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"Go ahead and look, Macy, you are even more beautiful than before," Dr. Justin Webb said.
Macy Reynolds held the mirror loosely in her left hand and slowly lifted it so she could see her face, but she closed her eyes at the last second before she could catch a glimpse. Three years ago she'd been beautiful. She'd even been crowned the Rose Queen of Royal, Texas, as an eighteenyearold girl. But all that had changed in one fateful car accident. She'd lost her looks, her man and her confidence.
This had supposedly been the last surgery she'd need, but her looks, which she'd once taken for granted, were now the bane of her existence. She was never going to be that beautiful girl again.
Dr. Webb put his hand on her shoulder. "Trust me, Macy."
She wasn't sure she trusted any man but her daddy. He'd stood by her through everything.
Macy and Harrison were all each other had, but she knew she couldn't spend the rest of her life sitting in Dr. Webb's office with her eyes closed.
She thought of the courageous kids in the Burn Unit at this hospital where she volunteered. They weren't afraid to look in the mirror and she shouldn't be either.
She opened one eye and then, surprised by her reflection, she opened the other. Her skin was pale and flawless, the way it used to be. No scars marred the surface. Her pixie nose had been restored to its former shape; she reached up and touched it. Her eyes hadn't been injured in the car accident and her clear green gaze remained the same.
Her lips were the only thing that were really different. A piece of glass had cut her upper lip and now she had a tiny indentation where there used to be none.
"Thank you, Dr. Webb," she said. Still not perfect, but at least she was done with surgeries.
"See. I was right, you are more beautiful than before," he said.
She just smiled and nodded. She put the mirror facedown on the bed next to her. "Don't take this the wrong way, Doc, but I'll be glad not to have to see you again."
Dr. Webb laughed. "Me too, Macy. I'll send the nurse in with some paperwork and then you will be free to go."
He started to leave, but she called him back. "Thank you, Dr. Webb. All your hard work has really made a difference to me."
"You are very welcome," he said and then left.
Her cell phone vibrated as she received a text message and she glanced down at it. The message was from her dad.
How did everything go at the doctor's?
Macy thought about her looks, but she knew she was so much more than just a pretty face now. And Dr. Webb had been a miracle worker to get her face this close to how she'd looked before the accident. She was never going to be exactly the same, but Dr. Webb had done a really good job.
Just fine, Daddy.
I bet you look better than fine. I'll see you when you get home tonight.
Yes. See you then.
Love you, baby girl.
Love you, Daddy.
She and her father were closer now than ever. After her fiancé, Benjamin, left her while she was in the hospital, she'd had no choice but to leanand lean hardon her father. The accident had taken everything from her.
But now she was back to her old self. Or at least she really hoped she was. She was ready to stand on her own and she knew she had to get out of her daddy's safe little world and back to her own.
She finished up with the nurse and left the office. And for the first time since then she didn't immediately put on the large sunglasses that covered half her face.
She opened the lobby door and walked right into a man. He caught her shoulders as she tottered on her heels and almost fell over.
"Thank you," she said, looking up into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. Christopher Richardson her high school sweetheart and the man she'd broken up with when her daddy had demanded it.
It had been almost fourteen years since they'd last seen each other and she well, she felt as if no time had passed. Chris looked just as handsome as he had in high school and just as tempting.
"Macy. Some things never change and you get more beautiful each time I see you," he said. There was more than a hint of irony in his voice.
She flushed, remembering how she'd dumped him all those years ago. "You haven't seen me since high school."
"True enough. When a woman tells me to hit the road I tend to do that and not look back," he said. "What are you doing here?"
Should she apologize for what she'd done years earlier? She knew that she owed him way more than a casual "I'm sorry" though. "Um I had an accident a few years ago," she said. Dang it, why hadn't she lied and said she was here for her charitable work with the Burn Unit.
"I heard about that. Are you okay now?"
She nodded. "Better every day."
