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He was a man who loved women. Blond or brunette, freckled or dimpled, witty or shy, Faron Whitelaw made it his business to discover the facet of each woman that made her uniquely beautiful. Needless to say, women found Faron irresistible. Even if he hadn't been handsome, which he was, they would have loved him for the innate thoughtfulness that always made him give as much as he took. Any woman who passed through Faron Whitelaw's life-whether in bed or out- received a gift that would remain with her a lifetime: the knowledge that she was a very special, desirable human being.
In fact, Faron had never known a woman he didn't like. Until now. At the age of thirty he had finally encountered the exception to the rule. He not only didn't like Belinda Prescott, he was prepared to hate her with a passion. Because, despite the fact he had never laid eyes on her, the woman was personally responsible for turning his life upside down.
"Want some company?"
Faron looked up at his eldest brother from the chair where he sat slouched with a whiskey in his hand. "Not particularly."
Garth snorted. "Too damn bad." He poured himself two fingers of whiskey and took the chair opposite Faron's in front of the stone fireplace. He put his feet up on a sturdy rawhide-covered stool that had held generations of Whitelaw boots. "I can't believe you're making so much out of this."
Faron's gray-green eyes narrowed. His lips twisted into a bitter smile. "You're not the one who just found out he's a bastard."
Garth laughed. "Hell. I've been called a bastard all my life."
"That's how you act. It's what I am."
Faron's voice was stark as he asked, "How could Mom have done such a thing? Having an affair with some rich sonofabitch . Did Dad know?"
Garth's lips flattened. "He knew." He paused and added, "So did I."
Faron stared into his brother's dark eyes, stunned by the realization that Garth had lived for years with this awful knowledge. "How long have you known that I was only half your kin?"
Garth looked away into the fire before he answered. "Since you were born."
"And you treated me like a real brother?"
"You are my brother!" Garth snapped. "Nothing's going to change that. Dad's name is on your birth certificate. He raised you. Nothing else matters."
Faron sneered. "You haven't read any of those letters from the widow-my stepmother-asking when I'm coming to claim my inheritance from my father."
"Forget it," Garth advised. "There's plenty of Hawk's Way for both of us. You can stay right here in Texas, and we'll keep on raising and training quarter horses, just like we always have."
Faron shook his head. "I've got a mind to meet Belinda Prescott. The lawyer said she was the one who talked my fa-Wayne Prescott into putting me in his will. Said she insisted I get half of everything. Otherwise, I might never have known what Mom." Faron's voice trailed off as his throat tightened up on him.
He had been feeling too much since he had found out that his beautiful mother had indulged in a tawdry affair with a millionaire rancher visiting Texas from Wyoming and had borne a bastard son. It was a stunning revelation to Faron that he was only related on his mother's side to his older brothers Garth and Jesse and to his younger sister Tate. He felt bereft, wrenched from the bosom of his family. An outsider. And it was all that Prescott bitch's fault.
"I never figured the money would mean so much to you," Garth said in a quiet voice.
Faron's gray-green eyes turned cold. "It's a good thing I grew up knowing how distrustful you are of everybody's motives. Otherwise I'd have to stand you up and knock you down for saying that. I'd have given anything not to know the truth. I don't want half that old man's fortune. I just want things to be the way they were."
The way they never would be again.
Garth swallowed half his glass of whiskey. But he didn't apologize. Faron hadn't expected him to. He began to understand a little better what had made Garth so cynical about women, why his older brother refused to trust the species, let alone love one of them. Faron might have felt the same way himself, if he had grown up knowing his mother had betrayed his father.
Both his parents were dead now. His mother had died giving birth to his sister, Tate, when Faron was seven. His father had broken his neck coming off an ornery bronc when Faron was fifteen. He felt ill equipped to deal with this secret that had been kept from him for so many years.