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Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 15

Winter

Winter: He’s here. He knows.

Sloane: How did he take it? Is that why we did a B&E? To get his number?

Winter: Yup. Except someone else had his phone just to manage social media and never told him.

Sloane: Shit. Are you okay?

Winter: I’m taking a hot bath. Drinking a hot coffee. I’m in shock. But also heaven.

Sloane: You deserve it.

Winter: Do I?

Sloane: Yes. Hot baths and a hot baby daddy. You deserve the world.

Winter: He really is hot.

Sloane: Hotter with a baby I bet.

Winter: You have no idea.


When I walk down the hallway, I expect mayhem. Tears and frustration. A desperate plea for help because he’s out of his depth. I stayed in the tub with my noise-canceling headphones on until the water was cold, and it still felt luxurious.

So shit has to be falling apart.

But no.

Theo is laid out on the couch, his good arm slung behind his head, which makes his bicep bulge in a very distracting way. Vivi is sprawled across his chest, looking like a koala who’s climbing a tree that is too big for her to reach around. Her red, heart-shaped lips are just a little bit open, and his arm that should be in a sling is folded beside him, one broad palm splayed over her back.

There’s some sort of car race playing on the TV, but Theo is staring at Vivi.

Something about the moment feels profoundly special. He’s missed a lot of moments, a lot of firsts. And this is her first nap on him.

I yank my phone out of the back pocket of my jeans and snap a photo. The warm light gives it a dusty vintage effect. They look so peaceful.

“Hi,” I whisper as I walk over to them.

Theo glances up at me but does a double take.

“What?”

“You just . . .” His lips roll together. “You look beauti—different.”

I almost smirk. Beautidifferent.

“Well, I put on some makeup. How is she?”

He stares back down at her. “Perfect.”

I feel weird hovering, so I sit on the coffee table next to them and hold my phone in front of Theo to show him the photo. “If you give me your number, I’ll send it to you.”

His thumb swipes over Vivi’s back in a soothing arc. “I’d like that. I feel . . .”

I stare down at my phone. “I know. You must hate me. And that’s okay. I think deep down I don’t blame you. Maybe I should have gone crazy and told everyone. Been more spiteful, ya know? I tried giving less fucks and it backfired kind of spectacularly.”

“Winter, I do not hate you.” His voice is soft but sure, but I still can’t bring myself to look at him. “You did plenty. You did more than enough.”

“You have to say that because I’m the mother of your child.”

“I—”

I hold a hand up. “I know you wouldn’t have signed up for fatherhood. But I . . . really wanted this. Not how it came about, maybe. I mean, how cliché is a broken condom? But a baby? Theo,” my voice cracks, “I really wanted a baby. I have no regrets.”

“What makes you think I don’t want this?”

I let my eyes trail over the beautiful man on my couch, with our baby girl laid over his heart. “Not at this point in your life. And not with me. You’ll never convince me otherwise.”

His features harden, a steely glint flashing in his eyes. “What makes you think I wouldn’t want this with you?”

I scoff, wiping away a stray tear again.

Fuck my life and all this crying.

“Sorry, I never cry.”

A smile touches his lips. “Yes, I can see that.”

“Shut up.” I swipe again, turning away to stare out the front window.

“I feel like I’ve missed a lot of firsts, Winter. That’s what I was going to say. I feel like an interloper, but I don’t want to. I wish I’d been there to see her grow. To see you grow. To be at the birth.”

I sniff. “Willa took a very graphic video. I can show you sometime.”

“I would love that.”

“It’s not sexy.” I side-eye him and he scrunches his brow. “It will ruin any splendid memories of my vagina you might have.”

“Nah. That’s impossible. Those memories are why my right forearm is bigger than my left.”

I roll my eyes and bite back my laugh. “You’re impossible to deter.”

He grins. “Yes.”

“I’m happy to have you around, Theo. I would never, ever keep you from her. After what I grew up in, I just want her to be surrounded by so much love. You know?”

“Of course. We’re on the same page.” His voice, his words—they’re like a firm hug. They instantly make me feel better.

Vivi stirs, drawing our attention, and for a few beats we both just . . . baby gaze.

“We’re going to have to tell people soon.”

“Yeah,” he says in a rough voice. “I already told my mom. I hope that’s okay.”

