We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 28

Winter

Winter: I’ve never seen a more beautiful, vibrant bride in my life. I love you, Summer. Congratulations.

Summer: Is this your way of explaining why I saw you sneaking out, holding a certain bull rider’s hand?

Winter: I just needed a break. I’ll be back!

Summer: Are you crazy? Don’t come back. Take Theo and go be happy. Make some more cute babies. Rhett says he’ll kick his ass if he’s not good to you.


Theo’s hand is warm and strong. It swallows mine. He doesn’t grip me hard, but I feel the callouses of his palms. I feel his thumb rubbing against me.

The fact I only recently made amends with my sister and now want to duck out of her wedding to get more dick seems bad . . . but is it?

At the end of the hallway, I see a flash of her spinning on the dance floor and get the distinct impression that she wouldn’t miss me if I left.

Leaving with Theo and spending a leisurely night with his hands on me sounds like a dream. Waking up with him sounds like a dream too.

But my dreams have a way of crashing down around me, which is what happens when we hit the end of the walkway.

We run into my dad.

He steps across the mouth of the hall, arms crossed, eyes narrowed.

And my stomach drops. I’m a goddamn adult. His opinion shouldn’t mean shit to me after the absentee role he’s played in my life.

But it does.

Because I’ve seen how he is with Summer. And it hurts. Because I’m his too. I’ve been here all along, and he pretends I haven’t.

“Care to explain yourself, Silva?” His voice is cool and accusatory.

But the one Theo responds with is pure ice, one I’ve never heard him use with anyone. “Not to you I don’t.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, boy? You’ve had my daughter back there for far too long to be giving me that kind of attitude. And the baby? Clearly, you have some things to tell me.”

Theo straightens, taking an incremental step in front of me, shielding me with his body. He chuckles, but it’s not his usual warm laughter that makes my tummy flip.

This is more like a growl.

“Actually, Kip, I do have a few things to tell you. First, refer to my daughter again as the baby, like she doesn’t have a name, and I’ll fucking lay you out. Second, I’ll be at your office on Monday morning. Bring Geoff. I don’t want to fire you at your daughter’s wedding. It would be in poor taste. Lastly, if you think you deserve to stake some sort of claim on this woman as your daughter, you have some serious soul-searching to do. The girl on the dance floor?” He points over Kip’s shoulder at Summer, who is watching us now. “That’s your daughter. This woman here? She’s Dr. Hamilton until you tuck that scaly fucking tail between your legs and come make amends with her.”

For the first time in my life, my father appears to be at a loss for words.

For the first time in my life, someone has come to my defense.

“Now get out of my way, Kip. I want to go home and be with my girls.”

Home. My girls.

My heart plunges into my stomach. It floats and flips, rolling around in every warm, mushy feeling I’ve never felt.

I wish I knew what to say to my dad, but I don’t. And for once, I decide leaning on someone else to take care of me might be okay.

I give my dad my best icy glare as I pass by him.

And I have another first because my icy exterior isn’t reflecting the way I’m feeling inside.

With Theo, I feel the same way I feel with Vivi—in love. But it’s too soon. Too fast. I’m still too raw. So, I set the terrifying thought aside and leave it for later when I’m thinking more clearly. When my legs aren’t still shaking from the way I just fell apart for him.

“Dr. Hamilton, huh?” I murmur as we clear the doors and head into the gravel parking lot.

Theo pulls me up to him and slings an arm over my shoulder as he leads us to his truck. All swagger and confidence. All protective and loyal. His mouth drops to my ear and he whispers, “Dr. Hamilton in the streets, filthy slut in the sheets.”

And I laugh.

No one can make me laugh the way Theo Dale Silva does.


“You’re being quiet. Did I go too far? It takes a lot to make me mad. But when I get there? I blow a gasket.”

The drive back to our houses is short, but he’s right. I haven’t been talking. The only sound in the truck’s cab has been the muted sound of country music filtering from the radio. Because I’ve been thinking.

Overthinking.

“You didn’t go too far. You . . .” I shake my head as I stare out the window at the darkened side streets of Chestnut Springs. “You were what I’ve always needed and never had.”

When I glance over at him, he seems pensive. His brows have lowered in concentration, like he’s really turning my statement over.

