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Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 13

Theo

I’ve missed so much.

It’s the sentence that keeps running through my head. The one that hammers at my heart until it hurts. The one that has me heaving as though I could expel the thought from my body.

My head snaps up when I hear a soft knock against the door. “Theo? I, uh . . . I brought you some mouthwash. Can I come in?”

I flush, stand, and open the door the rest of the way. In my haste, I didn’t take time to close it and lock it. My vision went blurry at the edges and my stomach turned over on itself as the realization that I have a child struck me down to my knees.

A little girl.

And I’ve missed so damn much.

I take Winter in, really take her in, seeing her in a different light now. Hair tossed up in a messy bun. Face makeup-free with dark circles under the eyes that are fixed on mine and wide as saucers. She looks tired but healthier than the last time I saw her. There’s a glow about her, like she spends time outside.

I let my eyes trail down her body but snap them back up to her face when I get to her chest. Her loose tank top hides nothing and she’s not wearing a bra. Gawking at the outline of her nipples through the thin gray fabric isn’t what the moment calls for, so I focus on her icy-blue eyes, swirling with so many questions.

But she doesn’t ask them.

She holds out a white plastic cup, halfway filled with a liquid that matches her eyes. “Here.”

When I take the cup, our fingers touch. For a minute, I rest the pad of my index finger over the tip of hers. I slide it up to the next knuckle, feeling as though I’m touching the edge of all the ways I need to say sorry. I don’t even know where to start.

“Thank you.” I toss the minty liquid back, then brace my hands over the sink and stare down the drain as I try to come to grips with all the ways my life has changed today.

A daughter.

Another wave of nausea hits me, so I spit, rinse, and sit on the floor with my back leaned against the tub, ass plunked down on a plush pink bathmat.

“Wanna come sit in the living room?” Winter’s voice is smooth, calm. I’ve heard people call her icy, but I see a strong woman. One I admire even more now.

“I think I should stay close to the toilet.” I glance at the pink foamy duck covering the tap and organic baby soap with little ABC blocks on the front label.

Her lips roll together as she regards me. “Listen, it’s clean in here but like . . . not that clean.”

“To be frank, the cleanliness of your bathroom is the last thing I care about right now.”

Her lashes flutter in time with the nervous way she nods her head. “Yeah. Okay.”

To my surprise, she puts the mouthwash on a shelf and heads in my direction, plopping down onto the bathroom mat right beside me.

Her soft jersey shorts slouch down over her thighs when she props her knees up and her bare leg presses against mine. “Is this okay?”

I nod, eyes still fixed on her smooth tan thigh, her femur so much shorter than mine. I remember how it felt to grip that thigh, how she wrapped them both around my waist and tugged me close.

The round lights above the vanity hum and the only other sounds in the bathroom are the soft splatter of rain against the windows and us breathing in time.

“What’s her name?” A watery laugh follows my question. “Please tell me you didn’t name her Autumn.”

Winter snorts and her head drops. “Fuck. I would never.” Then she turns her face up to mine, sadness etched into her beautiful face. “Her name is Vivienne Hamilton. But we all call her Vivi.”

We all.

Those two words hit me like a ton of bricks. We all. Everyone here knows her. Has seen her grow. Got to be there when she was born.

And I’ve had no idea.

“Does she have a middle name?”

“No.”

I nod. Who cares about a middle name? God, I’m an idiot.

“What day is her birthday?”

“September twenty-second. Would have been stupid to name her Autumn with a birth date like that.”

I chuckle, but it’s strangled. “How was labor?”

She blinks up at me. “Labor?”

“Yeah. Her birth. How was it?”

“It . . . it . . .” She pauses. “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting you to ask me that question.”

“I want to know everything, Winter. Every little detail.”

“Okay.” Her face scrunches up a little. “Well, not every little detail.”

“My mom is a midwife. You can’t shock me after years of listening to her tell birth stories.”

My mom. Another rock lands in my stomach. This will gut her. She’ll be excited but heartbroken all at once. I know because that’s how I’m feeling right now.

“Honestly, it was incredible. Powerful. And exhausting. But so rewarding. She was healthy and so was I.”

I swallow the words I should have been there over the lump in my throat.

