capri told her to get her coat. She hung a
Closed for the Holidays
wreath on the front door, then handed Seagal
the key to the shop. “Lock up, please. Should I send Jack home?”
Seagal nodded. “Tell him I said to go live it up on my dime.
Early Christmas gift.”
Capri nodded, and as he watched her leave the store to walk
Jade to her car, Seagal thought how lucky he was to be married to the hottest
woman he’d ever laid eyes on.
She’s all I want for Christmas, Santa.
Sexy mama and my two little blessings—what more could a man ask
* * *
—not enough to be overtly
romantic, but enough to lend an air of home and comfort.
She’d been so relieved when Seagal had burst into the shop. In
that moment, she’d known everything was going to be all right. She hadn’t
realized how frightened she was until the relief hit her at the sight of her
big, strong husband appearing with fire in his eyes.
Jack’s words had stayed with her. Maybe he’d said everything
Seagal never had, or never could. Perhaps he’d merely been trying to help his
partner out by tossing some guy talk over the troubled waters.
She intended to find out. It mattered so much to her, and as
Mathilda had said, what she and Seagal did would matter greatly to the
The babies wanted to eat, so she fed them and put them to bed.
She sat down to calm her nerves, telling herself that Christmas was a time to be
happy. To be thankful.
She was thankful for Seagal.
She loved Seagal. She’d fallen in love with him before she’d
ever asked him out. She owed it to her children to find out if she and their
father could make their marriage work.
Seagal came in the door at eight o’clock, looking weary—but
carrying a huge bouquet of white lilies and red roses. “There’s only one flower
shop in town, so I stopped by and picked these up for you.”
She smiled and took the flowers. “Thank you.”
He tossed his hat on the flowered sofa. “I sort of worried that
it’s not acceptable to give your wife flowers from her own shop. Kind of takes
the luster off the gesture, you know?”
“It’s fine.” She sat down on the sofa. “You probably want a
shower and a glass of wine? A beer?”
He nodded. “You’re going to want me to tell you
“Yes, I am.” Capri nodded. “I have a funny feeling that there’s
a lot I didn’t want to accept. And that I haven’t been very nice to you about
“Shower first,” Seagal said. “Then I’ll fill in the story for
“You know where the shower is.”
He nodded, gauging her underlying message. “I’ll be right
She watched him leave, took a deep breath. It was late, and she
knew Seagal had to be hungry. The flowers he’d brought her were beautiful; she
thought maybe they were the most wonderful gift he’d ever given her. He’d been
trying to be thoughtful—romantic, perhaps—even as his case was winding down.
The tree twinkled softly, another gift from him. And the
He’d changed. She’d changed.
She hoped they’d changed, and that their marriage might be
stronger for the changes.
Capri went to the kitchen and put out a plate for herself and
her husband, making sure the turkey and the oyster stuffing were still warm. Two
crystal wineglasses went beside the plates; she filled them with white wine.
Mrs. Penny had put cranberry sauce in the fridge, as well as an apple pie and
sides of broccoli and mashed potatoes. These she warmed, and put it all on the
table along with a crusty half loaf of French bread.
Seagal came out of the bathroom, his hair damp and tousled.
“That looks good.”
“Mrs. Penny is a dear friend. She said she made double so we
would have a meal and some leftovers.”
“She’s good, no question. Jack is a lucky nephew.” He pulled
out her chair. “Are you going to join me?”
“Sure.” She took the seat he offered, her heart beating
“Sara and Carter are dreaming of sugarplums?”
“Probably for another sixty seconds.”
Seagal smiled. “We better eat fast.”
Capri wondered how many meals they’d had at this kitchen table
in the two years they’d been married. Had Seagal ever cut the turkey and filled
her plate, as he was doing now?
“You don’t have to do everything, Seagal,” she said. “You
weren’t the reason our marriage wasn’t working. We had equal shares in
“When you’ve had something then lost it, you probably want to
work a little harder to keep it if you get another chance.” He handed her the
plate, began to fill his.
She held her breath. It was too close, too soon. She didn’t
want him feeling as if he had to work hard to “keep” her; she had just as much
work to do. The time he’d spent at his job had been as much an issue for her.
Time apart had made her hope that their marriage might be stronger.
