“Or maybe he’s judgin’ a swimsuit contest in his bedroom,” Kane said.
“I’ll bet he wants to get out of here because he’s got a hot date with Hot Lips,” Dalton said slyly.
Tell pushed him. “Fuck off.” He looked at his cousins. “All of you can just fuck the fuck off.”
“Speaking of… I met your woman at India’s shop. She is a knockout. Indy says she’s sharp.” Colt paused and smirked. “So what in the hell is she doin’ with you?”
“Really funny, cuz.”
“You know, AJ mentioned that your latest squeeze had shown up at Healing Touch. Evidently you were a main topic of conversation,” Cord said.
Tell muttered, “Fuckin’ awesome. Now I have to wonder if India tattooed Georgia before or after her massage with AJ.”
Colt shook his head. “She wasn’t getting a tat. She was selling advertising.”
“Come to think of it, Skylar told me about this charming little bombshell from Sundance who stopped in to the Sky Blue manufacturing plant and dropped your name.”
Tell’s gaze zoomed to Kade. “When was this?”
“Sounds like your lady was makin’ the rounds,” Kane drawled. “She showed up at Ginger’s office too.”
“Wanna take bets on whether she approached Domini at Dewey’s? I’m guessing she hit Keely up for ad sponsorship too.” Dalton looked at Ben. “How about Ainsley?”
“Ainsley approved an ad for American West yesterday. And she took out a personal ad for my furniture business after Georgia mentioned she loved the coffee table I’d made that she’d seen at Tell’s place.”
Tell could just see Georgia sauntering into his cousins’ wives’ businesses and cranking the charisma on high. His gut seized and his heart stopped. Jesus. Georgia hadn’t shared any private stuff about them, hoping it would spur a sale?
“Sounds like this juicy Georgia peach you’re banging is beautiful, smart and on her game. How long you think you’ll last with her?” Colby asked with a grin.
“At least until she’s sold ad space to all of Tell’s relatives for the rodeo program guide,” Dalton said. “Then she’ll probably dump his ass.”
“Ha. Fuckin’. Ha.” The teasing pissed him off. It shouldn’t be a surprise his cousins were still doing what they had always done; making him feel like he wasn’t up to McKay standards. Like it was a miracle a sexy, smart, savvy woman like Georgia would be interested in him.
But maybe…there was a grain of truth to that. Georgia had made it plain on Sunday she’d be busy working this week.
Evidently she’d been busy all right… Busy hitting up all his goddamn relatives for money.
“Back to the business at hand, let’s vote on the bunkhouse,” Cord said. “Who wants to torch it?”
Tell raised his hand and looked around. Not even his brothers backed him on the idea? That sucked.
“Who wants to discuss this at a later date?”
The majority of hands went up.
Kade shook his head. “Fine, we can table it for now, but we need to do a daily check until we make a final decision, since we’re headed into fire season. And that means everyone will do his part. I’ll write up a schedule and give everyone a copy. In the interest of fairness, we’ll take one-week shifts and go from oldest to youngest.”
Colby playfully punched Cord in the arm. “That means you’re up first, old man.”
The meeting broke up. Brandt, Tell and Dalton were the last to leave. And because Dalton had opened his big mouth, he was about to get an earful.
“Thanks for bein’ a dick in front of everyone.”
Dalton frowned at him. “What was I a dick about?”
“Bringing up Georgia.”
“Come on, Tell, don’t be such a fuckin’ girl. We give each other shit like this all the time. And if it’d been somebody else, you’da jumped in too.”
Tell knew his brother was right, but it still stung to be on the receiving end.
“You oughta be glad I did, ’cause it sounds like you didn’t have a clue about what she’s been doin’.” Dalton gave him a curious look. “You haven’t heard from her at all since we saw her on Sunday?”
Damn annoying to admit, “No.”
“I’m not surprised. She was awful damn detached that morning. Like adios sucker, I got what I wanted from you—a date to the reunion—and now I’m gone.”
“And she couldn’t possibly want more from me than that?” Tell demanded.
Dalton rubbed a spot between his eyebrows. “Look. I don’t know why you’re shocked that she’s takin’ advantage of her connection to you to sell advertising to our family members. Georgia Hotchkiss is a user. She always has been. She always will be. Them type of people don’t change, Tell.”
