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Reckless (Chestnut Springs Book 4): Chapter 39

Theo

Rhett: You alive?

Theo: Yeah. Why?

Rhett: It’s been nice knowing you.

Theo: What’s that supposed to mean?


I’m pacing my room, phone in my hand, practicing what I’m going to say when I call Winter. Sorry won’t cut it, so I need to figure out how I can apologize for the way I doubted her.

Because I didn’t just toss out a question about the paternity. I questioned her integrity. And that is one thing I’ve never doubted about Winter, no matter how prickly or unapproachable she was.

A knock at my door startles me, and it must be Rhett. He’s probably gotten an earful from his wife by now. I bet he’s coming to knock some sense into me.

“What?” I growl as I fling the hotel room door open. The entire world stills around me and I stop in my tracks.

Winter is standing in the hallway, with a duffel bag slung over her shoulder, eyes narrowed like she might strangle me with her gaze alone.

In contrast, Vivi is smiling at me from her stroller, Peter’s rubber chicken in her hand.

And when I look lower, Peter is attached to the end of a leash, trembling, like always.

“Da!” My head snaps back to Vivi, who is pointing at me. “Dadadadada.”

“Did she just say ‘dad’?”

Winter’s hip cocks out, her pearly-white fingernails tapping on her bicep. “She did, Theo. She said it last night for the first time when she saw you on the TV. And when I tried to call you and tell you about it, do you know what happened?”

I swallow, but it doesn’t help the lump of dread forming in my throat. It feels stuck there, like it’s growing the longer I stand here putting things together.

“It went straight to fucking voicemail, Theo. All. Night. Long.” Her lips thin as she sucks in a deep breath through her nostrils. She reminds me of a dragon.

“Is that why you’re here?”

“No, I’m here because I wanted to kick your ass in person. I haven’t slept because I stayed up all night worrying about you, your stupid handsome face, and your big, talented dick.” One hand waves over the length of my body. “And just your stupid general wellbeing because you fucking consume me.”

My stomach sinks, but I’m frozen in place, hand gripping the door. “Winter, come in.”

“No.”

“You came all the way here, and you’re not going to come in?”

“I came here to see that you were in one piece and alone. And I have seen it.”

Alone. Fuck. My fingers itch to grab her and yank her in here with me.

“Why did you bring Peter?”

“Because he’s part of our family, no matter how much he reminds me of the weird squirrel from Ice Age. And I like it when he sleeps between my feet, so he’s stuck with me now. Just like you.”

“The squirrel from Ice Age?”

“Tell me why your phone went straight to voicemail.”

I swipe a hand through my hair and blow out a breath. “I had a moment, okay? A weak, petty, insecure one. I needed a pity party. You said you didn’t need me. Everyone else was blowing me up. It didn’t feel like I could fix anything, and all I did was make things worse. And I knew you were angry at me, so I figured I’d shut it down for the night.”

“You don’t get to shut it down for a night, Theo!” she shouts. “You got to ditch your phone once before and that really fucking sucked for me. I should have showed up then and demanded you pay attention to me. But I didn’t. So I’m here now, demanding you pay attention to me.”

“Winter, I am so fucking sorry.”

“There are people who need you now. We’re stronger than this. And yeah, I was angry with you. That was a dumb thing to say. But guess what? I’m going to get mad at you from time to time. People who are together get mad at each other. They say shitty things they regret. It’s normal. Being happy-go-lucky Theo, who ticks no one off and never has a bad day, is not normal. You’re allowed to freak out.” She pauses, breathing heavily. “But you have to freak out with me.”

My nose burns. Even Vivi looks serious now.

“I’m sorry.” My voice cracks when I drop my head.

“You have to freak out with me because I need you. And I love you. I love you so much it paralyzes me to think of carrying on without you. You’re not allowed to shut me out. Because you made me need you, and now you have to deal with the consequences.”

I don’t ignore the ache in my hands this time. I reach for the woman standing across from me and crush her to my chest. A surprised yelp leaves her mouth at how quickly I move, but she doesn’t resist. My arms wrap around her tiny frame, and I suck in a deep inhale of her warm cinnamon sugar scent as I cradle her head against my heart and close my eyes, sinking into her.

“I’m really mad at you, Theo.”

