Read Christmas at Twin Falls Online

Authors: Dahlia Rose,Tressie Lockwood

Christmas at Twin Falls (3 page)

BOOK: Christmas at Twin Falls
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Why are you doing this?”

“My mother believed tea cures all ills.”

She lowered her sad gaze to the blanket and worried the ends. “Not that.”

“I’m taking care of you because your uncle asked me to.”

“Th-that’s what I thought.” She sniffed. “Uncle Cornell works with the FBI. I think he’s on a case they spent a long time putting together. They can’t let him go…” Her words drifted off, and she began struggling to breathe. Cody set the cup aside and nipped her onto his lap. He held her tight and tucked her face into the crook between his neck and shoulder. She gripped his forearm, her nails digging into his skin, but the movement seemed to help her calm down. “I shouldn’t let you hold me.”

“Take from it what you need. Nothing else matters.”

“He asked me to marry him. Jeff did.” She took the tissue he offered and wiped her nose. Then she climbed off his lap to curl under the covers again. “His parents hate me because I’m black. Neither of us gave a damn. We were going to get married on Christmas Day to make it extra special. We didn’t need any fancy ceremony or elaborate plans.”

Cody cursed. Way to ruin her Christmas forever. For the first time, he was glad for his and Beau’s hang-ups. He handed out bonuses and gave his people time off, but that was as far as the celebration of the season went.

“You don’t have to worry about seeing decorations here. Beau and I haven’t celebrated in a long time.”

“Beau?”

“My twin brother. We’re mirror identical twins.”

Most people exclaimed over that fact and asked stupid questions such as if they’d traded places as kids. Kaleena gave no indication of having heard him or being impressed. He didn’t blame her.

“I won’t get in your way, and I’m not going to kill myself. No matter what that doctor said.” Her voice wobbled on the end of the statement, so he couldn’t say he believed her.

“Here, drink the rest of this tea. It will settle your stomach. I can fix you a PB&J sandwich too, if you like. You should eat something.”

She frowned.

“Well…egg…”

“I’m not hungry. Thank you.” She scooted down in the bed and rolled over with her back to him.

Cody gathered up the tea things and returned them to the kitchen. He made it to his bedroom door when he heard her crying. The anguish ripped through him, and he touched the door panel with his forehead, eyes shut. In a few hours, he would need to rise for the day’s work, and his head still pounded. He spun on his heel and returned to her room. She didn’t move or stop crying when he pulled the covers back and settled into the bed behind her. Careful not to move too close, he stroked her hair and squeezed her shoulder. “I’m here.”

To his surprise, she flipped over and threw herself into his arms. He drew her to his chest, ignoring the fact that he wore no shirt, and she didn’t have a bra on beneath the tee he’d given her. For a long time, she sobbed, but eventually she dropped off to sleep. From sheer exhaustion, he soon joined her.

 

Chapter Three

 

Kaleena felt him long before she came fully awake. She heard his soft breathing as he slept and felt his chest rise and fall against her breasts. Guilt assailed her for finding solace in this stranger’s arms, but she had nothing else. Jeff had meant everything to her. She’d met him after years of dating losers, and at first he’d seemed too good to be true. The first man with everything going for him, including looks and a successful career, and he loved
her
. Now he was gone, and it seemed like she was cursed, that no one decent would ever come along and stay.

Every breath hurt to draw in, and thoughts tormented her because they centered around the one man aside from her uncle she loved more than life. She’d told Cody suicide didn’t enter her mind, but the truth was if death came, she would welcome it. To live burned like hell, and right after she knew Jeff was gone, only Cody’s voice kept her sane. He talked to her, rubbed her back, and stroked her hair. He said it would be okay, and she wanted to shout at him and tell him how stupid and empty those words were. Yet, something in them helped all the same. She told herself she could make it another minute, another second, since Cody went so far to help.

Somewhere nearby, a rooster crowed, and she heard the call of cattle as they stirred. A horse neighed, and out the window over Cody’s shoulder, she caught sight of the skyline as it lightened. Morning always came, even when one didn’t want it to. She moved a little and realized Cody’s arm was slung over her side. They’d slept in the bed together all night. Guilt rose, and she pushed at his chest.

“Let me go.”

