“If I was there I’d be kissin’ your neck, leaving love bruises from that spot below your ear to your collarbone. I’d feel those cunt muscles pulling my fingers in deeper with every stroke as I moved my thumb faster over your clit. Then I’d whisper, ‘My sweet, sexy Jessie, come for me now’ and you’d explode.”

“God, Brandt,” was all she got out before the spasms hit. She gasped as her clit pulsed beneath her thumb. Her fingers were wedged deep in her pussy, squeezed by the contractions so strong they robbed her of breath. The orgasm didn’t last long, but it was intense enough she dropped the phone.

When she heard, “Jessie?” coming from far away, she turned, expecting to feel Brandt’s warm body, because she always zoned out after she climaxed. She heard, “Jessie!” again and opened her eyes. Brandt wasn’t there. She was in a single bed with her hand between her legs and her cell phone on the mattress next to her head.

“Hello? Jess? Did you hang up?”

She grabbed the phone and pushed herself up, reaching for the tissues on the nightstand. “I’m here.

But, did we really just…”

“Have the most fuckin’ amazing phone sex ever? Hell yeah we did, baby.”

Jessie laughed softly. “You are so naughty, Brandt McKay. Making me come so hard that when I opened my eyes, it surprised me you weren’t really here. But it sure felt like you were. The whole time. I especially like the way you whispered in my ear.”

“You always like that,” he murmured. “No matter which way we end up doin’ it.”

“We have given the Kama Sutra a run for its money, haven’t we?”

“Don’t know what that is, but I do know when you started to make those hot, sexy noises, I…”

“What? Got a hard-on?”

His rough chuckle tickled her ear. “No. I had wood from the instant you told me you were wearin’

them long john pajamas. So as I was tellin’ you what I wanted you to do—”

“You were taking the edge off?”

“Edge? Hell, when you started to come, I did too.”

She sighed. “I guess I don’t get to have my turn blowing your mind, huh?”

“You already did. But next time I’ll let you take the lead.”

“Tomorrow night?” she asked hopefully.

“Definitely tomorrow night.

“I can’t wait.” She yawned.

“You’re tired. I’ll let you get some sleep.”

“Thanks for calling me, Brandt. Not just for the amazing phone sex, but for…” Caring about me.

Jessie couldn’t make herself say it. She could whimper, moan and play raunchy sex games with him, but when it came to disclosing her feelings…she just couldn’t. Sex? She could handle. Getting Brandt’s hopes up that this might become something more than sex seemed unfair.

“Anytime sweetheart, I’m not goin’ anyplace. Sweet dreams.” Brandt hung up.

Before Jessie fell asleep she realized she hadn’t asked about Landon at all.

Chapter Seventeen

“Only one thing puts a smile like that on a man’s face,” Tell said.

“And it sure as hell ain’t pumpkin pie,” Dalton added with a snicker.

Brandt snapped out of his flashback to the second night of steamy phone sex with Jessie—and glanced at his smartass brothers. “Maybe the smile is because I’m thinkin’ about kickin’ your asses.”

“Nah. You’da done it yesterday when Dad pissed you off. God knows you love to rail on us when he makes you so mad. Which don’t seem fair, does it, Dalton?”

“Nope. But I’m used to bein’ picked on.”

Tell’s softly spoken, “We’re all used to it,” hung in the air of Brandt’s truck cab like a slab of rotten meat.

Thanksgiving was supposed to be a day when family came together to eat, laugh, watch a little football, eat some more, play cards, hang out.

But that’s never how Thanksgiving played out if Casper McKay had any say in it. He didn’t give a shit that his wife had slaved over a hot stove creating a tasty, plentiful meal. He didn’t care it was the first holiday he’d spend with his only grandson. He didn’t care none of his own family ever invited him over for holiday.

No, the only thing Brandt’s father cared about was if there was enough beer in the fridge. Which there hadn’t been. Which sent Casper McKay rummaging through liquor cabinet during dinner.

Belligerent didn’t begin to describe his behavior after a couple of belts of whiskey. For the first time since Jessie had taken off for Riverton, Brandt was glad she hadn’t been around to witness the family fiasco. His dad baiting him every five minutes. His dad bellering at Dalton for something he’d done or left undone, probably a decade past. Then sneering at Tell for his pathetic attempts to keep the peace.