And while he does, I blurt out the other thing I’ve been thinking about. “I don’t want you to stay next door anymore.”

“What?” He looks gutted.

“No.” I hold a hand up. “I’ve been wording this a million different ways in my head for the past ten minutes. Trying not to sound too bold, but also not wanting to come off indifferent, while worrying about seeming needy. What I meant to say is, I want you to stay with us.”

“You do?”

I straighten, rolling my shoulders back as I suck in a centering breath. It’s important I’m as honest with Theo as he is with me. “Yes. I’ve grown to hate you being next door when I wish you were next to me. We should try this thing out.”

“Winter.” The cheeky grin I’ve come to love graces his beautiful face. The one that comes right before some punchy little remark. The one that makes me smile before he’s even said a thing. “Do you like me?”

I bark out a laugh in the quiet truck and then stare down at my hands, twisting my fingers together. “I think I more than like you.”

“Because I’m your baby daddy?”

“No.” I meet his eyes at the final red light before we pull up to the house. “Because you make me like myself . . . and you’re the only one who ever has.” I glance away, because staring at him feels like too much. Too heavy.

Butterflies flutter in my stomach as I stress about how he might respond to my vulnerability. But in typical Theo fashion, he does the exact right thing at the exact right time.

He takes my hand and rubs circles with his thumb until we pull up in front of my house. When he hops out, I stay seated. He never responded to staying with me.

Maybe with his mom here, he’d rather be more subtle.

He said he wanted to get messy with me, but it’s possible he forgot what a huge mess I really am.

But when he tugs my door open and says, “Let’s go, Tink,” I know the only reason he didn’t respond is because he didn’t need to. I should know. He’s told me enough times.

I get the sense he’ll give me everything if I want it. I just need the nervous voice inside my head to shut the hell up. She sabotages me.

And I don’t want to sabotage this relationship.

As Theo lifts me out of the truck like I’m a princess and walks me up the front steps to our daughter, I realize that I really, really want this.

He doesn’t treat me like a child or placate me. He doesn’t play stupid, passive-aggressive mind games or gaslight me into agreeing with him the way Rob always did.

He let me struggle in the deep end with figuring out what I want and was there. There to lend a hand. There to step in when I was too tired to keep myself afloat.

Theo hasn’t overstepped or tried to control me. He fit himself into my chaotic dynamic without complaint. I’m not sure if he did that on purpose, or if it just happened naturally, like it always has with us.

His thumb never stops brushing against mine, even as we enter the house. Even when we come face to face with his mom watching her Grey’s reruns on the couch.

“You two wanna sit down and watch an episode?”

He doesn’t make a show of what he says next. It comes out so easily. “Thanks, Ma. But I think we’re going to head to bed. Want me to walk you home?”

Loretta grins at us, borderline maniacally as her eyes land on our linked fingers. “Nope.” She slaps her thighs as she pushes to stand. “I think I can find my way, seeing as how it’s right next door.”

After a couple of quick hugs, through which Theo keeps a grip on my hand, she sees herself out.

Then he’s dragging me down the hallway. We go straight into my room, where he shoves me up against the door, slamming it shut as he drops his mouth to mine. His ability to go from joking around to stealing my breath is unmatched.

I wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him back, smiling against his lips while his hands slide over my ass.

But only for a moment. Because we both hear it and freeze.

My head tips back on a groan. “Why is she so mellow all day and then so sensitive at night?”

Theo pecks my mouth quickly and smiles. “To intentionally terrorize you, most likely.”

“I’m going to get her back when she’s older.”

He lets out a low chuckle. “Petty. I like it. I’ll grab her and take some milk out of the freezer. You get ready for bed.”

“Sexy bed or regular bed?” I ask as he opens the door and heads across the hall.

“You could wear a nun’s habit and it wouldn’t stop me,” is what he tosses back before disappearing into Vivi’s darkened room.

I stand still, like my feet have grown roots to the floor. Theo’s deep murmurs filter back to me, along with Vivi’s cries that soften and come to a halt as he speaks to her.

Is this what it should be like?

Kisses and jokes?

An extra set of hands?

I’m struck by the moment because it’s so pedestrian. So normal. It’s not even movie worthy.