“Understandable.” I glance down at the stroller beside us. Vivi’s wide dark eyes gaze up at me. “I’m mad at me too.”

“Really, really fucking mad,” she amends.

I dust my lips back and forth over her hair. “But you love me?”

She doesn’t hesitate. “So much it hurts.”

I squeeze her tighter, soaking up how well she fits against me. Warm and soft. “Welcome to the club, Tink.”

She tips her head back and holds my gaze. Although she looks tired, her eyes are sparking like they were the first time she tore a strip off me. “I love you.” She says the words again like they’re unfamiliar in her mouth, like she’s getting used to how they feel on her lips. Like it’s a new language to her entirely.

My hands comb through the warm golden strands of her hair. “I love you too. Now would you come in here so we can all be together while you’re being really, really fucking mad at me and I freak out because I love you and want to kill your ex?”

She pulls away and dusts off her perfectly clean clothes. “Yeah. That sounds perfect.”

I glance down at Peter, who is now sitting and shaking. “I don’t think this is a dog-friendly hotel.”

Winter scoffs. “He’s barely a dog, more like a rat or a squirrel.” She pushes past me. Bag. Stroller. Baby. Dog.

My entire life in one room. And she’s right. I’m still freaking out.

But somehow, I feel better with them here.

“No sluts in here, right?” she quips, glancing around the room, looking for evidence of something I would never, ever do to her.

“Only one,” I reply as I hug her from behind and rub my stubble over her cheek.

And Winter Hamilton rolling her eyes at me has never felt so good.


“Okay, Theo.” Rhett snaps his fingers in front of my face while we sit atop the fence.

I should be listening. I should be watching. I should have my head in the game.

Except my girls are in the stands.

The one who has been saying the same syllables over and over again all day. And the one who napped in my bed and scowled at me the minute I came back to my room with Peter and Vivi in hand.

“Still mad at me?” I asked.

“No, I’m mad at myself.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m supposed to be mad at you, but watching you roll around with a toddler and a chihuahua makes me want to . . .” She wobbled her head and rolled her hand around as a way of explanation.

“Drop to your knees and put that snarky mouth to good use?”

She glared, but her lips twitched. The tiniest twitch. “Never mind. I’m still mad at you.”

But now she’s in the stands, holding our daughter. And wearing a pair of cowboy boots with an ornate steel toe, tight fucking jeans, and a tank top that does nothing but show off her breasts. I swear there’s oil on them, judging by the way the lights reflect off the round tops.

“Dude, wake the fuck up. Get your head in the game.” Rhett pokes me in the ribs and I recoil.

“Ow. That hurt.”

“Thank me later when Winter wants to give you a congratulatory blow job for winning.”

I rub at the spot where he jammed his fingers. “Rude.”

“Fast Fire doesn’t care about who’s in the stands. He just wants you dead. You drew a good bull. Unless you fall off, then you drew a mean fucker. Don’t let him win.”

That comment snaps me out of my horny stupor.

“You’re the last rider to go. That worm Emmett came back with a good score today. Better than you scored last night. He won’t give up the championship easily, so buckle up, Buttercup. You’re gonna need to hit the spurs hard tonight.”

I nod. He’s right. I’m going to have to make this bull madder than he already will be. And he’s already known to be wrathful. That’s why he’s got a spot on the circuit.

“Shoulders back. Chin down. And get ready for the direction change so you don’t go straight down the well. I’m only going to be your hero once in this lifetime. Got it?”

“Got it.” I feel it then. The focus. The calm. The sense I’m sitting exactly where my dad once was. Doing what he did.

Every time I step up here, every time I sit on a bull, I feel closer to my dad than I do anywhere else.

We watch Jude. He lasts the eight seconds, but it was a simple ride. Nothing the judges will love.

“Heads up! Fast Fire!” someone calls.

The black bull trots down the chute straight into the pen, eyes wild, a string of saliva already dripping from his mouth.

Some people might think now is when the nerves kick in, but for me, it’s the opposite.

Now is when everything other than a stupid level of confidence in myself melts away. My heart rate evens out. Every rational thought in my head grows wings and takes flight.

I’m the fucking best at this. And I’m about to prove it.

I drop onto Fast Fire’s back and he jostles me around, pitching a fit. I ignore him, tug the bull rope, and stroke it to warm the rosin.

