Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 16

Theo

Theo: Pick you up at 4.

Winter: For what?

Theo: Dinner at the ranch. We can drive together.

Winter: Don’t you think that’s kind of obvious?

Theo: We’re going there to tell everyone that I’m her dad. I think things are going to be obvious pretty quickly.

Winter: Fine.

Theo: What are you wearing?

Winter: I don’t know. Probably a sundress or something. Why? You planning on choosing an outfit that matches like we’re going to prom?

Theo: No. I mean, what are you wearing RIGHT NOW? 😉

Winter: Seriously?

Theo: Send pics.

Theo: Okay. It’s fine. I’ll just continue to use my imagination.


“It’s annoying how good you are at all things dad-ing.”

Vivi babbles in the back seat as she beats on a fabric book that makes loud crinkling noises. We’re heading out to the ranch to let the cat out of the bag. Or, rather, let the dad out of the bag.

“Dad-ing?” I arch a brow at Winter from the driver’s side of my truck. She looks like an angry Barbie doll, arms tucked tight over her ribs, which does nothing but push her tits up. I’m already distracted by them, so this isn’t helping.

“Yeah. Like just now. Doing the car seat? Simple. Feeding her? No problem. Changing a diaper? Immediately faster than me. Bathing her? Like you’ve done it a million times. Getting her into a carrier? Not a single cuss word while you struggle with a strap. It’s annoying.”

“Gosh, Winter. I didn’t know we were competing. Do you have a special trophy for me?” I don’t bother hiding the humor in my voice. In the past week, I’ve come to her house every morning, hot coffee in hand. Despite how badly this whole thing has fucked with my head, I keep a smile on my face and put my best foot forward to learn everything.

I glance at her, waiting for whatever barb she’ll fire next. She’s fidgeting to cover for her nervousness. But all I see is how the navy dress with a tiny floral print slides over her skin, making the slit on the skirt gape open, giving me a peek of smooth thigh.

My gaze snags there, remembering how her skin felt beneath my hands. I absently wonder if she thinks about that night. She must. I did good work that night. I know I did.

“Cindy seems nice.”

Ah. There it is. She’s stressed. And this is how she copes, by reverting to the ice-queen version of herself.

“She is,” I deadpan as I back out of her driveway.

It’s time to head to Wishing Well Ranch for a family dinner.

The tip of her nose wiggles as she glances away. “You should have gone out with her.”

My lips twitch. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. You two make a cute couple. She’s pretty.”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

She scoffs at me. Loudly. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve probably already slept with her, which means you noticed.”

“Yeah, years ago. She used to stay out on the circuit and travel with us.”

When I glance over, Winter’s skin has gone all pink and splotchy. She looks ready to blow a gasket.

“Don’t tell me things like that,” is her hushed reply.

“Why? I’m not going to lie to you about it. I have nothing to hide. I assumed you knew you didn’t take my virginity that night.”

She snorts and stares out the window, chewing at her nails.

“Why does that bug you, Winter?”

“Because you can’t have women traipsing in and out of your house willy-nilly if you’re going to have Vivi around!”

“Well, they aren’t exactly coming down one hundred strong.”

“They fucking better not. You’re a dad now. Have your one-night stands somewhere else.”

“Like the Rosewood Inn?” I snipe, still unable to keep myself from firing her up. Still getting off on watching her go from cool and unaffected to this.

“Rude.”

“I seem to remember you enjoying how rude I was to you once.”

Her head snaps in my direction, eyes flaring. “Stop. There’s a child in the vehicle.”

I hum thoughtfully, playing up that I’m mulling over her point when I’m not. “So this is about Vivi?”

She nods, blowing a heavy breath out as she does. “Obviously. Who else would it be about?”

“Do you mean what else would it be about?”

Her pouty lips thin and silence descends between us until she finds something else to pick at. “And you live next door. You didn’t need to drive over to pick us up.”

It’s a struggle not to laugh. I shouldn’t find this side of her endearing, but I do. “I thought swapping the car seat into my vehicle would be easier that way.”

