It was midmorning when the young woman in gray skirt and floral embroidered blue sweater covered by a gray woolen coat walked past the nurses’ station, eyeing them with the same once over they gave her. She had been in this hospital enough times now, visiting her siblings or the men, to know the location of the room Chief was in. Glancing through the glass window in the door, she saw him look up from the bed with a grin of relief. Stepping inside, she laid her purse and package on a chair next to the wall and removed her scarf, gloves and coat, draping them over her purse.
“Hi,” she greeted the young man warmly. “Sorry, Terry called a little bit ago to let me know you are here. How are you?”
“Better now that you’re here,” said Chief boldly.
“I should hope so,” teased Chris, pulling up another chair beside the bed.
“I’m okay,” said Chief seriously. There was a slight tone to his voice saying this might not entirely be true.
Chris eyed him with a smile on her face that covered the worry in her mind. She handed the box to him. “Here, bon bons.”
His face broke into a wide smile and he lifted the lid, motioning her to take the first sweet. She shook her head and motioned for him to go ahead. He lifted out one of the candies and popped it into his mouth, obviously enjoying the taste of chocolate.
“Thanks,” he said with appreciation.
“My pleasure,” she replied with a smile. “So, what did you do to yourself this time?”
“Caught a bullet in my right leg. The doc says it grazed the bone but didn’t break it. He don’t want me walking on it with too much weight for awhile.”
“You still need to be here?” asked Chris. She knew how much Terry hated any of them to be in the hospital, especially Chief.
“Warden and Actor didn’t think I could manage alone at the Mansion right now and they had to go in. Terry’s goin’ in with another group again. So, I’m here.” It didn’t sound like he was thrilled with that.
Chris made a face. “It took me a while on the Tube to get here. I’m going to the lady’s room. Be right back.”
“Ain’t goin’ nowhere,” assure Chief.
On the way back to his room, Christine passed the station again and saw the nurses gathered around the box of candy on their desk.
“He doesn’t need these,” said one girl, “he’s just a bloody Yank, and a savage at that.”
Christine strode into their station and reached between two girls to slap the lid on the box and pick it up. “I bought these for Mr. Sands, not for you. If for some reason he can’t have them, I will take them home until he can.” She turned on her heel and strode back out of the station.
“Bleedin’ rude if you ask me,” she heard from behind her.
Christine came to a halt and spun around. “And I would like his doctor notified I wish to speak with him . . . now!”
A blonde nurse stood up straight and glared at the Garrison girl. “His doctor is busy. He can’t stop everything to come talk to you just because you say so.”
“I’ll wait for him. Just notify him, please,” said Christine with as much authority as she could muster in her voice.
The blonde slowly took her seat again, eyeing Chris with distaste. Crystal’s eyes bore into hers.
“Unless of course you would like me to notify Matron. I do know where her office is . . .”
The look she received in return was venomous, but the woman rose and went to the telephone. Satisfied, Christine turned and went back into Chief’s room. She handed the candy box back to him and sat down firmly on the chair she had recently vacated.
Chief studied the set of her mouth and the flash in her eyes. The normally quiet girl did have some spirit like her sister and brother. He had to stifle a grin, unsure if her anger would spill onto him if he dared laugh. She glanced at him and there was that tiny spark of triumph in her look that disappeared as she dropped her gaze, growing embarrassed. Now Chief smiled. He held the candy box out toward her.
“Wanna bon bon?” he teased.
Christine shot a startled look at him and then smiled. “Yes, I think I would.”
She took the box, opened it, and selected a pink frosted sweet, popping it into her mouth and savoring it on her tongue. Her gaze became assessing as she handed the box back to him.
“Rainey,” she asked carefully, “what would you say to going back to the Mansion tonight?”
“How?” he asked cautiously.
“I could go back to my flat and get my car, come back and pick you up, and drive us to the Mansion.”
“An’ then what?” Chief had an idea of what she had in mind.
“I can cook for you and feed you, and probably take better care of you than this lot does.”
There was no contesting that, but . . . “I don’t think the Warden would be too pleased with that.”
Christine’s chin came up. “And why not? Terry stayed behind with Actor for a couple weeks. This would only be for two more days.”
“Uh, that was Terry and Actor.” He could not sound totally convincing because the idea appealed to him a lot.
“Yeah,” continued Chris. “Terry, the defiant one, with Actor, the ladies’ man?”
“You ain’t Terry.”
“And you aren’t Actor.” Christine’s eyebrows knitted together as she realized how that sounded. “I meant . . .”
“I know what you meant,” Chief let her off the hook. “You willin’ to take on the Warden?”
“Sure. Terry’ll back me.”
Chief wondered who was going to back him. Still . . . “If you can pull it off, sure.”
Christine waited until the doctor arrived to talk with her. She broached her proposal and was delighted when he agreed to allow her to take Mr. Sands home. Dr. Fielding was just as happy to be rid of the two young people. The presence of any of that Special Forces group disrupted the nursing staff. The officer was a decent enough chap. The other sister was polite, but a force to be reckoned with. One of the Americans was loud and aggressive. The blond Englishman stole them blind. And the tall, older European gentleman was constantly trying to get into the nurses’ knickers.
So it was that Chris drove Chief to the Mansion and hovered worriedly as he ascended the stairs on crutches, one step at a time. He was comfortably situated in his bed with casted leg elevated, pillows fluffed, and afghan tucked around him. Chief wasn’t used to this kind of attention but figured he could get used to it real quick. The younger Garrison girl’s cooking wasn’t half bad either.
The next day, Chris did the men’s laundry and straightened up the house. The missions were coming heavy and frequently, not leaving Terry much time to get anything done around the place. If she wasn’t going in with the group, she was going in with another Special Forces group or doing something with some Resistance group or another.