It’s second nature, steps I could do with my eyes closed. I thrive with the dependability of the process.

As my hand works over the rope, I peek up to where Winter and Vivi are seated.

Correction: where they’re standing.

Winter is on her feet, body swaying back and forth. She has Vivi propped on her arm like it’s a seat, facing out over the ring.

I think someone behind her tells her to sit down because her lips clearly say fuck off.

A grin twists my lips, and I turn my focus back to my hand. Wrapping the rope. Testing the tightness. Shifting my seat on the bull’s back. Giving him one roll of the spur to piss him off more.

Rhett says something to me, but I block him out.

And I nod.

Fast Fire rockets into the ring, bucking hard enough that the clumps of dirt flying from his hooves hit my helmet. He spins left viciously. With my core engaged, arm held in the perfect L, I don’t let him shift me.

I keep my chin down, but don’t look at the ground. That’s not where I want to end up.

My feet slide back. My spurs hit again.

He drops a shoulder. He turns.

I expect it and smile when I keep centered through the change in direction.

“Got you, fucker,” I grit out, having the time of my life.

It is both the fastest and slowest eight seconds of my life. The buzzer sounds and I get the hell out of there. A cowboy rides up beside me and I reach for him, taking the lift down and away from the bull. My days of tempting fate by doing a showy dismount are done.

The rodeo clown distracts Fast Fire, and I beeline it for the side closest to Winter. I climb the fence, rip my helmet off, and look for her immediately.

Vivi is getting jostled in her arms, because she’s jumping and screaming. Hooting like a mad woman.

“Get ’em, baby!” she shouts as she waves at me.

And when they announce a 96.25 score, she starts all over again. I care a lot less about the score than I do about laughing. My chest cracks wide open for the blonde who is “really fucking mad” at me but is here cheering her ass off like I’m her favorite person in the world while holding our daughter.

It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. It’s unlikely.

The woman everyone told me was cold, mean, and unavailable is so thoroughly mine.

And that’s special. That’s everything.

“Winter!” I call up at least ten rows. “Get your fine ass down here!”

Her cheeks turn pink, blue eyes glittering like sapphires. With a wide grin, she shoves past people in her row to hit the stairs.

When she gets to me, she climbs up a couple of rungs and breathlessly blurts, “I’m not mad at you anymore. I’m just really, really horny after that ride.”

She says it loud enough that the trill of chuckles filters in from around us.

I kiss Vivi’s crown and give Winter my most knowing smirk before whispering in her ear, “Am I fucking you like a princess or a slut later?”

And just before she kisses me, she chuckles and responds with, “I don’t care as long as you fuck me like I’m yours.”

I kiss her back and then leap from the panels with a cocky wink in her direction before turning and striding toward the podium they’ve moved into place. Emmett is waiting on the lower side.

“Don’t get used to it, Silva. You’re not as talented as your dad.”

“Charming, Bush.” I slap him on the shoulder. Even this douche can’t ruin my good mood tonight.

I step up above him, using his shoulder like a banister to get into place. “I might not be talented like him, but I am nice like him. So, congrats on your season so far.”

He gives me a stunned expression.

I grin before adding, “It’s a shame I’m about to ruin it.”

The suits come out and talk about the night—the sport, the thrill—but my gaze keeps shifting back to Winter. Rhett has moved over to join her on the fence and they’re both watching.

I’m snapped out of gawking at her when the announcer asks me to talk about my first weekend back after an injury.

“Break down your win for us tonight.”

I take the microphone from his hand but look back over at Winter, all shiny and glowing. All smiles and excitement.

All mine.

“Well, my time off went different than expected,” I start. “The rehab was fairly straightforward. I don’t think I’ll have any lasting effects to worry about, which is great. But the real highlight was getting to spend some quality time with my family.” I tip my chin toward the fence. “Got my baby girl and my future wife here with me tonight. They make this win extra special.”

The announcer chuckles and a collective chorus of aww sounds from the audience, but my gaze stays locked on Winter.

She doesn’t roll her eyes at my showboating.

She winks at me.

“Anything you want to say to this future wife of yours tonight, Silva?”

I don’t need to think twice.

I hold the mic up to my lips and murmur, “Te vivo.”

It’s better than “I love you”.

It’s more accurate.

It’s us.


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