The sheikhs triplet baby.., p.27
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       The Sheikh's Triplet Baby Surprise, p.27

         Part #3 of The Sheikh's Baby Surprise series by Holly Rayner
 

  Looking back at the picture of Hassan, she picked it up one more time.

  “I think I get where you’re coming from, dude,” she said. Too tired to carry on working, she placed the photo and the money in a side table drawer before curling up under her ratty, comfortable old quilt and falling into a dreamless sleep. Tomorrow there would be plenty of time to think on the long drive to West Texas.

  FOUR

  Morgan jumped as her alarm went off. Blinking into the dark of night, she reached out blindly for her side table lamp and turned it on, squinting against the bright glow. The display on her alarm clock read 3AM.

  She allowed herself a few moments to wake up as she sat up in bed, dangling her bare feet against the carpet. After a languid stretch, she stood and packed a small bag for the day ahead.

  Before heading down to the parking garage beneath the building, Morgan grabbed her pistol and strapped it to her calf; Bledsoe was a long way from Houston, and she knew she would have to be prepared for anything.

  Turning on her headlights, she navigated out of Houston, which was quiet so early in the morning, though not completely asleep. As she drove out of the city, the Texan sky loomed overhead, and the further out of the city she got, the more stars popped out for her to enjoy.

  There was something peaceful about being able to see a sky full of stars. It was a sight that never failed to remind Morgan of her childhood.

  She had always been a daddy’s girl. She’d loved her father more than anything. She’d grown up fishing and hunting, learning how to survive in the outdoors. They went on so many adventures she lost count.

  Then he died.

  She’d been in her early twenties at the time. She’d already accepted the job in marketing, and was packing up her dorm room to move into her new apartment when she got the call.

  “Morgan?” her mother said, her voice shaky.

  “What’s going on, Mom?”

  “You need to come home, now.”

  “Why? What’s going on?” Morgan felt a sinking feeling in her stomach.

  “It’s your father. He’s died.”

  With those words, Morgan’s world came crashing down, splitting into shards all around her.

  It was all a blur after that, really. The funeral, the droves of people approaching her with tears in their eyes as they told her what an amazing man her father was, like she didn’t know that already.

  “I’m moving,” her mother had said one day, out of the blue. They’d been sitting on the couch, watching a movie, desperately trying to find normalcy and coming up short.

  Morgan had stared at her, not surprised. The house was a constant reminder of him. The pictures still hung on the wall. His clothing still hung in the closet.

  “Where will you go?” Morgan had asked, taking a bite of chocolate. Her father had loved junk food. It wasn’t what killed him, in the end; that was a drunk driver. Morgan had tried to take solace in the fact that he had died quickly, but it still rang a little hollow. She hadn’t had a sip of alcohol ever since.

  “I’m going to sell this place and retire in Florida. Texas is too full of memories; living here was your father’s decision.”

  And I’m so grateful, Morgan had thought. Her father had passed his love of Texas on to her, though he also encouraged her to travel and see the world. Funny that he never did. He’d loved working at his little hunting and fishing store, and had never complained a day in his life about work. It was what he loved to do.

  Morgan stopped off at a gas station outside of Waco, getting in a good stretch and filling up her tank. Her memories of home having sparked some nostalgia, she placed a phone call to her aunt, who lived nearby.

  “Hello?” Shirley said. Shirley was her dad’s sister. With the distance they didn’t get to see her all that often, and what other chance would Morgan have to see her again?

  “Aunt Shirley?” she said, and Shirley whooped into the phone.

  “Is that Miss Morgan Springfield I hear on the other end of the line? Hal, its Morgan calling!” she shouted, one hand pressed against the receiver.

  Morgan grinned, pulling the gas pump from her car and tapping the buttons to finish the transaction.

  “To what do we owe this great honor, honey?” Shirley asked, her voice clear and bright despite the early hour.

  “I’m actually just outside of Waco and I wanted to see if I could stop in to say hello.”

  Shirley whooped again, so loud that Morgan had to pull the phone away from her ear.

  “That would be wonderful, darlin’! You’ll be just in time for breakfast. You remember how to get here?”

  Morgan told her she did, and ended the call, slipping back into the driver’s seat and heading over toward Shirley and Hal’s suburban home—a flat-roofed house that looked straight out of the seventies.

  When she pulled into the driveway, her stout little aunt came running out the front door, hands already out for a hug.

  No sooner had Morgan stepped out from the car, Shirley wrapped her in a tight embrace, rocking from side to side.

  “Oh my baby girl! What a pleasant surprise! I’m so glad we were home when you called!”

  “Aren’t you always?” Morgan said with a grin.