“Yes, there she is. Your mama.” His lips press against our daughter’s dark hair as he moves back into our room, holding her.

“Mama,” she garbles the word, but we still understand it. My arms reach out automatically as hers stretch toward me.

“Hi, Vivi baby.” I dust my nose over hers a few times as I gather her against my chest, basking in that baby scent I know won’t last.

“Here, Mama, get some snuggles. I’ll grab a bottle.”

My hand shoots out to capture Theo’s wrist, stopping him. “It’s okay. I can just feed her. We’re all tired.”

It’s not lost on me as we sit down next to each other on the edge of the bed that I haven’t breastfed in front of Theo. I haven’t pumped in front of Theo. That’s felt intensely personal. Like something I should hide from him, even though Loretta walked in the other day and didn’t give me a second glance when she asked, “Doll, do you have any gardening tools? I’m tackling the front beds at both houses today, but I can’t find one of those little handheld shovels.”

I told her to try the shed, and she gave me a thumbs up before walking back out.

Bodies don’t make me uncomfortable, and I don’t generally feel shy about my own. It’s just . . . Vivi’s nursing has been solely ours since the day she was born. Something we did in the middle of the night while it was quiet, or pulled over in a random parking lot when she wouldn’t stop crying. Sometimes, in a carrier while I attempted to make myself something to eat, so my breast milk was nutritious and not just glorified coffee.

I pull down the strap of my dress and glance over at Theo, but he’s not gawking at my body. Instead, his eyes linger on my face.

“What was it like when she was born? Did she nurse right away?”

My heart twists and I take this as my turn to trace my thumb over the pulse point in his wrist. “Yeah, from day one. It fucking hurt at first too. I cried when she latched for the first bit.”

“But you don’t cry.” He winks at me, and I roll my eyes. Those two motions are like our secret handshake at this point.

“What else?”

“Hmm. It was such a blur. I was so tired but couldn’t sleep. I’d wake myself up even when she was still sleeping to check if she was still breathing. My left breast produced so much milk that it squirted her in the eye once.”

He huffs out a laugh. “Really?”

We glance down at her, now straddling me, latched on, holding my breast like it’s a bottle. “I think I could have fed an entire village of babies off my left side alone. It’s the real MVP.”

“Is that why the freezer is full of breastmilk?”

I snort. “Yeah, and I’ve donated over half to the hospital.”

“Really?”

I nod, watching Vivi’s thick lashes get heavy, her blinks getting slow and languid.

“I wish I’d been there.”

God. My chest caves in on itself in a Theo-shaped hole.

“I feel like I’ve missed so many moments that I’ll never get back.”

My hand squeezes in a pulse on his wrist. “You won’t, but you’ll get new ones.”

“I’m trying hard not to overstep with her or be overbearing. You two feel so established, like this tight little duo. Teammates.”

“You might even say . . . business partners?”

Theo snickers, bumping his shoulder against mine.

“You and your damn business partners.” He gives her knee a soft rub before turning thoughtful again. “No, I just don’t want to come between you two. I feel like an interloper in this private world you’ve created. But I just . . . I could stare at her forever. You know? I keep going back to my place at the end of every day, but I feel like I’m in the wrong house.”

When I peek down at Vivi again, she’s nursed herself to sleep. Her tiny hands have gone soft, fingers falling open.

“I feel the same way,” I whisper. “Here.” I lift her carefully as I turn to Theo and gently put his daughter into his arms. “I have an idea.”

His head quirks, but he doesn’t argue. Instead, he sits on the edge of my bed, holding our daughter, wearing a suit, looking so damn good it hurts. Literally, the back of my throat, my chest, my stomach—they all ache.

I head to the en suite bathroom where I wash my face, brush my teeth, pull out a spare toothbrush for Theo, and change into a pair of gray jersey Calvin Klein shorts with an oversized matching crewneck.

When I come back to the bedroom, my body thrums at the sight of Theo. I get up on the bed and kneel behind him, hands on his broad shoulders as I stare down at Vivi’s perfect little doll face.

On the one hand, I feel like I barely know Theo. On the other, there’s this comfort with him. This sense of knowing. I can’t explain it. All I know is I’ve never felt it. Maybe it’s because we made a whole new human being together, but I think it’s more.

