Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 2

Theo

The blonde woman stared at me like I was some sort of alien. I had to stop and stare back because she was so fucking blatant.

I was ready to crack a joke about how objectified I felt by the way she was ogling me. But then she licked her lips once, blinked, and shot off. Which is a shame, because I liked the way she gawked at me. I wasn’t feeling objectified at all. If she’d looked me in the eye, all bets would have been off. I could have given her something to really stare at.

I didn’t become a bull rider because I can’t stand an audience. The show, the crowd, the recognition—I thrive on it. I was born into it. Gabriel Silva is arguably one of the most famous World Bull Riding Federation riders of all time.

And he isn’t just my idol. He’s my dad.

Was? I never know how to refer to him. He still feels very present to me even though he died so long ago.

As I swing up into my truck, I chuckle to myself. I know the stunning blonde in the fancy Audi will cross my mind from time to time. Because there was something unusually wholesome about that interaction, like she was a teenager caught gawking and got embarrassed about it. I’d feel bad for her if I didn’t feel so bad for myself that she ran off before I could get her number.

I hit the darkened road heading out to Wishing Well Ranch. I’ve come out here enough times over the years that I know where I’m going, whether it’s dark or not. My mentor, Rhett Eaton, lives out here, and with my mom and sister living a province away, his family has become a little like my own over the holidays.

I’d usually head to Mom’s place for Christmas, but she took a singles cruise with my little sister so they could both meet Mister Right, I think they called it.

And though I might be very, very single, I have zero desire to partake in that shit with my family.

Hard pass.

There are plenty of single buckle bunnies out on the WBRF circuit for me to pass the time with—boring as the endless series of mindless fucks have become—that don’t require involving my mom.

Not to mention the whole boat thing freaks me out.

Put me on an angry bull? I’m fine.

Put me on a big boat with no land anywhere in sight? Hard pass. I saw an Oprah episode about people who go missing on those, and I’m too young and pretty to die.

Within a few minutes, there are red taillights ahead of me and I’m gaining on them quickly. Really quickly.

“Come onnnn,” I groan into the quiet cab of my truck as I tip my head back.

Yeah, it’s snowing, but the roads are hard-packed and not icy. I finally catch up to the car and realize just how slow they’re going. Thirty kilometers an hour. In a fifty. And this isn’t even a school zone.

It’s when I get close enough that I realize it’s the smokeshow in the Audi. I should have guessed. The heeled boots and the long coat didn’t scream country girl.

And neither does the way she drives a back road.

The signal light flicks left. The vehicle slows and then speeds up.

The signal light flashes right, and the car swerves a little.

Maybe she’s lost? Or drunk? I sometimes zone out like she did staring at me when I’ve had a few too many.

Then I get close enough to see the light of her cell phone through the back window.

Perfect. Texting and driving. This chick is gonna kill herself. Or me.

Maybe if we shared a hospital room, I could get her number after all. Might be worth it.

When she slams the brakes, I startle and honk.

“Seriously!” I shout, my heart rate ratcheting up. I don’t care how hot she is. She’s a fucking terrible driver.

She shoots forward but slows again. I back off, not wanting to be too close to someone this erratic.

But dammit, I end up thinking of my mom or my sister lost on a back road. I go back to her being lost instead of driving like an asshole on purpose. A quick glance at my phone in its holster tells me reception is officially gone on this stretch, so she can’t possibly be texting anyone.

I flash my high beams, thinking I can help if she pulls over.

I immediately feel like a serial killer.

No woman in her right mind would pull over on a dark road to talk to a strange man who flashed his high beams at her.

So, I settle in, crank my Chris Stapleton, and let my eyes wander out over the snow-covered fields. All crisp and white, reflecting the light of the moon, they make it seem not so dark anymore. Before long, I’m approaching the turnoff into Wishing Well Ranch, which means I can finally bid my terrible driving temptress farewell.

Except she signals. And turns into the ranch.

My mind whirs with what that might mean. She’s definitely going to think I’m stalking her. And if we’re both heading to the same place, she’s someone I know in a roundabout way.

Once the lit house comes into view, her car accelerates right to the front porch. She hits the brakes and flies out of her car, slamming the door and storming in my direction before I can even get out of my truck.

When I make it out, I hear, “Are you fucking insane?”

Okay. She’s mad. And she doesn’t sound drunk at all. She’s got her keys wedged between her fingers like claws and I instantly like this girl.

No preamble. Just comes out swinging. She’s tiny and ferocious. I feel like Peter Pan getting reamed by Tinkerbell.

“Easy, Tink.” I offer her a smile and lift my hands in surrender, not wanting to make her feel threatened.

“Tink?” Her voice goes even louder.

I wave a hand over her. “Yeah, you’ve got this whole angry little Tinkerbell vibe happening. I dig it.” I let my gaze trace her body for only a moment, not wanting to border on leering. But hey, fair is fair after the way she gawked at the gas station.

“You’re fucking nuts, you know that?” She starts back in. “You drive like an asshole behind me for a solid ten minutes, and now you follow me here? To . . . to . . . check me out and compare me to a Disney pixie?” Her arms flap angrily, and her dainty face twists up in fury. A look like that could incinerate a man on the spot.