She huffs out a quick breath, shoulders rising and falling as she does. “You’re annoyingly gentlemanlike.”

“Wow. It sounds like the only constant where I’m concerned is that I’m annoying and rude.”

When I peek over, her face softens. The cool veneer slips and her tightly held posture relaxes a little. “Sorry. I’m freaking out.”

“I know.” I smile as we pass by the gas station where I first laid eyes on her.

“I’m being a bitch.”

“No, you aren’t. You’re just using the coping skills you’ve got.”

“Is this some Tony Robbins shit? Because I hate that guy. Only a man could be that big of a douchebag and still make millions of dollars peddling the most elementary advice.”

I bark out a laugh. “He really is a douchebag, isn’t he?”

Her lips twitch and she glances out the window to cover. “Yes.”

“Okay. I’m no Tony Robbins, but do you know how I deal with freaking out?”

Her blue eyes widen as she turns back my way, elbow resting on the center console like I might give her some profoundly helpful answer. She’s mocking me, but that’s fine.

I prop my elbow next to hers, basking in the fact that she doesn’t move away.

Fuck. I want to touch her so badly. More than just this chaste elbow touch or whatever the fuck I’m doing right now.

I want to grip her hair. Bend her over. Spread her—

I shake my head to clear it. My cock is thickening in my jeans, and it isn’t the time or the place.

Clearing my throat, I forge ahead. “When I’m freaking out, I try to make myself as useful as possible. I get busy. I clean. I organize. I get great at changing diapers.”

She slumps back in her seat. “Fuck. I’m sorry. I really am—”

“Winter, don’t finish that sentence. Instead, promise me when you meet my mom, you will tell her I’m annoyingly gentlemanly. That will make her proud.”

She snorts. “Fine. I will.”

“I don’t think I can hold her back much longer. She is feral to meet Vivi. Pictures aren’t cutting it,” I admit as we pull into the ranch.

Winter’s head tilts in my direction and her brows furrow. “Why are you holding her back?”

Her body jostles as I pull to a stop near the main house. All river rock and stained logs with a tin roof and spacious wrap-around deck.

“I don’t know. Just trying to give you and me a second to figure things out.”

“You and me.” She shakes her head, followed by a scoff.

That can’t stand, though, so I hop out and round the truck. Based on the way she’s digging through her purse in her lap, I have to assume she expects me to go for Vivi. But I rip her door open and step close enough that my knees butt up against the edge of the truck.

“What are you doing?” Her tone bleeds alarm as she jolts and faces me.

“What’s so funny about you and me?”

Her hands flip out in disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“It’s . . . it’s . . . you . . . you don’t need to feel obligated to make this a thing when it’s not. You can want her in your life without pretending you want me too. Don’t feel obliged to act like you’re attracted to me just because I’m her mom.” Her eyes are so sparkly, her stubborn chin tipped up so high, her lips so fucking kissable. “Not when you have girls like Cindy.”

I interrupt her, leaning across to release her seatbelt and turning her to face me like that night in the bar. Our eyes collide, questions swirling in her blue depths.

With one hand propped above me on the roof of the truck, I lean in, my lips hovering over hers as I whisper, “That’s a fascinating assessment, Winter. But I’m not pretending a single fucking thing. Because for a year and a half all I’ve had to do is remember you and me that night to be stuck walking around all day like this.”

I cross a line.

My hand darts out and I grip her wrist, pulling her hand down to slide it over my rock-hard cock.

She doesn’t pull away. The only thing moving on her are her irises, tracing my face, her expression carefully blank.

But then her fingers flex over my dick.

She puffs out a breath and licks her lips as I groan and drop my head. The sliver of space between us crackles as one finger moves, running over the denim that divides us. Her touch is painfully, deliberately slow.

“Oh good! You’re here!” Summer’s chipper voice and footsteps bounding down the stairs have me lurching back away from Winter. Both of us panting, staring at each other.

“So happy you guys carpooled!” Summer pats my shoulder. “You are such a gentleman, Theo. Opening her door like that!”

Summer is oblivious.

But I don’t think Winter is anymore.


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