Authors: Randi Alexander
Badge and a Saddle
Heroes in the Saddle, Book 2
By Randi Alexander
“BADGE AND A SADDLE”
Copyright © 2016 Randi Alexander
Edited by E Felder
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used
fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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from the author.
Rex Tarrow set his
badge, gun, and keys on the night table next to his bed and sat down, still
fully clothed, on the mattress behind him. Dropping his head to his hands, he fisted
his fingers in his black hair, which had needed a cut for the last two weeks.
This missing persons
case. It had consumed him, kept him awake nights, drew his attention away from
his other duties during the day. Nothing about it made sense. Doctor Mina
Cooper, an astronomer at the U of Texas, way down in Austin. Why would a woman
like her—single, young, beautiful—go on a turkey hunt on a ranch outside of Fort
Worth, and then disappear? The woman was a friggin’ vegetarian.
The neighbor’s dog
barked right outside his window. Three in the morning, and the damn thing was
outside? This city living was not easy to get used to. He missed the wide-open
spaces and lazy quiet of Wild Oak County. Here, his neighbor’s fence ran a foot
away from the side of his house.
A beam of light
flashed through the room. It had to be the guy next door. Was that raccoon after
the garbage cans again?
Rex stood, even
though every muscle, tendon, and bone in his body told him to lie down and get
some sleep. Hell, what would one more night without rest matter? He trudged down
the hall toward the back of the house as footsteps clomped up the steps.
“It’s Jeb from
next door.” The man’s gruff voice nearly rattled the pane of glass out of the
door and his flashlight beam caught Rex in the face.
eyes, he pulled open the door. “What’s going on, Jeb?”
flashlight redirected to a woman’s face, partially shielded by blonde hair
and…sunglasses? She held up her hands at her shoulders as if in surrender.
“The lady here,
she says you know her.” Jeb shifted his shotgun away from its deadly aim at her
Tipping her head
up, she stretched to her full height of nearly six feet, just a few inches
shorter than Rex.
He snapped on the
porch light as she removed her glasses.
“Holy fu…” Rex had
to swallow. Twice.
Dr. Mina Cooper
stood right in front of him, living, breathing, and lifting an eyebrow at him.
“Are you gonna keep a girl standing on the back porch all night?”
Jeb looked around
her, peering into Rex’s face. “Ya know her or not?”
“Yeah, I know
her.” Rex reached out and wrapped his hand around her arm, feeling more bone
than muscle through the long sleeve of her black sweatshirt. “Come on in,
sweetheart. You’re here to apologize, huh?” The words just flowed out of him,
while his brain kept speculating over her presence at his house.
Jeb chuckled and
Rex guided her
into the house, shut the door, and closed the curtains on the window. “What the
hell are you doing here?”
She deflated like
a popped balloon.
Rex put an arm
around her and helped her onto the bench. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Tipping up her face, Mina blinked away the tears that made her sky-blue eyes
glow in the low light. “You have to help me.”
He scratched the
side of his head. “Why me? Why not go to a police station?”
Wrapping her arms
around herself, she shook her head. “I can’t trust that the Austin PD and your
police department aren’t in this together.”
together?” Was he missing something in his exhaustion, or was she talking in
She doubled over
with a groan. “Can I use your bathroom?”
“Uh, yeah. Are you
alright?” He took her thin arm in his hand and helped her up, walking her
toward the bathroom door.
“I get nauseous
when I run too far.” She grasped the doorframe and made her way to the toilet,
pulling off the blonde wig to reveal short, choppy red hair.
Rex closed the
door, giving her privacy. “Yell if you need anything.” No wonder they hadn’t
spotted her, despite the APB out on her. Her photo showed long, deep-red hair.
He stepped back a
few feet, but still heard retching noises. She’d been running? How far was too
far? She’d been missing from Austin for five days, from the turkey hunt for
three. She couldn’t have been on foot since she’d come to Tarrant County. Could
The sound of water
running in the sink snapped him into action. He grabbed his small notebook and
pen and started writing his questions for her.
