Gib ripped around the corner of the couch and stopped in front of Channing. He patted her stomach with both hands. “Baby.”

“Yes, honey, that’s the baby.”

“Mine baby.”

Her smile softened and she lovingly brushed the curls from his face. “Yep, he’s your baby.”

“You already know the sex of that one?”

“Even if the ultrasound hadn’t confirmed it, I’d be pretty safe in planning for another boy. Kade’s the only one who’s produced a girl so far.”

“Mama, Mama!”

“What, sweetie?”

Gib looked over at Chassie, challenging, “Mine mama,” and threw himself at his mother.

Channing laughed with delight and hugged him close, kissing his rosy cheeks until that sweet, innocent, boyish giggle burst free again.

“He’s a little territorial, isn’t he?”

“Comes by it naturally. He gets it from his father.” She stood and planted Gib on her hip. “Let’s have a snack, hmm?”

For the remainder of the afternoon and early evening, Chassie was glad for the distraction of the rambunctious boy.

Chassie could tell Channing was tired and she felt guilty the pregnant mother elected to stay up with her after Gib finally conked out.

“Colby should be home any minute.”

“Then you should go to bed. I’ll be fine waiting up alone. Really.”

“I know you will. But I’d like to see my husband while I’m still conscious.”

Channing closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “Did you call Trevor?”


“Does he know where you are?”

“He thinks I’m in Wheatland at a bridal shower.” Chassie braced herself for Channing to gently suggest she call him, but Channing didn’t say a word.

Chassie stared at the fire, trying not to think about how much her life had changed in one short day.

Tick. Tick. Tick. The minute hand on the clock clicked and the bell dinged. Yippee.

She’d managed to kill thirty minutes.

She was sure Channing had fallen asleep, so she was surprised when Channing murmured, “You really should watch them together. When they’re naked in body and soul. It’s as heartbreaking as it is beautiful. Then you’ll understand. Then you’ll do the right thing.”

Watch who? Understand what?

The front door opened. Boots hit the tile and Colby strolled into the living room.

Channing’s eyes blinked open. She appeared sleep-dazed for a second until she saw Colby. Then she smiled widely and pushed to her feet.

“Hey, shug, no need to get up. But since you are…” Colby leaned down and kissed her. Thoroughly. “Mmm. Missed you today, darlin’. How you feelin’?” He placed his big hands on her belly.

“Tired. This baby’s been twisting like he’s on a bull.”

“Poor Mama, cookin’ up another wild cowboy.” Colby rubbed circles on the baby bump. “Gib in bed?”

“He wasn’t happy you weren’t here to tuck him in and play horsy. But he settled for Chassie reading to him.”

Colby finally looked at her. “Hey, Chass.”


“I’m off to bed so you two can talk.” Channing gave Chassie a wan smile. “Try to get some sleep tonight, okay?”

“I’ll try. Thanks for lettin’ me just barge in and cry on your shoulder.”

“No problem. That’s what family is for.”

Family. Maybe for the first time she really thought of Channing as her family too.

Colby said to Chassie, “Hang tight. I could use a beer, you?”


“Why don’t you get them while I tuck my wife in. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Ten minutes later Colby returned. He tossed another log on the fire before he flopped across from her. He knocked back a drink of beer and sighed.

“Long day?” Chassie noticed Colby looked unusually exhausted.

“I hate bein’ away from Channing because I know she’s doin’ stuff she ain’t supposed to when I ain’t keepin’ an eye on her.”

“Is everything okay with the pregnancy?”

Colby swigged his beer. “She’s already had some contractions. Some spotting. She’s not even supposed to be liftin’ Gib, and that’s the hardest thing for her not to do. She says it’s normal, but I worry.”

Shame swamped Chassie for busting in on Channing without warning and monopolizing her time. “I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have—”

“I’m glad you were here. Havin’ company is a treat for her. Chan’s been housebound with this pregnancy and Gib can be a real pistol.”

“He definitely has energy to spare.”

“That’s my boy.” Colby’s grin was there and gone.

The logs in the fireplace crackled.

