The Secret Child & The Cowboy CEO(9)

By: Janice Maynard


She wouldn’t back down, not now. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I really am. But Mac has done you a disservice. Perhaps you could have helped if you had known.”

Trent’s laser gaze would have ripped her in half if she hadn’t known in her heart she was doing the right thing. Pain etched his face, along with confusion and remorse, and a seldom-seen, heart-wrenching vulnerability—at least not by Bryn.

He ran a hand through his hair. “You’re lying again. How would you know anything about Jesse?”

Denial was a normal stage of grief. But Bryn held firm. “I’m not lying,” she said calmly. “Jesse called me a couple or three times a year. And every time it was the same. He was either drunk or high. He’d ramble on about how he wanted me to come back to Wyoming.”

“If you’re telling the truth, it’s even worse. He might have wanted to make a family with you and the baby, even if it wasn’t his.”

“Focus, Trent. He didn’t know what he was saying half the time. If anything, he wanted to use me and Allen to win points with Mac…to help cover his ass after whatever new trouble he’d gotten himself into.”

“Jesse loved children.”

“Jesse offered me money to get an abortion,” she said flatly. “He said he had big plans for his life and they didn’t include a baby…or me for that matter. That’s why I ran into Mac’s study that day so upset. I thought Mac would talk some sense into him.”

Trent’s face was white. He didn’t say a word.

“But instead,” she said, grimacing at the quiver she heard in her own voice, “Mac put me on a plane to Minnesota.”

Please, please, please believe me.

He shrugged. “With your talent for drama, you might have a career on the silver screen.”

His flippant words hurt, but they were no more than she expected. He’d been fed a pack of lies, all right. But not by Bryn.

She sighed. “Ask Mac,” she begged. “Make him tell you the truth.”

Trent shook his head slowly. “My father nearly died. He’s grieving over the loss of his son. No way in hell am I going to upset him with your wild accusations.”

She slumped back in her seat and turned her head so he wouldn’t see her cry. “Well, then—we’re at an impasse. Take me home. I want to see how Mac is doing.”

She didn’t know what she expected from Trent. But he gave her nothing. Nothing at all. His face closed up. He started the engine.





Three




Trent was appalled by the picture Bryn painted of Jesse. The young brother Trent remembered was fun-loving, maybe a little immature for his age, but not amoral, not unprincipled.

Bryn had unwittingly touched on Trent’s own personal guilt. He hadn’t been much of a big brother in recent years. Other than Mac’s birthday in the fall, and Thanksgiving and Christmas, Trent had seldom made the trip home from Colorado to Wyoming.

His company was wildly successful, and the atmosphere of cutthroat competition was consuming and addictive. He’d made obscene amounts of money in a very short time period, but it was the challenge that kept him going. He thrived on being the best.

But at what cost? Had he missed the signs that Jesse was struggling? Or had the truth been kept from him deliberately? Gage wouldn’t have known. He was usually halfway around the word on any given day. And Sloan was more attuned to the world of numbers and formulas than emotions and personalities. No…Trent should have been the one to see it, and he’d been too damned busy to help.

Of course, there was always the possibility that Bryn was exaggerating…or even inventing the entire scenario. That was the most palatable choice. But though he was far from being willing to trust her, the passionate sincerity in her eyes and in her words would be difficult to fabricate.

When they pulled up in front of the house, Bryn got out and retrieved her packages before he could help her. Her body language wasn’t difficult to read. She was angry.

He took her arm before she walked away, registering the slender bones. “I don’t want you talking to Mac about Jesse. Not for a while. God knows what you’re hoping to get out of this sudden, compassionate visit, but I’ll be watching you, so don’t do anything to upset Mac or you’ll have me to deal with.”

She threw him a mocking smile as she walked toward the porch. “I love Mac. And your threats don’t scare me. I think your original idea was the best…. I plan to stay out of your way.”



Bryn saw little of Trent for three days, which was a good thing. She was still smarting from their most recent confrontation. He showed up in his dad’s room several times a day to chat with him, and on those occasions, Bryn slipped away to give the men privacy.

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