"And you, Mr. Big City, what brings you back to Royal?"
"My mom is in the hospital. But I'm back in Royal to bid on rebuilding the Texas Cattleman's Club headquarters."
"Oh. I think I heard something about how you're in real estate like my father," she said.
"I'm bigger than your father, Macy. In fact, Richardson Development is the biggest developer in Texas."
"Wow," she said. She didn't know how to respond. Did he think that she'd be impressedthat she still measured people by their bank accounts?
So she changed the subject. "I hope your mom is okay," Macy said.
She remembered Margaret Richardson as a very kind woman who thought Chris hung the moon.
"She'll be fine. She has a recurring heart problem but the doctors are taking good care of her," Chris said.
An awkward silence lagged between them. He was standing there in front of her looking very sexy and she felt bruised and battered.
"Where are you living now?" Chris asked at last.
"With my dad on our ranch." It had been a hard time when she'd had the accident, and moving back to the ranch had been her only option.
"I never suspected you'd stay with your daddy, but I guess that makes sense," Chris said.
"I moved back to town a little while ago," she said. She didn't have to justify her choices to anyone, but Chris made her feel as if she should explain.
"Go figure. I guess I always thought you'd find a nice rich boy and settle down," Chris said. He rubbed a hand through his shaggy blond hair and gave her that charming grin of his that made her want to melt.
"I did. But he ran away when I proved not to be the Texas beauty queen he'd hoped for," she said, and thought she didn't sound bitter at all. "Loser," Chris said.
She laughed. "He was a very respectable man from a good family."
"If he couldn't make you happy then he's a loser. I always loved your spirit."
"Why, thank you, Chris. I think you are just what the doctor ordered."
"While I'm here, I could use the insight of someone who's been living here. Maybe you can tell me a little about what's going on at the club. Would you join me for dinner tonight?"
She thought about it for a minute, but she knew she wanted to go. "I will. If you're lucky I will introduce you to the next president of TCC, Ms. Abigail Langley."
"I'd heard all the wives and daughters were campaigning for Abby. That's the kind of information I need before I put in my bid to do the development," Chris said.
"We are. It's about time women had an equal stake in the Texas Cattleman's Club. My father and his cronies aren't sure what they are going to do. It completely threw them when Abby's husband died and for the first time since Tex Langley founded the club a hundred years ago they didn't have a maleLangley heir as a member. That's the only reason Abby's an honorary member."
"That's not my fight. I'm just the developer they're thinking of hiring. What do you say to sixthirty? If you're staying with your dad, I have the address."
"Sounds perfect. I'll see you then."
Macy walked away very aware that Chris was watching her. The confidence she lost when Benjamin left her was finally coming back. She wanted to pretend that it was because the last of her surgeries was over, but she knew that it was because of Chris.
Chris Richardson had been on the high school varsity football team, which had made him something akin to a god in the tiny town of Royal, Texas. And it hadn't taken Macy too long to set her sights on him. She was used to getting what she'd wanted back then, so he was hers just as junior year ended. They dated over the summer and through homecoming, but then her father had put his foot down.
Harrison Reynolds didn't want his daughter dating a boy whose dad worked for the oil companies instead of owning one. A man who wasn't a member of the Texas Cattleman's Club, ensuring his son would never be one either.
Looking back now, Macy wished she'd been a different sort of girl and had maybe stood up for Chris. But she hadn't been and she wondered sometimes if the accident was what it had taken to really shake things up for her.
One thing she knew for sure was that she'd never really gotten over him and she was glad he was back in Royal.
Chris watched Macy walk away. The sway of her hips and those gorgeous legs going a long way toward reminding him why he'd gone after her in high school. It hadn't mattered to Macy's dad that he was a star wide receiver back then, because he came from the wrong side of town.
