A Match Made in Texas- By Arlene James

Chapter One

She couldn’t help being impressed. As a nurse, Kaylie Chatam had encountered many patients whose physical conditions sadly diminished them, but not this time. Not even the bulk of the casts protecting his broken bones deflected attention from the big, commanding presence asleep on the high, half tester bed. Tall and long-limbed yet brawny, with an air of intensity about him even in sleep that his shaggy blond hair and lean, chiseled face did nothing to diminish, he emitted a potent force, a larger-than-life aura.

Kaylie lifted a petite hand to the heavy, sandy-red chignon at the nape of her neck, wishing that she’d secured it more firmly that morning when dressing for church. She’d have preferred to conduct this interview in the shapeless scrubs that she always wore when working, her long, straight hair scraped back into a tight knot. Instead, here she stood, wearing skimpy flat mules with big silver buckles on the shallow toes, a straight knee-length skirt and a frothy confection of a white blouse, her hair slipping and sliding, tendrils hanging about her face.

Turning to the man crowded next to her in the doorway of the bedchamber in one of the second-floor suites of Chatam House, the antebellum mansion owned by her three delightful aunties, Kaylie felt at a distinct disadvantage. Stocky, blunt-featured and of medium height with short, prematurely gray hair, a practiced smile and a pricey, light grayish brown suit, Aaron Doolin had identified himself as the patient’s agent.

“Who is he exactly?”

“Who is he?” Doolin parroted, obviously shocked. “Who is he? Why, that’s the Hangman.” At her blank look, he went on. “Stephen Gallow. Starting goalie for the Fort Worth Blades hockey team.” He glanced at the bed, muttering, “At least he was before the accident.”

A hockey goalie? Here at Chatam House? She knew little about the game beyond its reputation for violence, but that was enough to make her wonder what the aunties had gotten themselves into now. More to the point, what had they gotten her into? Provided, of course, that she decided to take on this patient, which she could not do in good conscience without at least nominal approval from her father.

“What happened to the bed hangings?” she asked Doolin, gesturing toward the massive headboard of the bed. One of her aunts’ prized English antiques, it stood a good seven feet in height. Even the square footposts were taller than Kaylie, though at a mere five feet in her stocking feet, that wasn’t saying too much.

Doolin just shrugged. “I don’t know from hangings.”

“The curtains at the sides of the front of the bed.”

“Oh!” He waved a hand, the sapphire on his pinky flashing in the midday light. The edges of his ever-present smile frayed. “Well, during the excitement last night—” he churned his hands then shrugged sheepishly “—they sort of came down in the scrum. Your aunts thought it best to get them out of the way.”

Kaylie analyzed that and came to the conclusion that whatever had happened the night before had involved a certain amount of violence, which explained why the original nurse had walked out and why she was here at Chatam House, staring at an injured, sleeping hockey player. The idea still did not quite compute. She tilted her head and wondered what was so compelling about this particular patient.

That he was handsome could not be denied, despite the faint slanting scars on his chin and high on his right cheek. Thick, pale gold hair formed a shaggy frame for a rectangular face with large, even features, the eyes set deeply beneath the slashes of incongruently dark brows. The sooty shadow of a beard that hadn’t seen a razor in some days colored his square jaws, cheeks and chin, calling attention to wide, surprisingly soft lips that might have looked feminine in a less aggressively masculine face.

How was she, a pediatric nurse, supposed to deal with a man like this?

Kaylie almost turned around and walked away right then, but her aunts would not have asked this of her if the need were not acute. They had approached Kaylie immediately after worship service that morning, asking her to stop by the mansion at her earliest opportunity. Some tinge of desperation in that request had made Kaylie drop off her father at his—their—house and drive straight here. Only then had she learned of the aunts’ guest and his need for nursing care. She had been shocked, to say the least.

Known for their good works, the Chatam sisters, triplets in