She'd been stranded by a snowstorm with nowhere to turn. But when all seemed lost, mom-on-the-run Janette Black saw the sign for Wild West Protective Services--and found Dalton West.The loner of the West clan had no time for love and family. But protecting was in Dalton's blood--and he knew when a woman carried secrets. He would take Janette and her baby into his home to wait out the storm, and bar the door from any danger. And when Janette's demons tracked her down, Dalton would take on hell itself to keep her safe from harm.
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June 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Snowbound with the Bodyguard by Carla Cassidy
I'm sorry, ma'am, but I just got word that the bus isn't coming."
Janette blinked and stared up at the man in charge of the Cotter Creek bus station. She straightened in her chair as she realized she must have dozed off. She wrapped her arms around her still sleeping son and gazed at the man with confusion.
"Excuse me?" she said.
"The bus. It's not coming. It's been held up by weather."
"By weather?" Dulled by sleep, she stared at him as if he were speaking a foreign language.
He nodded. "Ice." He pointed out the window. Janette followed his finger and gasped in surprise as she saw the icy pellets falling from the sky. The ground was already covered with at least an inch.
Where had it come from? When she'd arrived at the bus station two hours ago the skies had been thick with gray clouds, but there hadn't been a hint of snow. Of course the last thing on her mind when she'd left Sandstone had been the weather forecast.
She looked back at the man and tried to swallow against the sense of panic that had been with her since she'd packed her bags and left Sandstone that afternoon. A friend of her grandmother's had driven her the thirty miles to Cotter Creek, where a bus to Kansas City ran every other day. It was supposed to run today.
"Will it be here tomorrow?" she asked.
"Depends if the weathermen are right or wrong. They say we're in for a blizzard, but they're wrong more often than they're right." He shrugged his skinny shoulders and pulled a stocking cap over his head. "You best get settled in someplace for the night. I've got to close down here. Check back in the morning and I'll know more about the schedule." He was obviously in a hurry, tapping his heel as he looked at her expectantly.
"Of course." She stood, grateful that Sammy still slept in his sling against her chest. She didn't want to show how scared she was, didn't want to do anything that might draw unnecessary attention to herself.
She'd find a pay phone, call the nearest motel and get a room for the night. Hopefully she'd still have time to get as far away from Sandstone as possible before Brandon Sinclair even knew she'd left the small town.
She grabbed the handle of her large suitcase and draped the diaper bag over her shoulder, still groggy from the unexpected catnap.
She was barely out the door before the bus station, little more than a shack, was locked up behind her. The ice that fell had coated the sidewalk and created shiny surfaces on everything else in sight. Under different circumstances she might have found it beautiful.
With Sammy safely snuggled beneath her wool coat, she looked up and down the street. She didn't know Cotter Creek well. Perhaps there was a bed-and-break-fast someplace nearby where she could spend the night.
A new disquiet soared through her as she eyed the deserted streets. It was just after six but it was as if the entire town had packed their bags and left. There wasn't a person or a car on the street.
She should have asked to use the phone in the bus station. She should have asked the man where she could get a room for the night. But the nap had dulled her senses, and he'd hurried her out too fast for her to think clearly.
The sight of a phone booth in the distance rallied her spirits. Cotter Creek was near a major highway, and that meant there had to be a motel somewhere nearby.
Pulling the suitcase behind her, she hurried as fast as the slick concrete would allow toward the phone booth, feeling as if luck was on her side as she spied the small phone book hanging on a hook just inside the door.
She stepped into the booth and closed the door behind her, grateful to be out of the cold wind and stinging ice. With cold fingers she thumbed through the book until she found the page with the motel listings. Make that one listing. The Cotter Creek Motel.
Digging change from her purse, she felt Sammy stir as if the rapid beating of her heart disturbed his sleep. She drew a deep breath to steady her nerves.
She'd wanted to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible from Sandstone and Brandon Sinclair. Okay, so she couldn't get on the bus tonight. She'd cool her heels in a motel room and catch the bus the next day. Although she hated to part with a dime of the money that was neatly folded and tucked into a side pocket in her purse, she really didn't have a choice.
She had to get out of town tomorrow. Thirty miles was far too close to the devil and his minions. She wouldn't be satisfied until she was a thousand miles away. Once she got settled in a new town, she'd send for Nana and the three of them would build a new life where Brandon Sinclair couldn't bother them.
She dropped the change into the slot and punched in the number for the Cotter Creek Motel. A man answered on the third ring. "No room at the inn," he said.
"Is this the Cotter Creek Motel?" she asked, her hand tightening on the receiver.
"Yeah, but if you're looking for a room, we're full up.