The Texas Tycoon's Baby

By: Crystal Green

But there were other reasons Chet didn’t want to be with his new family right now. Abe’s recent death had made it hard. And how much did Chet have to do with Abe’s passing? Had the truth weighed on his “father” so roughly that it’d helped to kill Abe?

Remorse bit at Chet once again. He only wished Abe were still alive. So many things to make up for. So many things that had been thrust upon Chet now that the truth had come out…

The desert breeze sidled up to him again, along with the scent of Mina. Chet kept his gaze on the path as a bird of prey cried overhead, and his mind went fuzzy, making him forget everything, just for a moment.

But then he sensed Mina watching him and his heart kicked as his gaze connected to hers.

She looked away, but not before he thought he glimpsed a wounded look in her eyes.

Was she more affected by that night than she let on?

Chet felt every cell in his body screaming. Yet what could he say to her?

That night, I did need you, and you were there for me. You were the best thing that could’ve ever happened…

A vibration shook his shirt pocket and, at first, Chet mistook it for another memory—of the way she’d grabbed hold of his heart, his entire being, and shocked both of them to life.

But when the vibration came again, he knew it was merely his phone now.

Mina grinned. “Not a moment of rest for us, even out in the boonies.”

Her smile was like a warming beacon, and he only answered the phone because it was Tyler’s number, and his cousin’s—or, rather, brother’s—calls were rarely unimportant.

Putting the phone to his ear, he said, “Hey, Tyler.”

Mina walked on a few steps ahead of him, giving him privacy.

Tyler was already talking. “You have an ETA for when you’ll be back in Texas?”

“I just got to St. George. Why?”

Tyler paused for one of those quiet moments that he’d used so well as the big boss of the Barron Group before he’d retired to start up a horse rescue with his new wife, Zoe. Back when Chet had first started working at the Group, he’d welcomed Tyler’s competitive guidance. The same for Jeremiah, his slightly older brother.

But out here, Chet felt very much alone, especially with Mina strolling ahead, her back to him, her hips swaying under that skirt.

He forced himself to look away. “Is it Eli again?”

“Sure enough. He went on a real bender last night. Tore up the lounge at the Broadway, and our lawyers had to step in to run interference.”

Chet wanted to throw the phone, but he kept himself contained. “The last time we were all together, he told us that he was going to change.” They’d been planning an intervention, but when Eli had vowed he was turning a corner, they’d trusted him.

“He was wrong.” Tyler paused. “Jeremiah and I confronted him, then helped him check in to the Whitehall Center for rehab.”

Chet felt his shoulders stiffen.

“But,” Tyler added, “I won’t rush you to get back here because of that, Chet. He can’t have visitors right now. It’d just be good if you could come back when he’s improved enough to see us. Maybe it’ll even happen around the time of Jeremiah’s wedding.”

“You know I’ll be there for that.”

But as for visiting Eli?

Damn it, Chet knew he should be anticipating the day it would be possible. Still, he held back the rest of what he wanted to say to Tyler—that if it was Abe instead of Eli who was in trouble, Chet wouldn’t have gone out of town at all; he would have been around to help Tyler and Jeremiah deal with him. And if Eli hadn’t been so selfish when he’d had the affair with Chet’s mother—and if he wasn’t being so self-centered now—it would’ve been so much easier to accept him.

Plus, Chet mentally added, it would’ve been easier to accept himself, too, because he was Eli’s son now, and he wondered how much he’d inherited from the man he didn’t really know.

“I’ll check in tomorrow about my ETA,” Chet finally said.

They both signed off. When Chet hung up, he stared at the mountains for a moment, feeling aimless.

Then he realized that Mina was waiting for him and for a moment—just a heartwarming flash—he allowed her to comfort him again.

Knowing he would have to rely on more than this to get him through the next months, he forced the dark look that he knew he must’ve been wearing off of his face and walked over to her.

As she faced him with those compassionate green eyes, he sank into another memory of that night, memories that always came unbidden whenever he saw her.

Holding her, because he didn’t know what else to grab on to. Running his hands over her soft, smooth skin, her waist and hips, just before he entered the warmth of her…

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