The Secret Child & The Cowboy CEO(7)

By: Janice Maynard

Trent shoved back from the desk and stood up to stretch, his eyes going automatically to the magnificent scene outside the window. Wyoming was his birthplace, his home. And he loved it. But it had not been able to hold him…or Gage or Sloan, either, for that matter.

Gage had developed a bad case of wanderlust at an early age…and Sloan—well—Sloan’s brilliance was never going to be challenged by ranching. Had Jesse felt the need to be his father’s heir apparent? It didn’t fit what Trent knew of his baby brother’s temperament, but what else could explain Jesse’s role in running the ranch?

At one time the Crooked S had been the largest cattle operation in a six-state area…back when Mac was in his forties and had a brand-new twenty-year-old bride at his side. Now it was nothing more than acres of really valuable land.

What would become of the ranch when Mac was gone?

Trent waited until he heard Bryn talking on the phone in her bedroom before he went back in to check on his dad. Mac was sitting up in bed, and already his eyes seemed brighter, his skin a healthier shade. Had something as simple as bringing Bryn home wrought the change?

Trent sat down in a ladderback chair near the foot of the bed and hooked one ankle over the opposite knee. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back. “You’re looking better.”

Mac grunted. “I’ll live.” The two of them had never been much for sentimentality.

Trent smothered a smile. “Do you feel like going for a ride? I need to pick up a few things in town. Might do you good to get out for a couple of hours.”

His father seemed to wilt suddenly, as though his burst of energy had come and gone in an instant. “Don’t think I ought to try it yet. But maybe Bryn would like to go.”

Trent stiffened. He wasn’t ready to spend the hour and a half it would take to go into Jackson Hole and back cooped up in a car with the woman who was tying him in knots. “I’d say she’s still tired from her trip. And I can be there and back in no time.”

Mac’s dark eyes, so much like his son’s, held a calculating gleam. “Bryn promised to pick out a new blanket for my bed at the Pendleton store. You know how women are…always shopping for something. I don’t want to disappoint her. And you can have dinner before you drive back. Julio and I are going to play poker tonight.”

Julio was one of the ranch hands. Trent sighed. He knew when he’d been suckered. But he wasn’t going to fight with his dad…not yet.

Moments later, Trent knocked on Bryn’s door. It was slightly ajar, and he waited impatiently until she finished her phone conversation.

Bryn ground her teeth when she realized Trent was standing in the doorway. Maybe she should put a cow bell on him so he’d quit sneaking up on her. “What do you want?” The curt question was rude, but she was still stinging from their earlier encounter.

Trent’s expression was no happier than hers. His lips twisted. “I’m supposed to take you into town with me to do some errands…a blanket my father mentioned? And he wants me to take you out to dinner.”

She cocked her head, reading his discomfort in every taut muscle of his lean body. “And you’d rather wrestle with a rattlesnake…right?”

He shrugged, leaning against the door frame, his face impassive. “I’m here this month to make my father’s life easier. And if that means allowing him to boss me around, I’m willing to do so.”

“Such a dutiful son,” she mocked.

His jaw hardened. “Be out front in twenty minutes.”

Bryn fumed as he walked out on her, and she locked her door long enough to change from jeans into nice dress slacks and a spring sweater. She didn’t understand Trent at all. But she read his hostility loud and clear. From now on, there would be no kissing, no reliving the past. She was here to right past wrongs, and Trent was no more than a minor inconvenience.

She managed to make herself believe that until she climbed into the passenger seat of a silver, high-end Mercedes and got a whiff of freshly showered male and expensive aftershave. Oh, Lord.

Her stomach flipped once…hard…and she clasped her hands in her lap, her feet planted on the floor and her spine plumb-line straight.

The atmosphere in the car was as frigid as a January Wyoming morning. Trent turned the satellite radio to a news station, and they managed to complete the entire journey in total silence.

He let her out in front of the Pendleton store. “I’ve got some business to attend to. Can you entertain yourself for an hour or so?”

She sketched a salute. “Yes, sir. I’ll be right here at six o’clock.”

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