“Theo?” Her knee nudges mine. “If I wasn’t talking to you, who was I talking to? I got your number from the Hamilton Athletics member list.”

“It was probably Geoff at Hamilton Elite.”

“Wait.” She holds a hand up. “At my dad’s work?”

I nod, staring at my hands, pressing on the calloused pads. “I refocused after that Christmas and cut out all the noise. All the social media, all the . . .” I tip my head back and groan as I look up at the ceiling.

“Women?” Winter provides with no inflection in her voice.

“Yeah. A new phone seemed like the easiest way to disconnect. I handed that one over so Geoff could manage my social media accounts. I told him to tell me if anything important came through.”

“Hmm.” She nods, long and slow, almost rocking her body with the weight of it.

“Do you still have the messages?”

“Not the voicemails.” She sniffs as she fishes her phone out of her pocket. After a few swipes, she hands it to me. Theo Silva is the contact at the top, and I double-check the number. I know she sees me do it, because I feel her tense. But I need to know for sure she contacted the correct person.

The number is right, and part of me wishes it wasn’t so I could be angry at her for not trying harder to get in touch with me. I want someone other than myself to blame for this colossal fucking mess.

But when I read the messages in the chat, all those feelings evaporate, and in their place comes an oppressive dread. Grief. A sick twisting in my stomach. Because no woman in her right mind would continue trying to track me down after getting messages back like this.

I’m not interested in talking.

Thanks for letting me know.

I’m going to kill Geoff with my bare hands. He might be the only person in the world who would deem these messages “not important.”

Anxiety unfurls in my chest. I’m overwhelmed by the instinct to take this jumbled clusterfuck and untangle it. Make things as right as I can.

When I glance back at Winter, she’s curled in on herself, her gaze fixated on her fingernails again.

“Winter. Look at me.”

Her tongue darts out to take a nervous swipe at her lips, but she doesn’t turn her gaze my way.

I reach over, ignoring the sharp bite in my collarbone, and guide her chin gently with my fingers. When she finally gives me her eyes, I let my gaze trace them, wanting to know I have her full attention.

“If I had known, I’d have been here every step of the way. Supporting you in whatever way you needed. And Winter?”

“Yeah?” For the first time tonight, her voice sounds weak.

I catch a stray tear that slides down over the apple of her cheek and brush it away, tamping down the rage in my chest over how this entire thing played out. “Now that I’m here? I’m here. Okay? No expectations, but I want you to let me help you. I want to get to know her if that’s okay with you.”

She nods, and more tears fall. I bring my other hand up and try to catch them all, but I fail. They come too fast, so I pull her head against my chest and opt to let her soak my already damp shirt.

Seems like the least I can do for this woman after how thoroughly I’ve let her down.


I don’t sleep. Even though we’ve moved all my furniture into this brand-new house, it doesn’t feel like mine. I lie on my back, staring at the ceiling. I’ve got Peter wedged into my armpit, snoring softly on one side of me, and regret on the other side with one hand on my throat.

Winter has always drawn me to her in some inexplicable way, and knowing she’s just a few steps away with our daughter? It’s shifted something in me.

I didn’t want to be disruptive, or overstep my bounds, but I wanted to sit on the floor of that nursery and stare at Vivienne for the entire night.

Knowing you want to have children one day is a lot different from facing one that already exists. I don’t know how to wrap my feelings around it.

But I know who will.

Wincing as I shift in bed, I swipe my phone off the bedside table and call my mom.

“What’s wrong?” is how she answers the phone. Her instincts are wild.

“Why would something have to be wrong for me to call you? You’re my mom.”

“Right, but I know you. It’s currently six o’clock on a Sunday morning where you are, which means it’s five here.”

“Shit. Sorry, Mom.”

“It’s okay. I was just getting set up to do some restorative yoga. I can fix your problems while I make myself some green tea.”

I snort. I don’t think anyone can fix this problem in the time it takes to make a cup of tea.

“Why don’t you just sleep in? It’s the weekend.”

She scoffs at me, and I hear a cupboard thud shut on the other end of the line. “I’ll be sure to tell that to the next mother that goes into labor on a weekend. Sorry, doll. You’re going to have to wait until Monday.”

