Wife by Design(109)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn

Wyatt didn’t know how to answer. He pulled the paper out of his shirt pocket and unfolded it. “I suppose I am.”

“I was ’fraid so.” The boy looked back at the ground, slowly drawing circles with the stick.

Wyatt read the letter again. How did you tell a child that his mother didn’t want him anymore? That she’d waited until his dad, a man he’d never met, shipped overseas? A man who couldn’t speak for himself from a thousand miles away.

Men didn’t deny their flesh and blood. Wyatt and DJ might have their differences, but at the core, he knew DJ took his responsibilities seriously. His brother would claim the boy, but until he could, Wyatt was all he had.

“You ready to go?” He didn’t think twice about his role in this boy’s life. Responsibility had always been something Wyatt easily shouldered, and he didn’t hesitate now.

He’d already gotten Jason’s legal advice, and his brother was working to contact DJ. Just looking at the kid, there was little doubt Tyler was DJ’s son. And Addie would be thrilled to have someone to take care of once Wyatt told her about him. But right now his sister needed the vacation he’d finally convinced her to take.

“I packed my stuff.” Tyler used the stick to point at two plastic grocery bags beside the door.

“That’s all of it?”

“Yep. Mama took the rest. She told me to be ready and not tick you off.”

“Is that so?” Wyatt’s chest hurt, for himself, for the boy and mostly for the man who didn’t even know he had a son. DJ was in for one heck of a surprise when, and if, he ever got back home.

Slowly, Wyatt stepped toward Tyler and sat on the step beside him. He figured he could take a few minutes to start to get to know his nephew, an apparently angry little boy of eight years old, who’d been totally unknown to him—to anyone in the family—until last week. If only Mom had gotten to meet him. She’d have loved Tyler, but would have killed DJ. Wyatt smiled and refocused on the boy.

Where did he start the conversation? But before he could say anything, Tyler jumped up. “Guess we’d better get goin’.” He grabbed a grocery bag in each hand and returned to stand next to Wyatt.

Wyatt stood. “Guess so. Need any help with those?”

“Nope.” The boy marched down the steps and was halfway across the bare yard before Wyatt moved. The wind had died down and the only sign of life in the battered neighborhood was a flutter of curtains in the house across the street.

Wyatt hurried to catch up and open the gate for Tyler. The sooner they got out of here and left this mess behind, the better. He helped settle the bags on the truck’s floorboards and buckled Tyler in before either of them said another word.

“Ready?” Wyatt met the boy’s stare.

“Yep.” Tyler looked straight ahead, not even glancing toward the old house as they pulled away from the curb. Wyatt glanced in the rearview mirror and thought perhaps Tyler was wiser than his years. It wasn’t much to look back on. With nowhere else to go, and not much else to say, they headed through Austin and on west to the ranch where Wyatt lived…and where Tyler would be living, too.

The hot Texas wind followed them, reaching in the window and ruffling the boy’s blond hair just as Wyatt used to ruffle DJ’s hair. DJ had always hated anyone touching his hair. Now he was in some godforsaken corner of the world with all his blond hair long gone to the barber’s razor.

Wyatt leaned back and returned his gaze to the two-lane blacktop.

What in the world were they going to do now?

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