“Enough!” Cord snarled and rolled her so she was in his arms. Holding her like a baby, he walked them to the rug. He set her on her feet, keeping her back to his chest. His heavy, harsh breathing stirred her hair. “On your hands and knees. Now.”


AJ dropped to the rug, once again that slight edge of fear—that feeling of the unknown heightened her excitement.


Cord said, “Move your knees out wider.”


She felt the rug scraping her kneecaps as she followed his command and he knelt behind her.


Then his tongue bathed the burning marks on each cheek. She whimpered when that wicked tongue traced the crack of her ass down to her tailbone and back up.


The blunt head of his cock connected with her pussy briefly before Cord impaled it in one hard stroke.


“Cord—”


He smacked her ass twice. He didn’t speak. He just gripped her hips and methodically fucked her. Each stroke equal. No variation. Slow and shallow.


Sweat poured from her. From him. Her body shook. His body shook. She couldn’t stand it because it felt so damn good, he was purposely holding them both off from orgasm as long as possible. AJ knew if he deepened or lengthened the thrusts it’d send them both soaring.


Finally he said gruffly, “I’m too far gone to be gentle, baby doll.”


Cord increased his pace to that of a runaway jackhammer, she splintered into a thousand shards. So did he.


When he removed the blindfold would she see the crown of her head lying on the rug? The man had positively blown her top.


Cord grunted. He stretched his chest to her sweaty back, caging her in his arms. He sank his teeth into her nape, sending goose bumps in a wave across her skin.


She sighed in complete contentment.


“Enough? Or do you wanna go for a couple more and see if you end up in the penalty box?”


“What’s the penalty box?”


He whispered, “The hot tub.”


Ooh. That could be interesting. “But—”


“That’s one,” he warned.


“I really don’t think it’s fair you get to—”


“That’s ten, wanna keep goin’?”


AJ stayed quiet.


Then Cord helped her to her feet. He removed the blindfold and kissed her with exquisite tenderness.


“Are we done playing games?”


“I figured we were, why?”


AJ casually murmured, “Have I ever told you how long I can hold my breath under water?”


Stunned silence.


“But if we’re done…” She shrugged and spun on her heel.


Cord scooped her up and headed for the hot tub on the deck. “Oh we ain’t done, baby doll, not by half.” He bit her earlobe. “And that’s another five.”


Chapter Twenty


“Your mom looks good, AJ. Better than I expected.”


“Thanks, Macie. It was sweet of you to make her lunch. Fancier than she gets from me, that’s for sure.”


Macie waved her off. “All ingredients you had on hand, no biggie. How long’s it take to get to town again?”


“Thirty minutes. So, what’s the big secret? What are you looking at in Sundance?”


“Dewey’s Delish Dish in the Sandstone building.”


AJ turned slightly to look at Macie. “You quitting the Last Chance Diner?”


“God no. I swear Velma would hunt me down and kill me. We’re expanding.


Velma’s interested in taking over Dewey’s place. He’s getting ready to retire, he’s got no one to pass it down to, but he doesn’t want to leave Sundance without a family style restaurant. I’m here to check it out and see how much remodeling we’d have to do before we make a commitment or whether we’d be better off looking for a different location.”


“Those other storefronts are empty, which is sad because it is a cool building right in the middle of everything in town.”


“That’s why I hope we can salvage Dewey’s place.”


AJ focused her attention on the landscape outside her window. How many more times would she make the trek from her house into town? Twenty? Thirty?


“AJ? You okay?”


“I don’t know. I’m trying to be mature about the ranch sale, because I understand I can’t run the place from Denver.”


“But?”


That single word made her think of Cord and the wicked penalties she’d earned last night. A shiver worked down her spine despite the unrelenting heat. “Part of me wants to throw a weeping tantrum about losing my home.” AJ sighed. “Do I sound like I’m about four?”


“Not at all. I never had a home up until the last year, so I have nothing to judge it by.”


“Is it a home because of Carter?”


“Yeah, that ‘home is where the heart is’ saying is true, but Gemma and Dad’s ranch feels like my physical home now.”


“Does Carter feel the same? Isn’t he missing the McKay place?”


Macie was quiet for a little too long.


“What?”


“If I tell you something, you have to swear not to tell anyone, AJ.” Macie shot her a glance. “Especially not Keely.”