I chuckle because I remember having to take care of my sister at odd hours now and then when my mom would have to rush out to a birth. Or when we were younger, getting woken up so that she could drop us off at a friend’s house.

She did the best she could after our dad’s death. A single mom to two kids wasn’t an easy gig. Though when she got a job teaching midwifery at the college, things slowed down a bit.

“Fair enough.”

Peter lets out a loud snore beside me, not at all bothered by the phone call.

“Oh, is that little Peter?”

Leave it to Rhett to ruin my dog’s name. Little Peter does distinctly sound like a penis. But I’m not about to tell my mom th—

“God. Every time I say that dog’s name, I think of a dick.”

I bark out a laugh and the way it jostles my body is enough to wake Little Peter. He gives me a dirty look, like I’m the world’s worst pillow, and nuzzles back in. When I picked him up off the street in Mexico, I thought he’d think I was his hero, but the attitude on this dog is insurmountable.

“It’s true. I hope you didn’t name him after your—”

“Mom.” I close my eyes and rub my fingers against my eyebrows.

“Right. We’re getting off track.” The low rumble of water boiling in the background filters in through the receiver. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

I sigh. “I don’t know if wrong is the word I would use.”

“Stop beating around the bush, Theo.”

“I have a daughter.” I feel like I’ve shouted the words. Somehow, saying them out loud is very different from being told them or just repeating them in my head.

The line is silent.

“I just found out last night.”

I wait a few beats. Still silent. I flip the phone to check the screen and make sure I’m still connected.

“Mom?”

“Oh, Theo.” She almost sighs it, like I exhaust her. And I’m sure that on some level I do. Choosing to pursue the career that killed my dad might be one of the most thoroughly exhausting things I’ve ever done to my mother, but she still supports me. She always has. I’m hoping I haven’t pushed her too far with this little tidbit though.

“Are you okay?”

A heavy breath I’d been holding leaves me in a whoosh. “I’m . . . yeah. I think I’m just in shock.”

“How did this happen?”

“Well, Mom, when two people—”

“Theodore Silva. Don’t turn this into a joke to cope with your feelings. Talk to me.”

I hear her pouring water into a cup, taking things in her stride like she always has with us kids. The universe blessed her with two handfuls. Julia is just as bad as me.

“What do you want to know?”

“Everything! How old is she? What’s her name? Does she look like me? When can I meet her? And how the hell did this happen?”

No one but Loretta Silva would take this so easily. “And you were on my case for covering with jokes.”

She blows a raspberry, and I can envision her flipping a hand across herself like she’s swatting a fly as if we were in the same room.

So, I fill her in on everything I know, noting the happy little sigh she makes when I tell her about Vivienne. I don’t miss the strangled sound that catches in her throat when I explain how it all got lost in translation.

“I could kill that Geoff asshole,” she mutters.

“No, he’s mine to kill.”

“Theo! You can’t threaten shit like that. You’re a father now.”

Fuck. I’m a father now.

“Okay, so I need to compose myself before I cross that bridge. And tell Winter’s dad since he’s Geoff’s boss, and that is all its own massive clusterfuck.”

“So, the mom is Rhett’s sister-in-law?”

“Well, the wedding isn’t until next month. Remember? You’re invited.”

“Don’t be like that, Theo. You know what I’m asking.”

My teeth graze along my bottom lip as I stare up at the white popcorn-style ceiling. Since I failed to put up any blinds, morning light has filled the room, and the blue hue gives the space a cool, serene vibe that reminds me of Winter.

“Yeah. It’s her.”

“Huh. That girl, huh? Well, I can’t wait to meet her.”

“Vivienne?”

“No. Well, yes. But Winter too.”

I smile up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I think you’ll like her.”

“How is she holding up? I was never a single mom with a baby. But I remember your dad going on the road and leaving me home alone with you two. I would practically toss you at him and walk out the door the minute he got back, just so I could have a few minutes by myself.”

“I think she’s okay. Happy but overwhelmed, if that makes sense?”

“That makes perfect sense. If I wrote a dictionary, that might be the definition I put under motherhood.”

I laugh, lighter already for having talked to my mom.

“Theo, honey, the question any good dad would ask himself now is: what are you going to do to make her feel less overwhelmed?”


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