“What did she say?” Panic seeps in. God, what must this woman think of me?

“That I’ve got some catching up to do. And that she can’t wait to see you.”

“Vivi, you mean? Yeah, that will be nice.”

He peers up at me. “No, Winter. You. She can’t wait to meet you.” He’s being serious again, and I want to squirm under the intensity of his stare.

“That should be interesting.” I laugh. “Hope she’s not too disappointed.”

But Theo doesn’t follow suit. Instead, he scowls at me. “I could fucking bury whoever made you believe you’re as unlovable as you seem to think.”

I stand and swipe at the front of my jeans, smoothing invisible wrinkles. “Yes, well, I’ve had years to bask in this feeling, so I don’t think burying anyone will help.”

“We’ll see,” he grumbles, the vibration in his chest enough to make Vivi’s eyes flutter open.

“Good nap, Vivi?” I ask, my voice swapping to a softer one.

She yawns, body tensing as she stretches out like a happy cat in a sunbeam. Theo has a way of making a girl feel like that when he turns his attention to her.

I know. I remember.

Her head tilts, and she looks up at Theo.

“Hi, baby girl.”

That “baby girl” thing in his deep voice will be my undoing. I just know it.

She smiles, almost bashfully, and reaches for me. And to his credit, Theo doesn’t hesitate. He hands her over, and I sigh when I hold her against my chest.

The break was nice, but the relief at having her back in my arms is inexplicable.

Theo pushes to sit, and our knees bump against each other as he moves around, putting his shirt back straight.

“You should still wear the sling.”

His eyes roll playfully before landing back on us. “I know, but it sucks. I’d rather hold Vivi. Send me that picture, okay?”

“Okay. Write down your number before you go.”

“Oh yeah. I’ll just text you first.”

He pushes to stand, which puts his crotch right at my face height. My cheeks heat, because I know what’s on the other side of that zipper. And I know what he can do with it.

I turned porn on in the bathroom, but truthfully, nothing compares to that night. It’s the fantasy I go back to every time.

“Why did you take my number?” I peek up at him while Vivi grabs at the neckline of my shirt in the most unsubtle way possible.

Theo smiles down at me. “Told you I was going to come back for another shot, and I meant it.”

A thought hits me and steals all the air from my lungs. It’s irrational. And it’s jealous. And I’m just insecure enough to blurt it straight out. “Oh my god. Do you have other children with other women? You’re on the road so much. You’re already so good with her. You could have baby mamas all over the place.”

His big brown eyes go wide, and then he barks out a disbelieving laugh before he tips my face up to his. Exactly how he did in the elevator that night. He bends down and whispers against my skin, “No, Winter. You’re my only baby mama.”

And then he swaggers out the door, like that’s a perfectly normal thing to say.


I need to clear my head. So, I take Vivi out for a walk in her stroller. We hit the park and I push her in a swing. Once she’s had her fill, we stroll down main street.

I’m so zoned out that I end up walking right past Hamilton Athletics, where I may or may not sneak a peek through the front windows at Theo working out. He’s wearing his sling, but it doesn’t make him look inept. It’s more like he can do lower body and balance exercises with one hand tied behind his back.

Every line on his arms shimmers with perspiration. His body is firm, coiled—a machine.

Who knew bull riders had to be so fit.

But I am not gawking. I’m just out clearing my head after the shock of the last couple of days, which is why I turn the same shade as a strawberry when he catches me standing in the middle of the sidewalk on Rosewood Street.

Sipping a coffee and gawking at him like a brain-dead bimbo.

I give my head a brief shimmy and turn to keep walking. I’ll pretend that little moment didn’t happen at all. It’s just the baby-brain. I zone out all the time now.

It has nothing to do with Theo Silva.

And definitely nothing to do with that night.

And now, I’m irrationally annoyed with him. Because when I sneak a final peek over my shoulder to see if I got away with it, he’s still standing there smirking at me.

He winks at me.

The absolute gall of this man to come waltzing back into my life and wink at me. Like no time has passed at all between now and when we saw each other last. Like it’s not insane to flirt with me openly, as though I’m something more to him.

I storm back home, flustered by his confidence. Rattled by his presence. Annoyed that he’s not only a great lay, but a shameless and persistent flirt.

