When widow Angela Bentley takes in injured ex-gunhawk Nick Dalton and three orphans on Christmas Eve, she is determined only to lend a hand where needed. But when the children drag in a small, scraggly Christmas tree, Angela finds herself wanting to create a memorable holiday for them. Can these visitors become the family she longs for? For those who believe in miracles, anything is possible--even true love, in the most unlikely circumstances.***
He spoke first. "What...what's your name?" His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn't know why, and she didn't want to think about it. He'd be leaving soon.
"Angela." She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. "Angela Bentley."
He took two deep swallows of the water. "Angel," he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. "It fits."
She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. "And you are..."
"Nick Dalton, ma'am." His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. "I see...you've heard of me."
A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She'd heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn't.
She'd heard. She just hadn't expected him to be so handsome. Hadn't expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn't expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. "Heard of you? Who hasn't?"
He met her challenging stare. "I mean you no harm."
She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He'd tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. "I'm only human, it seems, after all," he muttered huskily. "Not a legend tonight. Just a man."
He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. "A soldier of fortune, from what I hear."
He gave a faint smile. "Things aren't always what they seem, Miss Bentley." From the hint of chiding tolerance in his voice, she knew she wasn't the first to censure him to his face. Nor would she be the last.