The Cowboy's Baby Surprise. Linda Conrad

The Cowboy's Baby Surprise - Linda Conrad

Скачать книгу
edged around the beat-up oak desk until she stood a couple of feet from her boss, a man whose chronological age placed him at about thirty-three, only a few years older than she. Regardless of chronological age, he was light years ahead in wisdom and strength.

      She leaned her rear against the desktop and forced a smile at the man who’d been her savior more times than she could count. “Of course I know you wouldn’t hurt Cami…intentionally. But to uproot her and go chasing off to some remote part of the West sounds like it might not be in her best interest, either.”

      Reid scowled. “You still haven’t listened. That part of the Texas-Mexico border is perfectly civilized.” He ran a few fingers through his chestnut-colored hair, disturbing the lines of a new, trim cut. “The youth ranch is only thirty miles outside McAllen, Texas. It’s a city of over a hundred thousand people, and less than a day’s drive from here.”

      “Fine. Great. But what earthly good would I be at a ranch? I’ve never set foot on one in my life.”

      “Damn it, Carley, I asked you to keep an open mind and listen. The place is essentially an institution, an orphanage…although they don’t call them that these days. You’re trained in child psychology…and they need a child psychologist. You’ll hardly even know you’re on a ranch.”

      With a huge sigh, Carley braced herself for whatever came next. She had a feeling another drastic life change was headed her way. Since a few months before Cami’s birth, the Bureau had refused to use her for undercover work. Lately she’d spent most of her time certifying the paperwork for the Mexican babies that the operation had recovered, and verifying the children to be fit for the return to their native country.

      Now, all of sudden, the FBI needed her to do surveillance at the border? And to take Cami with her? The whole thing sounded ridiculous.

      “The foster home is run by the Texas church council, but these kinds of places never have enough money to operate.” Reid gave her a few more details. The way he scrutinized her face with his deep-set eyes let Carley know he was closely judging her reactions. “There are always more children than the funds to keep them. The church runs both a cattle ranch and a citrus farm to help provide the means to keep the children’s home afloat.”

      “But what exactly do you expect me to do there?”

      “I expect you to do what you’re best at…work with the children. All the kids there are throwaways. The babies have been dumped and are unadoptable until the state determines parental rights. The older children are either youthful offenders sent there for rehabilitation or they’re disabled in some way. As you can imagine, all of them have emotional problems.”

      Yep, he knew her well. Her imagination ran rampant with thoughts of the cast-off children who needed the care only she could give them. “But what will I be doing for Operation Rock-a-Bye?”

      “The border is where the action is right now.” Reid smiled at her with only the corners of his eyes. “You know we’ve tracked some of the scum from this international baby-selling ring to the McAllen area. Just pay attention to what’s going on.”

      He shifted in his too-small seat and looked decidedly uncomfortable. “We have an agent in the area, Manny Sanchez, who’s undercover as a veterinarian’s assistant. The job enables him to travel along the Rio Grande talking to farm and ranch laborers. With his information we’ve stopped dozens of coyotes in the act of bringing Mexican babies across the border.”

      Reid sat forward in his chair and put his elbows on his knees. “Manny heard a rumor, spreading through the illegal population a while back, that a few of the babies showing up at the church home are coming from across the river, not from the usual state agencies.”

      He stood to drive home his point. “Manny’s been working every day with the vet on the church’s cattle, doing the yearly inseminations and inoculations, but we need someone inside the place. Someone with access to the children…and to the records.”

      Carley knew she was sunk. “And how am I going to get the job?”

      “The job is yours. One of the elders on the church-council is an old friend of mine. The person who used to hold the position had a sudden ‘family emergency.’ The home administrator is expecting you and Cami. He doesn’t know your real identity…just that you’re a psychologist and a single mother in need of work. His church council supervisor has vouched for you.”

      “Swell. And when…” Something in her boss’s eyes stopped her cold.

      “There’s something else. Something urgent.”

      Ah. Here comes the real reason. Carley held her breath and waited.

      Reid turned his back and paced to the far corner of the tiny, cluttered office. “Manny Sanchez worked with your old partner, Witt, on an undercover operation near El Paso about five years ago. The mission lasted only a short time, and the two men saw each other for mere minutes, but…”

      Carley’s heart paused in midbeat. “This is about Witt? Has there been a break in the investigation into his disappearance?” She flew at Reid’s wide back and, catching him off guard, spun him to face her. “Tell me what this is about.”

      “Take it easy.” Reid cleared his throat, straightened his back and resumed his agent-in-charge demeanor. “Special Agent Charleston Mills, you know the Bureau will never give up until we uncover what happened to Davidson. Every FBI agent in the world keeps one eye open for him at all times. We don’t just lose agents.”

      Reid gently pulled Carley’s hands from his shoulders and held on to her wrists, making her listen carefully to his explanation. “Manny believed a fellow working on the ranch bares an uncanny resemblance to Davidson.”

      Carley’s mouth dropped open, and the room started to spin. “But…but…”

      Reid threw an arm around her shoulder and guided her into a chair. “You need some water?”

      She shook her head but still couldn’t manage to speak.

      “We’ve verified it’s Davidson from his prints. But…he isn’t using his own name and didn’t recognize Manny.”

      Carley found her voice. “Why didn’t you bring him home? Is he being held against his will? Is it possible that’s why he couldn’t admit who he is?”

      Reid shrugged. “Not likely. In the first place, can you picture someone holding Davidson against his will for eighteen months?”

      A smile threatened to break out on her face, but she held back, only managing to shake her head once more. So many questions ran through her mind that her own needs were pushed aside for the time being.

      “No? Me, neither.” Reid sat back on the desk the same as Carley had done earlier. “In the second place, Manny says this fellow comes and goes whenever he wants…seems to have the run of the place.”

      “Then what’s going on? If it’s Witt, why isn’t he home?” Carley felt her blood begin to boil. How could Witt stay away? How could he do such a thing to the agency? To her?

      Reid stood to pace, then stopped, and Carley sensed he was forcing himself to face her again. “We’ve done some checking with his co-workers and have come to a startling conclusion. Davidson’s lost his memory and has no idea who he is.

      “Amnesia seems like the only explanation that makes much sense. Before I drag him back here and institutionalize him, I figure you’re the perfect person to try to help him regain his memory…you being a psychologist and in love with him and all.”

      Carley was stunned speechless. Witt an amnesia victim? Strong, dangerous Witt Davidson needed her help?

      “I can’t spare you much time,” Reid warned. “But we’re moving the bulk of our operation to the border in the general vicinity of the foster ranch. You go work on bringing Witt back to us, Carley. But keep in touch. If you need anything, let me know.”


Скачать книгу