After Cord was on the road, he heard his cell phone beeping and he saw he’d missed a call from AJ. Damn. They’d been playing phone tag for a couple of days. The day after Dag died she’d gone to Billings with Jenn to get her mother moved into the assisted living facility. She wouldn’t be back until after he and Ky returned.


Yeah, he knew it was over. He knew he shouldn’t call her back. He should just let it go. He should just let her go. But the idea of not seeing her again? Not talking to her?


Not laughing with her? Not touching her? That was just another reason why his reunion with Ky would be so bittersweet.


He hit redial anyway and left her another message. Cell service through Wyoming was spotty at best so he knew chances were slim they’d actually connect. Why did everything in life have to be so goddamn hard?


Why don’t you just buck up and tell her how you feel?


Right. So she could walk away from him?


Maybe she’d stay.


Nah. The die was cast. The ball was in play. There was no way to go back and he really couldn’t see how he and AJ could go forward when they’d literally be miles apart from Sundance to Denver.


It was a damn long, lonely, depressing drive to Cheyenne.


Chapter Thirty


Two days later…


While Kade and Skylar waited for the check after a crappy meal at Ziggy’s sports bar, which neither of them tasted, he saw Colt.


Happy as Kade was to know his cousin wasn’t dead, because no one had seen him since Dag’s funeral, he was less than happy when Colt stumbled to their booth drunk as a skunk, high as a kite with a vulgar look in his bleary eyes.


“Hey, cuz. Who’s the purty lady?”


“Skylar. Skylar this is my very drunk cousin, Colt McKay.”


“Colt. Nice to meet you.”


“So how come you haven’t brought her by the Boars Nest? ’Cause she ain’t the adventurous type?”


“No. Because I don’t live there anymore.” Kade had a moment of panic. What if Colt was here with Kane? Why in the hell after half a dozen dates hadn’t he come clean about his real identity? Because it’d gone too far and he was a total fucking dumbass.


“Excuse us, we were just leavin’.”


“Hold on, hold on. I’ll let ya go get lucky,” he winked lewdly at Skylar, “soon as you tell me what the hell Kane did with my extra set of truck keys. Can’t find ’em anywhere.”


“Is my brother here?”


“No, your brother ain’t here. That’s what I’m sayin’. The bartender took my keys. I keep an extra set in my glove box and they’re missin’. Kane didn’t give ’em back last time he borrowed my truck.”


“You shouldn’t be drivin’ anyway.”


“When did you turn into such a fuckin’ pussy, Kade? Jesus.”


“Shut up, Colt, and go someplace else. For Christsake go sleep it off in your truck.”


“Think you got the right to tell me what to do like everyone else in my goddamn life? Fuck that. I’ll knock you into next week, you smarmy cocksucker.”


Skylar said, “Take it easy, Colt. You’re confused. Maybe Kane and I should take you home.”


Colt frowned and looked around wildly. “Kane? He’s here?”


“He’s right there.” Skylar pointed at Kade.


No no no. Kade knew everything was about to go horribly wrong.


“Darlin’, I may be drunk as shit, but you’re the one who’s confused. That ain’t Kane.


That’s Kade.”


Skylar stared at Kade as if she expected him to dispute it. While she waited, two more shadows fell across the table and they both looked up to see Colby and…Kane.


Fucking great.


Skylar gasped. Her gaze zipped back and forth between the twins. “There are two of you?”


“Skylar? What the hell are you doin’ here with my brother?”


Her eyes were black with rage when they connected with his again. “Kade, I presume?”


“Look. I can explain. When I found out what a dick Kane was to you on your date that night—”


“You took it upon yourself to pretend to be him that lunch date in Moorcroft? And then all the times after that?”


“Yes. I mean, no. Shit. I wanted to show you I’m not him. Just because we’re identical twins doesn’t mean we have identical behavior.”


“Unless you want them to, purty lady. These guys fulfilled quite a few women’s fantasies of bein’—what’d Jazz call you that night she fucked both of you at the same time?—a twin beefcake manwich.”


“Colt, shut your fuckin’ mouth,” Colby snapped.


“I’ll bet you’re having a big goddamn laugh about this, Kade.”