“Thank you for today,” she said softly.
He shrugged. “It’s my job.”
They began to eat. Capri found herself listening for the
babies, but there wasn’t a sound from the nursery. Maybe she had time to say the
things she wanted to say more than anything. “You’ve done so much for me,
Seagal. I really appreciate it.”
“You’re my wife. Those are my children sleeping down the hall.
Of course I’m going to take care of you.” He sighed as he bit into Mrs. Penny’s
mashed potatoes. “She may be a gossip, but she’s also a heck of a cook.”
Capri smiled. “Do you miss Bridesmaids Creek?”
He sipped his wine. “There are things about Bridesmaids Creek I
“I would never want to live anywhere else. I often felt as if
you were smothered by this place.”
“No. I always knew I’d come home to Bridesmaids Creek. But I
had a job to do, and I did it.”
The turkey was moist and delicious; the cranberry sauce
delicately sweet. Their Christmas Eve meal was so different from last year’s.
Seagal felt so far away from her. She couldn’t eat any more; her stomach was
tied in knots. “I’m going to check on the babies.”
She left the kitchen, went down the hall to quietly open the
nursery door. They had a baby monitor in the kitchen and in the bedroom; still,
she felt that she needed to look at them to make certain they were all
“Are they ready for
The Night Before
” Seagal asked from behind her. He looked over her shoulder
at the babies. “Maybe tomorrow night.”
She closed the door, following him back to the kitchen. “Apple
pie? Mrs. Penny’s specialty.”
“I think I’d like a fire in the fireplace. You feeling like a
Capri nodded. “I’ll get the wineglasses.”
They went into the formal room where the Christmas tree gently
glowed. Seagal made a fire, and Capri watched from the flowered sofa.
He turned his head. “Yes?”
“Is your assignment over?”
He turned back to the fire. “Capri, my assignment was to play
Santa for the kiddies.”
“An assignment Mrs. Penny is eager for you to reprise next
“She mentioned it. I’ve accepted.”
She was a bit surprised. “Well, you did do justice to the
revered Santa suit. I just didn’t think you’d want to.”
“You’ll be cochairing Christmastown, won’t you?”
She nodded. “And the Bridesmaids Creek annual swim, and the
Groomsmen’s Dash. Wherever I’m needed.”
“It’s time I take on a few things myself. Wearing a Santa cap
won’t kill me.”
She thought about the “bad” boys who’d apparently decided BC
needed to add some drug-dealing to their peaceful streets. “What about Kinsler
and his gang of nasties? What happens to them now?”
“Actually, we don’t know if Taylor Kinsler or any of his ilk
were behind the drugs. I talked to Daisy. She claims not to know a single thing
about what was going on. I believe her.”
A sharp arrow darted into Capri’s heart. Bridesmaids Creek was
a small town; he would always run into Daisy. So would she. She had to make
peace with that. “If she wasn’t being forthright, you would know, Seagal. You’re
a good Ranger.”
He looked bemused by her praise. Surprised.
“Have you forgiven me for staking out your store? I’m sorry I
couldn’t tell you everything about the case, which I know came across as
ham-handed and overbearing. I had to risk your trust in order to protect
“I know now. It was just so hard for me to accept that the
world I’d built might be hiding something so horrible for Bridesmaids Creek. It
wasn’t until that creep came through the back door and grabbed me that I
realized I’d underestimated your cop skills.”
He stood, surveying the fire he’d built. “I’m sorry that
happened. I mistook the timing of the next pickup.”
“So is it over?”
“I doubt your store will be used again for the same purpose.
They’ll move elsewhere.”
“Somewhere else in Bridesmaids Creek? What about other business
“I’m going to take an assignment here for a while. I want to be
with the babies. Help you out.”
She didn’t say anything, hearing a new tone creep into his
voice. Something distant, something cool. “It’s important for you to be with the
children, Seagal. I know I didn’t tell you immediately—”
“Your brother took care of me.”
“I’ll talk to Beau about that one day. Anyway, Seagal, I
apologize. I really do.” She looked at Seagal. “You’re a wonderful father. I
want you to spend all the time with them you can.”
She felt tears gather in her eyes. He looked at her for a long
moment, then nodded. “I’m going out for a bit.”