“I’m whupped, so let’s get to it. When did Edgard show up?”

“Two weeks ago.” Chassie purposely droned on so this retelling had less tears, figuring Colby wouldn’t appreciate them. Truth be told, she hated to cry. It was so damn pointless, it changed nothing.

After she finished, Colby grabbed two more beers. He appeared to be in a mental tug of war as he slowly peeled the label from the bottle.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sure Channing already explained, since she and I are on the same page. But I’ll say it again.” Colby looked at her. “It’s not my secret to share. I imagine you feel a little betrayed by me too.”

Chassie nodded.

“Trevor and I’ve been best friends since kindiegarten. We weathered some rough shit together. I have four brothers, and they’re great, but Trevor’s like the brother…I chose.

And it’s the same for him, bein’s that everyone in his family is a complete dickhead.”

“I’ve heard about his family but I haven’t met them.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” he said derisively. “If it threw me for a goddamn loop when I figured out him and Edgard were more than ropin’ partners, I can’t imagine how them assholes in his family woulda reacted. I didn’t pass judgment, mostly because I didn’t understand. That said, I still covered for them on the circuit and no one ever found out.”

It pained Chassie to ask, but she did anyway. “Do you think Trevor and Edgard were in love?”

“Ah hell, Chass, how am I supposed to answer that?” Colby downed half his beer.

“I’m dyin’ here. I found out the man I love, the man I married for Christsake, had a long time love affair with another man that I knew nothin’ about.”

Colby brooded for a bit. “Lemme ask you something. Would it’ve been better or worse if a woman showed up knockin’ on your door?”

“Worse,” she said automatically.


“With Edgard, I suspect it isn’t the same type of love Trevor has given me. It’s completely different. Separate. It doesn’t have anything to do with the way Trevor loves me.”

The truth of that statement hit her hard as a hammer to the head. Was it possible she wasn’t jealous about Edgard, just hurt because she hadn’t known about him? Chassie met Colby’s stare.

“Think on that statement very carefully before you make any rash decisions.”

She opened her mouth. Closed it. She couldn’t argue with that.

“How long’s Ed here for?”

“I don’t know. He’s been evasive whenever I’ve asked.”

“That’s weird.” The beer stopped midair. “He and Trev haven’t talked at all about Ed’s place in Brazil?”

“No. I thought it was kinda strange that Trev was avoidin’ bein’ alone with him and avoidin’ personal conversation. Now I know why.”

“How are things goin’ with you and Trev at your homeplace?”

“Good, I guess. Takin’ it day by day.”

He picked at the beer label. “You heard anything about Gus Dutton sellin’ his place south of yours?”

Chassie was a horrible liar. She settled for hedging. “What’ve you heard?”

“That his kids and grandkids never visit and he’s tired of bein’ alone since his wife died. He ain’t run any cattle for a few years.” Colby pinned her with a shrewd look. “You leasin’ his grazin’ land?”

“We did this past summer. Why?”

Colby shrugged. “Curious. Sweet piece of dirt with all that creek frontage. Me’n Cord have been eyein’ it the last coupla years, and Dad for a while before that. We’d be mighty interested in givin’ old Gus a little better than fair market value for it.”

I’ll bet you would.

She stood and studied the orange flames reflected in the glass fireplace panes.

“Thanks for talkin’ to me. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this. I’d never hurt Trevor.

Even as I’m standing here practically bleeding inside, I would protect him at all costs.”

“I know you would. I know he feels the same way, even though it probably don’t seem like it.” Colby reached for her hand and squeezed. “Good night, little cuz.”


Chassie crawled between the flannel sheets. Channing’s rambling, “You really should watch them together when they’re naked in body and soul. Then you’ll understand, then you’ll do the right thing,” ricocheted in her head, mixing with the other gut-wrenching images she couldn’t erase.

The desperation in their kiss. The anguished longing as they’d stood pressed forehead to forehead in the corral. The murmured words. Their guilt. Their sadness.

As Chassie drifted into the realm between asleep and awake, she knew what she’d have to do. She just hoped she’d have the courage to ask and the guts to survive it.