The Texas Tycoon's Baby

By: Crystal Green

Prologue




“I’m not who they said I was.”

Chet Barron stood in Mina Ferguson’s doorway like the walking wounded, his cowboy hat in hand, his short, dark blond hair mussed and out of place. He might’ve even looked like a bronc buster who’d just been thrown off a wild horse if it wasn’t for the gray business suit he had on.

But that was the worse for wear, too; his silk tie was undone, his jacket open to show the wrinkles marring his fine white shirt.

“Chet?” Mina asked.

Shell-shocked, her boss took one step toward her threshold with those Justin Boots—the last vestiges of the cowboy he used to be only eight months ago, before he’d become one of the most powerful tycoons in Texas, if not the entire country.

She took his hand and pulled him the rest of the way into her home, toward the couch, forgetting about the T-shirt and cutoffs she was wearing—a far cry from the polished skirt suits he usually saw her in.

At the feel of his skin, her pulse jittered, and she knew what would come next—a surge of the blood in her veins. A flip of the belly.

But she knew how to hide how she felt around her boss.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as they sat down.

“They lied to me. All these years…”

The cryptic words seemed to freeze in the air.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean,” he said, his tone still dead, “I’m not his son.”

It seemed like a full minute lumbered past.

“I don’t understand,” Mina said. “Are you talking about Abe? He’s…not your father?”

Chet nodded, and when he started to say something else, he choked on the words, burying his face in his hands in a struggle to contain himself.

She exhaled, resting her hand on his arm. Even through his jacket, she felt a burn on her skin, just as she always did when she happened to brush against him while leaning down to set papers on his desk. Or if there happened to be an accidental whisk against each other as they passed in the halls of the offices of the Barron Group.

“It turns out that this was the real reason my dad brought me down here from Montana all those months ago,” Chet said, tight sorrow taking hold of his words. “It wasn’t just because he had cancer. It wasn’t just because he was dying and he wanted me to sell my cattle spread and take his place as CFO of the Group.”

Mina kept her hand on his arm, as if she could absorb his hurt. He gripped his hat in both hands as he stared at the floor, his gaze intense.

“Abe told me the whole truth tonight.”

When he glanced at Mina, she crumbled inside, because she would do anything to take the obvious agony away from the man she’d loved ever since she’d first met him.

“He wanted me to come to him,” Chet said, “so I could take my ‘rightful place.’ And as the words came out of his mouth, my uncle Eli just stood there next to him with this look on his face….”

Chet’s words got twisted again, his eyes filled with anger, betrayal.

Out of instinct, Mina put her hand at the back of his head, cradling, soothing, almost thinking she could hold a strong man like Chet together.

“Abe told me,” he said, “that I was set to inherit a third of the Barron Group, just like my cousins Tyler and Jeremiah. I didn’t understand why he and Uncle Eli were going to give me such a big portion when Abe was the minority owner. Then they told me. Eli’s my real father. Eli.”

His shoulders seemed to lose the steel that had been defining them and he crumbled, his voice gritty with anger and hurt. “My mom had an affair with that bastard years and years ago, and my dad is just telling me now…as he’s dying…”

Garbled words. Decimated. But he was able to start up again.

“They said that I can claim my damned ‘rightful place’ now. And I left them standing there because I couldn’t hear any more of it.”

If a heart could explode, that’s what Mina’s did. As he fisted his hands, his neck straining with everything he was holding back, she pulled him against her, resting his head on her shoulder, wrapping her arms around him. He encompassed her, too, as if she was some kind of pillar, just as solid as she’d always been for him in the office.

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