But today he was here to visit his mom and to do a little work on the Texas Cattleman's Club project. It was one of the most exclusive luxury country clubs in Texas. Only families with the right pedigree and the right amount of money could get in. And Chris's workingclass dad hadn't provided either for Chris; though today he had more than enough money to buy himself a place in Royal's exclusive club.
He took the elevator to the sixth floor and asked at the reception desk for his mom's room. He walked down the hall to her room and opened the door to see her sitting up in her bed watching TV.
"Chris! I didn't think you were ever going to get here," she said.
She fumbled around for the remote, but he was at her side before she found it. He leaned down to give her a big bear hug and a kiss. Then handed her the remote. She muted the television, which had been at high volume. Her hearing wasn't as good as it used to be.
"This is extreme, Mom, even for you. Falling down so I'd come and visit you. You knew I'd be here on Texas Cattleman's Club business this weekend."
She shook her head and smiled at him. "I guess the good Lord thought I needed to see you before then. What took you so long to get up here?"
"I ran into Macy Reynolds."
His mom sat up a little straighter. It had never sat right with her that Macy had dumped him just before the senior prom.
"What did you say to her?" Maggie asked.
"Just chitchat. I'm having dinner with her tonight," Chris said. He tried hard to sound casual, but this was his mother and she knew him better than anyone else in the world. "Is that wise?"
He shrugged. "I have no idea. But it will definitely be fun. She's changed."
"I heard about the accident," Maggie said.
"What happened?" Chris asked as he pulled a chair up close to his mom's bed. She had the same thick blondish hair he did, but she wore hers straight. It hung around her pretty face in a fashionable style. Her eyes were blue like his, but she had a pert little nose and a full bow mouth.
"It was all over the news. Her little BMW convertible was hit from behind in traffic and her car slammed into an eighteenwheeler. The car was engulfed in flames. She's lucky to be alive. But horribly scarred. At least that's what I heard down at the Royal Diner."
"That place is a hotbed for gossip, but it doesn't mean that any of that is true," Chris said. The diner had the best greasy food in West Texas, but some of the stories to come out of there weren't always the whole truth.
"It was real enough. She had to move back in with Harrison and has spent the past few years having a series of surgeries. It was heartbreaking, Chris, to see that pretty girl in bandages. She couldn't walk for the first six months."
Chris felt weak in the stomach at the thought of Macy in so much pain. He shook his head. "She seems much better now."
"I think she is," Maggie said. "But what about you? Tell me about your work with the Texas Cattleman's Club."
"There isn't much to tell right now, Mom. I'm going to meet with Brad Price and then start working on my bid to develop and build a new headquarters for the Cattleman's Club. I have a basic idea of what they want, but that's it."
"Are you going out there today?" Maggie asked.
"Yes, I am. I've been granted full privileges to the club while I'm working on the project."
"Where are you staying?" she asked.
"With you. I think you might need someone at home with you when you get out of the hospital. Plus, the doctors still can't figure out why you have these episodes," he said with a grin.
"Good. You don't have to stay with me, but I'm glad for the company. I miss you, Chris."
He stood up and smiled down at his mom. Her face so familiar and dear to him, he brushed a kiss over her forehead and then tucked the covers more closely around her body. "I've missed you too, Mom."
He chatted with her for a few more minutes but then had to leave. He was due to meet Brad. Brad was determined to be the next president of the Texas Cattleman's Club and, given his background as the son of one of Royal's banking families, most people thought he was a shooin to win. Chris wanted to take a look at the existing buildings and the property so he knew exactly what he was working with on this project. Everyone who'd grown up in Royal was aware of the club, but Chris wanted to get up to speed on the details of the property.
"I'll stop by tonight before my dinner date," he said to his mom.
"Perfect. Good luck with your business," Maggie said. Chris left with the impression that his mother had no idea how successful he was at what he did. But that didn't bother him. He was really only interested in making sure that Macy and Harrison knew how successful he was. And before he went back to Dallas, the Reynoldses definitely would.