Christmas Confidential

Christmas Confidential by Marilyn Pappano; Linda Conrad Read Free Book Online

Book: Christmas Confidential by Marilyn Pappano; Linda Conrad Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marilyn Pappano; Linda Conrad
“Yeah, right.”
    Of course he got only one room. That didn’t surprise Miri at all. The fact that it had two beds in it should have surprised her—didn’t most men take advantage of women whenever given the chance?—but it really didn’t. Dean was persistent, no doubt about that, but he’d always been gentlemanly about it. He had never behaved badly.
    Unless she counted the lies and the pretense.
    And then she’d have to count her own thefts and pretense. She never should have gotten involved with him, no matter how charmingly persistent he’d been. She’d known there was no room for a man in her life. But his attention had been so flattering, and she’d been needy.
    The room was clean, though it smelled musty, rather like her pajamas. The shorts and T-shirt had been packed away for eighteen months after being laundered. But that was okay. She didn’t mind, and Dean didn’t care.
    As soon as he’d taken her to the room, he’d left again to get food. She’d told him she wasn’t hungry, but her stomach had rumbled loud enough to make a liar of her. She hoped he was the kind who could eat and fall into bed. She didn’t want to waste any time unwinding. The sooner they slept, the sooner they could get on the road again.
    She sat on the bed farthest from the door, Boo tucked beside her. The sound of Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” filtered faintly from somewhere. Never one of her favorite songs, especially not right now. She switched on the television to drown out the tune, channeling through holiday movies to commercials blaring gift-giving ideas to twenty-four-hour news. She muted it and turned to the program guide to find something definitively non-holiday.
    When three sharp raps sounded at the door, she stiffened, then gave herself a mental shake and went to undo the chain lock. Dean came in, shivering and carrying a couple of bags of pure sensory heaven. Hamburgers, French fries, onion rings and, nearly overpowered by the other aromas, hot cocoa.
    She loved hot cocoa.
    “Damn, it’s cold out there. I think my ears have frozen solid.” He set the bags on the dresser while she locked up again behind him. His hands were red and so were his cheeks, chapped by the sharp wind that had sent her scurrying from car to room when they’d arrived.
    “I can’t promise how hot anything is after the run across the parking lot, but it smells good.” In the process of unloading the bags, he noticed she was still standing by the door. “What?”
    She shook her head and crossed to claim her food, taking it to her bed. She’d been thinking of all he’d done today—meeting her at, or at least near, the prison, giving her a ride, buying her first McDonald’s hamburger in more than a year. Saving her from those men at the bus stop, taking her to Atlanta. Remembering that she liked onion rings and loved cocoa. It was more than anyone had done for her, or remembered about her, in twelve years, maybe twenty. It was enough to make her feel.
    And she wasn’t going to feel. He had his reasons. She couldn’t let herself forget that. The fact that he’d remembered her preference for rings and cocoa was meaningless. It was probably detailed, along with all her other likes and dislikes, in a case file somewhere. No doubt, he’d reviewed it before heading for the prison today.
    She sank on the bed, slowly unwrapping foil from the burger, a sense of wonder building inside her. Twelve hours ago, she’d been in prison, wearing her tacky uniform, sticking to the schedule they’d set for her, making a point of minding her own business. Now here she sat, long after lights-out, on a comfortable bed in a motel in east Texas, eating restaurant food way past dinnertime. Tonight there would be no talk to disturb her sleep, no snoring unless it was Dean’s, no crying unless it was her own. She was a free woman.
    Then her gaze shifted to Dean. Free being relative. Still, for sheer good looks and disposition, he beat her old

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