The Gallaghers of Sweetgrass Springs, Book 4
Texas Heroes, Book 10
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling Texas romance author Jean Brashear, the fourth book in the popular Texas Heroes: The Gallaghers of Sweetgrass Springs series, the story of the Gallagher heir who disappeared after a tragedy seventeen years ago:
Jackson Gallagher’s teenage rebellion cost him everything: his home, his family and the girl who could only love him in secret. Seventeen years later, a wildly successful multi-millionaire, he is drawn back to Sweetgrass Springs to confront his past: the father who banished him, the town that turned its back on him…and the woman he has never been able to forget.
The last person Veronica Butler is ready to see is the man who made her believe they’d be together forever, then vanished and broke her heart. Widowed and struggling to hold onto her children’s heritage, she refuses his help but has trouble resisting the way he makes her remember how deeply she once loved him…except that when he learns the secret she’s been keeping all these years, she’ll lose him all over again.
Read an Excerpt from Texas Rebel
Jackson Gallagher stared out the darkened window of his bedroom, watching the waves of the Pacific dance in the moonlight.
Behind him, sheets rustled. “Come back to bed, handsome.”
He didn’t turn around. Allowing her in had been a mistake. Stephanie Hargrove’s marketing wizardry had made her invaluable to his video game company, and she’d been an integral part of Enigma Games for years now. Yes, she’d been clear from the first about her interest in him beyond the job…
But he never brought women home. This tiny island was his refuge, if a vast and silent one. Not home—no place was, really—but the closest thing to it, of all the residences he owned.
You’re needed here, his great-aunt Ruby had said. It’s time to come home. She was the only one who knew where he’d been for the last seventeen years.
But Sweetgrass wasn’t home anymore. Hadn’t been since that dark night when he’d been responsible for Beth Butler’s death. When his old man had cast him out like garbage.
Footsteps padded over the thick Persian wool that covered gleaming wood floors. Arms slid around him from behind, and soft breasts rubbed against the muscles of his back.
Jackson stepped away. Grabbed his slacks while he sought the words to explain why this couldn’t happen again.
Steph laughed. “You know, for a man who’s such an enigma to the world, your poker face has gone missing.” She stood straight and proud, tossed her long red locks. “I thought the sex was amazing. Too bad you don’t agree.”
“Steph.” He searched for the right words. “It’s not that—”
She waved off his explanation. “I’ll admit I was surprised when you let me come to the inner sanctum. Has anyone from the company ever been inside?”
“I’ll have Mike call the chopper to take you back to Seattle.” He donned the shirt he’d cast to the floor.
Her mouth tightened. “Guess the grand tour is out of the question, then?” She smiled, genuine this time. “Jackson, I swear you’re squirming. I was just kidding.” She slid on her skin-tight skirt with no panties, just as she’d been dressed for their earlier meeting. Her generous breasts were bare beneath the soft wool sweater that hid nothing. She pulled her hair from beneath the collar. “Who is she?”
He recoiled. Frowned. “What do you mean?”
“You’re an island, Jackson. No one touches you. For a moment there, though…” She shook her head. “We could have had fun. This didn’t have to be difficult.”
“We do business together, Steph. The company needs you.”
“It damn sure does. I, however, am capable of keeping business and pleasure separate.”
His back went ramrod-stiff. “It’s not in the best interests of Enigma.”
She paused in gathering her things. Cocked her head and studied him. “You must get lonely sometimes. Do you even have a family?”
His jaw ground, and he looked away. “No.”
“You drive women crazy, you know—that broody, sexy, Mr. Rochester thing you’ve got going for you. No insane wife in the attic, then?”
“Steph—” They were back on safe ground, where sarcasm was her default, and she was one of the few who dared to tease him. Finally he grinned. “No insane wife. Sorry.” He paused. “Even though this wasn’t smart, you know it’s not you, right? Only…business.”
Another flip of her hair and hands running down her killer body. “Of course it’s not me—what, are you nuts? Who could resist a piece of this?”
If he thought he saw a flash of hurt in her eyes, he knew she wouldn’t want him acknowledging it. “Anyone who would even try is clearly in denial.”
Pacified, she grinned. “Or a crazy recluse who needs to get out more.”
“But I am not broody.”
“Of course you’re not, Heathcliff.”
She turned, waving him off. “Whatev, J. See you on Monday.”
He heard her greet his driver and bodyguard Mike downstairs, heard Mike’s rumbling tone answer. He exhaled, glad she hadn’t made the parting harder. Frustrated that he’d let himself slip, especially with someone he both liked and respected.
Who is she?
There was a she, but he never let himself think about Veronica. The mere thought of her name made something inside him twist. Still had the power to make his heart ache.
But that had been a boy’s love. He was a man of the world now, a king in control of his empire. From a scared runaway, through too many scrapes to count, he’d used the brain his father derided to create the most successful privately-owned video game company in the world.
He owned an island now and other homes scattered over the globe. Hundreds of people worked for him. If he shunned publicity and operated so far behind thick walls of secrecy that most people didn’t even know his name, all the better.
You’re needed here.
No, Aunt Ruby, I’m needed right where I am.
He should never have called his great-aunt that night years before when he was broke and hungry and scared. Should have never stayed in touch, but she’d promised him secrecy, sworn that no one, not even Veronica, would ever know where he was or even if he was alive.
Especially Veronica. She’d married one of his closest friends soon enough, hadn’t she? Hadn’t given him a chance to find a place, a way for them to be together, to make real all the dreams they’d shared.
So he’d seen Paris alone. Toured Rome. All the places they’d planned to travel…there had been a time when he’d tortured himself by making the pilgrimages she should have been on.
But she was another man’s wife. Or had been. Now David was dead, and she was raising their three children alone.
He’d told Ruby he didn’t want to know any more about Veronica. He’d meant it.
His great-aunt had done so much for him, simply being his lodestone, the only person who remembered his boyhood, who wanted nothing from him. He’d offered to buy her a retirement home, to take her anywhere she wanted to go. He owed her so much; he’d wanted to do something—anything—to make her hard life easier.
But Ruby wasn’t leaving Sweetgrass Springs, and Sweetgrass wouldn’t survive without her, he knew.
Not that he gave a damn about the town.
He did owe her, though.
And she was finally asking for repayment.
Jackson sighed and raked one hand through his shaggy hair. He pulled his phone from his pocket and texted his crew to have his plane ready in the morning.
Where to, sir? asked his pilot. Want me along?
Jackson could pilot the plane himself and preferred to, but he didn’t know how long this would take.
Texas. File a flight plan for Austin or San Antonio. Plan for two days. Have the chopper here at six.
He disconnected, then shook his head and went to pack.