The texas renegade reurns(7)

By: Charlene Sands

 Her shoulders stiffened. “Am I really supposed to believe that?”

 “Yes, you are. Because the truth comes straight from my heart.”

 Cara glanced away, over the candlelight and past the roses, out into the dusky night sky. Gurgling waters lapping over jutting rocks filled the silence. It was so peaceful here. At any other time, she’d be happy to be here. This was her favorite spot on earth.

 “Cara, look at me.”

 Her gaze shifted to his face. Alex by candlelight was something to see. Her life could’ve been so perfect.

 “Soon after we got engaged, I was driving home late one night. I had a surprise for you waiting at my house. It had just been delivered and I was going to pick it up and bring it to you.”

 She swallowed. Under the table, her hand went to her tummy.

 “But I never made it to your house. While I was driving I noticed someone tailgating me. I drove faster to lose him. But he sped up, too, and continued to hug my tail. From what I could tell, there were three big men in the car. The next thing I know, they’re pulling up beside me and ramming my car. I was jolted from the sideswipe and realized these guys meant business. My car skidded off the road. I hung on to the steering wheel and tried to maneuver the car back onto the highway, but the driver never let up. Their SUV swiped my car again, staying neck and neck with me, until finally I couldn’t outmaneuver them. I remember the crash. My car almost hit a tree and then I went spiraling down an embankment. The air bag deployed and protected me. A second later, I was yanked out of the car and beaten until I passed out.”

 The scene played out in her mind. She didn’t need to hear all the details to know it must’ve been horrendous for him. “Alex?”

 He began nodding. “It’s all true, Cara. I must’ve been drugged, because when I woke up I was in an abandoned house. There was nothing around, no furniture, no food. I was groggy and disoriented, but I remember the stench of that place as if it was yesterday. I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I knew I wasn’t in America. My attackers left me there. I don’t know if they planned on coming back to kill me or not, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out. I couldn’t figure out why I’d been abducted but it seemed as though somebody paid them to rough me up and get me out of town.”

 Cara let that information sink in. Nothing was as it seemed with Alex, but he’d gone through a horrible ordeal. She believed that much. He wasn’t that good an actor. Something in his eyes spoke of genuine fear. “This is all so bizarre, Alex. You could have been killed.”

 He nodded. “I didn’t know who to trust. I got out of there pronto. I found out I was in Tijuana. I used my gold watch to buy my way on a truck smuggling immigrant workers into the U.S. They packed a bunch of us inside and I tried my best to blend in with them. I’m Mexican, after all. I didn’t look like a millionaire, and though some workers eyed me with suspicion, I kept my head down and pretended not to notice.”

 “You took a big chance with your life.”

 “I had no choice. I had to get outta there.”

 The truck Alex had been traveling in was sideswiped by a car and had careened onto its side. A dozen migrant workers had spilled out onto the road, Alex included. She’d heard it was an awful scene and there was a lot of confusion. A paramedic who’d showed up at the wreck recognized Alex, which was a good thing because the blows to his head during the accident stole his memory.

 Alex took a few bites of his food while Cara sat silently, picturing what he’d gone through and wondering about this man who at one point she’d thought she’d known so well.

 “When you left town, people started speculating about your disappearance. Chance was suspected of having something to do with it. I left him for you. Dropped him like a hot potato, and some believed Chance was insanely jealous. I never believed that for a second, but it looked suspicious to those who knew us.”

 “Chance’s name needs to be cleared. I plan to get to the bottom of it. Chance is in love with my sister and they deserve a clean start. Someone had me shanghaied and I’m going to find out who it was.”

 Cara sighed as her guard came down a little. She never wished Alex any harm. She still didn’t, but his abduction had little to do with her. It didn’t make up for the fact that he’d betrayed her. “After all you’ve told me, it’s a miracle that you made it home in one piece.”

 “I almost didn’t. It was a stroke of luck that Piper was the paramedic on the scene and recognized me. I didn’t know who she was. Hell, I didn’t know who anyone was, but I’m grateful that she took charge and made sure I got the medical care I needed.”

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