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She fiddled with his collar before searching his eyes. “So, wow, huh?”

“Yeah. I’m havin’ a hard time processing anything.”

“I can imagine. Do you think it’ll sink in when you actually see the place that you own it?”

“Probably not. But I’ll admit I’m dying to see it.”

“Me too.”

“So you’re comin’ with me to Rawlins?”

“Of course. I’m your wife. All day, remember?” She grinned. “Plus I’m snoopy as hell.”

Bill entered the conference room with a stack of papers. All of which seemed to require Kyle’s signature. He hoped this lawyer wasn’t some kind of shyster because he merely skimmed the legal jargon. It took an hour to get everything wrapped up so they could leave, but Bill warned he’d have more things to deal with once they were through these initial steps.

The biting cold outside snapped Kyle back to reality. He held Celia’s door open and contemplated his next move as he walked around to the driver’s side.

They’d made it about a mile when Celia said, “I heard your stomach growl, Kyle. You need to eat something.”

“We need to check out of the hotel too.”

“What about your mother? Weren’t you supposed to call her?”

He stared at the red stoplight without answering.


“I’ll call her and make up a white lie about the lawyer needing me to inspect the property or something, but I can’t deal with her today.” He looked at Celia. “I know that sounds awful. Ungrateful.”

“I think it’s better to wait. Time to think things through is rarely a bad thing. It lessens the chance you’ll say something to hurt her that you’ll regret.”

His mind was spinning. Neither of them said much of anything until after they’d eaten a quick lunch at the Flying J truck stop and were back on the road heading up the overpass on I-80.

“Do you want me to drive? You were up late last night.”

“I’ll let you know if I get tired.”

Kyle expected Celia would pepper him with questions, but she was oddly subdued.

He’d made this drive a thousand times, but today it seemed longer than usual. Outside Rawlins they filled up the gas tank, grabbed a few grocery items, and put the coordinates into the GPS. Kyle was pretty sure he remembered how to get there, but it’d been fourteen years and the last thing they needed was to drive around Wyoming back roads in subzero weather.

“I sure hope Marshall left the heat on in his house before he went to the hospital. It’d really suck if you had to face frozen pipes.”

He gave Celia a droll look. “Thanks for that.”

Kyle turned off the main highway onto a gravel road. It’d been plowed at least once this winter, and that was saying something in Wyoming. The next turnoff was in three miles. He tried to remember what the house looked like, but drew a blank.

In the last twenty-four hours he’d gone back over the conversations he’d had with Marshall that summer. Nothing memorable came to mind. Marshall had to have known he was his son, since it was the year after his motorcycle accident.

The last time he’d run across the man who’d fathered him was at a bar in Rawlins a few years back. Marshall had been drunker than hell and he’d cornered Kyle, babbling about…the mark of good stock. He hadn’t known what that meant then and it seemed ridiculous to start assigning meaning to it four years later.

Wait. Hadn’t the lawyer said Marshall changed the will four years ago?

What were the odds one random conversation in a bar caused Marshall to rethink his will and sign over everything to a son he refused to publicly acknowledge?

“Whatcha thinkin’ about so hard?”

“How weird it is to be driving to a place I don’t know. A place my father lived most of his life. How bizarre it is to say my father in any kind of context at all.”

“What would you have said to him if he were alive?”

“No idea.”

Chapter Three

The driveway seemed to go on forever.

They passed a turnoff that led to another ranch, which meant Kyle would have fairly close neighbors.

Celia squinted through the windshield when they crested a small hill and finally came upon the house.

It looked a lot like the house she’d grown up in. A low-slung standard ranch with an attached garage on the left side and a cement slab for a front porch. The house wasn’t in horrible shape, but it needed work.

To the left were two smallish structures. One that might’ve been a chicken coop. Off to the right were two buildings, a barn that matched the age of the house, and a newer metal building. There were no cattle in the pasture or around the stock tank. Snow was piled nearly to the middle of the barbed wire fence that disappeared down the gently sloping hill. She could see a windmill in the distance, which was odd given that the water table in this part of the country was so deep. Was it decorative? But maybe there was a stream nearby. Easy access to water could make or break a ranch.

“Well? What do you think?” Kyle asked after he’d parked by a split rail fence covered in tumbleweeds.

“Let’s check out the inside.” Celia studied the sagging roofline just a beat too long. When she went to open her door, Kyle was already there, helping her down.

“Careful of those ribs,” he murmured. “I’ve been so self-involved I haven’t asked you how they’re feeling today.”

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