Wyoming Heart

By: Diana Palmer


“And you just became my most favorite cousin,” Cort returned with a laugh.

“No surprise,” came the drawling reply.



* * *



THEY SAT AROUND the small kitchen table nibbling on a pizza they’d picked up on the way home and drinking the delicious coffee Bart had fixed for them.

“This is really nice,” Cort said, glancing around at the modern, clean kitchen with its blue curtains and appliances.

“I love to cook,” the other man said. “So I’ve got pretty much every device known to the culinary arts.”

“I can’t boil water,” Cort sighed. “There was a notable surplus of women in our lives after our father kicked our model stepmother out the back door.”

“I remember,” Bart said. He shook his head. “Amazing that a man as smart as your father could let a woman like that take him over lock, stock and barrel.”

“I guess love can be pretty inconvenient.” He fingered the coffee cup. “Our father alienated my brother Cash, so badly that even after our stepmother left, Cash wouldn’t speak to him. He wouldn’t speak to Garon or Parker or me, either, because we sided with the mercenary woman.” He shifted in the chair. “We live and learn. Garon went up to Jacobsville, where Cash is police chief, and made peace with him. The rest of us followed. We’re still wary of each other, but we’re making progress.”

“Cash is a legend in law enforcement,” Bart pointed out. “Ask our cousin Cody Banks.” He laughed. “Cash was even a Texas Ranger for a while, until he slugged the acting officer in charge.”

“Stuff of legends, my brother,” Cort agreed, trying not to feel smaller at the comparison. Cash had done things the rest of them had never even dreamed of. He’d been a government assassin, a merc, a military man, a Texas Ranger, a cyber expert for the San Antonio DA’s office. And, above all that, he’d married one of the most famous actress/models in America, Tippy Moore, the Georgia Firefly. Cash and Tippy had a daughter and a baby son, and seeing them together was an experience. After all the years, they were still like newlyweds.

“You’re quiet,” Bart remarked.

Cort smiled. “I was thinking about Cash’s wife and kids. Tippy really is beautiful, even without makeup, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt around the house. God, he’s a lucky man!”

“Yes, he is. I’ve seen photos of her. Gorgeous woman.” He sipped coffee. “What’s Garon’s wife like?”

“Quiet,” Cort said, but with a smile. “She’s gentle and supportive and a wonderful mother to their son. She almost died having him,” he added softly. “She had a bad heart valve and didn’t tell anybody, least of all Garon. He went almost crazy when he found out. They married because she was pregnant, but Cash said he had to get Garon drunk enough to pass out while Grace was in surgery, and then in ICU. They didn’t know if she’d come out of the operation at all. The pregnancy was a big complication, and Garon had just saved her from a serial killer who had a knife at her throat.” He shook his head. “Garon said he paid for sins he hadn’t even committed during those hours at the hospital.”

Bart grimaced. “Poor guy.”

“Our dad’s still a rounder,” Cort told him. “Well, he was. He was in Pensacola a few months ago, chasing a widow who liked motorcycles, when a former newspaper reporter tripped over him and knocked him down. Apparently, he was instantly over his head. He married her two weeks later and they moved to Vermont, to be near her family.”

“Well!”

“Parker says he’s not getting married for years and years. He’s got two girlfriends. He’s hoping they’ll never meet,” he added on a chuckle.

“What about you?” Bart probed.

Cort drew in a long breath and finished his coffee. “I don’t know,” he said after a minute. “I’ve had my pick of beautiful, rich women. They all had one thing in common.”

“They couldn’t bear the thought of life on an isolated, smelly cattle ranch, no matter how rich its owner was,” Bart guessed, and sighed. “That’s been my luck, too. Not that I’m that rich—I’m just comfortable. But women who come out here don’t ever come back.” He frowned. “Well, that’s not quite true. One did. But she’s like the sister I lost when I was a boy,” he added with a sad smile. “There’s no spark, no romance. She’s just nice, and I like her.”

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