I think even without Vivi, we might have ended up back in each other’s lives.

I think he would have made sure of it.

And that thought warms me from the tips of my toes to the little fizzy sensation behind my ears. Theo Silva barely knew me but never forgot me. He never gave up on me. He was coming for me with a single-mindedness that I can’t understand.

And maybe I don’t need to.

Maybe now it’s my turn to let him in.

“She’s perfect, right?” I rest my chin on his shoulder.

“Perfect.” His finger traces her nose, over her pudgy cheek, and around the shell of her ear.

“I put a toothbrush out for you in the bathroom.”

“Okay,” is his quiet reply, but he makes no move to leave his spot on the bed. We stare at her for I don’t know how long. Then I watch him lift her and get a close-up view of him dusting a soft kiss to her forehead.

My mouth goes dry, because an hour ago he bent me over and made me blush harder than I ever have. And now he’s all bulging muscles and sweet kisses while he dotes on our daughter.

And it is the most intoxicating combination.

He twists, handing her over to me, not failing to kiss my forehead. And then he pads away quietly, appearing introspective.

Sad and happy.

I keep thinking this entire thing has to feel overwhelming to him, but he’s given no sign of that being the case. He just keeps showing up with a smirk and a wink. Every damn day.

Carefully, I turn on the bed, lying Vivi down in the center before putting my head down on the pillow with a deep sigh.

Today was . . . a lot.

My eyes grow heavy as soon as I go horizontal, but the click of Theo flicking the bathroom light off draws me back to waking.

He just stands there—untucked dress shirt, chiseled jaw, furrowed brow—staring at the bed like he’s confused about what to do next.

“Theo. Come to bed.”

“Really? With both of you?” Insecurity flashes on his face.

“Yeah.” I pat the pillow. “She’s probably going to kick you all night. It’s not as adorable as you think.”

With a nod, he removes what’s left of his suit, and I try not to eye-fuck him in his boxers during what should be a wholesome family moment.

I fail.

“You’re looking at me the same way you did that night at the gas station.”

“No, right now is worse. That night I was guessing how you’d look under your clothes. Tonight, I know.”

His lips twist as he approaches the bed, the light from the bedside lamp playing over every line in his chiseled body. He’s more cut than I remember. His abs, the line of his quad muscle down the front of his thigh as he places a knee on the bed. The long hours spent at Hamilton Athletics have somehow made him even more mouth-watering. His fists push into the mattress as he hovers over Vivi, muscles rippling on his forearms.

With a soft expression on his face, his dark eyes, deep like the darkest chocolate, flit to mine. “Thank you, Winter.”

Part of me wants to ask if he means for letting him sleep here, but I’d be playing dumb. I know he’s thanking me for so much more. I feel it in the way my heart pounds under the weight of his gaze.

Saying you’re welcome doesn’t seem right either, so I say what I’ve been thinking since the moment he showed up and made it his mission to make my life better. “Thank you, Theo.”

My tongue traces my lips as I stare back at him. “Get in and stare at your girl all night if you want to.”

I turn and click the light off before he responds. Only a silver-blue light filters in through the window, and slowly my eyes adjust to the darkened room. Theo’s on his side, hands folded under his cheek.

But I get the sense he isn’t only staring at Vivi. He’s staring at me too. His girls.

“Hey, Theo?” I whisper, reaching across to dust my fingers over his forehead and into his hair.

“Yeah?”

“You’re not an interloper. You’re her dad.”


When I wake up, sunlight streams through the windows. Theo is out cold on his back, that square jawline dusted in just the right amount of stubble. He sleeps peacefully with his lips parted gently, his dark lashes fanned down over golden skin.

My gaze traces the apex of his Adam’s apple, down over his toned chest, to where our little girl has full-on starfished over her dad’s chest. His broad palms encase her tiny ribcage, and her head rests right where I know she must be able to hear his heart beating.

I laid my head there once, almost two years ago. I remember trying to catch my breath, trying to wrap my head around how someone I barely knew could make me feel so good. So relaxed.

But this is different.

This is better.

I just lie here in a happy sunny bubble, letting my head and my heart work around it.

It feels good.

It feels like home.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset