|An Excerpt From: EAGLE’S REFUGE
Copyright © REGINA CARLYSLE, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Mac Moreno leaned back against the corral fence and looked out over land that now belonged, in part, to him. A year ago, he would never have imagined such a thing but with Joe Morgan’s death, the White Eagle Ranch had been split into thirds, leaving his half sister Leah, half brother Dash and himself with a legacy that was pretty overwhelming to a guy who’d scratched out a living alone for most of his life.
Heavy noonday sunshine beat down on him. Mac swept the battered straw cowboy hat from his head and mopped his sweaty brow with a bandana he kept tucked in his back pocket.
Damn hot today.
A savage shriek ripped through the air. Mac squinted at the violently blue Texas sky and watched a lone eagle glide through that vivid palette to land on the roof of the barn where it pierced him with an unblinking gaze. Eagle and man shared a moment of utter communion. No doubt the bird of prey wondered what the hell a nobody like himself was doing out here laying claim to this land, this ranch.
Mac had asked himself the same question a million times over the past few months. Sending his gaze over the immediate area, taking in the stately ranch house in the distance, the corrals, the barn, he wondered about the fickleness of fate. His mother Elena had been the housekeeper for Joe Morgan thirty-odd years ago and on one hot Texas night, she’d slept with the boss and wound up pregnant. That event had ended her employment at White Eagle Ranch and she’d moved on to clean the houses of wealthy folks in the town of Morgan’s Creek, scratching out a living as a single mother until the day she’d died.
Mac’s jaw tightened.
As he shifted his gaze to the side of the barn, memories assaulted him, bitter and ultimately humiliating. He’d been sixteen, a gangly kid who knew full well the rich, powerful Joe Morgan was the father who’d never claimed him, never wanted him.
“What the hell are you doing here, boy?”
Mac swallowed hard. His hands were shaking but he didn’t want his father to see so he shoved them in the pockets of his jeans and tried like hell to look cool. “Looking for work, sir.”
Joe scowled at him. He was a big man with a shock of white hair and as intimidating as hell. This was the man who didn’t want him, didn’t speak to him on the streets of Morgan’s Creek, the town that bore his name. The big man looked down and then up, taking him in, sizing him up, and Mac knew Joe Morgan didn’t like what he saw. Nope. He didn’t measure up but had he thought he would? He’d been fooling himself.
“Aren’t you Elena Moreno’s kid?”
Silence fell. Mac sucked in a breath and held it. What the hell had he been thinking? Had he imagined his dad would call him son and hug him like he meant it?
Suddenly Mac felt stupid and dumb and more on the outside than ever before.
Why would the all-powerful Joe Morgan ever in a million years acknowledge a poor Mexican kid from the wrong side of the tracks? To most of the town, Mac was nothing but trash. He had no hope of college and could lay claim to no kind of future. Hell, his mom had saved for years just to buy him a class ring so he could remember his high school days. Dumb thing but it made Elena proud to do it. She’d saved every dime so he could have a couple of new pairs of jeans at the start of every school year. She’d worked her fingers to the bone, scrubbing toilets and polishing floors, to give him the bare necessities of life. Joe Morgan had never contributed. Not once.
In the distance, a horse galloped across a pasture. Pretty Leah, his half sister, the legitimate child of Joe Morgan, was out riding her beautiful mare, her ponytail whipping out behind her like a shiny flag. Resentment welled up deep inside him. His heart tightened and frustration dug steely spurs into his belly. She had everything. He had nothing. The fact that she didn’t know he was her brother wasn’t the issue. Mac was so jealous he wanted to just die.
He was the unacknowledged bastard kid of a rich dude who apparently hated his guts.
Mac focused on the older man and wanted to kick his own ass. His being here was stupid, ridiculous.
Joe shifted his stance and gave him a fierce look. “Think you’ve got what it takes to be a cowboy, kid?”
The spit dried in Mac’s mouth. “Yessir.”
“Well, I don’t think so,” he drawled. “Got plenty of hands and they don’t need to be babysitting you. Now you get on out of here, kid. You don’t belong here.”
Mac watched him walk away without a backward glance, standing there, his eyes burning like hellfire from tears. Then he turned and ran as fast as he could to the old beat-up truck he’d borrowed from a friend. Slamming the door of the truck, he rubbed his stinging eyes before driving away.