“I ain’t laughin’, Sky, ’cause it ain’t a joke. I planned to tell you—”


“Right after you screwed me in the parking lot of a honky tonk not an hour ago?” she hissed. “Was it all a lie? A trick? See if I’d notice the difference between you two?”


“No!”


“Aw, sweet darlin’, there’s plenty of us McKay men around if you wanna give me a shot. I’m up for anything.” Colt ran his fingers down Skylar’s arm.


Kade jumped up and clocked Colt in the jaw. Colt stumbled but remained upright.


“Don’t you ever fuckin’ touch her. Don’t you even look at her, you drunken piece of shit.”


“At least I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not in order to get some pussy.”


Kade lunged for him again and Colby held him back as Colt hit the ground.


He noticed everything and everyone in the bar came to a dead stop.


“Come on.” Colby and Kane each had one of Colt’s arms as they dragged him outside.


Somehow, Kade found the balls to face Skylar’s justifiable fury. He boxed her in so she couldn’t escape until he’d said his piece. “No matter what you think, I was me when we were together. Me. Kade McKay. Everything I did, everything I said, every damn time. None of it was a lie. The way I feel about you ain’t a lie either.”


She whispered, “Just go away and leave me alone.”


“I’m takin’ you home.”


“No. Just go.”


“But—”


“Don’t humiliate me any more than you already have. Go.”


Miserable, he walked out.


Colt had passed out in the parking lot. The three of them threw him in the back of Kane’s truck with more force than necessary.


“How’d you track him down?” Kade asked.


“The bartender called me. We’ve put the word out to all of Colt’s regular waterin’ holes that we’re lookin’ for him.”


Colby was pissed and as close to losing it as Kade had ever seen him. “What the fuck am I supposed to do with him? I can’t take him home. Ma is already a mess over Dag’s death and she’s worried sick the same thing is gonna happen to Colt.


“If I leave him by himself to sleep it off, he’ll disappear again, or I’ll find him dead from chokin’ on his own vomit. You guys can’t stay up all night and babysit him because we’ve all gotta work tomorrow. We’re short-handed since Cord’s been gone and Colt ain’t been around to pick up the slack.”


“Colt ain’t done shit for months, Colby. None of us are happy about that.”


Colby paced. “My pregnant wife is fuckin’ hysterical because she’s afraid my stupid brother will do somethin’ to get me killed. Now she refuses to let me work anywhere around him. How am I supposed to tell my folks that? When Colt and Cord can’t work together anymore either.”


Softly, Kane said, “She’s right.”


“Well, what the hell am I supposed to do? We’ve got a goddamn ranch to run! None of us can spend our time worryin’ about soap opera family shit like this.”


They remained quiet, lost in their own thoughts.


“I’ll stay up with him at the Boars Nest tonight,” Kade said. “I’m too wound up to sleep anyway and Ma will know somethin’ is wrong with me if I go home.”


“Guess that gets you outta mornin’ chores,” Kane said.


“Talk to Uncle C about this. I’ll talk to my dad. We’ll come up with somethin’ because far as I’m concerned, tonight was the last straw for Colt’s employment anyplace on the ranch.”


Kane retrieved the keys from the bartender and drove Colt’s truck home, then helped Kade get Colt into the house.


After they’d dropped Colt fully clothed in his bed, Kane said, “About what happened with Skylar—”


“Not talkin’ about it with you now, or ever, Kane. Let it alone.”


He nodded and Kade heard the door to his brother’s room close.


It was a long night.


***


Colt stirred around eight o’clock when Kade dumped a bucket of cold water on him.


“Get up, asshole.”


Colt rubbed his jaw and wiped water from his face. “What happened last night?”


“I hit you.”


“Why?”


“Because you’re a drunk and an asshole and an embarrassment to this family.”


Colt leaned over and threw up in the bucket on the other side of the bed. When he got to the dry heave stage and finally sat back up, Kade tossed him a bottle of water.


“I don’t remember nothin’.”


“You’d be the only one. It’s sure to be all over Crook and Weston Counties today.”


“Shit.” He closed his eyes. “Am I really that far gone?”


“Afraid so.” Kade paused. “You remember Dag is dead?”


He nodded. “What else has happened?”


“Channing doesn’t want Colby to work with you because she’s afraid you’ll get him killed.”


“Great. My sweet sister-in-law fuckin’ hates me.”

***

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