A Cowgirl's Secret(10)

“You should’ve damn well talked to us,” Dallas said, next in line to crush her with a hug. “We’re family. There’s nothing we couldn’t have worked our way through—especially something as blessed as you having Luke’s baby.”

Daisy prayed that by the time she left Weed Gulch, she’d have found the courage to tell her brother—along with the rest of her family—the true reason she’d run.

“Lord, I missed you,” Cash said when it was his turn for a hug. “And damned if you aren’t as pretty as I am handsome.” The comment was typical Cash and caused a much-needed release of tension.

“Hey, squirt.” Wyatt held her tight. “You think just because you’re all grown-up you can bust into the Boys’ Only tree house, think again.” His tears gave him away as being a big softy. Some of her earliest memories were of begging Wyatt to let her into whatever his latest club might be. He’d usually torture her with tickling, only to grant her entry eventually.

On the fringe of her family stood strangers to whom she was now related by marriage. Dallas introduced her to his twins, Bonnie and Betsy. More guilt weighed on Daisy with the realization that she should’ve been there for Dallas when he’d lost his first love, Bobbie Jo.

“Nice to meet you,” Bonnie said. “Did you bring presents?”

“Bonnie!” Dallas scolded.

“It’s okay, Daddy,” Betsy said, “I wanna know, too.”

Daisy laughed through more tears. “I’m sorry, but I forgot your gifts. Next time I’m here though, we’ll skip all of this hugging and go straight to opening presents. Deal?”

Bonnie ambushed her with a surprise hug. “I like you.”

Returning the child’s embrace, missing her son, Daisy said, “I like you, too. Let’s be great friends.”

“What about me?” Betsy asked.

“You’re going to be my great friend, too.” Hugging both girls, Daisy couldn’t help but hope the girls would also grow close to their cousin, Kolt. He might be older than them, but he was still a little kid at heart.

“And this,” Dallas said, his arm around the shoulders of a pretty redhead who held an infant swaddled in pink, “is my wife, Josie, and our daughter, Mabel.”

“She’s precious,” Daisy cooed to the baby. “You, too,” she said to her sister-in-law. “I was always so sick of being the only girl. Nice to know I’ll now have company.”

“Then I hope we’ll be friends, too,” a brunette said, Cash alongside her with his arm resting low on her hips. “My name’s Wren, and we also have a baby. Her name is Robin, but she has a cold so we left her home with her sitter.”

“Nice meeting you,” Daisy said, overwhelmed by not only how her family had grown, but by the outpouring of affection. Would they still be so welcoming once she told them her news? “I hope your baby feels better soon. Sick kiddos are never fun.”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Wren probed, “why didn’t you bring your son?”

“Um, I wanted his first meeting with all of you to be unfettered. With so much time having passed, I have a lot to discuss that I don’t particularly want him to hear.” Dallas loved Henry like a second father—as did all of her brothers. There was no telling how they’d react to Daisy’s confession. The last thing she wanted was for Kolt to be present when that awful, inevitable conversation finally took place.

“Fair enough,” Wren said.

“Who’s hungry?” Georgina asked. “I’ve got enough ham and trimmings ready to be set out on the dining-room table to feed a small army.”

“Good thing,” Wyatt said, trailing after her. “That’s just about how many folks we have.”

WITH THE SETTING SUN spilling gold into the ranch home’s living room, family all around her and her mother’s apple pie still warming her belly, Daisy should’ve been content. Instead, while her brothers and sisters-in-law helped clean the kitchen, she sat ramrod-straight on the sofa, fidgeting with her only ring. An emerald she’d bought for herself after passing the bar exam. Always having been a huge Wizard of Oz fan, the stone reminded her that while there’s no place like home, Dorothy had gained her true strength in the journey, not the end result. Daisy had weathered many storms to return her to this place. But she still had a couple to go.

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