“Just for a minute.” Kade sat. Immediately Eliza clenched both hands in the newspaper and jerked it toward her as she squealed with glee. Kade distracted her by yanking off her hat and shoving the crumpled paper back at Chassie. “Watch out for Little Miss Grabby Hands.”

“Gotcha.” Cups, silverware and napkins were relocated against the back wall.

Kade seemed to notice the others at the table. “Shit—I mean shoot, Trevor, didn’t see you there. How you doin’?”

“Good. I don’t hafta ask how you’re doin’, seein’ the smile on your face is a mile wide whenever you look at this sweet thing.”

Eliza whapped Kade in the face with the tassel on her hat. He patiently lowered the furry pink cap. “True. I’ve never been better.” Kade’s gaze zeroed in on Edgard.

“This is my old ropin’ partner, Edgard.”

Kade gave Edgard a quick nod. “Nice to meetcha. I’m Kade McKay. Forgive me if I don’t shake your hand, I don’t have enough hands these days.”

“Not a problem,” Edgard said, smiling at Eliza, who’d whipped the hat in his direction, batting her long eyelashes at him with a soft goo. “She’s beautiful. How old is she?”

“She’s nine months and luckily she takes after her mama in the looks department.”

Trevor bit back a laugh. He’d been around the McKay family his whole life and that little doll was all McKay.

“Where you from?” Kade asked.


“That’s quite a trek. What’re you doin’ here?”

“Catching up, goofing off. Visiting old rodeo pals. Trevor and I team roped on the M&P circuit. I went back to my ranch right after Colby’s accident in Cheyenne and figured out me’n Trev weren’t going anywhere.” Edgard added hastily, “I meant, not making any progress in the standings. Been a few years since I’d hit the States and since I had downtime I thought I’d do a little sightseeing.”

“That’s where I recognized your name, you traveled with Colby. So you must’ve known Dag while you were on the circuit?”

Edgard nodded. “I roped with him once or twice. Sad situation.”

“Yeah, but it’s worked out in some ways.” He looked from Trevor to Chassie. “So, when you two gonna add to the family cradle rolls?”

“Not for a while. Is she walkin’ yet?” Chassie asked, changing the subject.

Kade shuddered. “No, thank God. Although, she crawls as fast as a June bug and she’s hard enough to keep track of.”

Eliza bounced on his leg. “Dah! Dah, dah, dah!”

“Whatcha need, sugar?” Kade kissed the top of Eliza’s dark head and slid the hat back to her. “This?”

Happy gurgling baby sounds followed.

Despite Chassie’s deflection about the baby comment, Trevor noticed Chassie’s expression soften at seeing her cousin so enamored with his child.

“I haven’t seen you in Sundance for ages. You’re still livin’ outside of Moorcroft, right?”

“Yep. Normally I’m on the ranch this time of day, but we’re Mama’s errand runners this mornin’ so we hadta come inta town. Droppin’ off stuff at the store next door for Aunt Indy before we head back home, ain’t we, baby girl?”


“We’re seein’ your mama soon.” Kade smiled at his daughter’s outburst and smooched Eliza’s forehead again.

A surge of jealousy hit Trevor at Kade’s casual, easy affection with Eliza. He wanted a baby—boy, girl, didn’t matter. He wanted to see that soft, sweet expression on Chassie’s face as she looked upon their child.

“So Skylar isn’t with you?”

“No. Sky’s slavin’ at the factory, gearin’ up for the launch of the herbal ointment line. She’ll be sorry she missed seein’ you, Chass. So you’d better fill me in on what you’ve been up to lately, ’cause you know she’s gonna grill me.”

“Not much. Workin’. More workin’. What about you? Besides hangin’ out with two gorgeous girls day and night?”

“’Bout the same. Hit a slow patch.” He caught the hat before Eliza flung it off the table. She shrieked her displeasure.

“Waitin’ on calvin’ ain’t fun.”

Kade’s gaze flipped to Trevor. “Ain’t that the way it goes? Hurry up and wait. Then it seems like you never have enough time or help. I ain’t lookin’ forward to a month of no sleep.” He glanced down at Eliza, who was happily smacking her hands on the table.

“Though I’ll probably be more prepared this year after spendin’ most nights up with Little Miss Insomnia here.”

“We’re hopin’ Ed will stick around and help out,” Chassie said.

Edgard looked up. “Like I said earlier, I got nothin’ else going on. I’ll stay as long as you want me.” His meaning was clear, if only to Trevor.

