"Great new series for Conrad fans"
Reviewed by Sandra Wurman
Posted April 21, 2012
Romance Contemporary | Romance Suspense
Going into the witness protection program is always a huge
leap of faith that your new identity will manage to not only
save your life but give you a chance to start over. It
always comes with a huge price tag. Leaving everyone behind
is probably one of the most difficult parts but when Grace
went into WITSEC it was to protect her son Mikey and no
sacrifice was too great.
But all wasn't working out as planned and their so-called
secured location somehow wound up rather unsecure. The drug
lord, Serrano that had taken her, raped her and had her
parents killed still avoided capture even though with her
testimony there was a lengthy jail term waiting.
Serrano had hired hands searching for Grace and what he
believed was his son. And their instructions were crystal
clear - get his son no matter who you have to kill to get
him. Marshall Sam Chance had already failed in his first
attempt to keep Grace and Mikey safe. But Grace had taken it
upon herself to run. Now Sam was on a mission to find them
and ensure their safety no holds barred. Once he found them
his plan was to take them to a really remote place, and he
knew just the place. His family ranch in Texas was beyond
remote surely it would provide the safety and anonymity
needed to safeguard them.
Sam felt that the Chance ranch was practically impenetrable
but what he didn't count on was the veracity of Serrano and
his thugs who were determined not to come away this time
empty handed. This had become very personal for Sam who was
beginning to think of Grace and Mickey as his. Even though
Sam had reasons for having stayed away from the ranch for
many years, he now had a greater reason to make a place for
himself and hopefully for Grace and the young boy he had
begun to think of as his son.
Welcome to a great new series by Linda Conrad. TEXAS BABY
SANCTUARY will wet your appetite for more and thankfully
that's exactly what Conrad has in store for her readers.
Lots of hints of history to be uncovered -- kind of like
peeling an onion -- layer by layer will put this series on
your must read.
There was nowhere safe for Grace Baker and her baby to
run. Even the law was no match for the ruthless drug lord
whoâ€™d fathered her child. Serrano had spies everywhere and
wouldnâ€™t stop till he captured his son and killed Grace.
Now Marshal Sam Chance was suddenly back in her life
offering protectionâ€¦could she dare to refuse?
Sam believed his family ranch was the one place Grace would
be safe. Here they found refuge in each otherâ€™s arms. But
returning home only reminded Sam of his past failure to
protect those he loved. This time had to be different.
Because Grace and her baby meant more to him than life
ExcerptStinging cold rain ran off the brim of his hat and dripped
down the back of U.S. Marshal Sam Chance's neck.
Shrugging deeper into his lambskin coat, Sam felt chilled
through and bone weary. So flipping bone weary, in fact,
that he figured sleeping for a hundred years would make a
great way to spend his next time offwhenever that
But as he stood on the pavement in the rough March drizzle
staring through the smudged front window of a run-down
highway cafe, his body got a shot of much-needed adrenaline.
And suddenly he had no need for sleep anytime soon.
She was there. Bending over to wipe down an empty
table. After searching for the past six weeks, he'd
finally found his woman.
The information he'd obtained from those truck drivers a
few days ago had been the key to finding her. They'd
said she was working as a waitress in this dingy joint. And
there she was.
But look at how fragile she seemed from this distance.
He'd never known her to be so thin. And she'd
changed her hair color again. He had grown rather partial to
the bright red, but he supposed honey-blond was not all
badif what you needed the most from your hair color
was a temporary disguise.
Where was her baby? Did she bring him to work with her? Was
the child in the back room of the cafe?
Wanting to go to her, to hear her voice again, he fisted his
hands at his sides instead and tried to clear his mind.
But he didn't move. He didn't as much as blink an
eyelash. Focusing his eyes past the leftover Christmas
decorations on the window, that were by now looking pretty
ratty, he simply gazed at her.
He shouldn't be here. Never should have started this
quest to find her in the first place. He'd taken a leave
from his job in order to begin the search. But now that
he'd found her, he couldn't take his eyes off her.
That she was still well and breathing free air felt like
such a relief he could barely think.
It had been days since he'd gotten any sleep. What would
he have done if something had happened to her? If she'd
died or disappeared for good? It would have killed him, too,
knowing it had been his duty to protect her and her child
from harm, but that he'd let them slip away.
Yeah, his boss had been right when he'd said it was her
own problem. Once witnesses leave the Security Program, the
safety of their very lives lands back in their own hands.
But those rules didn't seem to matter to Sam. His boss
even went so far as to suggest that he had taken too much of
a personal interest.
