The Secret Child & The Cowboy CEO(2)

By: Janice Maynard

He firmed his jaw. “Apparently you couldn’t be bothered to make it to the funeral?”

Her lips trembled briefly. “No one let me know that Jesse had died until it was too late.”

“Convenient.” He sneered. Only by whipping up his anger could he keep his hands off her.

The hurt that flickered in her gaze made him feel as if he was kicking a defenseless puppy. At one time he and Bryn had been good friends. And later—well…there had been a tantalizing hint of something more. Something that might have developed into a physical relationship, if he hadn’t screwed things up.

Bryn had been innocent, not-quite-eighteen, and Trent had freaked out over his reaction to her. He had rejected her clumsily when she asked him to be her date for the senior prom, and she was heartbroken. A few weeks later, she and Jesse started dating.

Had Bryn done it to hurt him?

Trent couldn’t blame Jesse. Jesse and Bryn were the same age and had a lot in common.

Bryn’s face was pale. Her body language said she wanted to be anywhere other than in this hallway with him.

Well, that was too damn bad.

He leaned forward to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear, whispering softly, “If you think I’ll let you take advantage of a sick old man, you’re an idiot.” He couldn’t stop himself.

Bryn’s chin lifted and she stepped sideways. “I don’t care what you think about me, Trent. I’m here to help Mac. That’s all you need to know. And I’m sure you’ll be on your way back to Denver very soon…right?” In another situation the naked hope on her face would have amused him. But at the moment, he couldn’t escape the irony.

He cocked his head, wishing he could discern the truth. Why had she really come back to Wyoming?

He shrugged. “Tough luck, Bryn. I’m here for the foreseeable future…. I got tapped to take a turn running the place until the old man is back on his feet. So you’re stuck with me, sweetheart.”

Her cheeks flushed, and her air of sophistication vanished like mist in the morning sun. For the first time he saw a hint of the girl she had been at eighteen. Her agitation made him want to soothe her when what he should be doing was showing her the door.

But his good sense was at odds with his libido. He wanted to crush her mouth beneath his, strip away the somber-looking jacket and find the curves he would map in detail.

The past beckoned, sharp and sweet…. He remembered one of the last times he and Bryn had been together before everything went so badly wrong. He had flown in for his dad’s birthday party. Bryn had run to meet him, talking a mile a minute as soon as he got out of the car. She was all legs and slim energy. And she’d had a crush on him.

She would have been mortified if she’d realized he had known all along. So, on that long-ago day he had treated her with the same easy camaraderie that had always existed between them. And he’d done his best to ignore the tug of attraction he felt.

They were not a match in any way.

At least that’s what he’d told himself.

Now, in this quiet hallway, he got lost for a moment, caught between the past and the present. He touched her cheek. It was soft…warm. Her eyes were the color of dried lavender, like the small bouquets his mother used to hang in the closets. “Bryn.” He felt the muscles in his throat tighten.

Her gaze was guarded, her thoughts a mystery. No longer did he see naked adoration on her face. He didn’t trust her momentary docility. She might be trying to play him for her own advantage. But she’d soon find that she was no match for him. He’d do anything to protect his father. Even if it meant bedding the enemy to learn her secrets.

Without thought or reason, his lips found hers. Their mouths clung, pressed, moved awkwardly. His hands found the ripe curves of her breasts and he caressed her gently. He thought she responded, but he couldn’t be sure. He was caught up in some weird time warp. When sharp daggers of arousal made him breathless, he jerked back, drawing great gulps of air into his starving lungs.

He ran his hands through his hair. “No.” He couldn’t think of a follow-up explanation. Was he talking to her or himself?

Bryn’s face was dead-white but for two spots of hectic color on her cheekbones. She wiped a shaky hand across her mouth and backed away from him.

Distress filled her eyes and embarrassment etched her face.

She turned and walked away, her gait jerky.

He watched her go, his gut a knot the size of Texas. If she had come again to try to convince them that Jesse had fathered her child, she would get short shrift. It would be in extremely bad taste to accuse a man who wasn’t here to defend himself.

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