in Covert Christmas anthology
Single father Cameron Farrell never expected to reunite with old flame Tara Jackson during the worst blizzard in Colorado history. Tara needs the rugged ex-sheriff’s help—but seeking safety in his home might reawaken long-dormant desire. Will this Christmas reunion become Cam’s second-chance at love?
“When I get back,” Cam began. “I want to hear all the details on this undercover operation of yours.” Shaking his head as though the idea of her undercover was absolutely absurd, he disappeared around the corner.
Tara didn’t know whether to be insulted or scared. She’d been so sure that Cam’s whole family would be here for the holidays. It had never occurred to her that the two of them would become isolated together—alone.
Facing a hit-man might be preferable.
Needing to move around so she could think her predicament through, Tara tested her nearly frozen feet by placing one down on the hardwood floor. Man, that hurt like the devil. She was sure glad she’d thought to put on her padded socks under her boots and jeans before she’d left her apartment this morning and headed out for the governor’s vacation home in Aspen.
The idea gave her chills. She could be worrying about losing toes to frostbite instead of fussing about spending time alone with an old boyfriend.
An old married boyfriend.
The stabbing pain in the bottom of her foot became bearable so she put the other one down on the floor next to it. Yipes. She had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. But within minutes she felt stronger and more stable. Maybe she was going to live through the experience after all.
As she straightened and looked around the great-room, the lights came back on. She went to the fireplace, added a few more logs and stirred the fire. Soon it was blazing.
Looking around the room again, Tara finally realized what she was seeing. Or not seeing. She’d been to Cam’s home during the holidays many times growing up. Back then, the whole place had glowed with decorations, lovingly put up by Cam’s grandparents. Festive lights, wrapped packages and yummy smells coming from the kitchen. It was one of the clearest memories from her childhood.
Yet today, a few days before Christmas, this great-room was empty of everything but furniture. Except for the roaring fire, it might as well be August.
Where was the tree? Where were the wreaths and holly?
Wandering from room to room downstairs, she searched for anything that said Christmas. With no luck.
Tara easily climbed the stairs to the second floor bedrooms. Surely up here she would find some sign of holiday spirit.
She checked each room as she went down the hall. The first two were guest rooms, and bland. When she came to the room she’d used as a teenager, her hand hesitated on the door handle. Tara wasn’t sure she wanted to see this room again after all these years. Too many memories. Both good and bad.
But as the door creaked open, Tara was shocked to see a fantasyland in various shades of pink instead of the cool blues and greens of her youth. The bed was covered with stuffed animals. Yes, this room was most definitely being used by a little girl.
Cam must have a daughter. As Tara moved around the room, she lightly touched the toys and the music boxes. This could be her own little girl’s room. If only things had worked out differently.
On top of the dresser, she found several framed photos. A little girl with blonde pigtails, holding Cam’s hand. An older couple with the same girl at a birthday party. Tara looked around again, but couldn’t find any pictures of Cam’s wife.
In fact, Tara couldn’t remember seeing any pictures of a young woman anywhere in the house. She quickly walked out of the girl’s room and headed for the master bedroom. This was going to hurt, but now that she’d thought of it, she needed to see some evidence of the woman who currently owned this house and belonged to Cam.
Tara hesitated once again at the door, but then took a breath and pushed it open. The room that had once belonged to Cam’s grandparents had not changed much.
Still the same beige walls. The same heavy, wood-hewn furniture. Even the same king-sized bed with thick down-filled mattress.
But there were no photos. None at all that she could see. Not even of the pretty little girl.
Something was wrong in this house. Turning, she headed for the walk-in closet and threw open the doors.
Except for Cam’s clothes, the huge closet stood empty. Empty? Was Cam divorced?
“Find what you were looking for?” Cam’s voice spun her around.
From the book: COVERT CHRISTMAS
by Linda Conrad
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
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