Air force sergeant Alex Blocker thought he knew everything a man needed to know about bravery. But it took a special kind of courage to return to help rebuild his tornado-ravaged hometownbecause it meant working with the only woman he'd ever loved.
This storm was nothing compared to the passion that still raged between him and Macy Jackson. And yet there were so many years between them now, and so many secretsstarting with the child he'd never known she had.
But if his suspicions about this beautiful little boy turned out to be true, he wasn't leaving here until he'd reclaimed everything that was rightfully his
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The Sergeant's Secret Son
By Bonnie Gardner
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Bonnie Gardner
All right reserved.
Chapter OneImpatient because the situation was urgent, Dr. Macy Jackson made her way slowly and laboriously though the dark and ravaged streets of Lyndonville, South Carolina. She was horrified at the damage the tornado had done, and as she approached the epicenter of the devastation, she steeled herself for what else she might discover.
The streets were strewn with fallen trees and branches and other debris she could only guess about. Many of the roads were impassable, and she'd had difficulty making her way through. Every time she'd found one clear street, it would lead to another dead end. The destruction she encountered in the beams of her headlights was chilling.
And she hadn't yet reached the site of the real disaster.
Finally, she reached Faron's Trailer Park, which had sustained a direct hit from the tornado, and her heart broke at the sight she found. In the flickering lightning from the departing storm, she could see that trailers were overturned, twisted and flattened like tin cans for the recycling bin. Fires raged from broken gas tanks, and firefighters were doing what they could to put them out. How could anyone have survived this?
A siren blipped as Macy climbed out of her car and as the damp air hit her face, she felt the cold and the rain, and she smelled the acrid odor of fire and fear. She looked to where a sheriff's department cruiser flashed its blue lights. In the meager illumination of the headlights, Macy could see several victims huddling or stretched out on the littered ground.
She felt a flicker of unease as she approached the cruiser, then stood bathed in the flashing blue light, but she shook it away. Maybe it was a throwback to her childhood when a black child was always under suspicion, even one as light-skinned as she. Then her attention was drawn back to the devastation.
Spotlighted by the occasional flicker of lightning and flames, a huge man, the color of polished mahogany, bare-chested, magnificently muscled, and wet in the sporadic rain, ripped at the torn and shredded metal of what was once a mobile home. The only part of him that didn't seem to be shining in the flickering light was his short hair. In the red-and-blue glow of the fires and police lights, he looked almost diabolic, but Macy sensed that he was one of the good guys. As Macy watched, the man pulled a small bundle from the shredded mess.
Something, she didn't know what, had drawn her attention to the powerful man working so hard in the rubble. "Who is that?" Macy asked the sheriff's deputy, as the huge man waded purposefully through the debris carrying what looked like a pile of rags.
"Don't know," the deputy said. "Claimed he'd had rescue and first-aid training, and at the time, he was all we had."
"Thank goodness he was here to help," Macy said as she leaned over the first of her patients. It looked as though she would have a long night's work ahead of her.
"I think this is the last victim from the trailers," a deep voice grunted as he lowered a trembling and rain-soaked little girl to the ground beside Macy.
Macy cast a startled sideways glance at the speaker and discovered the man she'd been admiring was none other than Alex Blocker. The man she had hoped she'd never see again, though she'd longed for him in her dreams, loomed, broad-shouldered and capable, above her. Now she knew why she'd been so attracted to him. This was the man with whom she'd made both the worst and the best mistake of her life.
"I've had enough first-aid training that I can help out with triage," he said tersely as he tried to make the child comfortable on the wet, cold ground. "Her name is Leticia. She's probably all right. She's wet and cold and scared, but I didn't find any obvious trauma."
He didn't act as though he recognized her, but then, maybe he was feeling just as awkward about this meeting as she was. Deciding to plunge right in, Macy took the first step. "Thank you, Alex," she said, looking into his deep, dark brown eyes.
Suddenly recognition dawned in his eyes, and his face lit up for a brief instant. Then the cool, calm, rescuer facade returned. "Hello, Macy," he said slowly. "I see you finally made it through medical school."
"Yes." Macy nodded. "I'd love to catch up, but we've got a long night ahead of us, and Leticia needs attention now. She might have internal injuries," she said, under her breath so that only Alex could hear.
"We'll have to watch her." She looked around.
"Where are her parents?"
Alex jerked his head in the direction of a distraught woman huddled over a mound covered by a tattered sheet. "That's her folks. I think you can tell what the sheet is covering without me having to spell it out in front of the k-i-d. She's traumatized enough as it is."
Macy swallowed a lump in her throat when she saw the debris and the devastation. She'd known there would be casualties, but she'd hoped that there would be no deaths. Now that her worst fears had been realized, she could do nothing but help the living.
Macy had never met Leticia Haley's father, but she knew both Leticia and her mother from her clinic. Macy swallowed again and averted her eyes. As much as she was saddened by Mr. Haley's death, she didn't have time to deal with that now.
She drew in a deep breath and turned to Alex.
He hunkered down beside her. "The worst cases are closest to the cruiser. I figured you'd need more light to attend to them."
"Good thinking," Macy said without taking her eyes, filled with unshed tears, off her patient. Although she wanted to stop and look at Alex, his broad chest glistening with rain and perspiration, she knew that Leticia needed her full attention. She gave the child a reassuring smile.
Alex touched Macy's face and turned her chin up to look at him. He drew her into his arms and folded her into an embrace. How warm and gentle Alex's touch was, even with hands that were hard and calloused, and how much Macy needed it. A tingle of awareness shuddered through her as Alex inclined his head toward the headlights focused on the victims.
"We'll get through this," he said gently, letting her go. Then he stepped away and started clearing more debris to make an open area. He glanced over his shoulder. "So Medevac can land," he explained, then went back to work.
Macy glanced back at him once more; she longed to watch the play of Alex's muscles as he worked, but she directed her attention to the most seriously injured. At least, most of her attention. It was hard not to look at Alex when all she wanted was to drink in the sight of him after all those years.
Even if he could mean big trouble, Macy couldn't help wondering what might have been. No, she had work to do now. Thinking or worrying about Alex would have to wait. Besides, he'd made it perfectly clear five years ago that he was not interested in her.
If he had been, five years would not have passed before she saw him again.
Excerpted from The Sergeant's Secret Son by Bonnie Gardner Copyright © 2003 by Bonnie Gardner
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.