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THE TEXAS VALENTINE TWINS by Cathy Gillen Thacker

THE TEXAS VALENTINE TWINS

Chapter One

“When were you going to tell me?” Wyatt Lockhart demanded. He was obviously furious.

Adelaide Smythe looked at the ruggedly handsome rancher standing on the front stoop of her Laramie, Texas, cottage, and tried not to react. An impossible task, given the way her heart sped up and her knees went all wobbly any time he was within sight.

Purposefully ignoring the intent look in his way-too-mesmerizing smoky blue eyes, she picked up both duffel bags of baby clothes, blankets and burp cloths, and carried them to her waiting SUV.

Aware he was still waiting for an answer, she stated coolly over her shoulder, “I wasn’t.”

Wyatt moved so she had no choice but to look up at him.

He looked good, but then he always looked good in the way of strong, tall and sexy. Radiating an impressive amount of testosterone and kick-butt attitude, he stood, brawny arms folded in front of him, legs braced apart. Back against the rear corner of her vehicle.

His gaze drifted over her, as if he were appraising one of the impeccably trained cutting horses that he bred and sold on his ranch. “You didn’t think I would find out?”

Adelaide tensed. Of course she had known.

She shrugged, her carelessness in direct counterpoint to his concern, and slid the duffels into the cargo area next to the boxes of diapers and formula.

Finished, she lifted her chin defiantly and looked into the piercing gaze that always saw way more than she would have preferred. “I knew your mother might mention it, eventually.” Just as she had intuited that the most cynical of the Lockhart sons would be more than just a little unhappy when he heard about the arrangements.

Wyatt stepped back as if to ward off a punch. “My mom knows?”

It was her ranch. Of course Lucille Lockhart knew Adelaide and the twins were moving temporarily into the Circle H bunkhouse the following week!

Wondering how Wyatt imagined she could manage this without the matriarch’s explicit permission, Adelaide favored him with a deadpan expression. “It was Lucille’s idea, obviously.” As was the notion that Adelaide start bringing over the things she was going to need now, instead of waiting and trying to do it, and transport her six-week-old twins, all at one time.

Again, Wyatt shook his head as if that would clear it. His sensual lips compressed into a thin, hard line. “I know the two of you have always been close.”

An understatement, Adelaide thought. In many ways Lucille Lockhart had been the loving maternal force her life lacked. Even before her father had betrayed everyone they knew and taken off with a gold-digging floozy. “Yes. We have.”

Wyatt took off his hat and shoved his fingers through the thick, straight layers of his wheat-colored hair. Frowning, he settled his Stetson square on his head and met her gaze head-on. “I still find it hard to believe my mother talked you into this travesty.”

Adelaide didn’t see what was so difficult to understand. If Wyatt had a single compassionate bone in his body, he would have extended a helping hand, too. If, for no other reason, than their two families had once been very close. “Lucille knows how I’ve been struggling to manage in the six-and-a-half weeks since my children were born. She thought some assistance…” Some help feeding and diapering and rocking…

His brow lifted. He cut in sharply, all harsh male judgment once again. “Financial, I suppose?”

A mixture of embarrassment and humiliation filled Adelaide with heat. She’d never imagined needing a helping hand. But since she suddenly did…she would accept it on behalf of her twins

Adelaide marched back to the porch, tension shimmering through her frame. Aware only a small part of any of this was her doing, she picked up the large monogrammed designer suitcase that held her own clothing. The one that, unfortunately, had been given to her as a high school graduation gift. And had accompanied her on another, fortuitously ill-begotten, trip.

The way Wyatt was eyeing it said he remembered, too.

Refusing to think about what he might be recalling about their hopelessly romantic—and ill-fated—adventure, she continued, “If you consider being guests at her ranch a couple months--."  So I won't have to pay rent on top of my mortgage and new construction loan…

He definitely did.

She squared her shoulders and admitted reluctantly, "Then yes, I do need some financial help, and in many other ways, as well.  Things have been hard for me, since my father left Texas…”

Seeing how she was struggling under the weight of her bag, Wyatt reached over and took it from her. In two quick strides he carried it to the cargo area and set it next to the two smaller duffels. “Don’t you mean since he embezzled funds from my family’s charitable foundation and then fled the country?”

Her shame over that fact only increased as time passed. Adelaide tossed in a mesh bag of soft infant toys. Figuring she had done enough packing for now, she slammed the lid on the cargo hold. “I’ve apologized every way I know how for that.” A fact that Wyatt very well knew, gosh darn it.

She stomped closer, determined to have this out once and for all, so they’d never have to discuss it again. “Everyone else in your family has forgiven me,” she reminded him.

He remained where he was. Which was…too close. Far too close. He leaned down, inundating her with the scent of sun-warmed leather and soap. “So they’re more foolhardy than I am,” he said.

Adelaide glared at him. She knew Wyatt was still angry with her. And that his anger was based on a lot more than the sins of her father. The thing was, she was grief stricken over their failed romance, too. The knowledge that their dreams were never going to come true.

Ignoring the heat and strength radiating from his tall body, Adelaide stepped around him and headed wearily for the porch. Unable to help the defeated slump of her slender shoulders, she asked, “When are you going to let our last mistake go?”

He caught up with her and joined her on the small porch. Hooking his thumbs through the loops on either side of his belt, he murmured silkily, “I never said making love with you bothered me.”

It had sure as heck bothered her! To the point she barely slept a night without reliving that reckless misstep in her dreams. Refusing to admit how many mornings she had awakened, hugging her pillow, as if it were the answer to her every wish and desire, Adelaide challenged him with a smile.

“Then that makes two of us,” she drawled, refusing to admit how small his six-foot-three frame made the four-by-four-foot square beneath the portico feel.

Wyatt paused. His gaze roamed her postpregnancy frame, dwelling on the voluptuousness of her curves. “Enough to go again?” he taunted softly.

So that was it, she realized with a mixture of excitement and resentment. He still desired her every bit as much as she yearned for him. Fortunately for both of them, she was sensible enough not to repeat their error. Even if her obstetrician had given her the go ahead at her last checkup.

Adelaide stiffened. “Not if we were the last two people on earth,” she vowed.