He jerked away and scanned the room before jumping to his feet with a curse. “Damn it, I’m late.” He crossed to the door in two long strides. Tall, she noted with little interest, maybe six foot four, and built broad-shouldered. Jeff had been big. She swallowed back tears. Cody stopped at the door. “You can sleep in today. I’ll make you breakfast before I go out.”

She didn’t respond. Why did it seem like he emphasized “today”? Would he make her earn her keep? He wasn’t such a good guy after all. In fact, what did she know about him? He might have slept in the bed with her with intentions of taking advantage of her.

He left, and she lay there. Time passed, but she didn’t know how much. He came in with a tray and left it by the bed. When he paused and put a hand up, she thought he would touch her, but he drew it back. She stared at him in silence.

Why should she care if he smelled good? He did, like a fresh shower and soap. He said something, but the thoughts in her mind were too loud. She shut her eyes and rolled to her side. Hopefully, he would be gone by the time she woke up again—
if
she did.

 

* * * *

 

An earthquake jarred Kaleena from her sleep. Her covers fell away, and a chill in the air raised goose bumps on her bare legs. She shivered and moaned in fear. When the cobwebs left her head, she realized it wasn’t a natural disaster but a man-made one. Cody tore away her covers and forced her to sit up. She glared at him.

“Leave me alone.”

“To wallow in your pain?”

“My fiancé just died, you insensitive ass!” Saying the words unsettled her stomach. She’d been lying in bed for the last two days, sleeping off and on, eating not at all. Each night when she gave into sobs, Cody came to her and held her. His strong embrace seemed to hold the pieces of her mind together when it felt like they would fly apart. She let him hold her because the alternative went beyond reason.

“I let you stay in for two days when I’d told you one. You haven’t eaten, and you haven’t showered.”

She put her hands on her hips, but every limb trembled in weakness. “Are you saying I stink, because if you are, you might as well say it plain to my face.”

She thought she saw amusement in his eyes before it disappeared. He stood up from the side of the bed and faced her. “I’m saying you have until the count of ten to get up and get showered and put clothes on. If you don’t start by the time I reach one, I will be dumping you in the shower myself and dressing you.”

Kaleena’s mouth fell open.

“Ten.”

“I hate you!” The damn tears filled her eyes and spilled over. She swiped a hand over her face.

“Nine.”

She slid to the end of the bed and stood up. “Get out. I’m not changing while you’re here.”

He moved to the door and gave her a look that said he would be back if he thought she made no progress. If Kaleena had the energy or the will, she’d flip him off. Instead she scanned the room for her clothes. She thought she remembered Cody saying he had brought her things from the wreck.

A cry tore from her chest, and she sank on the bed. What about the funeral or informing Jeff’s parents. She’d thought of none of that. “Oh no. I can’t…”

Cody appeared in the doorway some minutes later.

She peered up at him. “I forgot about taking care of things.”

He walked over and sat down beside her. When he took her hand, she tried to pull away, but he held on and rubbed a thumb over her skin where he held it. “Everything is arranged. His parents took care of it when the police department notified them. I’m sorry, sweetheart. I asked if they wanted to see you or since you know them and not me if they wanted to bring you to their house, and—”

“Don’t say it.” She squeezed her eyes shut, drawing in shallow breaths. “They hated the fact that he was involved with a black woman. They accused me of being after his money. I have a right to be there!”

“And you will.”

She opened her eyes. “What?”

“I managed to get the information on the funeral. It will be held tomorrow afternoon. Today, you and I are going into Huntsford so you can buy a dress and if you don’t have them, shoes. I’m driving you to the funeral tomorrow and staying with you. Afterward, we’ll come back here.”

“Why are you doing all this for me?”

“You asked me that before.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “And I can’t believe it’s just because there’s no one else or because my uncle asked you to.”

He grinned, but for the first time, she noted the sadness in his green eyes. “Well he does work for the FBI. I mean I don’t want to suddenly be on American’s Most Wanted list ‘accidentally.’”

“Uncle Cornell would never do that!”

“I was kidding.” He stood up. “Anyway, I’d like to leave at ten, but I want you to eat breakfast first. Twenty minutes should do it?”

She had the feeling he would be back if she didn’t give in. “Fine.”

