Home > That Night in Texas

That Night in Texas
Author: Delores Fossen

CHAPTER ONE


   WHEN HE SPOTTED the pregnancy test, Harley Garrett’s hands froze under the stream of running water in the bathroom sink. Heck, his entire body froze. Possibly the entire state of Texas did, too.

   Blinking to make sure he was focusing, he stared down at the white Magic Marker–sized stick in the trash can on the tiled bathroom floor. He wasn’t an expert about such things, but it was definitely a pregnancy test.

   Harley gulped in his breath. Not a very manly reaction considering he was a tough cowboy and champion bull rider, but there were just some things that could shake him to the core.

   Turning off the water and wiping his hands to dry them, he stooped down for a better look. Harley could see the little screen on the stick, which was blank, but he had no idea what it meant. Unfortunately, he had an idea of who’d put it there.

   Crap.

   This was the bathroom off the reception area for his family’s guest ranch, Rustler’s Ridge, and while guests did occasionally use it, at the moment they didn’t have anyone staying in the main house, only in the cabins. The ranch hands didn’t normally head in here, either, since there were bathrooms in the bunkhouse. The only reason Harley had ventured into it was because a meeting with a buyer had run late, and he’d needed to make a pit stop before heading back to the barn.

   The doorknob jiggled, causing Harley to jolt, and the jolting just continued when he heard the voice on the other side of the door. “Harley? You in there?”

   It was his kid sister, Liv. The very sister who was involved with a scumbag cowboy on a neighboring ranch in their hometown of Lone Star Ridge, Texas. The very sister who was barely twenty-four and frequently used this bathroom because she often worked out of their mother’s office when she was setting up schedules for the riding lessons she gave.

   Harley mumbled some very bad curse words, threw open the door and faced Liv. He didn’t bother to tamp down the glare that was surely on his face. “Are you knocked up?” he demanded.

   He’d been so sure that she would look guilty, maybe even sputter out a not-so-convincing denial, but his sister only stared at him as if he’d sprouted multiple sets of eyeballs.

   “Uh, no,” Liv said, exaggerating that two-word response. “But thanks for asking me a question that’s basically none of your beeswax.”

   “It is my beeswax.” Though he hated using that term. “You’re my sister, and there’s one of those pee sticks in the trash can.”

   Her expression went from surprised sisterly annoyance to curiosity, and Liv stepped around him to have a look for herself. She gasped.

   “It’s not mine,” Liv insisted, shaking her head, and as he’d done, she leaned in to no doubt check if it was a positive or negative result. “It’s blank.”

   “Yeah,” he confirmed, “but someone obviously felt the need to take the test.” And it was possible the test had indeed given the result before fading.

   However, at the moment the results weren’t the big question here. Someone had put that pee stick in the garbage can, and he’d just ruled out one of the possible females who could have left it there.

   That left him with two other prospects.

   “Darla,” he said, referring to Darla Givens, the receptionist who’d worked at the ranch for the past two years.

   “No way,” Liv concluded. “She doesn’t have a boyfriend. Believe me, if she did, she would have told me.”

   Maybe. But if he excluded Darla, then there was only one other likely candidate.

   “Hell,” Harley grumbled just as Liv gushed out, “Holy crap. You think Mom’s pregnant?”

   That was indeed the only remaining female who made regular use of this particular bathroom. His forty-eight-year-old mother, Tracy, who’d had Harley when she’d been only seventeen in what had sure as hell been an unplanned pregnancy. One that’d had her parents tossing her out of their house. To make matters worse, Harley’s father, whom he’d never met, had skipped town and never shown his face again. If it hadn’t been for Tracy’s great-aunt leaving her Rustler’s Ridge, Tracy and he wouldn’t have even had a roof over their heads.

   When Harley was four, Tracy had married a local mechanic, Jerry Darlington, and they’d had Liv three years later. Jerry and Tracy had divorced shortly thereafter, and there’d been a string of relationships after that.

   Messy, broken relationships.

   Harley loved his mother, most days anyway, but she’d made an art form out of hooking up with dirtbags and other turds who could give her the most trouble. She’d become a cautionary tale to Liv and him about not getting involved too deep in their own relationships.

   Maybe that was what’d happened again—another messy relationship for Tracy—but this time it’d led to something more permanent. Like another kid.

   Harley repeated his “Hell.”

   Liv repeated her “Holy crap.” But then she shook her head. “Isn’t Mom too old to get knocked up?”

   Harley gave his sister a flat look to remind her that not only didn’t he know that sort of thing but it also wasn’t something he wanted to know. Still, he had to consider it.

   “Maybe it was someone who just dropped by for a visit,” Liv speculated.

   He hoped she was referring to the person who’d left the pee stick and not someone who’d possibly gotten their mom pregnant. But the moment the thought went through his head, Harley got a bad feeling. Apparently so did Liv because at the same time they blurted out, “Marty Jameson.”

   It wasn’t a stretch for them to come up with that name when connected to a pregnancy test. Marty Jameson was an aging country-rock music star who’d fathered more than a few kids, including the ones with his ex-wife. He was staying in cabin number three on the ranch, something he did from time to time. Supposedly, he was there to work on some new tunes, but maybe he’d taken a break from music writing to knock up yet one more woman.

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