Her entire body quaked. She had a strange whooshing in her ears and she thought she might’ve…yelled out his name, with maybe a couple of loud yes, yes, yeses.

He released her legs and set her feet on the floor. “Sugar, put your britches back on or I’m afraid we won’t leave this bed the rest of the night.”

She watched him putting on clean clothes, which was almost as sexy as seeing him strip out of his clothes.

“I could use a beer. Come on.” He offered his hand and led her down the hallway and into the kitchen. “Sorry that I forgot to pick up Coke for you.”

“I’ll just have a sip or two of your beer.”

Carson raised his eyebrows. “Didn’t think you drank.”

“I do sometimes.”

He let her have the first drink.

She swallowed the bitter brew. “Thanks.”

“Let me know if you want more.” He took a healthy swig. “What happened today? You seemed a mite melancholy.”

“I was. Just…” Don’t go whining to him. “No big deal. Just forget it, okay?”

“Nope. I’ll keep pestering you until you talk.”

Carolyn fought the need to fidget under his probing gaze. “I had a fitting for a bridal party today. Remember that woman you had your arm around that night you were so cold to me? She’s in the wedding. And she said some stuff about you.”

His eyes narrowed. “What’d she say? Because I never did nothin’ with her. Never even kissed her.”

“I believe you. She said the only reason you were with me was because I’m a challenge to you and you’d dump me like you’ve dumped everyone else. In fact, maybe I was too stupid to know I’d already been dumped because she saw you at the bar last night and you weren’t alone.”

“Are you askin’ me if that’s true? Yes, I was at the bar with my brothers, we had a couple of beers and left. That’s it.”

Carolyn placed her hand on his chest. “I wasn’t accusing you. I believe you. I know you like to go out and rip it up. Edie’s comments about you and me started this whole nasty conversation and they were acting like we weren’t a couple.”

“What’d you say about that?”

“Nothing. I overheard them. They didn’t say it directly to me.”

“They’re idiots. We are a couple. Everyone who’s seen us out and about knows we’re a couple.” He tugged on her hair. “As long as you know I’m with you and only with you, then I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks or says.”

Easy for him to say. Turning a deaf ear to the rumors was harder to do.

He’s a McKay. You’d better get used to dealing with rumors.

“How about I buy you supper?”

“Someplace quiet?”

“I was thinkin’ more along the lines of the diner in Moorcroft. Show people we are a normal couple out on a date.” He grabbed her hand and kissed it. “I haven’t wanted to share you or our time together, but now I see I’ve gotta show off my beautiful girlfriend.”

“Carson, you don’t have to.”

“I want to. It’s past time I take you out someplace besides a bar.”

Chapter Fourteen

Carson

“You gonna keep beatin’ the shit outta that post? Or maybe we can move on to the next one?”

Carson swiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his glove and let the hammer fall. “Sorry.”

“Whatcha thinkin’ about so hard?” Cal asked.

He didn’t answer. Instead he picked up a shovel.

“It’s her, ain’t it?”

“Yep.”

A moment passed and Cal sighed. “Come on, Carse, what’s goin’ on? I don’t involve myself in your love life, but it’s affecting your workin’ hours so I have a right to know why you’re so damn distracted.”

Carson leaned on the shovel handle and gazed across this new section of grazing land, covered in scrub cedar. How did he say this without sounding like a sap?

Cal said nothing. He just waited.

“I want my ring on her finger. I want everyone to know she’s mine. It’s the first time I ever felt this way and I don’t know what to do.”

“Marry her.”

“Just like that?” He scowled at his brother. “I’m bein’ serious.”

“So am I. Isn’t that what you told me you planned on doin’ the first night you saw her? And the first night you brought her over here? And after you introduced her to us? Or didn’t you mean it?”

Carson struck the ground’s hard crust with the shovel. The clang reverberated up his arm. “I meant it. Didn’t know how much I meant it until I’d gotten to know her and she’s…everything.”

“Still don’t see the problem.”

“Yeah? How about her family will be pissed, maybe pissed enough to permanently cut ties with her if she marries me. How about she’s young. How about we’ve only been together four f**king weeks.”

Cal shrugged. “You said yourself that she seems older than her years. Most people get married young—you’n me are about the only ones in our class that ain’t hitched. Doesn’t matter how long you have or haven’t been together. You’ll have deeper feelings for her if you wait another year to make it official? And not to be a jackass, but there are plenty of families in these parts that wouldn’t want you marryin’ their daughter either, so that family bullshit is another moot point. Quit fightin’ with yourself. Cowboy up and make her your wife or walk away.”

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