“You’ve always jumped through hoops for her. No matter what she’s asked you. You didn’t moon over her like a lovesick fool, but you were a damn sight giddy whenever she asked for your help with some stupid school project.”
Tell fumed, but he didn’t lash out, which Dalton took as a sign to keep talking.
“Who ended up filling a thousand helium balloons for junior/senior prom? You. Was Georgia there after she begged you to help her? Nope. Who had to work the concession stand at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes events? You. And you never was the churchy type like her. Was Georgia there? Nope. Who ended up doin’ all the research and work for the history project senior year? You. Did your partner Georgia help at all? Nope.”
“None of that shit from the past matters. She has changed. And none of us can be held accountable for who we were in high school.” Jesus. He was beginning to sound like a broken record.
Dalton started to open his mouth, but Brandt elbowed him, warning, “Leave it be.”
“No. If Dalton’s got something else to say, let him, because God knows he ain’t held back so far.”
“Come on, Tell, you’d see it if you weren’t lookin’ at her with stars in your eyes. Georgia is back in town to show the people that she ain’t the goody-goody she used to be. Who better to have in her bed for a few weeks before the reunion than a wild McKay? The same McKay her ex hated. The same McKay she’s always easily manipulated. The same McKay who’s been crushing on her for thirteen years.”
“That’s enough,” Brandt snapped. “Tell’s a big boy. I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t see through that bullshit.”
While Tell appreciated Brandt sticking up for him, he knew that Dalton’s speculations weren’t that far off base.
But he had no fucking idea what to do about it.
One thing was for damn sure; he wasn’t gonna let it ride.
Georgia never imagined that community events were this much fun.
The years she’d lived in Sundance, she’d only participated minimally in club, school and community events because her parents preferred she devote her free time to church activities.
Her nervousness about helping out at the heritage day event quickly disappeared when tons of kids showed up at the booth, eager to learn. They’d begged her to recite the alphabet after hearing her count to ten in Russian, telling her how cool it was she knew another language. Which was ironic, because she’d been embarrassed by her mother’s ethnicity as a kid and had hated it when her mother spoke to her in Russian.
Because this was Sundance, she recognized a lot of people. Not only schoolmates, but teachers and ranchers and people she’d known from church and those who knew her father and mother.
During a lull, a young blond boy raced up to the booth and bragged he spoke Portuguese. He rattled off numbers and phrases, only to be contradicted in Portuguese by a dark-haired girl who appeared to be his little sister.
“You don’t know everything, Sophia,” he scoffed.
“Yes I do,” she retorted.
A devious smile settled on his lip and he asked Georgia, “How do you say big mouth in Russian?”
The girl growled and pushed him, sounding like she was cursing at him in Portuguese.
A shrill whistle had them breaking apart.
Georgia looked at the trio moving toward the kids. Two good-looking men—one fair and blond, the other man dark-haired with golden skin—and a petite woman. With a hint of Native American heritage and the gait that said real cowgirl, Georgia recognized her immediately. “Chassie West?”
The woman stopped and handed the dark-haired toddler sleeping on her shoulder to the blond man. She cocked her head. “As I live and breathe, Georgia Hotchkiss, what the devil are you doin’ back in town?”
Georgia headed straight for Chassie and gave her a big hug. “You look great! I wondered if you were still around here.”
“We took over my dad’s ranch a few years back.” She patted her kids on their heads. “I see you’ve met our oldest kids, Westin and Sophia.”
“They were explaining they speak Portuguese.”
“That’s because he’s from Brazil.” Chassie gestured to the stunning dark-haired man. “That’s Edgard.” Then she pointed to the blond guy grinning at the little girl skipping around them. “This is Trevor. They are the kids’ fathers.”
Edgard offered his hand. “Always enchanted to meet a beautiful friend of our Chassie.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “Brazil nut there always has to be the charming one. Nice to meet you, Georgia. You must’ve gone to school with our Chass?”
“No, we went to the same church. But I’ll admit the last time I set foot in it was at RJ’s funeral.”
“Same thing happened with me after Dag and my dad died.”
Georgia and Chassie exchanged a long look. Some people mired in grief turned toward the church for solace. It was rare to find another person who’d purposely turned away from the church, when those familiar rituals and tenets seemed like meaningless platitudes. Understanding passed between them as they recognized they’d both lost more than just family members by making that choice.