Renegade Hearts (The Kinnison Legacy Book 3)

BOOK: Renegade Hearts (The Kinnison Legacy Book 3)
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RENEGADE HEARTS

The Kinnison Legacy, Book III

 

 

 

By

Amanda McIntyre

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Renegade Heart’s

Copyright 2015 by Amanda McIntyre

 

Cover art by Sahara Kelly and P&N Graphics

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Amanda McIntyre

http://www.amandamcintyresbooks.com

 

Manufactured in the United States of America

Dedication

You meet many different people in this industry and if you’re lucky a select few become inspiration for the very heroes and heroines that you write about. When I think of as strong heroine, for example, I think of a capable woman, tenacious, determined, maybe a bit sassy. Hope is the driving force in her life.

 

This book is dedicated to one such woman, Sharon Marion.

A sweet reader that I first met at a convention in New Orleans and who, in spite of incredible health obstacles, pushes on. You go, girl!

 

To all of those who struggle to carry on daily, despite the obstacles--believe in hope, believe that love will find a way, and it will be well.

~Amanda

 

Chapter One

 

“It’s a girl!”

Dalton felt the testosterone level slip a little further from life as he’d always known it. In what seemed a blur this past year, femininity had infiltrated the ranch once run by him and his brothers. First with Aimee capturing his brother Wyatt’s heart, and then the discovery of their half-sister Liberty, who promptly sent Rein’s world into a tailspin.

Now there was a new baby girl Kinnison to add to the mix. Still, nothing on earth made him happier than seeing the goofy look on his older brother’s face. He pushed from the waiting room chair and grabbed Wyatt, his green scrubs splattered with blood, in a great bear hug. “Congratulations, old man. Who’d have ever thought you’d be a dad? Damn.” He choked on the lump in his throat as he hugged Wyatt. The years when it had been just the two of them--struggling to survive, watching out for each other while their mom tried to find herself--whirled through his memory. The bond between them had been forged hard as steel, honed in fire.

An exhausted grin split Wyatt’s unshaven face, weary-looking after the last twenty-four hours. “Aimee’s tired. The baby was born feet first, Frank Breech they called it, but she’s doing okay, too.” He looked at Dalton. “I can’t believe it’s a girl. I can’t believe how big she is. Almost nineteen inches long.”

Dalton shook his head in disbelief. Since her first visit they’d told the doctor they didn’t want to know the gender. The doctor had leaned very much in favor of a boy, clearly he was mistaken this round. The thought boggled his mind. “Do you have a name for her?”

Wyatt showed his million-dollar grin, the one that likely got Aimee and him into this predicament in the first place. “Grace June Kinnison. Gracie is what I’ll call her.”

“Gracie.” It sounded right given all they’d been through over the past few months. “Gracie. I like it.”

A tired but ecstatic Wyatt smacked him on the shoulder and pulled him in for another hug. “And God help us, you’re Grace’s uncle.”

Uncle Dalton? Damn.
Dalton’s throat closed tight with emotion as he stepped away to allow the parade of well-wishers the chance to congratulate Wyatt.

“You named her Grace?” Betty, an old friend of the family, waited patiently, her arms ready to pull Wyatt into a fierce hug. “That’s a beautiful name, honey. Oh, Jed would be so proud of y’all.”

Dalton watched as Betty pulled Wyatt against her ample bust. She’d been like a mom, serving them and the community home-cooked meals at Betty’s Café, End of the Line’s only diner. His memory flashed to the joy his stepfather, Jed Kinnison, the man who’d adopted and raised three young boys as his own sons, would have had at this news. Perhaps this baby was God’s way of saying that Jed’s legacy should continue, despite his leaving this earth too soon.

The litany of well-wishers continued with Rein, Jed’s true nephew who’d come to live with them after the accident that claimed Rein’s parents. Liberty followed and after her, Michael and Rebecca Greyfeather, longtime friends of Jed Kinnison and the ranch.

Rebecca brought the new baby a handmade blanket. Dalton knew that given how much the community revered his step-dad, the child would never want for anything. He considered it a miracle that the entire town of End of the Line wasn’t squeezed into the tiny Billings waiting room.

A couple of months ago, Aimee’s pregnancy had gone awry after smoke inhalation caused her to go into premature labor. The fire, set on the main ranch house, was intended as revenge from Liberty’s former employer and ex-boyfriend.

