Her sweet voice saying, I know that too, sweetheart, floated through him and his flesh became a mass of goose bumps.

Carson felt her. This time he knew she was listening to him.

“I was so damn disoriented when I woke up after surgery. Didn’t remember nothin’ about before. Nothin’ during.”

“Mr. McKay?” the nurse said from the doorway. “Time’s up.”

No. Don’t make me leave her.

And for the first time in six days, Carson ignored the nurse and he kept on talking. “I don’t want that for you, not remembering. In the past seven days I’ve remembered so much.”

“Mr. McKay. You need to leave now.”

“I gotta go. But I’ll be here next hour. And the hour after that. And every hour until you open them pretty blue eyes and look at me. I love you, sugar. I can’t live without you. Come back to me. Please.”

After Carson ditched the protective suit, he told the nurses he was heading down to the cafeteria. But once he saw the long line, he cut out the side door and stepped into the sunshine.

Another hot, dry day. Be nice if they’d get some rain.

Typical rancher; weather is always the first topic of conversation.

Apparently that held true even when he talked to himself.

He meandered to his truck and snagged the pack of cigarettes and book of matches. After firing up a smoke, he dropped the tailgate, forcing himself to ease into a sitting position.

That’d been the hardest thing after his surgery, the lists of do’s and don’ts. Even a movement as simple as crossing his legs wasn’t allowed because of the pressure it’d put on the joint.

Now he could admit the surgery two months ago had helped. Every day had been a struggle before that…

Rain, shine, hot, cold, staying stationary or keeping active, nothing mattered.

The pain in his hip was getting worse.

And it was damn near excruciating when he was on horseback.

It wasn’t his horse’s fault that he’d become a crippled up old man. It wouldn’t be so bad if the only time he was in pain was when he mounted and dismounted. But even a slow ride put him in agony. In trying to adjust his seat, he put extra pressure on his knee, which made that ache.

Getting old wasn’t for pussies.

Carson managed to stay on for an hour, taking in the beauty of the early spring morning. The weather had been great this year for calving—no brutally cold temps and blizzard conditions that stretched out for weeks. He’d helped Colt with the midnight cattle check. But riding on the four-wheeler had caused pain—and Colt had noticed. Carson jokingly explained it as the cold settling in his brittle bones.

He’d been riding as long as he could remember—climbing on horseback had been a daily part of his life. But lately he’d only been able to ride once a week. His sons assumed he didn’t ride much anymore because he’d retired.

His wife suspected something was up, but in typical Carolyn fashion, she hadn’t said anything—yet.

He kept Sheridan at a canter as they headed for the barn. He was surprised to see Carolyn waiting by the fence for him.

Shit. He’d have to dismount in front of her. Or…maybe he could pretend he’d just swung by to see if she needed something before he continued his ride. He plastered on a grin. “Hey, sugar. What’s goin’ on?”

“Just getting some air. Wondered what you were up to. You’ve been out here a while.”

“Enjoying the beautiful mornin’. Was there something you needed?”

“Actually, yes. I’m having a devil of the time with the back door to the kitchen sticking again.”

“I’ll take a look at it after I’m done with my ride.”

“I thought you were done since I saw you heading toward the barn?”

“Nope. Saw you standing there, pretty as a picture and came over to say hey.”

Her eyes turned shrewd. “Carson McKay, you are such a liar. Get off that horse right now.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Feelin’ a mite bossy this mornin’?”

“Don’t pretend this has anything to do with me. I want to see you get off your horse.”

“Caro—”

“I mean it. Then as soon as you dismount I want you to mount me.” She paused and challenged, “But that seems to be a problem for you too, lately, doesn’t it?”

“What are you—?”

“You haven’t touched me for two months. Two months. The last time we went that long was after one of my pregnancies. So start explaining why you’re suddenly acting like making love to me is repulsive.”

That’s what she thought?

Of course she would think that.

“Sugar, that ain’t even close to the truth.”

Her gaze narrowed further. “Are you gonna try and pass this problem off as you need Viagra because you can’t get it up and that’s why we haven’t had sex, let alone even been sleeping close together at night?”

Dammit. He knew she wouldn’t buy that either. The woman saw too much for her own good and she never made a move until she was sure. So he had no idea how long she’d been lying in wait to jump him about this so he glared at her.

“Huh-uh, cowboy. That squinty eyed stare won’t work on me.”

Carson snorted. “When has it ever worked on you?”

“Sweetheart. You don’t have to glare at me to scare me. Why you’re trying to hide the pain from me makes my fears ten times worse. Please. Tell me what’s going on.”

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