After three hours of pure hell, Brandt made his excuses. He and Landon hightailed it out of there.

How his sainted mother put up with Casper McKay’s crap for over forty years was truly a miracle. But even docile Joan McKay had snapped at her husband when he acted like an ass. Which had been frequently.

“Does that smile mean you’re thinkin’ about Jessie?”

Brandt gave Dalton, in the passenger seat, an annoyed look.

Tell leaned between them from the back of the quad cab. “What Dalton ain’t so good at askin’—” he shoved Dalton slightly, “—is if you and Jessie are makin’ plans for the future. Because you seem awful damn happy, and we’d be pissed if you were keepin’ it from us.”

“Yeah, because you guys have been so supportive when it comes to how I’ve felt about Jess in the past,” Brandt said sarcastically.

“It’s different now.”

“How so?”

“Because now she feels the same way,” Tell said. “She didn’t before.”

That jarred him. How did these two know how Jessie felt about him when he wasn’t sure about it himself?

“Besides. Jessie’s changed. She was pretty firmly under Luke’s thumb, and it’s taken her some time to figure out who she is and find herself again.”

Dalton shoved Tell this time. “Jesus, Tell, what’s with you spouting off all this new age, hippie, mumbo-jumbo ‘finding herself’ bullshit?”

“I suppose you’ve got a better explanation, Mr. D-minus in psychology?” Tell shot back.

“I sure do.”

Brandt tuned them out as they bickered. He tuned them out so completely it took, “Whoa, Brandt, you’re gonna miss the turn,” to get his focus back.

At least fifteen pickups were parked at Cord and AJ’s house. Staring at Cord’s big house, Brandt had that same wistful feeling he’d felt at Ben’s. Not wanting a fancy place to hang his hat, but a home, his own home. His trailer wasn’t much more than a place to crash every night.

His brothers were quiet and Brandt wondered if they were thinking the same thing. Landon yelled,

“Up!” and drummed his feet into his carseat.

“We hear ya. I’ll get him since I’m already back here,” Tell said.

After he got out of his truck, Brandt was surprised to see his mother walking toward him. Did that mean his dad had decided to show up at the annual McKay post-Thanksgiving get together? “I didn’t think you guys were comin’ today.”

“Your dad isn’t. I left him at home.” His mother’s eyes darted to where Dalton and Tell were unloading Landon. But she didn’t go over to offer them help.

“You okay?” She actually seemed nervous, which was crazy because she’d been coming to McKay family events for four decades.

Her pale blue eyes shifted to him. Her dark hair, once streaked with silver, was now all silver. Again, it struck him how much she’d aged since Luke’s death. Her smiles were rare these days, too, so when she laughed, Brandt didn’t know how to react.

“Honestly? I’m nervous, even when I know that’s just plain stupid. It’s strange showing up at a McKay family party without your father, but ain’t no one gonna be cryin’ in their beer Casper ain’t here.

Especially not his brothers.”

“Which puts you in an awkward position.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the first time nor will it be the last. Kimi and Carolyn and Vi have always treated me well, even when they can’t stand Casper.” She turned and looked at the house. “Hard to believe how long your father and I have been married. But when his brothers and their wives all started havin’ babies…

I’d come to these things and cry for days afterward because I wanted what they had.”

He knew his mother wasn’t only speaking about kids.

“Then my boys came,” she absentmindedly reached out and stroked Brandt’s coat sleeve, “and I fit in.

I could join in the discussions about toilet training, frogs in the bathtub, and the ranching responsibilities you’d all have to live up to as you grew into men.

“Then in recent years it’s been about grandbabies and I’ve had that feeling of envy all over again. Oh, I know you boys are younger than your McKay cousins and weren’t nowhere near ready to settle down, but I’d hoped Luke and Jessie might…but that never happened. And now we’ve got Landon…”

Feeling helpless, Brandt grabbed her hand because it was so unlike her to babble.

“After Luke died, I didn’t care about anything. Especially not about them and their perfect kids and darling little grandkids and how they didn’t have to deal with the unending pain of losing a child. I became bitter. As bitter as your father. I shut down and your dad got meaner yet. I ain’t gonna make excuses for him, but I will apologize for myself. I haven’t been much of a mother to you boys since we lost Luke, and I should’ve tried harder. I should’ve pulled you boys closer, not pushed away from all of you when we needed each other more than ever—”