"I know, mamá. I was only out of town for a month on my last photo shoot. I cannot believe Pierre married her!” Sophia's tears had been exhausted a few hours earlier, but her mother could still hear the catch in her voice. "He was my fiancé. He didn't even extend me the courtesy of letting me know he had broken up with me," she sniffed audibly.
Puffy bloodshot eyes were unbecoming on anyone, but seemed exaggerated on this top model. During the past week, each time Sophia looked in the mirror at her bloodshot, misty blue eyes, they reminded her of the red, white, and blue of the French flags raised all over Paris.
"I wish you didn't feel this need to go so far away from home to get over his betrayal…or for such a long time," Josephine de Jardin told her daughter. Although Josephine lived in St. Raphael and Sophia in Paris, she thought her daughter’s new job in the United States was much too far away.
Sophia had accepted a modeling assignment that would keep her away for over a year. She did not want to reveal to her mother the real reason for her trip to the U.S. "I'll be able to come home to visit a couple of times, and you can travel to see me, too. Besides, I will be able to see most of the major cities in the United States during my assignments." Trying to justify her decision, she added, "It is a necessary distraction."
They heard the boarding announcement for Sophia’s direct flight from Paris to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Sophia and her mother stood and hugged in a tearful farewell. Sophia gathered her purse and carryon, “Au revoir mamá. Je t’aime.”
“I love you, too. Call me as soon as you get settled at your hotel so I know you arrived safely,” her mother said with glistening eyes.
“Okay.” She lined up with the other boarding passengers, and looked back at her mother, offering a little wave.
Sophia deplaned nine and a half hours later and gracefully walked through the stifling, hot Jetway that merged into the crowd walking in the much cooler large hallway toward the baggage area. Although she still looked fabulous, she felt like something the cat dragged in.
As Sophia strolled, she couldn’t help but compare this trip to her last one. Everything then had been perfect until she had returned home to discover she was no longer engaged. The weeks since had been filled with tears and feelings of inadequacy. Her self-doubt ran in a constant loop. Why had Pierre chosen someone else? Why had he been seeing this other woman for four months while he was my fiancé? It’s not like they were just casually dating. Sophia tipped her head back and shook her hair as if to remove the frustrating circumstances from her mind.
She turned her thoughts to retrieving her baggage and the miracle it would be to find them all quickly at the carousel. She couldn’t wait to check into her hotel.
“Finally,” thought Wes as his aircraft taxied up to the terminal at the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Though the flight was not that long from Midland, it seemed interminable to Wes who was anxious to continue on to San Antonio and to his new assignment. But first he had to check in with the local office in Garland to assist with the wrap up of some business for which he carried critical information. That would mean a rental car and short drive with a four-day stay before he could move on.
As he approached the front exit, a flight attendant knocked on the security door that separated the passenger compartment from the cockpit. She requested something and a co-pilot handed her a small, though apparently weighty, handbag, which she then handed to Wes as he passed by her. She thanked him for flying with American Airlines, wished him a good stay in the Dallas area and, with a somewhat wistful look and hopeful timbre to her voice, asked him to be sure to fly with American again. Barely noticing her, Wes assured her that he would, though his thoughts were already on his new future.
Wes had been out in West Texas burning up some of his accumulated vacation time. That is, if you could call vacationing the assisting of Jake middle name or initial? Carlson with what he called a little problem. Not that he really had any choice in the matter because Big Jake, as he is fondly called, had been Wes’s mentor early in his career and if it weren’t for the now retired Big Jake, Wes would never have landed this new position. He was not as experienced and was a little young for the new grade, as well as the new position for which he had been selected. But with Big Jake’s guidance and Wes’s innate ability, he had succeeded in impressing the powers to be. Wes was looking forward to the new position as commander with the Unsolved Crimes Investigation Team located in San Antonio. So, he really had no choice but to head out to hot, dry West Texas when he was yet again asked to help Big Jake of the internationally known Carlson Investigations, Inc.