Though the fire destroyed much of the back of the house, there was still extensive repair and remodeling that was required before anyone could live in it. As a precaution, doctors placed Aimee on complete bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy, and she and Wyatt moved into one of the guest cabins until the work was completed.

“Mr. Kinnison?”

Dalton felt a tug on his leg and he looked down to find little Emilee Juarez, Michael and Rebecca’s great-niece. She’d come to live with her aunt and uncle at the tender age of three, but referred to them as grandma and grandpa. No one said much about the transition, or why Angelique didn't return with her. But most folks in the little town were accepting of such things. God knows they’d accepted Wyatt and Dalton as Jed’s sons after their mother had married Jed, then abandoned them on Christmas day.

“You want to know a secret?”

“What’s that, darlin’?” Dalton squatted down to look into her dancing eyes.

She grinned, barely able to contain her excitement. The child’s infectious delight prompted his smile.

“I’m going to help Miss Aimee with the baby after she comes home. I think I’ll make a very good babysitter, don’t you?”

He turned his ball cap backwards on his head and tapped her little pug nose. For all of her seven years, he bet she kept Michael and Rebecca on their toes with those mysterious dark eyes and articulate speech. “That will be up to your mama and Ms. Aimee, I suspect.”

Her brows rose into her bangs. “Oh, I know I will be helping. I’ve seen it.”

Dalton hid his surprise at her adult response. He had little--make that
no--
experience with kids, but remembered himself at that age and figured kids saw things the way they wanted. Then again, he’d heard Michael talk before about Emilee’s uncanny way of predicting things. He claimed her Crow lineage gave her these powers and that Emilee’s came from a long line of “seers” on his mother’s side.

“Ok, punkin’, but you best talk it over with your Aunt Rebecca.”

“You mean my
grandma
?” she corrected him with another crook of her brow.

Dalton hesitated, startled how quickly the female persuasion learned to use the silent gesture as a symbol of defiance. “Of course,” he said, silently chiding himself for the faux pas. “Grandma Rebecca.”

“Emilee,” a soft but stern voice issued behind Dalton.

He stood and awkwardly patted the top of the little girl’s head.

“Stop pestering Mr. Kinnison.”

“No harm done--” His brain stopped as did his words when he stood to face Emilee’s mother, Angelique Juarez. He hadn’t seen much of her since Wyatt and Aimee’s wedding. She’d started work at a veterinary clinic down in Billings, and while she and Emilee still lived with the Greyfeathers, she’d been busy most of the summer. Their brief encounter at the wedding hadn’t gone well, and looking at her up close and personal sure as hell made him wonder why.

She was beautiful, perhaps more than he’d allowed himself to remember. He worked at ungluing his tongue from the roof of his mouth. “Uh…hi,” he forced through his rattled thoughts. He blamed it on his lack of sleep
--
that
,
and being deprived of a
real
drink for the last twenty-four hours. His eyes, seemingly unaffected, couldn’t stop staring at her. She wore a simple skirt that brushed her ankles topped with a soft, white low-cut top beneath a faded blue denim jacket. Pure country girl, from her long, dark braid, to her sun-kissed skin.

She bent down, those dark eyes admonishing her daughter. Fortunately, with her focus on Emilee, she didn’t notice how he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“I’m not being a pest,” the precocious seven-year-old answered with total vindication. “You don’t find me a pest, do you, Mr. Kinnison?”

The little girl tugged on his shirtsleeve, jarring Dalton from letting his memories amble down the road of his past, to a night in a high school parking lot. It was a night he’d fought hard to forget, particularly after finding out she’d gotten married a few months later. He’d eventually gotten over the frustration, but he’d never fully gotten over the fact that she’d left out the fact that she was engaged. Seeing her again, her inclusion in the wedding was a landslide to everything he’d shoved into the attic of his mind. Did she remember?

Angelique rose and her gaze collided briefly with his. She hastily averted her eyes. “Come on, Emilee. It’s time to get home and fix supper. The Kinnisons need some family time.”

“But--”

Rebecca Greyfeather placed her hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “You must listen to you mother, Emilee.”

Across the room, Wyatt, with his head bowed slightly, allowed Michael to bless him and his new family. The gentle sound of Michael’s poetic blessing, the wisdom in his voice, echoed in the waiting room full of now-silent visitors.

“It is an old ritual, meant to bless father and mother to be fruitful with many healthy children,” Rebecca explained softly, as though she’d read his mind.

