The texas renegade reurns(6)

By: Charlene Sands

 She closed her eyes and banished the memory.

 “What is it, Cara?”

 “Nothing.” Everything. “Alex, you brought me here to explain. I haven’t heard any explaining yet.”

 He set his wineglass down. “Where should I begin?”

 “You lied to everyone in Maverick County. That’s a start.”

 He began nodding. “Okay, okay. You’re right. It all started with my father.”

 “The king of Del Toro Oil.”

 “Yes, he’s the president and owner. He built his company from the ground up. When we were children, he worked long hours and there were days my sister and I never saw him. He’s a man who wanted greatness, but he always wanted to protect his family. When Gabriella and I were kids, my m-mother was kidnapped as a result of his huge success and wealth. She was held for ransom. It all went badly and she was killed.”

 “Oh, no! I’m so sorry.” How awful. Her heart ached for the little boy who’d lost his mother in such a violent way. “How old were you when it happened?”

 “Eight, and Gabriella was just four.”

 As harsh as it was, it only cemented her feelings about Alex. A fiancée should’ve known about her future husband’s hardships as a child. She should’ve known about his family, but Alex had hidden his past from her. He wasn’t the man she’d fallen in love with. She didn’t know this Alex at all.

 “My father was obviously distraught over my mother’s death. After that incident, he hired bodyguards for my sister and me. We went nowhere without protection. Mexico City can be a dangerous place, especially if you’re the child of a wealthy, powerful man. Finally, when I was older and working exclusively for Del Toro Oil, I convinced my father to let me keep an apartment in Mexico City. I always felt like I was being watched, though my father would deny it. Then one day, he approached me about his plan to gather information about Windsor Energy. I would live in Maverick County and become an entirely different person. To come to America and pose as Alex Santiago, a business tycoon. I saw it as an adventure and my chance to rid myself of the danger in Mexico and finally be free. No one here in the U.S. would know I was Alejandro del Toro, Rodrigo’s son.

 “To my father, loyalty is everything. He was giving me this chance to prove myself in his eyes. He was pleased when I agreed.”

 “And over two years ago, you came and settled here.”

 “Yes, I became Alex Santiago.”

 “You ingratiated yourself into West Texas society. You were embraced by your neighbors. You were invited to join the Texas Cattleman’s Club.”

 “I made friends, yes. Good friends. I made money here, on my own, and then...then I met you, Cara. And everything changed.”

 Her heart wanted to hear what he had to say, but her brain scolded her for listening.

 “How? How did it change? You knew I worked for my father. I’m the director of marketing for Windsor. The only change that I could see is that I gave you the outlet to find out more information. You dated me for months and pretended to care about me.”

 It was love at first sight. She’d never believed it possible, but the moment she’d laid eyes on this tall, brown and handsome man—the second she heard the deep, rich timbre of his voice at a function at the Texas Cattleman’s Club—Cara was done for. She’d been seeing Chance McDaniel at the time, and she broke it off instantly to be with Alex.

 “I do care about you. I always have. When I met you, yes, I’ll admit I thought it would make my task easier to get close to you. But if you think back and remember, I didn’t ask anything of you, my love. I never questioned you about the company.”

 “You didn’t have to. I was pretty good at coughing up information. I’d tell you all about my day, the ups and downs. How the company was faring against our competition and what I was doing about it. I’d tell you my strategies for marketing and get your opinion.”

 Bile rose in her throat. She hated that she’d been so naive with him. She hated that she’d been played for a sucker. Rehashing it all put a sour taste in her mouth. She pushed her plate away, fighting the burn behind her eyes. Her pride kept her tears well hidden. Crying was the last thing she wanted to do in front of Alex. His betrayal crushed her like a tiny ant under his Italian loafers.

 “I can’t make up for the past, for the decisions I’ve made. But Cara, once I realized how important you were to me, I was through with the charade. Right after we were engaged, I’d planned on convincing my father not to go after Windsor Energy.”

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