The Secret Child & The Cowboy CEO(5)

By: Janice Maynard

Trent finished rubbing down the stallion and glanced at his watch. He’d fallen into the habit of checking on the old man at least once an hour, and with Bryn around, that routine was more important than ever. He didn’t trust her one damn bit. Six years ago she had lied to weasel her way into the family. Now she was back to try again. The next few weeks were going to be hell.

Especially if he couldn't keep his traitorous body under control.


When Trent stormed out of the room, albeit quietly, Bryn couldn’t decide if she was disappointed or relieved. He made her furious, but at the same time, she felt so alive when he was around. Six years had not changed that.

She sat at Mac’s bedside for a half hour, just watching the rise and fall of his chest. In some ways, it was as if no time had passed at all. This man had meant the world to her.

When he finally roused from his nap and shifted upright in the bed, she handed him a tumbler of water, which he drained thirstily and placed on the bedside table.

He stared at her, his expression sober. “Do you hate me, girl?”

She shrugged, opting for honesty. “I did for a long time. You broke your promise to me.” When her parents, Mac’s foreman and cook, died in a car accident years ago, Mac had sat a fourteen-year-old Bryn down in his study and promised her that she would always have a home on the huge Wyoming ranch where she had grown up.

But four years later that promise was worth less than nothing. Jesse, spoiled golden child and chillingly proficient liar, turned them all against her in one insane, surreal instant.

Mac shifted in the bed. “I did what I had to do.” His words were sulky…pure, stubborn Mac. But knowing how much he had suffered softened Bryn’s heart a little.

In spite of herself, forgiveness tightened her throat and squeezed her chest. Mac had made a mistake…. They all had made mistakes, Bryn included. But Mac had done his best to look out for her after her parents were gone. Until it all went to hell.

Then he’d sent her to Aunt Beverly. Punishment by exile. Bryn had been crushed. But six years was a long time to hold a grudge.

She sighed. “I’m sorry Jesse died, Mac. I know how much you loved him.”

“I loved you, too,” he said gruffly, not meeting her eyes.

His behavior bore that out. Mac hadn’t forgotten her. For six years he’d sent birthday and Christmas presents like clockwork. But Bryn, hugging her injured pride like the baby she was, promptly sent them back every time.

Now shame choked her. Did Mac’s one moment of weakness erase all the years he’d been like a grandfather to her?

She took a deep breath. “I came back to Wyoming because you asked me to. But even if you hadn’t, I would have been here once I knew Jesse was gone. We have to talk about a lot of things, Mac.” Like the fact that she wanted a paternity test to prove that Jesse was Allen’s father. And that her son was entitled to his dead father’s share of the Sinclair empire.

Mac’s lips trembled, and he pulled the blanket to his chest. “There’s time. Don’t push it, girl.” He slid back down in the bed and closed his eyes, effectively ending the conversation.

Bryn stepped into the hall, leaving the bedroom door open so she could hear him call out if he needed her. The study was only steps away. She couldn’t help herself…she went in.

The room seemed benign now, not at all the way she remembered it in her nightmares. That dreadful day was etched in her memory by the sharp blades of hurt and disillusionment. She’d considered herself an honorary Sinclair, but they had sided with Jesse.

“What are you doing in here?”

Trent’s sharp voice startled her so badly, she spun and almost lost her balance. She placed a steadying hand on the rolltop desk and bit her lip. “You scared me.”

His scowl deepened. “I asked you a question, Bryn.”

She licked her lips, her legs like jelly. “I wanted to send my son an e-mail.”

Trent’s face went blank, but she saw him clench his fists. “Don’t mention your son in my presence,” he said, his voice soft but deadly. “Not if you know what’s good for you.”

Bryn could take the knocks life dealt her, but no one was going to speak ill of her baby while there was breath in her body.

She squared her shoulders. “His name is Allen. And he’s Jesse’s son. I know it, and I think deep in your heart, you and Mac and Gage and Sloan know it, too. Why would I lie, for heaven’s sake?”

Trent shrugged, his gaze watchful. “Women lie,” he said, his words deliberately cutting, “all the time—to get what they want.”

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