But not me.

I shouldn’t prod her. I know I shouldn’t. But I feel like a kid with a crush who mocks the girl he likes to get her attention.

And I like the way this one fires back.

I want more.

“I think she’s actually a fairy. And for the record, driving twenty below the speed limit is also dangerous and could kill someone. Mostly me. From boredom,” I joke.

Her eyes widen almost comically, a sure sign that I failed to lighten the mood at all. “It’s dark and snowy! I don’t know the area. There could be wildlife! Driving slowly is safe so long as a back-forty hillbilly isn’t riding my ass in his small-dick truck, flashing his high beams at me.”

My lips clamp down against each other.

Fuck.

I really like this girl.

I should stop. I should walk away. I should channel my maturity and not flirt with her by infuriating her.

But I’ve always been a little reckless.

“I hear that if you want your ass ridden, a small dick is the way to go. So maybe I’m your guy.”

My dick isn’t small. But I’m happy to make sacrifices to land a good joke. Only a small-dicked dude would miss this opportunity.

I shouldn’t have said it, but the pure shock that paints her pretty features makes it all worth it. She’s so fired up; I just can’t help myself. Play with fire and I’ll be there to pour gasoline on it for you.

Her hand shoots up between us. “I’m married, you fucking pig. Now leave.” Her hand flips out firmly, pointing down the driveway.

Married. I just shrug. “Married for now, maybe.”

I’m persistent. And this girl wasn’t staring at me like a married woman. Not a happily married one anyway.

It’s Rhett’s voice that draws our attention to the sprawling wrap-around porch attached to the huge ranch house. “Yeah, don’t worry, Winter. We’re gonna free you from that husband and bury him in the back field. It’ll be like that Dixie Chicks song. Rob is the new Earl.”

Winter.

Winter, as in Summer’s sister? Fuck, that’s a stupid combination of names for two sisters. They should hate their parents instead of each other, if you ask me.

I glance back at the woman before me, about six feet away. Everyone has described her as cold and distant. A real ice-queen.

I’ve heard the stories. The drama. They’ve made her sound like some sort of criminal mastermind. But all I see is a firecracker who needs my help to work out some aggression.

And I wouldn’t be mad at helping her with that. Not even a little. I’m philanthropic that way.

Winter rubs her temples like she has a headache. I consider offering her an aspirin from my truck, or an orgasm. I hear those help too.

“You’re lucky you make my little sister so happy, Eaton,” she says, sounding utterly exhausted.

Rhett hums good-naturedly, his eyes taking on that melty, drugged look he gets when people so much as mention Summer. But he doesn’t address that; instead, he says, “Theo’s just a baby though. You can’t corrupt him, Winter.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not a baby. I’m twenty-six.”

Rhett scoffs. “No, you aren’t. You’re twenty-two.”

Good god. Does he think he knows my age better than I do?

“Dude. I was twenty-two when I first met you on the circuit. I’ve gotten older. You’re doing the same thing my mom does with her pets. They hit a certain age and then she says that they’re that same age until one day they just die.”

He chuckles. “Well, I’ll be. You’re like that store with the skimpy dresses. Forever 22.”

I prop my hands on my hips and sigh with a bemused twist to my mouth. “Yeah. You’re definitely getting old. That store is called Forever 21.”

Rhett just waves me off. “Whatever. I only know about the skimpy dresses.”

“Are you two done? I need a drink if I’m going to stay here all night,” Winter cuts in, clearly irritated by the route our conversation has taken. Though Rhett’s interruption did successfully put a stop to our little spat.

Sadly. I was enjoying sparring with her. She can hold her own in a way I haven’t encountered in any of my relationships.

If that’s even what you could call them.

“Ah, yes, Winter, meet my protégé Theo Silva. Theo, meet Doctor Winter Hamilton, my future sister-in-la—”

“Winter Valentine,” she interrupts him with a stiff correction.

“For now,” I add, winking at her. Because now that I know who she is, I don’t feel so bad about making my play. I know who her husband is. And I already know I don’t give a fuck about that guy.

I already know Winter can do better.

And I’m a lot better, whether she realizes it yet or not.

She gives me the most dramatic eye roll and walks in my direction. I stick my hand out—because Mama raised a gentleman—but she just walks past, glaring at me with eyes bright blue like the bottom of a flame. I turn my head to hold her gaze as she draws even with me, shoulder to shoulder.

She doesn’t take my hand though. So, I roll with it, swiping my hand through my hair with a wink.

The same wink I gave her at the gas station.

Our little secret.

“Call your dog off, Eaton.” She keeps walking, only addressing Rhett, like I’m not even here.

But goddamn, I love a challenge.

I turn with a loud, “Woof!” as I watch her petite frame slip into the bright light of the warm, bustling house.

Rhett is laughing. At me. Not with me. “You’re an idiot, Theo.”

I shake my head. “Dude. I think I’m in love with your sister-in-law. She’s so fiery.”

Now it’s Rhett shaking his head, like he knows something I don’t. And I follow him into the house because I want to know more.

I want to know more about Winter Valentine.

Like when that divorce is happening.

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