Emilee watched in rapt fascination, her hand curled in her grandmother’s.

Angelique stood silently watching her Uncle Michael’s ritual blessing. She stepped away, helping herself to a glass of water at the guest station.

“You apparently aren’t into the ancient ways like your uncle?” Dalton walked to her side and helped himself to a glass of water.

She glanced at him. “My mother never spoke of the “ancient ways,” as you call it.” Turning back to the crowd, she effectively distanced herself. He was unsure if she meant for him to hear her mutter, “I doubt she’d have been able to remember much, anyway.”

Dalton raised a brow and observed her body language as he downed his water, wishing it had a couple of ice cubes and a splash of Jack Daniels in it to ease the tension in his gut. It was no secret to her or anyone that he hadn’t been as hospitable about her return as others in the town.

There was a lot he didn’t understand about her. Aside from not telling him she was involved with someone else during the steamy encounter they’d shared at her five-year class reunion, she’d gone and left Emilee with her relatives while she stayed in Chicago.
That
he had a harder time understanding. Perhaps because he’d never gotten over the fact that his mom had abandoned him and Wyatt as teens, leaving them to be raised by a virtual stranger.

She pulled her shoulders straight, indicating to him that she’d only spoken to him out of politeness. Stepping forward, she took Emilee’s hand, gently tugging her from Rebecca’s grasp. “Come on, baby. Why don’t we go down to the gift shop? Maybe we can find something to send up to Aimee and the new baby.”

“Grace,” Emilee said, beaming up at her mother. “They named her Grace, right, Grandma?” She shot a look toward the older woman. With Angelique working long hours, it appeared to Dalton that the lines of authority were still being worked out.

Angelique tossed her paper cup past him and hit the trash can squarely. “Congratulations, Dalton, on becoming an uncle.”

Again with the polite tone. She couldn’t wait to get out of that room, away from him. He responded with a nod.

She shifted her purse to her shoulder and spoke briefly to her aunt before taking her daughter’s hand and walking out without a backward glance.

Dalton looked at his feet and shook his head. He doubted that things would be any different between them even if he hadn’t been an ass to her at Wyatt’s and Aimee’s wedding a few months back. He glanced up and met Rebecca’s steady gaze. There were times he wasn’t sure what Rebecca thought of him. While it seemed she was willing to speak to and help Wyatt and Rein, often bringing them special treats of homemade pies, she was standoffish toward him. He figured that it probably had something to do with whatever Angelique chose to tell her about that night before she returned to Chicago.

Dalton gave her a nod accompanied by an awkward smile, deciding he’d had enough of crowds today. Better that he put the past behind him and focus on today. This meant that, with any luck, there was a Cubs double-header showing on Dusty’s new forty-seven-inch flat screen and a glass of Jack Daniels--neat--waiting for him. He found Rein and nudged him in the side. “I’m headed up to Dusty’s.” He glanced over at his half-sister Liberty, who was enthusiastically putting on a gown to go in to see her new niece.

“You sure you don’t want to stick around and hold Gracie?” Rein asked, watching Liberty’s enthusiasm.

“Nah,” Dalton said, following his brother’s smitten gaze. “There’ll be plenty of time later. Aimee’s folks are going to want to go in.” He slapped Rein on the shoulder. “I’m guessing from that look in your eye that it won’t be long before you guys are going to want to start going forth and multiplying.”

Rein smiled at Dalton. “We’ve talked about it and both of us want a big family. But I’ve got a house to build first.”

“We’ll get things walled in before winter, that shouldn’t be a problem. Is Liberty getting antsy to move out of the cabins?”

“Nah, she’s had so much input on the decorating end of things that to her it’s like home.”

“But little room for expansion, right?”

Rein grinned. “Yeah, maybe. I think being around family has put some ideas into her head.”

“Yeah, that’s rough.” Dalton loved Liberty like a sister who had been around for a long time. They actually had a lot in common, including her passion for playing pool. But he wasn’t blind, and he knew from the torrid affair that she and Rein had that they belonged together.

Rein scratched the back of his neck, his face actually turning a shade of crimson.

Man, their lives were changing, and by the minute, it seemed—well, with the exception of him. He slapped his brother on the shoulder. “They will be amazing children and gorgeous, no doubt, because of Liberty,” he joked.

BOOK: Renegade Hearts (The Kinnison Legacy Book 3)
7.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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