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Colin McBride set his scuffed portmanteau on the porch and straightened his stiff wool coat. The last time he had visited Trev and Kate Trevelyan had been ten years ago; he had all but forgotten them while he'd pursued his pot of gold.
But now he wanted to see them again, wanted to relive those early years when he had been young and naïve, and believed the world was his for the taking. He smiled to himself, imagining Trev and Kate's surprise to find him on their doorstep after so long -- though he suspected Trev would have a few paternal comments to make about his long absence.
Colin raised his fist and knocked on the door.
The door swung open and a young man as tall as himself stood framed in the entrance. The years evaporated as he stared into the boy's midnight blue eyes -- there was no doubt he was Trev's son. “Brynn?” he asked.
The boy nodded and regarded him curiously. “Who're you?”
Colin swallowed to ease the tightness in his throat. “Colin McBride, though you might remember me as Laddie.”
Brynn's young face lit with a grin and his eyes sparkled. “You bought me chocolate ice cream.”
Colin tried to reconcile the lively lad with chocolate smeared across his face with the young man in front of him. “You weren't more than five years old then.”
“I was almost six.”
Colin laughed and relaxed. “You're lookin' more and more like your da every day.” His Irish accent, which he'd lost years ago,returned with the fond memories the boy evoked. He offered Brynn his hand and the young man shook it enthusiastically.
Brynn stepped aside. “Come on in. Are my folks expecting you?”
Colin shook his head and grinned wryly. “No. I'm hoping they still remember me.” He stepped over the threshold with a slight wince. The one thing he wouldn't miss when he left Colorado were the cold winters, which played hell with the leg he had broken a few months previous.
Colin looked up to see Kate staring at him as if he were a ghost. She had no idea how close he had come to being just that.
She hurried toward him, her skirts bustling about her ankles, and affection flowed through him. He set his bag on the floor and Kate wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Colin reciprocated the embrace as memories inundated him. Although he had only been seventeen and life in the mining town of Orion, Colorado, had been difficult, he remembered those years fondly because of Kate, Trev, and their two children.
Colin took a step back and studied her face, surprised to see a few telltale lines at the corners of her eyes and on her brow. Where the hell had the years gone? “You're looking as beautiful as ever.”
“And you still have the gift of blarney.” She tucked her arm through the crook of his and led him across the spacious foyer. He tried not to limp, but knew he didn't succeed when she glanced at him quizzically. Colin ignored her unspoken question as she guided him into a high-ceilinged room that hummed with activity. Six children, ranging from barely walking to Brynn's fifteen years, talked and laughed and argued.
“Look who dropped in,” Kate called above the din.
Trev, his thick black hair now a distinguished white, glanced up and his eyes widened. He disentangled himself from two of the younger children and strode to Colin with his right hand extended. They shook firmly, then Trev pulled Colin into a one-armed hug. “Damn, Laddie, it's good to see you.”
“Same here, Trev.” Colin slapped Trev's back and the two men drew apart. Colin's throat grew thick. He felt like the boy he'd been when he'd first met Trev and Kate fifteen years ago.
Trev eyed him closely and whistled low. “Nice suit. The railroad business must be treating you pretty well.”
“I've done all right.” Colin looked around the bright, airy room that overflowed with warmth and love. All the money in the world could never buy what his friends possessed. He tamped down the melancholy thought. “You and Kate haven't done bad yourselves.”
Kate moved over to Trev, who wrapped an arm around her waist. The tender look they exchanged twisted Colin's stomach into a knot. He envied the love they obviously had for one another and sadly realized he'd never possess what Trev and Kate shared. He had resigned himself to finding a woman he could feel comfortable with and who would bear his children. He'd known married couples who possessed less. All he had to do was find that woman.
“So, what have you been up to the last few years? We were ready to give up on you,” Trev said.
“Same old thing -- putting holes through mountains,” Colin replied. Kate brushed a strand of her still rich chestnut hair back from her forehead and her curious gaze swept down to his knee and back to his face. “What happened to your leg?”
Colin managed a nonchalant shrug. “An accident about three months back.” He looked around at the children ringing them, determined to change the subject. “Now, I know Brynn and Lucy. But what about the other four?”
Kate moved out of Trev's affectionate hold and leaned over to pick up a dark-haired girl who appeared to be two or three years old. “This is Kathryn.” She pointed to two identical looking boys about five. “That's Michael and Matthew, the twins, and there's Darcy, who was born right after your last visit.”
“Darcy?” Colin asked, startled.
“You said you had a younger brother named Darcy, didn't you?” Kate asked softly.
Numbly, Colin nodded. The gesture touched him; it also sharpened his guilt for...
His Unexpected Wife. Copyright © by Maureen Mckade. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.