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Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 20

Winter

Summer: You okay after last night? I’m sorry it got awkward.

Winter: I have a special knack for making things awkward. So does Rhett.

Summer: You do not. I think Rhett was being protective in his own way.

Winter: Wow. Lucky me. The macho big brother I never wanted.

Summer: Lol. You’re stuck with him though. And Theo, apparently. That was . . . news.

Winter: Yep. Sorry.

Summer: Don’t be. Do you like him?

Winter: He’s fine. Except I just had a dream that he married a really annoying and hot buckle bunny with a super high pitched porn voice. I had to spend every holiday with her so I could also be with Vivi.

Winter: And they were into PDA. Like lap-sitting and making out.

Summer: You make it sound like he got a lap dance at Christmas dinner.

Winter: That’s what it was like! Brutal. It woke me up, and I’m irrationally annoyed at him now for bringing a fictional person to a fictional dinner set far ahead in the future.

Summer: So the dream made you jealous?

Winter: No. I’m not jealous. It was just a dream.

Summer: There’s only one way to make sure a hot, high-pitched voice buckle bunny doesn’t take over all

your holidays.

Winter: How?

Summer: Marry Theo yourself.

Winter: Ha. That’ll be the day.


Gray light filters into the room when I pry my eyes open. I can’t tell what time it is and there’s a part of me that doesn’t care. It isn’t technically still dark, so I’ve done what Theo asked.

Annoying Theo, and his annoying nightmare wife.

I brush the memory away, refusing to let dream Theo ruin my first full night’s sleep in who knows how long. For the first time in recent memory, I didn’t wake up dog-tired. With a smile, I stretch lightly, and my bare legs press up against . . . fur. It takes me a moment to realize Peter the dog has wedged himself between my ankles, under the covers.

And I’m not even mad about it.

We never had pets growing up. Marina wasn’t a fan, and I don’t think Kip wanted to die on that hill. Now I’m wondering if I’d have liked a pet. A cat? A hamster? I lift the duvet and peek down at Peter.

His head lifts slowly, but he doesn’t turn it to look at me. Only his eyes shift over in my direction, like I’ve pissed him off.

A small chuckle escapes me as the dog’s ears flatten against his bobble head.

I like him. I’m pretty sure I’ve given people this look before. Peter is relatable, and I decide to ignore the fact he’s getting his little chihuahua hairs all over my fresh bed.

When I drop the cover and flop back down, his head goes down with it, satisfied that I’m no longer disturbing his peace. He’s happy to use my legs for warmth, but not especially grateful about it.

Which makes me think of Theo. Again.

Last night took me through a whole range of emotions. From an unexpected kindred feeling at dinner all the way through to desperation.

Because the things I dream about doing to you are horribly unprofessional.

With that one sentence, he blasted through every wall I’ve worked at assembling. And when he pulled away? Stared down at my body and then stopped?

I’d been vulnerable for a beat, and he gutted me without even trying. As if he didn’t like what he saw. Hence, the nightmare wife.

I hate being this self-conscious. But the truth of the matter is that my body has changed since Vivi. Yeah, I grew a human. It’s amazing. Blah, blah, blah.

But it’s hard to avoid the thought that I wasted my best years on Rob Valentine. I worked out. I ran. Made sure you could bounce a dime off my ass. I spent hours at the salon. All so I could hold up the facade of us being a storybook couple everyone would regard with envy.

I looked my best and felt my worst.

I can’t blame Theo for taking one long look at me and backing away slowly. Maybe it wasn’t the changes in my body, but the truth of who I am. A little petty. A little bitter. A lot closed off.

Where’s the appeal?

I snort and roll over to sit up. Theo is here for his daughter, which is all I’ve wanted for her from the beginning. So I need to gather my wits about me and put on a happy face.

Last night, when she cried, I listened to the deep rumble of his voice as he talked to her. Heard the floor creaking as he rocked her.

I laid awake, thinking I should march out there and take her back. Not saddle him with her when she’s tired and teething, probably wanting me. But my body failed me. I was so tired I couldn’t move.

And my pride wouldn’t let me face him after he kissed me and apologized like it was a mistake. So, I drifted off to the sounds of her soft cries and Theo’s patient words.

The little lump between my feet moves toward the top of the covers, and those buggy eyes pop out. He shakes the sheet off, ears flapping as he does. He sits and stares at me.

“Don’t pee in my bed.”

He just blinks.

“Am I supposed to take you out?”

Another blink.

“I went to med school, but they didn’t teach me how to speak dog.”

Blank look.

“Are you hungry?”

Peter stands up, his tail waving like windshield wipers on a rainy day as his enormous eyes go even wider.

“I thought you were deaf,” I say as I rub my eyes and push to stand.

I pull my robe on, and when I turn around, he’s still standing there at the edge of my bed looking expectant.

My gaze drops to the floor before lifting back to the small beige dog. “I guess that looks like a real death drop to you, huh?”

With a couple of steps back, I scoop him up and head into the hallway while muttering, “I can’t believe I’m talking to a fucking dog.”

After setting Peter on the back step so he can do his business, I head into the house, fully expecting to find Theo crashed out on the couch after his first night of solo dad-ing. The man must have a breaking point. Him being this natural at parenting just cannot stand.

But he isn’t on the couch or on the chair. My heart rate spikes instantly, my brain spiraling into panic. I barely know the man and I left my baby with him? We haven’t talked about custody. What if he’s just . . .

My hand flattens on my chest as I force myself to breathe. Then my eyes catch on his shoes at the front door, and my body relaxes a smidgeon.

Maybe they’re up already? That’s what I tell myself as I walk toward the nursery, forcing myself to take calm, even steps. Panicking is never the answer. I never feel better or think clearer when I panic.

I push it all down, wrap my hand around the doorknob, and peek into the room while telling myself everything is fine.

And it is. Except for the fact that I can’t breathe again.

Because it seems Theo did, in fact, reach his parenting breaking point. But of course, it had to be the most precious, heart-twisting, ovary-bursting breaking point in the world.

God. I fucking hate Theo Silva.

I move into the room to get a closer look and can’t keep from smiling.

Theo is asleep inside the crib. His muscular frame curls around the little girl tucked tightly into the crook of his arm with a peaceful, pleased expression on her face.

And who could blame her? She’s known her dad for all of a couple of weeks, and she’s got him wrapped around her little finger. He risked it all to test the weight limits of her crib and looks stupidly delicious doing it.

I wish I didn’t feel such a powerful attraction to Theo, but he makes it really, really hard. All that mussed dark hair, the dark lashes fanned down in a thick fringe—just like Vivi’s—and his broad palm splayed protectively over her back.

And he’s so damn good. Down to the marrow. I’ve spent enough time around shit men to recognize the caliber of the man before me.

Some nightmare wife is going to be very lucky to tie him down one day. My job means I’m trained to let people go, but I have a sinking suspicion that letting Theo go will hurt more than it has any right to.

My eyes sting at the sight and I blink rapidly. I really need to stop crying.

But this?

It stirs the mom-arazzo in me, so I pull my phone out of my pocket and take a few steps closer to document this moment.

For Theo. He’ll want this picture.

And for Vivi. I imagine she’ll want this one day too.

I snap the photo and leave. As I stare down at the image, I rub my chest, feeling like I have heartburn just from looking at them.

But I understand the body’s inner workings, so I should know better.

This isn’t heartburn. It’s just me thawing out for the man lying in my daughter’s crib.


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