Hell on Heels(3)

By: Victoria Vane



“I can’t argue with what your money men say, Tom, but Vegas is coming back. Maybe slowly, but it’s happening. Gaming may still be down, but entertainment is up. Way up. Have you seen the High Roller yet? It’s bigger even than the London Eye.”

“Shit!” Tom shook his head with a chuckle. “Makes me dizzy just to look at that damned monstrosity. Can’t stand anything higher than the back of a horse, myself. Not that I even do much of that anymore. It’s hell to get old, Ty,” Tom added with a sigh. “As for Vegas, you’re right that this town has weathered a lot of shit storms since your father and I first hauled up here thirty years ago. Still can’t believe it’s been that long.” He shook his head in bemusement. “Did I ever tell you I met my first wife here that very week?”

“Nope. I don’t believe you ever did.” In reality, Ty had heard the story half a dozen times, but he chose to indulge Tom’s fondness for reminiscing.

Tom studied his drink for a while with a ghost of a smile. “It was back in eighty-five, the same year they moved the rodeo finals from Oklahoma City to Vegas. Her name was Vivian. Well, it still is, last I knew,” he chuckled. “She’d come out to Vegas on a private jet with a group of girls on spring break from one of those snotty Ivy League schools. I forget which one. They were all dressed like movie stars and hot to slum with us cowboys—not to say we minded it a lick.” He winked. “I was here with your ol’ man. We’d hauled up a dozen bulls to an outfit outside Salt Lake and stopped in Vegas on the way back, only planning to stay one night, but ended up spending a long wild weekend in a penthouse at Caesar’s. I remember having some good luck at the tables, but after that it’s all a bit hazy.” Tom looked chagrinned. “To tell the truth, the most I recall of that whole weekend is going to bed drunk as a skunk and waking up married.”

“Not the first time that’s ever happened in Vegas,” Ty quipped. “How long did it last?”

“Not long. Vivian high-tailed it back to Connecticut the minute I voiced my intention of hauling her back to Oklahoma with me. It was maybe a week later that I got served with divorce papers. I thought about contesting it but didn’t see the point. It was fun while it lasted, but she was far too highbrow for the likes of an Okie like me.”

“I know that feeling,” Ty remarked dryly. He’d made a similar error with a Houston-bred beauty named Delaney McCall. Ty had sworn never to repeat the mistake. Tom, on the other hand, wrote triple alimony checks.

Ty and Delaney had met at the Houston Livestock Show. He’d been instantly infatuated with her, while she’d taken up with him purely out of rebellion. Much like Tom’s marriage to Vivian, their honeymoon had been short-lived. The sex was hot but the rest . . . was not. She’d wanted to settle down on the ranch and have babies, but Ty wasn’t ready to give up rodeo contracting. He also wasn’t willing to let anyone dictate his life. One of his chief faults was his refusal to answer to anyone. Tom was the only exception to that rule, but Tom had largely let him go his own way.

“I never heard from Vivian for nigh on eighteen years,” Tom continued, snapping him back to the present. “But when she got word I’d come into some money, I got the shock of my life—and slapped with a patrimony suit. It turns out that Monica was born only two months after the divorce was finalized, but I never even knew she existed until Vivian decided to sue for eighteen years of back child support . . . and won,” he ended dryly.

“That’s a bitch and a half,” Ty remarked.

“She is,” Tom laughed. “But it wasn’t paying out all that money that burnt my ass as much as losing all that time with my daughter. You were the son I never had, and she’s the daughter I didn’t even know about.” Tom shook his head with a look of profound regret. “All those years wasted. There ain’t no way to ever make that up, Ty.”

“How’d Monica react to the news?” Ty asked.

“It was as much a shock to her as it was to me, but she agreed to a legal adoption. She was already in college when I finally met her. We’ve been slowly building on that ever since. Better late than never, I guess. I go to New York a couple times a year to see her, but I’ve never been able to convince her to come out to the ranch.”

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