Mina opened the
door and stepped out. “Thanks. Sorry.” She carried her wig and glasses in one
Rex looked down at
her jeans and running shoes. From her knees down, she was covered with dirt.
“Hey, no problem.
Drop by any time.” He gestured toward the living room.
She gave a
half-smile and tottered that way, flopping down onto the couch and dropping her
head back. “Can I just have ten minutes to sleep? Then I’ll answer
all…your…que…” Her breathing went deep and the wig and glasses fell to the
Rex just stared.
This was something completely new, unexpected. Of course, almost everything
dealing with missing persons was new to him. He’d only been a detective for a
few months. Working his way up from patrol cop to vice cop in three years, he’d
aced his detective exam and had fast-tracked to Missing Persons. Homicide was
his ultimate goal, but he’d take his time and earn that.
He shook his head
and sat in his recliner. She didn’t care about his history, but somehow she
knew he was a clean cop, and was one of the team searching for her.
“How the hell did
you know that, Doctor?” He whispered the words, then wrote a few more questions
in his notebook, including,
How did you find out where I live?
Should he contact
his partner? Sontag had been in the unit for eight years, and knew what he was
doing, but she’d mentioned corrupt cops in Austin and DFW. How much did he
trust his partner? The guy was lazy and unprofessional, but dirty? Not likely.
She cried out softly,
and he got up, pulling the blanket off the back of his chair and covering her
with it. Mina stood six feet tall, but her weight looked to be a barely healthy
one-hundred-forty pounds. Pretty, though, with her pale skin, a few freckles on
her cheeks and nose, and a decent set of round, maybe C-cup…
“Shit.” He turned
away and walked into the kitchen. Creepy cop, staring at her like she was
flirting with him in a bar instead of passed out on his couch. He opened the
refrigerator. A box of pizza from three days ago, some lunch meat, but she was
a vegetarian. In the cheese drawer, he pulled out a block of cheddar. It looked
a little green on the edges.
He cut off the bad
parts and sliced the rest of the cheese, set it on a plate with some crackers
and an apple that had been lurking in the back corner of the refrigerator.
Grabbing a bottle of water, he stepped quietly into the living room.
She hadn’t moved.
He put her snack
on the table next to her and looked back toward the bathroom. Why hadn’t he
thought of it earlier? He must have been in shock, and it felt like he still
was. He grabbed a new toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste and put that next
to her plate.
Rex went back to
his notebook, filling up five pages before she coughed and made a smacking noise
with her mouth, then jerked and looked around.
“How long was I
minutes. You’re safe, Doctor.” He gestured to the table next to her. “Have a
freshen-up, a snack, then I’m going to ask you about fifty questions.
“Sure.” She nodded
and sat forward. “Thank you for this.” She blinked at him. “You wouldn’t have
any tea, would you?”
Rex snorted. “Do I
look like the kind of guy who has tea in his house?”
Mina pressed her
lips together to keep from laughing. Was it just the relief of finally feeling
safe after so many days on the run, so many sleepless nights hiding?
He groaned and got
out of his big recliner. “I’ll check.”
black-eyed, and tanned-skinned, Rex Tarrow had a sterling reputation in his
department, according to the records she’d accessed. After meeting him, her
intuition substantiated her decision to ask him for help. He was the one person
she’d risk trusting with her life, but it was still a risk. He may not be as
squeaky-clean as he appeared on paper.
Watching him walk
away was a pleasure, and one that surprised her, considering her current
status. Long legs and a nice ass encased in worn jeans. Mina grabbed the
toothbrush and toothpaste, then stood and followed him as far as the kitchen
door. His wide shoulders and big arms in a white T-shirt struck her as super sexy.
She’d spotted a bedroom just down the hall…
Wow, had the
stress and sleepless nights finally made her lose touch with reality? She let
herself take a moment to watch him stretch to dig through cabinets looking for
tea for her. He was one perfect example of a man.
Mina walked down
the hall to the bathroom. The house looked old and dated, but well maintained.