Nonsense. He just felt a responsibility for her. Though she
was a beautiful woman, and he wasn't dead
But dang, it had been fairly easy for him to find her. That
meant the bad guys wouldn't have much problem locating
her, either. She was in mortal danger, that's all there
was to it.
Just as that thought crossed his mind, the hairs on the back
of his neck stood straight up. Something felt wrong. He
absently touched the weapon in the holster inside his jacket
and turned to look around. Except for a couple of old
pickups the parking lot seemed empty in the early evening
drizzle. The West Texas wind howled down the highway out in
front like a train's horn blaring through a tunnel.
Not a fit night for man or beast. His father's
words from long ago rang in his memory.
He figured it must be the familiar, yet unhappy, atmosphere
of this West Texas town and the surrounding area that was
making him feel so jittery all of a sudden. Or maybe it was
the guilt of knowing he shouldn't have come on this
rescue at all. Being here could easily cost him his job.
Turning back to the cafe, he forced himself to move toward
the front door. With one more quick glance over his shoulder
he assured himself he was alone and pushed at the door handle.
It was time to make Ms. Grace Baker see the light. She
couldn't manage this all on her own. And he was just the
right man to convince her of that fact.
Grace hauled her last load of dishes into the kitchen,
trying her best to put one foot in front of the other. The
feet that were killing her. Ten more minutes until closing
time. Charlie the cook, also her boss, had left five minutes
ago and she was supposed to lock up. She could make it.
She'd never done much manual labor, not until the past
six months when her whole life had been tossed in the air
like a salad. But this was good, honest work. And
it almost provided a living for her and her baby. Grace was
proud of what she'd accomplished so far.
And she didn't mind living here in Fort Stockton. The
kind couple who ran the cafe had given her a job and a
temporary place to live, hadn't they? Even the customers
weren't too bad. The long-haul drivers left great tips
and the locals spoke to her as if they'd known her all
Knowing she couldn't linger in this town indefinitely,
there were still times when Grace wished she could stay.
Stay somewhere. Anywhere where she and the baby would be safe.
She'd better stop wishing for the impossible and finish
off her shift. Pushing back through the swinging kitchen
door into the dining room, she noticed the cafe had a new
customer and he was standing with his back to the door. As
she opened her mouth to tell him the cafe was almost closed,
he lifted his chin and their eyes met. Her breath caught in
Only one pair of sky-blue eyes in the whole world could
affect her that way. Brooding and unreadable, those eyes
stared at her from beneath the brim of a soaked white
Stetson. They belonged to a man she recognized all too well.
Sam Chance. Marshal Sam Chance. She froze in place, not
knowing whether to feel relief or to turn and run. He'd
found herafter all her efforts to stay lost.
"Evening, Grace. We need to talk." Sam's voice
still carried that slow, deep, sensual tone that had
hypnotized her from the beginning.
Her mouth went dry. Her skin tingled. She was torn with
Sam represented security and a chance for a real life. But
it was also possible that he posed a huge threat to her
well-being and to the safety of her son. Much as she
didn't want to think it, Sam may have been the leak, the
one that had brought danger ever closer to her and Mikey six
Just at that moment the door at Sam's back opened and
her worst nightmare stepped inside. Two dark men holding big
menacing-looking guns. And they were definitely coming in
Sam had led the wolves right to her door!
Sam watched carefully as Grace noticed him. At first that
wary look in her eyes seemed to soften when she realized who
he was. But then her eyes widened, darkened. And sudden fear
pulled at the corners of her lips, turning her mouth down
into a grimace.
By the time he'd felt the air shift as the door opened
behind him, Sam was already reaching for his weapon. He gave
the cafe a quick visual check and found it empty save for
him and Graceand whatever danger lurked at his back.
The situation called for a couple of fast and lethal
maneuvers if they were going to walk away from this, and he
didn't want any innocent bystanders getting hurt. Grace
couldn't be hurt, either. But that would take a bit more
Springing toward her, he body blocked her out of the line of
fire. "Run! Out the back."
The first bullet zipped past his ear as he skidded across
the tile floor and crashed headfirst into chairs then a
table. He righted himself and reached for cover. Overturning
the table to use as a shield, he dropped to one knee just as
he caught sight of Grace ducking through the door to what
must be the kitchen.
Sam knew the kitchen had a back way out because he'd
parked his SUV in the alley and had seen the door. He
didn't want her going outside without his protection.
But for now he needed to stop the threat right here before
he caught up to her.
Another thump hit the wall behind his head with no
discernable roar of a discharged weapon, telling Sam that
the bullet had come from a silenced handgun. He aimed his
own forty-five and blasted off a couple of shots. The noise
of gunfire reverberated through the cafe, and the flash from
his muzzle as he fired his first shot gave away his position.
