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Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 35

Winter

*Three missed calls from Theo*


“Ma.”

I wake up to Vivi sticking her finger up my nostril in a darkened room. “Viv, what are you doing?”

I roll toward her, hoping she’ll doze back off, but she fights my hugs like I’m an assailant she needs to escape, so I let her go.

The first thing she does is honk my boobs, like she wants to know the milk is there and it’s an option. Then she crawls under the covers, and I know what she’s seeking.

Peter.

He’s curled between my feet in my bed, where I clearly crashed while putting Vivi to sleep. I haven’t tried to put her in her crib since Theo left. I’ve grown attached to having the firm heat of him next to me, and I’m basically using Vivi as the world’s tiniest body pillow.

One who picks my nose and grabs my boobs in the middle of the night.

“Why do you love being awake so much?” I groan, scrubbing at my face and checking my phone for the time.

Midnight.

Memories trickle in as my awareness returns. The rodeo. The paternity test. Theo and his bitchy attitude.

He’s going to get an earful for that stupid little dig.

“Hey?” The door cracks open, and I see Summer’s petite figure silhouetted in the doorway. “Are you awake now?”

“Apparently,” I mumble from behind my hands.

“Okay, cool.” My sister sounds wide awake.

When the bed sinks down beside me, my hands fall away from my face.

Summer crawls right under the covers—without asking—and I can’t do anything but stare at her. It’s something I wished we did as children.

She lies down and faces me, hands folded under her cheek. Vivi giggles from under the covers.

“At least she’s in a good mood. That’s something.”

“She’s always in a good mood. She’s like her dad.”

Summer rolls her lips together and stares at me. “Do you think that’s why—”

“He said what he said tonight?” Tattling to his mom felt terribly immature, so I stewed until everyone but Summer left. Then I ranted and raved to her about what he said on the phone.

“Yeah. Are you mad at him?”

“Maybe. But not like you might think. I’m also relieved, because I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop. His patient and unwavering commitment is superhuman. It’s not normal. For the first time, I got a flash of him being a regular insecure human and I find that relatable. I know how to react. This happy, sunny, constantly upbeat person is lovely, but I feel like it’s . . . a facade.”

“Has he asked you that before?”

“Not since the first night when he kept asking if I was sure. But never a direct question about the paternity or the timing. And that’s the first thing I’d have asked.”

“So you’ve been waiting for this to come up?

I nod. “Yeah, I think so. It seems like a natural progression for how we were thrust into this. I think the Rob news was a threat to this new normal we’ve created. He just . . . fuck, Sum. He just rolled up out of nowhere acting like this big hot Boss Daddy who swooped in to fix all my shit. He didn’t even bat an eyelash.”

“Please tell me you don’t call him daddy.”

A laugh rushes out from between my lips. “Only when I talk to Vivi. I’ve been trying to get her to say it as a surprise for him. So far, the closest I’ve gotten is her pointing at Peter and saying, Da! So, I’m pretty sure she said dog first. Please take that to the grave. It devastated Theo he missed those early days with her and I’m sure he’d chalk it up to that.”

“Well, it’s not like Peter was around then either.”

I roll my eyes and feel Vivi’s tiny hands as she crawls back up my body.

“Hey, Win? I’m gonna tell you something and I want you not to shut down.”

I nod, my cheek rustling against the pillow as I shift to mirror Summer’s position. “Okay.”

“I’ve been sitting up and doing some reading. Going over the letter. Doing some soul-searching. And I think it’s time we report Rob to the medical board for what happened with me. Even if nothing comes of it, it will give us both the freedom to truly move on.”

Vivi is at my stomach now, and I pull her up. This time, she doesn’t resist my hug. She nuzzles into my neck as though she knows I need it.

“I just never wanted to drag you back into his orbit. He’s so . . . inescapable, and you finally did. I want to do it too.”

She raises her shoulder in a slight shrug. “Yeah, but now he’s picking on my sister, so he’s put himself in my orbit. Let me help you get rid of him.”

My eyes sting. “I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t apologize. Let’s do it together. Sisters. Yeah?”

“Yeah. Sisters.” The room is softly lit from the light of the hallway, and I see white teeth as her lips stretch into a pleased smile.

It strikes me I’m not very collaborative. That I never would have asked her to do this if she hadn’t offered. It feels good, not being alone in this.

And suddenly, all I want is Theo.

Theo’s voice. Theo’s arms. Theo’s cocky wink. I want him back here, holding us. Going to that court date.

I don’t want to do any of it alone. I don’t need to do it alone because, for the first time in my life, I have people who want to be there with me.

Everything and everyone around me has changed.

But more than that, I’ve changed.

“I’m going to go call Theo. Feed the hellion and then we—”

“Can I sleep over?” Summer blurts. “I don’t want to drive back to the ranch. The house is lonely without Rhett, and the gym is right across the alley.”

I can’t help it. A small giggle bubbles out of me. I officially feel like a little kid. “Yeah, Sum. I’d love to have a sleepover. I’ll be back.”

I scoop Vivi up and head to the living room where the TV is still paused on a shot of Theo, sitting up on the fence panels. I stare at the playful grin on his handsome face, the hand swiping through his hair.

Vivi points. “Dada!”

I search her face. “Seriously? Now you say it?” She blinks. I point at the TV. “Who is that, Vivi?”

“Dadadadada.”

With a grin, I flop onto the couch, lift my shirt for her, and call Theo back. “We should tell Daddy about this, shouldn’t we? Give him some happy news this time.”

Except it goes straight to voicemail. I gaze at the phone with a small frown.

Ten past twelve.

He could be sleeping. I should do the same. Once Vivi is suitably dozy, I head back to bed, where Summer has crashed out, snoring softly.

I climb in, but all I do is worry. Vivi falls asleep between us, but I don’t.

I get up and call Theo again.

No answer.

I try not to let my head go back to how we started. Those days of calling and texting to tell him something—all to no avail.

I beat myself up for not being more understanding in his one and only moment of frustration.

I worry that I’ve driven him to do something that will ruin everything we’ve created.

My mind is a beast that has run away with all my rational thoughts. Every insecurity. Every petty concern. They all filter to the forefront until they’re all I can see.

And every time I get up to call Theo . . .

It goes straight to voicemail.

I toss. I turn. I eventually move to the couch where I finally find sleep.

But I don’t rest, not really. Instead, I dream of that night and how good it felt to be with him.


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