What else could go wrong?
As if his godawful trip to Chicago hadn’t been bad enough, Ty Cooper glanced at the overhead screen and noticed his flight back to Montana had been delayed. Two hours.
More time to think about the deal that had slipped through his fingers this week.
He might as well settle in, have a drink and try to come up with some ideas to expand his cattle business. The investor he’d met with in Chicago had promised big things for the Coopers’ shrinking cattle market, but all that fancy talk across conference tables hadn’t seemed practical to Ty. Ty and the five generations of Coopers who’d run the Circle C were men who lived off the land, not men who wore suits, talked stock options and thought about marketing strategies. His grandparents had done without the niceties in life, and Ty wanted to give them all the luxuries they had never had. After all, he owed them so much….
A pretty little waitress smiled at him, and he tipped his Stetson, then laid it on his knee as she approached. He might be in a foul mood but Ty Cooper’s grandma had raised him right – a man always behaved like a gentlemen in the presence of a lady.
“Can I get you a drink, sir?”
“A beer’ll be fine, sugar. Whatever you’ve goton tap.” He winked. “I’m not picky.”
She gave him that funny grin, the same one everyone in Chicago had given him for the past week every time he’d spoken. They probably didn’t see too many real-life cowboys in the windy city. A few seconds later, the waitress left him a full cold mug and he sipped the beer while he studied the report from the investor.
There was no way he could make this deal work, he realized seconds into the reading. He had to face the grim truth; there would be no upgrading at the Circle C this year. Disappointment ballooned in his chest. He’d wanted to hire an extra hand so his grandfather wouldn’t have to work so hard. Pa Cooper was getting on in years. Ty worried he’d wear himself out. He also wanted his grandfather and grandmother to be able to spend more time together, take a trip, enjoy the good life in their golden years. Do things they had never done.
Frustrated, he glanced up, wishing he had a cigarette, but he’d given them up years ago, so he searched for the waitress’s smile again, the only bright spot in a dismal day. Instead, his gaze landed on a man across the room and he froze, his mug lifted halfway to his mouth.
The man looked to be his height, and wore one of those expensive dark suits with a red power tie. The hair on the back of Ty’s neck stood on end. Something about the stranger seemed familiar.
Eerily familiar. Then the man turned and looked straight at Ty. Shock rode through Ty’s system, as it obviously did the other man. Ty could have been looking in a mirror. What the …? The man looked exactly like him. Same thick dark hair, only cropped a little shorter than Ty’s. Same dark eyes … same square jaw … same … everything.
The man suddenly pushed to his feet, his mouth gaping open momentarily before he snapped it closed. He strode toward Ty, his back ramrod straight. He stopped in front of Ty’s table, shifted his drink to his left hand and extended his right.
“Dex Montgomery.” His voice even sounded like Ty’s, although he had a slight Southern intonation. Not much though. Judging from the man’s expensive clothes, he came from too much money and education to allow himself a true Southern accent.
Ty closed his work-roughened hand over the man’s smooth one. “Ty Cooper.”
The contact was brief, but something passed between them – energy that felt strange yet oddly familiar. As if they had some connection.
Ridiculous. “Maybe you’d better sit down,” Ty said, grappling for an explanation.
The stranger tugged at his tie as if it was choking him and sat. “This isn’t possible. I mean …” He shook his head again. “I’m a doctor and even I’m at a loss for an explanation.”
Ty scrubbed his hand over his chin. He had no idea what to say, either. “You’re right, partner. It’s damned weird looking at your reflection in another man’s face. Maybe we’re related somehow?” A nervous laugh escaped Ty. “You know, distantly. Identical cousins or something.”
Dex Montgomery lifted one shoulder, then let it fall. “That’s possible, I suppose.” He hesitated, his eyebrows drawing together in thought. “Did you say Cooper?”
Ty nodded. “Of Rolling Bend, Montana. We have a cattle ranch called the -”
“Rolling Bend, Montana?” The man’s face paled.
“Yeah?” Ty’s stomach knotted. “You know the place?”
Dex’s gaze settled fully onto Ty. “My mother’s name was Tara Cooper. She was born in Rolling Bend.”
It couldn’t be. Ty signaled the passing waitress. “Ma’am, we’re gonna need another round here.”
She glanced at Dex, then started visibly when her gaze landed back on Ty. “Doubles for doubles,” she said with a giggle. “Are you guys twins or something?”
Dex glared at her and she scurried away. Ty almost told him to apologize, but he was too disturbed by this man’s statement. He leaned forward, unable to believe what he was about to say. “Tara Cooper was my mother.”
A choked sound, not quite a laugh, burst from Dex. “But my mother died when I was three months old.”
“My birthdate is May 21, 1970,” Ty countered. “My mother died in an accident with my father when I was three months old.”
“Oh yeah? Well, so did mine. But I don’t have any siblings,” Dex argued.
“Neither do I,” Ty retorted. “Well, except for two adopted brothers. Actually they’re my grandmother’s sister’s boys. She died when they were little and Gran took them in.”
And Ty had had a twin who had died at birth. At least he’d been told he had. What if … what if they’d lied to him? An empty hollowness clawed at him. But why?
Dex gestured vaguely. “Maybe there were two Tara Coopers in Rolling Bend.”
Ty moved his head slowly from side to side. “We’re the only Cooper clan in that neck of the woods.”
“I’m certain there’s some reasonable explanation,” Dex suggested.
Ty’s heart thundered. He had a sinking feeling he knew what had happened. But he didn’t like it. And judging from the shock on Dex Montgomery’s face, he wasn’t going to be happy about it, either.
“There is an explanation,” Ty said, his chest growing tight. “We’ve been had.”