He needed a lucky break. And then he got one.
One of the shooters stepped away from his cover to take
better aim. Sam stared down the barrel at him and fired,
catching the man in the chest. The fellow yelped and slumped
to his knees.
The injured man's partner turned to see how badly his
buddy had been hit, and Sam used the lull from the other
side of the room to fire the rest of the bullets in his
magazine. Ducking, the uninjured partner crawled to his
comrade instead of returning fire. As Sam reloaded, he
spotted the one assailant hugging the walls while he
struggled to drag his partner toward the front door.
Good enough. Sam used the opportunity to sprint in the
opposite direction toward the kitchen. Protecting Grace was
his first priority.
Barging through the swinging door, he looked around,
expecting to find Grace and her baby huddled in a corner.
But the tiny kitchen was empty. Damn it, Grace. You
can't do this on your own.
He vaulted over a couple of counters and scrambled to the
door under the exit sign. Flattening himself to the wall
just inside, he used the threshold as cover while he turned
the knob and pushed open the door. He glanced out at an
angle and saw Grace tugging frantically at the door handle
of his SUV. It was the only thing within view that she could
use as a cover, but he'd locked it before coming inside.
Only a matter of fifty feet lay between them, but Sam
wasn't sure his heart could take the beating before he
reached her. As he ran he heard another engine starting up
nearby. He hoped to hell their assailants were heading off
to find a hospital, but he wasn't ready to stake his
life on that possibility.
He hit the SUV's remote door-unlock button while making
a dash for it. By the time he reached the vehicle, Grace
already had one leg inside. He launched himself at the open
door and carried her with him as he dove into the
They landed in a jumble of arms and legs and it took him a
second to straighten out and shove her into the passenger
seat. "Where's the baby?"
Grace worked to fasten her seat belt, but she narrowed her
lips and remained silent.
"Where is Mikey, Grace?"
"My son is safe. You stay away from him."
She folded her arms over her chest and stared out the window.
The bitterness and fear in her voice ripped at his gut. But
he didn't have time to argue with her. She had good
reason not to trust too easily. He would ask again when he
was sure he could keep both of them alive.
He cranked the key and the SUV's engine roared to life.
"Hang on, they haven't given up yet."
In his side mirror he caught sight of a four-door pickup
with oversize tires as it swung around in the street out
front and headed their way. Ramming the SUV in gear, he
locked his jaw, hit the gas and took off.
Two seconds later he downshifted around a corner in a
screeching, careening, two-wheeled turn. Punching the
accelerator once again and shifting straight into fourth
gear, he sent them flying down a short city block.
"Are you trying to kill us?" Grace gasped as she
clutched at the inside door handle.
"I can lose 'em. Just keep holding tight."
Buildings flew by in a fuzzy blur, but Sam made the SUV
scream while he raced down the straightaway. The next four
corners were exercises in steel nerves as he ran stoplights,
dodged cars and took another ninety-degree turn into a
Breathing hard, he sandwiched the SUV into a small slot
behind two garbage Dumpsters and idled the engine. With his
eyes glued on both the rearview mirror and the street out
the windshield, he gave it a tense five minutes before he
took a deep breath and said anything.
"That pickup had Mexican plates. You know what it means,
don't you, Grace?"
Her only acknowledgment for a full moment was a slight nod
of her head. "He found me. Or
" Shifting in her
seat, she glared straight at him. "You led him to me."
A tiny niggle of guilt ran down Sam's spine. It was
possible he'd been followed. But he was so sure he'd
covered his trail.
"No. Think about it for a moment. If I could find you so
could someone with as much power as Jose Serrano. You're
not trained in putting the details together for a total
disappearance. You're no match for the biggest drug lord
along the Mexican-American border."
She turned her head away and a shaft of light from the
nearby streetlamp caught her in its glow. "Don't
tell me about matching wits with that bastard. I'm the
one who managed to escape him and then testified at his
trial and conviction. It's you and your people who
can't seem to keep one step ahead of him."
Taking another cleansing breath, Sam ignored the silky sheen
of her hair and the haunting smell of strawberries he had
always loved about her, and tried another tactic. "Come
on, Grace. You're a single mother with a child. You
can't do this alone. Let me help you. Two people can
better protect Mikey. I won't let Serrano get to him, I
She swung around again and narrowed her eyes. "I'm
not going back to L.A. or anywhere else the government wants
to put me. Not until Jose is safely returned to his prison
cell. Someone in your agency must be helping him."
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