The SEAL's Secret Heirs

By: Kat Cantrell

One

Royal, Texas was the perfect place to go to die.

Kyle Wade aimed to do exactly that. After an honorable discharge from the navy, what else lay ahead of him but a slow and painful death? Might as well do it in Royal, the town that had welcomed every Wade since the dawn of time—except him.

He nearly drove through the center of town without stopping. Because he hadn’t realized he was in Royal until he was nearly out of Royal.

Yeah, it had been ten years, and when he’d stopped for gas in Odessa, he’d heard about the tornado that had ripped through the town. But still. Was nothing on the main strip still the same? These new buildings hadn’t been there when he’d left. Of course, he’d hightailed it out of Royal for Coronado, California, in a hurry and hadn’t looked back once in all his years as a Navy SEAL. Had he really expected Royal to be suspended in time, like a photograph?

He kind of had.

Kyle slowed as he passed the spot where he’d first kissed Grace Haines in the parking lot of the Dairy Queen. Or what used to be the spot where he’d taken his high school girlfriend on their first date. The Dairy Queen had moved down the road and in its place stood a little pink building housing something called Mimi’s Nail Salon. Really?

Fitting that his relationship with Grace had nothing to mark it. Nothing in Royal proper anyway. The scars on his heart would always be there.

Shaking his head, Kyle punched the gas. He had plenty of time to gawk at the town later and no time to think about the woman who had driven him into the military. His shattered leg hurt something fierce and he’d been traveling for the better part of three days. It was time to go home.

And now he had a feeling things had probably changed at Wade Ranch—also known as home—more than he’d have anticipated. Never the optimist, he suspected that meant they’d gotten worse. Which was saying something, since he’d left in the first place because of the rift with his twin brother, Liam. No time like the present to get the cold welcome over with.

Wade Ranch’s land unrolled at exactly the ten-mile marker from Royal. At least that was still the same. Acres and acres of rocky, hilly countryside spread as far as Kyle could see. Huh. Reminded him of Afghanistan. Wouldn’t have thought there’d be any comparison, but there you go. A man could travel ten thousand miles and still wind up where he started. In more ways than one.

The gate wasn’t barred. His brother, Liam, was running a loose ship apparently. Their grandfather had died a while back and left the ranch to both brothers, but Kyle had never intended to claim his share. Yeah, it was a significant inheritance. But he didn’t want it. He wanted his team back and his life as a SEAL. An insurgent’s spray of bullets had guaranteed that would never happen. Even if Kyle hadn’t gotten shot, Cortez was gone and no amount of wishing or screaming at God could bring his friend and comrade-in-arms back to life.

Hadn’t stopped Kyle from trying.

Kyle drove up the winding lane to the main house, which had a new coat of paint. The white Victorian house had been lording over Wade land for a hundred years, but looked like Liam had done some renovation. The tire swing that had hung from the giant oak in the front yard was gone and a new porch rocker with room for two had been added.

Perfect. Kyle could sit there in that rocker and complain about how the coming rain was paining his joints. Maybe later he could get up a game of dominos at the VA with all of the other retired military men. Retired. They might as well call it dead.

When Kyle jumped from the cab of the truck he’d bought in California after the navy decided they were done with him, he hit the dusty ground at the wrong angle. Pain shot up his leg and it stole his breath for a moment. When a man couldn’t even get out of his own truck without harm, it was not a good day.

Yeah, he should be more careful. But then he’d have to admit something was wrong with this leg.

He sucked it up. The only easy day was yesterday. That mantra had gotten him through four tours of duty in the Middle East. Surely it could get him to the door of Wade Ranch.

It did. Barely. He knocked, but someone was already answering before the sound faded.

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