  Shirley swatted her niece playfully on the shoulder. “Now, now. Just because we’re homebodies doesn’t mean we aren’t adventurous. I’ll have you know your Uncle Hal has started a beehive, and we just harvested our first jar of honey. Took forever to do it, but we’re suburban honey pioneers! Now all the neighbors are getting into it, of course. Jess up the street just built herself a chicken coop. Everyone’s into self-sustainment these days…”

  Shirley chattered all the way into the house, where they met Uncle Hal and Morgan got another round of hugs. It felt good to be loved, to see her father reflected in her aunt’s eyes.

  Morgan sat down on the couch and took the offered orange juice from her uncle.

  “Sit, sit!” he implored. “Tell us everything! How are you? How’s life in the force?”

  Morgan blushed. “Well, I’m actually not a police officer anymore. I’m a private detective.”

  Shirley’s mouth made a round ‘O’. Her bright red hair was curly, with strands of gray along her temples, and she had clearly made no attempt to tame it this morning.

  “Well, that sounds interesting. Do you meet a lot of crazy characters on the job?” she asked.

  “Crazier than my mother?” Morgan replied.

  Shirley frowned. “Now, Morgan. Your mother did the best she could, and she suffered when your father died. You should cut her some slack.”

  “Easier said than done,” Morgan mumbled bashfully.

  “You look so beautiful, honey,” Shirley said, changing the subject with practiced finesse. “You have your mother’s hair, but those are definitely your father’s eyes,” she said, tipping Morgan’s chin side to side as she looked at her tenderly.

  Morgan tried not to blush again, but failed.

  “So, tell us about men,” Shirley demanded, not missing a beat.

  If it were possible for Morgan to turn any redder, she did, gazing into her lap for a moment.

  “There’s nothing to tell. I’m working on building my business first, then maybe I’ll think about dating.”

  “Hogwash,” Shirley said with a wave of her hand. “Morgan, you’re a strong, beautiful and kind woman. There is no reason for you to be alone in this world when you can have love.”

  “Yes, but you’re forgetting that I have to find a man who is capable of that emotion.”

  “What about that one guy, what was his name?”

  Morgan began to regret this little pit stop. Hashing out her personal life was not something she liked doing, ever.

  “Wasn’t it something kooky, like Danish or Donut or something?” Shirley said.

  “It was Dashwood,” Morgan corrected. “And things didn’t work out.”

  Dashwood had been alluring at first, but it took about two months of dating him b
efore Morgan realized he was a self-absorbed jerk. She ended it quickly, and he hadn’t taken it well. It was, to date, the longest relationship Morgan had ever had.

  Shirley tsked. “Ah, well. You’ll find the right man for you, Morgan. I’ll pray to Saint Jude tonight.”

  Morgan paused. “Isn’t Saint Jude the patron saint of lost causes?”

  “Nothing gets by you,” Shirley said with a wink, and Morgan laughed.

  They chatted for a short time after that about the beehive and home repairs as Shirley cooked up a good-sized breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes. Morgan finished her meal with a large spoonful of homemade honey before insisting that she had to go.

  “But you only just arrived!” Shirley protested while Morgan stood and gave her another hug.

  “I know, but I’m on my way to another job, and I don’t have much time. I just really wanted to see you,” she admitted, hugging Uncle Hal again, too.

  ‘We’re always happy to see you, darlin’. You just stop in any time you’re around—we’ll be here!” Shirley said, waving as Morgan pulled her car out of the driveway and made her way back to the highway.

  ***

  It had been nice to stop and take a break, but talking to her aunt and uncle had left Morgan feeling drained.

  Why was it that a woman couldn’t be single without people looking at her like she was a freak?

  Morgan had enjoyed being alone most of her life. There was nothing wrong with her. She was a fully capable person, making a living and benefitting society in her own way. Why was it that she had to be in a relationship before anyone considered her to be of any value?

  Morgan pondered this as she drove on, her mind wandering as radio station after radio station faded out and she had to scan for a new one each time. One couldn’t live in Texas and not like country music, so Morgan enjoyed the twanging banjo of her favorite artists, rolling the windows down as she drove on and on across the deserted Texas landscape.

  She glanced at her file in the passenger seat, sneaking another look at Hassan’s picture. Keeping her gaze on the road, which was bare except for her car, she stashed her phone in its hands-free mount and used voice recognition to find the phone number of the Bledsoe Police Department.

  Rolling up the windows to keep the wind from blowing into the receiver, she dialed the number.

  “Bledsoe Police Department. How can I direct your call?” A woman’s voice answered.

  “Hi there. I’m looking for anyone who might know a man named Hassan Al-Khali,” Morgan said.

 
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