“I swear.”


“I’m pregnant.”


AJ’s jaw dropped. “Get out. You guys haven’t even been married a year.”


“It wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t unplanned.”


“That’s cryptic.”


“After Dad and Gemma had the babies, Carter and I realized we wanted to have our kids while we were young. Plus, we want them to be raised around family—his and mine.


Ky’s already four. Channing is pregnant, so our baby will have instant cousins and playmates. I didn’t have family growing up. Carter did. He says the best part of his life is that connection. Dad and I are figuring that out.” She smiled. “We are really excited about having a baby, but I promised Carter to let him tell his family the news.”


“Can I squeal now?”


Macie nodded.


After AJ did a happy dance in her seat, she demanded, “How far along are you?”


“Barely. Like three weeks. Carter insisted on one of those early pregnancy tests, so we’ve known since I was five days pregnant. One of the other reasons we wanted to wait to tell anyone was because Channing just announced her pregnancy.”


“Yeah, but she’s almost four months along.”


“Timing is everything in the McKay family.”


“Why would you be adding more work to your schedule with a baby coming?”


“I would oversee the one in Sundance, not run it. Remember my roommate Kat?


She’d run it fulltime.”


“If you’re not quitting the diner that means you’ll be traveling. Won’t Carter demand to be with you all the time now that you’re preggers?” AJ whirled in her seat. “That’s it, isn’t it? Are you guys moving back here?”


“Yes…and no. We’ll be living here half the time and half the time at the Bar 9.


Carter misses the McKay ranch and his brothers. And with all that’s going on with Colt, I know Colby and Cord would appreciate his help.”


“Where would you live? Someplace on the ranch?”


Macie squirmed.


Then AJ knew. “You’ll be living in my house, won’t you?”


“Yeah. Are you upset?”


During the moments she’d allowed herself to think about it, she’d wondered what’d happen to their home. Colby and Channing owned a gorgeous place a couple of miles from Carson and Carolyn’s homeplace. Cord didn’t need a house. Cam was in Iraq, Keely in Denver, Colt shared the old Andrews place with his McKay cousins. Her biggest fear had been the house she’d loved and grown up in would be turned into a den of iniquity like the infamous Boars Nest.


“AJ? Say something.”


“I don’t know what to say. When was this decided?”


“Colby and Carter had been kicking around an idea of putting a trailer up the road from your place, when Carson told us about them buying the Foster ranch. Cord suggested it’d be perfect for us with the extra large barn Carter can use as a permanent studio. And it’s close enough to Cord’s place that he could check on it when we were at the Bar 9.


“In fact, when Cord called us to tell us about Colt, he asked me to talk to you about it first, since we’re friends.” Macie’s hazel eyes were filled with concern. “We’ll still be friends, right, AJ? I can’t stand the thought that this would hurt you.”


“Hurting me is inevitable, you heard my mixed feelings about moving.”


AJ stared out the window and Macie let her.


“Nothing would make Mama happier than knowing the house was filled with a happy family. Why didn’t Cord tell me?”


“I honestly don’t know.”


Her cynical side thought Cord worried the news would lessen his chances of getting laid. But Cord probably believed hearing the news from Macie would be easier. She might’ve been resentful to the whole McKay family if it’d come from any of them—even Keely. Cord’s intuitive side surprised her. Lots of things about him surprised her.


“We’re here.”


“So tell me the truth, Macie McKay, were you mentally redecorating my house while we were eating lunch?”


“No.” Macie reached over and whapped her on the knee. “Being around my sis-in-law has made you a real smartypants, Amy Jo Foster.”


AJ laughed and it didn’t feel as forced as she’d imagined.


The lunch rush at Dewey’s was over. AJ trailed behind Macie as Dewey gave her the nickel tour. As many times as she’d been in, she hadn’t noticed the details that made the interior unique until Dewey pointed them out to Macie.


When they started discussing ventilation systems in the kitchen, AJ excused herself and loitered outside the empty storefront next to the diner.


A woman riding a motorcycle parked next to Macie’s Escape. A tattooed and pierced woman with short, jet black hair, the ends of which were dyed bright pink. She bounded up the steps, the jangling of the keys in her hand rivaled the jangling of the rings in her nose, ears, lip and eyebrow. She stopped when she caught sight of AJ lurking by the door and looked up.

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