The Counterfeit Bride(65)

By: Liberty Blake

The Ranger cast a look at her belly. “Seems to me somewhere along the line you lost your protection.”

Cassidy curved her hands protectively over her babies. “You don’t use protection when you’re reaching for a goal.”

“It’s good to know some things are goal results and not mistakes.”

“Captain, I could never consider a baby a mistake.” Tears glittered in Cassidy’s eyes as she wondered how Theron would view the results of their one night together. It was the most difficult thing she had ever done, but she had finally decided somewhere between the blow to the knee and the shot to the stomach that she would have to have call Theron. He had a right to know about his progeny. Rena had a right to meet her grandchildren. But not now. Not tonight. Later. After the babies were born. When it wouldn’t hurt so much to see him again.


Cassidy and Enzio were wide awake. The nasty room was empty of law officers and it totally creeped her out. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep. At least not here. It was time to go home. With any luck she would get there before the weather front blew in. There was no way she wanted to travel the dark Texas back roads in the middle of the night in bad Texas weather. But at the end of that long dark road would be the cozy little ranch house that was their home. It was worth the effort to get there. It was always worth the effort to get home to friends and family and security.

Somewhere a shutter had loosened from its mooring. The house lights were blinking in rhythm with the howling wind. Theron saved his work on the laptop in the small home office he had been working in. He would have to fix the shutter before it pounded a hole in the house. He’d never be able to sleep with all the noise.

He walked through the house, barely observing the Christmas lights and decorations Lynda had insisted were de rigueur. In the mudroom he shoved his feet into his new winter boots and grabbed his sheepskin-lined jacket off the hook. The wintery blast hit him full in the face as he closed the door behind him. It served to remind him he was a long way from the warm Mediterranean breezes of his homeland; not that he needed the reminder. Once his errant wife returned he intended to sweep her into his private jet and take her somewhere where she would never be able to escape him again.

Stop thinking about Cassidy and find the damn shutter. Then get yourself back into the warm house before an important part freezes off. After that admonition to himself, he quickly worked his way around the house, checking the latches on all the shutters until he came to the loose one on the living room window. He did not want to, but his glance quickly went to the scene inside. The brightly lit tree with cheap, childish ornaments sat in the bay window like a beacon in a lighthouse signaling Santa Claus. But Santa was not needed here. He, Theron, had already stacked the area under the tree with gifts that were sure to please both his wife and son. If he ever saw either of them again.

It took a few minutes to fix the shutter. The bolt attaching it to the house had been pulled out of the shingle siding, completely stripping the hole. Theron was required to use brute force to create a new hole to secure the hook and bolt.

As he entered the house he left the door unlocked and the light on in the mudroom. With the weather so vicious he wanted to make sure Mountain Man had access to the main house, just in case.

Theron stopped in the kitchen long enough to fix himself a mug of hot chocolate. Then, with mug in hand, he padded on bare feet into the living room. The fire in the old river stone fireplace had burned down to embers. Maybe it was foolish, but since autumn had arrived and now the winter, he always kept a fire burning in the hearth. He didn’t want Cassidy, when she finally arrived, to walk into a cold, dark house. The fire rose to a comforting blaze. After carefully replacing the fire screen. Theron sat in the overstuffed chair next to the hearth and stretched his legs out in front of him. Eventually he fell asleep. He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep or for how long, but his mind was groggy and his eyes blurred when he awoke with a start. He had heard something crash. Probably that damn shutter again. He could hear the wind lashing against the house; the rain pounding relentlessly on the roof. A groan rattled in his throat as his muscles protested his movement as he rose from the chair. He would secure the shutter, or rip it off the wall, whatever it took to stop the infernal banging. Then he would go in and stretch out on Cassiopeia’s bed for a while. He could never sleep in there surrounded by her belongings, but he needed to feel her close to him.

Cassidy couldn’t believe how cold it was. Even for winter, it was colder than the inside of Kelley’s nonexistent heart. The wind battered the car, pushing the small compact all over the road. Rain began to pelt the windshield not long after she left Los Ybanez. By the time she had reached the outskirts of the next town, the rain drops had given way to sleet splatters. The window fogged up and the sleet froze on the outside of the windshield, which happened at the exact time she realized that neither the defogger, the heater, nor the passenger side windshield wiper worked. She had to pull off the road several times to clear the windshield of caked on ice, both in and out of the vehicle.