With no boundaries.

The sight of a woman standing at his front door with a gift bag in hand stops me in my tracks. I watch her ring the doorbell and check her teeth for lipstick in the reflection of the front window.

Figures.

As she waits, she shifts the bag between hands, seeming a bit nervous in her painted-on jeans. One hand tucks a loose strand of perfectly blown-out light brown hair behind one ear.

She knocks, then waits again. When he doesn’t answer, she tries to peer in through the front bay window, still looking around like he might be hiding from her.

His dog doesn’t even bark.

Then she turns and glances back at the front street. I don’t even register with her, but she does for me. She’s the girl from the rodeo. The one with tears streaming down her face, who was ready to crumble when she saw Theo on the ground.

She’s pretty. Really pretty. She’s fit, and she doesn’t appear exhausted or chaotic like me. Theo and I haven’t covered this ground yet, but it makes sense he’d have someone.

I mean, fucking look at him. Of course he would.

Except he winked at me. And he keeps smirking at me like he’s replaying when he licked tequila off my—

“Do you know if Theo Silva lives here?” she calls out to me.

“Yup,” I reply with a thin smile. For all the hard work I’ve done on becoming a kinder, less judgmental person, I take one look at this girl and hate her.

“Is he home?”

“Doesn’t seem to be.” I try to make my voice sound peppy as I unlatch the white picket gate at the front of my house. It’s a dumb question though.

Obviously, he’s not home. Or doesn’t want to see her. Those are her two options, but she’s asking a stranger.

Stupid questions get stupid answers.

“Winter, hold up!” Theo calls, coming down the sidewalk from the same direction I just did. When he clears the hedge that was hiding him from the hot girl on his front step, she brightens.

“Theo! Hi!” She rushes down the front steps and toward the front street.

Theo pulls up, blinking. “Cindy. Hey.”

She flushes and smiles at him, sparing me a quick glance before going straight to him and wrapping him in a hug.

A very comfortable hug.

Her hand rests on his cheek when she pulls away. “How are you feeling? Sorry I didn’t make it to the hospital again for a visit. Got tied up with work in the city.”

He steps out of her reach, and her hand falls between them. “Feeling pretty good. And no problem. It was nice to catch up with an old friend.”

She visibly winces, and okay, now I feel bad for her. It doesn’t seem like old friend is what she was going for.

“Well . . .” She straightens, brightening her tone even further. “I couldn’t get a hold of you at the number I have for you. But Rhett told me you were staying here for a while, so I figured . . .” She shrugs, lips forming a small curve, making the apples of her cheeks fill. “We could catch up?” She holds the bag up. “I brought you a housewarming present!”

From the bag, she pulls out an expensive-looking bottle of tequila and a set of ornate shot glasses. “We could party like we used to.”

Theo laughs politely, taking in the gift and the woman before him.

And once again, I’m gawking at Theo.

Except, this time, I’m not embarrassed. I feel like I want to break something.

Preferably those shot glasses. Because tequila is our thing.

I turn away, letting the gate close with a loud, petulant crash as I head up to my front door.

Vivi is asleep, which means I’d be an idiot to move her. Usually I’d get a book, sit in a sunbeam on the porch, and soak up the peace and quiet. But hot Theo is here with his hot fuck buddy and I would rather drink a glass of thumb tacks than watch them interact.

I’m about to reach in and take my chances with moving Vivi when I hear the rumble of Theo’s voice. “This is really kind of you, Cindy. Thank you. But I’m in a new place now. Partying like I used to isn’t in the cards.”

He’s kind, but direct.

Bent behind the shade of the stroller, I pause and eavesdrop.

She laughs, but I know that laugh. I use it to cover being disappointed. “Fair enough. It has been a couple of years since I left the circuit. Dinner sometime instead?”

I clench my molars, prepared for him to say yes. Why wouldn’t he say yes?

His hand swipes through his hair and he steps away. “Ya know, I’m in the middle of something. Something I have a good feeling about. So it’s a no.”

My stomach goes hot, like it’s melting in on itself.

Her responding laugh is shriller this time, her tone not as sweet. “Oh, my bad. I didn’t realize you were with someone.”

His eyes slice over to mine, busting me. Again. “I’m not. Yet.”


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