Twenty-five minutes later, she’d showered and dressed. Cody’s boots sounded in the hall, and she sighed at her bland countenance in the mirror. Some of her things had been ruined in the accident, and her makeup bag happened to be one of them. Not that she felt up to fixing her face. At least she’d pulled a comb through her hair. The last couple of days she didn’t care that she looked a hot mess.

They sat across from each other at the kitchen table. She kept her head down, not wanting to talk as she forced herself to eat the bacon if not the eggs. This was the only meal the man knew how to make aside from peanut butter and jelly. He must think it was a healthier choice than microwave meals.

“You can’t cook.” She peered up at him between her lashes, and he flushed. His brows lowered, making him appear more angry than embarrassed.

“Sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

They left for town when she made it clear she would not eat the eggs. He grumbled something under his breath and dumped her plate. In the passenger seat of his truck, Kaleena grabbed the door handle until her fingers hurt. She panted and tried to calm down.

“It’s too soon,” he said. “You can stay here and tell me your size. I’ll buy your dress.”

“I don’t need to be babied. I’m a strong woman.”

“I know you are.”

Tempted to shout at him for no reason, she bit her tongue and shut her eyes. The emotions would not win. If she cried now, he would pull her onto his lap, and coddle her. She had to learn to stand by herself. The bacon lay like a stone in her stomach.

“He…” Saying Jeff’s name would undo everything she vowed. “He deserves more than just a hastily picked dress by a stranger.”

“I understand.”

Cody turned over the engine and pulled down the drive, which was plowed clean. When they reached the road, snow and ice crunched beneath the tires, and her stomach somersaulted. Jeff had lived in Wyoming all his life, but she was from Baltimore. She didn’t know the area around Huntsford at all, but an inability to forget the nightmare that ruined her life, told her when Cody drove along the stretch of road where the accident happened. She began to shake, and no amount of holding on to the armrest eased her panic.

“Hey, I’m not familiar with the town where they’re having the funeral.” Cody reached in front of her to the glove compartment. “Mind checking this map over for the route there?”

Kaleena stared at the map. She had no idea where Huntsford was. The place was not a major city like Cheyenne. “Don’t you have GPS?”

“It’s broken.” She looked at him and saw the lie in his eyes. He tapped the map. “Please. Thanks.”

She knew what he was doing. He tried to distract her from taking in her surroundings and knowing just when they passed the spot. The map gave her a point to focus on, and she took the out, studying it as if it held the mystery of life. When she had at last located Huntsford, she was about to confirm the town where the funeral would take place as that of her almost in-laws, but he pulled the map from her fingers.

“Just remembered I bought a new GPS. Thanks anyway.”

Kaleena glared at him and turned to the road. They were just passing a sign that read Welcome to Hunstford.

Above the main street driving in, wreaths hung on the wires at every intersection. Lights decorated the poles, but weren’t turned on yet. Even in the square across from a building that must be City Hall, each tree had been decorated in celebration of Christmas. Kaleena averted her eyes, and Cody swore. He turned off from that street to another called Pine Alley. Shops lined the narrow road from beginning to end. The one at the start appeared bigger than the rest, and the sign on it read Joey’s Cowboy Bar. Atop the roof was a neon contraption of a cowboy riding a bull.

Cody caught her looking at it. “I sometimes go there, among other bars, for a drink. We can go together whenever you like.”

“I’ll pass. Thanks. You can go without me.”

He parked the car, and they got out to head to the second largest building she’d spotted—the clothing outlet. They walked inside together, and Kaleena stopped to examine the signs hanging from the ceiling for the women’s section.

“Cody Everett, what are you doing in here?”

Kaleena turned to see a blonde wearing a long fur coat that hung open, revealing her low cut sweater and skin tight blue jeans. She strode up to Cody and pressed close. Her upturned face was a clear invite for a kiss, but Cody frowned. “Mandy.”

“Haven’t seen you at Joey’s lately. We miss you.” She pouted prettily at him. Kaleena spun away and started walking toward the middle of the store. Maybe she would find the section easier.

BOOK: Christmas at Twin Falls
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Claws! by R. L. Stine
Spice and the Devil's Cave by Agnes Danforth Hewes
Sweet Surrender (The Dysarts) by Catherine George
Unspoken 3 by A Lexy Beck
Mummy by Caroline B. Cooney
Joy in the Morning by P. G. Wodehouse