Through a crowd that parted for him with his approach, as his appearance was a man of confidence and bearing. The circular silver badge pinned to the upper left of his shirt had its effect, too. Across the top it read, “Department of Public Safety” and below that were the near mystical words, “Texas Rangers.” The rank of Lieutenant was stated in the center of the lone star that filled the central portion of the circle. Just pushing forty, 6’2”, trim waist with a firm torso that belied his age, Wes was dressed in boots, western cut clothing, and wore a white felt Rancher-style ‘cowboy’ hat. He moved with the agility of the distance runner that he is. Angular face, eyes the color of steel, but with a ready smile and kind word on his lips as he passed through the crowd. The chiseled look of his face, while handsome in a rugged, well-tanned way also made him look just a little fearsome. Women looked with interest; men with longing. All of which seemed lost on the man as he crossed the airport lounge and then traversed the hallway toward the revolving doors that separated the secure arrival area from the baggage claim areas.
When Sophia found the motionless revolving doors separating the secure portion of the airport from baggage claim, she stepped into the opening. The doors startled her when they automatically lurched into motion, requiring her to move at their pace. A tall man, who had walked down the hallway in view beside her, stepped in just behind her, bumping her elbow sharply, causing her to lose the grip on her purse. She bent quickly to grab it and lost her balance as the doors continued to turn. The man, who looked like he was in his mid to late thirties, grasped her around the waist to catch her and lunged through the exit before they both lost their footing. Sophia still grasped her retrieved purse and carryon; the man held his soft-sided bag in his other hand. Then, of course, they had to quickly move from the path of the other passengers filing through to collect their luggage.
As Wes approached the automatic revolving doors, he changed his small handbag to his left hand, and quickly stepped into one of the angular compartments. As he did so he inadvertently jostled the woman to his front as his handbag collided with her elbow and she yelped. He must have scored a direct hit on her funny bone. A 33.5 ounce P226 Sig Sauer .357 automatic weapon, holster rig, with restraints, and three loaded magazines, makes quite a ‘club’ with which to strike a woman. She seemed to lose her balance and began to fall. Wes used his free hand to catch her around the waist to keep her from falling and to propel them both on through the doors and out the other side.
“Well, Darlin’, it seems we made it. That door was more dangerous than the flight.” Wes’s eyes were dancing with mirth… as well as with interest. This woman around whom he still had his arm was ‘to die for’. Such a beauty!
“Thank you,” Sophia said as she regained her balance, leaning into his muscular chest and looking into the laughing steel gray eyes of her rescuer. She leaned away from him, effectively breaking his hold as she extended her hand and said, “Hi. I’m Sophia.”
He slowly freed her waist and met her hand with his in a firm, yet gentle embrace. Captured by the intense blue color of her eyes, he responded, “My name’s Wes. Wes Randall. It’s quite nice to meet you.” He paused a minute, not wanting to release her hand. Picking up on her French accent, he asked, “Are you visiting the Dallas area?”
“Yes. Actually, I’m working here for several months.” As an afterthought, she added “Were you on the flight from Paris?”
“No. I just flew in from Midland.”
The loud buzzer on the carousel sounded, indicating that some bags had at last been unloaded from the planes. Sliding her hand from his long, tapered fingers, Sophia said, “Thank you again Mr. Randall for saving me. I need to find my bags.”
“It’s Wes. I’ll rescue you any time, Sophia. You could even say that’s a part of my job. Bye for now.” He smiled as he watched her walk away, then sauntered to the baggage carousel next to hers to wait for his suitcase, thinking, “Wow! She’s gorgeous. And she looks familiar. I wonder why.”
Sophia collected her wheeled luggage and stepped outside to catch the shuttle to her hotel in Las Colinas, a suburb of Dallas.
“Mamá, c’est Sophia. I have arrived at my motel.” The conversation was quick because she knew her mother would want to go back to sleep. As an after thought she added, “We’ll keep in touch via email. I’ll let you know all about my adventures.” She recited the phone number where her mother could contact her. “Je t’aime. Au revoir.”
Sophia returned the dishes to her room service dinner tray while her bubble bath water filled the tub. The long flight had left her tired and grimy. Her ankle was sore from twisting during her incident in the revolving doors. So she closed her eyes and relaxed in the bubbles as she soaked in her bath and thought about Wes. Wes Randall.