In between domestic activities, Crystal sat with Chief in his room or the upstairs common room and they played endless games of gin. Left to their own devices, the two became more comfortable with each other. Tiring of playing for pences, Chief tentatively upped the ante to a kiss a game. Christine had no objections.
The following day, they knew their time alone was coming to an end. Garrison and the rest of the men were due back at any time. Terry wasn’t expected back until that night. Crystal hurried through the morning dishes and set bread dough to rise so she could spend as much time with Rainey as possible.
They were playing another game of cards on the bed when the telephone rang. Chris bolted for the downstairs, thinking it was Craig letting her know they were on their way back. She was not happy when she returned.
Chief frowned at the disgruntled look on the girl’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it was that Major Schaeffer. He demanded to know why Craig and the guys weren’t back yet. And how am I supposed to know that?” Chris grumbled. “He’s the officer. He should know more about where his men are than I do.” She shook her head. “It just makes me hot and annoyed.”
Chief grinned at her. “You get hot, huh?” he said to her with a different meaning.
She paused and looked at him, cocking her head a bit defiantly. “I can,” she said slowly.
The Indian shook his head. “Naw, I don’t believe that,” he teased. “You’re too sweet and gentle. Maybe you should come here so I can see how hot you are.”
“You just want me to kiss you.” Crystal’s eyes narrowed.
“Wouldn’t object none,” he drawled as though it really didn’t matter.
Chris walked slowly forward until she reached the side of the bed. Her hand swept the cards on the covers out of the way, settling a hip in their place. The two exchanged assessing looks.
“Show me,” whispered Chief with his faint drawl.
Chris leaned forward, hesitant until her lips touched his, then she kissed him in the way she had daydreamed of. His hand reached up to thread his fingers through her hair to support her head as he returned it. Chief was the one to break the kiss, but kept his hand in place, remaining nose-to-nose with the girl.
“Yup, you can get hot,” he said in soft approval.
“So can you,” she whispered back. “I think we had better go back to playing cards,” she suggested reluctantly.
The Indian placed a gentle kiss on her cheek before releasing her head. The sound of the front door opening and male voices reached them. Chris glanced toward the hall and stood up. “I guess they’re back.”
“Sounds like it,” agreed Chief.
Christine found herself strangely shy again as though something magical had ended with the sound of the door. “Guess I better go see Craig.”
“Yeah, guess you better.”
Chief watched her slip into the hall and shut the door behind her. The smile on his face turned to one of worry. Jeez, what was the matter with him? She was the Warden’s baby sister for cryin’ out loud! What was he thinking feeling the things he was feeling for her. The Warden would kill him if he found out. Besides, what could he offer the girl? He was a semi-literate ‘Injun’ with a murder rap hanging over his head. Her family had yanked her away from Jake’s brother. They sure wouldn’t allow him anywhere near her. Even as he thought this, he realized it was too late. He loved her and he knew it.
Chris started down the stairs. Goniff had already disappeared into the kitchen after food. Casino was sprawled on one of the game table chairs and Actor was standing beside Garrison at the door. Craig glanced up and did a double take.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. “I thought you were in London, keeping an eye on Chief.”
Actor turned to look at the young woman before prudently stepping to the side, out of the line of fire. He and Casino watched the interaction between the siblings.
“I brought him here,” said Chris, stopping at the foot of the stairs. “They weren’t taking good care of him.”
“That’s a surprise,” remarked Casino sarcastically.
“Christine.” Craig was not happy, and it showed.
The girl’s chin came up. “What? It’s just a cast. I don’t need Terry or Actor to take care of a cast.”
The corner of Actor’s mouth turned up in an amused grin aimed at his commanding officer. Craig rested both hands on his hips and glared at his sister.
“I don’t think that’s what he’s worryin’ about, Sis,” cracked Casino, openly grinning.
“Really, Craig,” huffed Chris. “What do you think he’s going to do with a cast on?”
That brought a guffaw out of Casino. The other half of Actor’s mouth turned up into a wide grin with a silent chuckle. Garrison shot an exasperated look at his second.
Chris looked between the two cons and her mouth clamped in a tight line beneath her glare. “You have a dirty mind anyway,” she accused the safecracker. Her glare turned to Actor. “Okay, so having both arms and legs in casts wouldn’t stop you, but Chief was a gentleman.”
The defensive defiance coming out of the young woman was such a delight to watch, neither man took offense at her words. Instead they both laughed.
“Wot am I missing?” asked Goniff, coming around the corner from the kitchen with a partially eaten muffin in his hand. He spotted Chris and his eyebrows went up. “’Ey, Chris, wot are you doing ‘ere?”
“Don’t get her started again,” laughed Casino.
Goniff looked at the two Garrisons in confusion.
Actor turned away and walked up the stairs, hearing the whole conversation starting over again behind him.
Chief looked up warily when the bedroom door opened. He relaxed minutely when he saw it was Actor. His concern did not lessen at the open grin the con man gave him.
“I would say so,” replied the con man dryly.
“Actor, I didn’t . . .”
The Italian held a big hand out to stop the words. “I believe you.”
Chief was now more than worried. “Chris in trouble?”
Actor examined the toes peeking out from the end of the cast. “For the time being,” he said. “I am sure the Warden will get over it . . . in time.”
He could not resist teasing the youngest member of their team. It wasn’t so long ago that would have earned him a switchblade at his throat. Apparently, the Garrison girls were having a beneficial effect on all of them. It would be interesting to see how this friendship between Christine and Chief would play out. Actor was sure there would be more to come in the future.