About the Author
Imagine a family tree that includes Texas cowboys, Choctaw and Cherokee Indians, a Louisiana pirate and a Scottish rebel who battled side by side with William Wallace. With ancestors like that, it’s easy to understand why Texas author and former air force captain DELORES FOSSEN feels as if she were genetically predisposed to writing romances. Along the way to fulfilling her DNA destiny, Delores married an air force top gun who just happens to be of Viking descent. With all those romantic bases covered, she doesn’t have to look too far for inspiration.
San Antonio Maternity Hospital
“Shhh,” Bailey Hodges heard someone say. “If they find you, they’ll kill you.”
Bailey tried to open her eyes to see who had just spoken that warning, but her eyes didn’t cooperate. Neither did the rest of her. Everything felt thick and sludgy.
“Who are you?” Bailey managed to mumble. But someone quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Don’t let them hear you,” the person whispered. It was a woman. But why had she said that? “If they find you, they’ll kill you.”
Bailey heard someone else call out her name. Not a woman this time, and the person sounded angry. Or something.
What was going on?
She was in the San Antonio Maternity Hospital. There shouldn’t be anyone shouting for her. She shouldn’t be in danger.
Bailey forced herself to think. It wasn’t easy. She’d just come from surgery where she’d had a C-section because her baby had been breech. The doctor had tried to give her an epidural, but when it hadn’t taken effect, she’d been given a general anesthetic instead. It had knocked her out completely.
“My baby!” Bailey tried to say, but the hand stayed clamped over her mouth.
Bailey struggled as much as she could, but her arms and legs wouldn’t cooperate.
“Your son is safe,” the woman said.
“Son,” Bailey mumbled. She had a boy.
“Stay quiet,” the woman warned. “They’re close to us now.”
Bailey didn’t know who “they” were, but the man calling out her name was indeed nearby. He sounded right outside the door. Oh, God. Was he really going to try to kill her? If so, she couldn’t fight back. But she had to do something to protect her baby.
“I have to leave,” the woman said. “It’s the only way I can keep your baby safe. Do you understand?”
“No.” Bailey didn’t understand. “What’s happening?”
“Gunmen have taken the entire ward hostage. If I don’t get out now, they’ll find the baby. They might hurt him to get to you. Hush, or you’ll get us all killed.”
Bailey shook her head and managed to force her eyes open. She still couldn’t see clearly. Everything was swimming in and out of focus, and she could barely make out the woman, or rather, her outline. But Bailey couldn’t see her face.
She heard the sound then. Not the man yelling for her. Not the woman. It was a kitten-like cry, and she instinctively knew it belonged to her baby.
“My son,” Bailey mumbled.
The woman slid her hand away from Bailey’s mouth and hurried toward the door. She didn’t tell Bailey where she was going, but Bailey could see that the woman had something in her arms.
A baby wrapped in a blue blanket.
The woman ducked into the hall and disappeared.
Bailey tried to scream, to tell her to bring back her son. But she remembered the warning.
“Hush, or you’ll get us all killed.”
That robbed her of what little breath she had, and she felt the tears burn as they slid down her cheeks. She was helpless. Too weak to move. Too drugged to do anything to stop this nightmare.
Bailey had no choice. Her eyelids drifted down, and the darkness took over.
Four Months Later:
The Malone Estate, Copper Creek, Texas
Jackson Malone watched the woman from the surveillance monitor on his desk. She was either the most inept Christmas tree decorator in the state, or else …
Jackson didn’t want to go there yet.
By nature, he wasn’t a trusting man, and now that he had become a father his distrust was stronger than ever. That probably had something to do with the threat he’d received just that morning.
He glanced at the letter, the warning spelled out in letters cut from magazines.
“Jackson Malone, I won’t forgive and forget. Watch your back.”
It was the third one he’d received in the past month. No name. No postmark. The others had been placed on his car windshield, but not this one. This particular letter had been left on the sidewalk outside his downtown San Antonio office building. It’d been a blind spot for security cameras, so there was no footage of the person who had left it for the night watchman to find, but Jackson had some ideas. After Christmas, he’d deal with it.
Or maybe sooner.
His attention went back to the surveillance monitor and the inept tree decorator. The leggy brunette was still trying to untangle some Christmas lights, a task she’d been at for the better part of an hour. She was perched on the lower rung of a ladder next to the ten-foot-tall blue spruce. She had a wad of lights in her hands, but her attention was everywhere but on the task she’d been hired to do. Unlike the others who had accompanied her.
On the split screen, Jackson could see there was a crew on the grounds, decorating the trees and shrubs of his country estate. Another woman was in the great room arranging greenery and crystal angels around the massive stone fireplace. Another pair was on the porch dealing with the door and white marble columns.
So who was this woman on the ladder?
And was she doing surveillance for a robbery, or God knows what else?
He looked through the names of the work crew that his groundskeeper had provided. Her name was СКАЧАТЬ