“Hey, Chass, have you heard from Keely lately?”

“No, why?”

Kade shrugged. “You been keepin’ in touch with anyone else from that side of the family?”

“Not really.” She said, “I take that back. I stayed overnight with Colby and Channing a couple days ago.”

“And everything seemed fine?”

“Besides Channing bein’ pregnant and housebound with a rambunctious fifteen month old?”

“Was Colby around?”

“Not during the day. When he came home late, he was worried about leaving Channing alone because she’s doin’ too much.”

“Did Colby say where he’d been?”

“Equipment auction with Cord and Colt and Uncle Carson. Why?”

“It’s the damndest thing. Normally I keep in touch with Cord and Colt regularly, but in the last few days? Nothin’. It’s like they’re all on vacation together. Carter and Macie are in Eagle River and she’s due to pop any day so I doubt Carter knows what’s goin’ on back here. Dad even tried goin’ over to see Carson when Ma freaked out because Aunt Carolyn wasn’t returnin’ any of her calls.”

Chassie frowned. “Any? Aunt Kimi and Aunt Carolyn are on the phone like twice a day.”

“I know, that’s why Ma was concerned ’cause it’d been three days since they’d spoken. Uncle C met Dad at the door and wouldn’t let him in the house, tellin’ him Aunt C was feelin’ poorly and might be contagious.”

“That’d explain it, wouldn’t it?”

Kade paused when Eliza fussed and squirmed. He turned her around, tucking his forearm under her butt as she snuggled her face against his chest. Eliza’s big blue eyes were losing focus as Kade rubbed her back. It surprised Trevor how fast the baby girl ran out of steam.

As he waited for Kade to answer, Trevor wondered if he’d be a good father. A natural like Colby and Kade. God knew his kids would suffer if he reverted to Tater and Starla Glanzer’s lousy childrearing skills.

Wrong. He’d never pit his kids against each other. Never belittle them in public or private. Never give them impossible standards to live up to. Never make his children feel they needed to earn his love. He’d give his love freely. Frequently. Just like he’d learned with Chassie.

Like you’re beginning to do with Edgard?

Before his thoughts wandered down that slippery slope, Kade started talking again, more softly this time.

“You’d think if Aunt C were so contagious then Colby, Cord, and Colt’s trucks wouldn’t have been parked out front, would you?”

Chassie’s eyes narrowed on Kade. “What day was this?”

“Five, six days ago.”

“That could’ve been one of the days I was at Colby’s.”

“So if Aunt C is contagious, then no way would Colby take a chance on draggin’ a flu bug or whatever back to his pregnant wife,” Kade pointed out.

“Dammit. He lied to me. Why?”

“Don’t know. If Aunt C is sick, with something like cancer, wouldn’t she want family around?”

“Kade, much as I love my McKay cousins, we both know Carson and Carolyn deal with their immediate family stuff in private. They always have. They always will. It’s one of the reasons my dad was so upset when both his sisters married into the McKays. They take care of their own to the exclusion of everyone else.”

Kade sighed. “I know. My ma claims she ain’t like that, but really, ain’t we all that way? Closin’ ranks? Makin’ sure we’re protectin’ what’s important to us in our own house even if we’ve gotta shut everybody else out of it?”

Trevor, Chassie and Edgard exchanged a quick look. Could they keep everyone out of their business? Immediately Trevor quashed that hope. Nothing was ever that simple.

Was it?

“What about your brother? Don’t he and Colt still live together?” Chassie demanded.

“Yeah. But accordin’ to Buck, Colt bailed around that same time. Given Colt’s past, we weren’t too sure he hadn’t gone off on a bender, as much as it pains me to think it, let alone say it. So me’n Buck were mighty relieved to hear Colt was accounted for.”

“What do you think is goin’ on?”

“Don’t have a clue. That’s why I asked you. I’d appreciate you givin’ me a call if you hear anything.”

“Same goes.”

The food arrived. The waitress said, “Anything else?”

Kade said, “Would you mind packagin’ up a couple of them pierogi Sky likes so much?”

“No problem.” The waitress smiled at a sleepy Eliza. “I’ll put in a slice of chocolate cake and toss in one of those soft sugar cookies for sweet baby too.”

“What’s a pierogi?” Edgard asked.

“Meaty, potatoey goodness wrapped up in chewy crust. Domini here, makes the best pierogis this side of Budapest.”