The neighborhood wasn’t the best in the city though, and she’d had some doubts
as she ran through the streets and alleys. Was a detective’s salary so skimpy
that he had to live in such a marginal area?
She loaded the
toothbrush and stuck it in her mouth, then wandered to the back entryway. A few
photos on the wall caught her attention. Rex as a teen with a smiling older man
in a law officer’s uniform. She couldn’t see the patches.
Another one showed
three men in light-brown camo in the desert, holding their helmets and guns,
all smiling. She looked closer. Was that Rex? Wow, short, nearly shaven hair,
his skin even darker than it appeared now.
walked up behind her, silent in his stocking feet.
She jumped and
goobed some toothpaste onto her chin.
He held up a steaming cup with a teabag string hanging from one side. “I’ll set
this next to the couch.”
“Thank you.” Her
knees wobbled a little as she walked back to the bathroom and rinsed.
In the living
room, she sat next to the food he’d kindly prepared for her.
Rex pulled a chair
from the corner and set it close in front of her. As he sat, he opened his
notebook. “I have some questions for you.” He pulled his phone from his pocket
and set it on his thigh.
through her. “You didn’t call anyone, did you?”
His brows drew
down. “No. I’m going to record your answers.”
She chomped on a
thick slice of cheese and washed it down with a swig of tea. “I’ll answer all
your questions.” Her stomach rumbled and she paused, making sure nothing was
reversing in there, then ate some of the crackers. “But we have to get out of here.”
His perfect black
brows rose up on his forehead. “Why? What is going on?”
The sound of a car
door closing made her jump. Her meal nearly came back up. “Is that—”
He held out a hand
to quiet her, stood, and walked to the window, looking out through the side of
the curtains toward the street. “Just the neighbors.” Turning, he cocked his
head. “I’m assuming someone is looking for you, besides the authorities.”
Nodding, she ate
as quickly as she could. She should have gotten them out of there within minutes
of her arrival. What was she thinking? She was not safe yet. “The killers
the authorities, and they’re looking for me.”
That made him
everything on her plate, and stood with it in one hand and the cup of tea in
the other. “I’ll tell you the whole story.” Or at least most of it. There were
things he didn’t need to know. “But we have to leave. I got your address using
a state database through the college, and it’s probably already been traced.”
He just shook his
head. “Why me?”
Walking to the
kitchen, she glanced longingly at the box of tea bags, then turned her back on
them. There was no time for another cup.
“Take the tea bags
with you, if you want.” He gestured to the box.
The detective was
very perceptive, noticing her every nuance. Would he be able to tell that she
was withholding a key piece of information from him when she told her story? She
set her dishes in the sink and took a couple of bags, tucking them into her
pocket before answering his question. “I called the precinct with a tip on a
missing person. Me.”
Rex stood in the
kitchen doorway, tall and too good-looking. With his phone in one hand,
notebook and pen in the other, he looked like he was ready to force the truth
out of her. “That’s how you got my name?”
“Yes, and your
partner’s. Then I looked you up online. Victor Sontag has been with the unit
for years, and you’re new. You have less chance of being part of the
mentioned killers. They were cops?”
“Honestly, I will tell you everything.” She laced her fingers together at the
small lie. “But we have to go someplace safe.”
“There’s a safe
house about five miles—”
“Uh uh. No. If
this corruption goes as high as I think it does, that’s the first place they’d
look for me.”
“They. The cops
A banging sound
came from the back of the house.
She jumped, and
the food in her stomach churned like a carnival ride. “Detective. Please.” She
began to breathe too fast, started feeling a little dizzy.
His eyes narrowed
as he looked toward the back door. The neighbor’s voice called to his dog. “Okay,
that’s just Jeb.” He scratched his jaw. “I can see you’re serious, so I’m going
to go along with this. For now.” He shoved his phone and notepad into his
pocket. “Get your wig on. Let me throw some clothes into a bag.” He gestured to
a door in the back room. “Grab a coat and hat out of there, just to change your
into the room off the hall where she’d seen a bed.