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“Where did Ramona go?” Edgard asked.


“Hulett.”


Colby leaned forward. “I’m gonna be blunt here, guys, okay? The worst thing you could do to Westin is pull him out of public school and homeschool him. Kids need friends and activities outside their siblings, parents and home environment. If you keep him sheltered, you’ve got no chance to prove to the people who think your situation is fucked up, that there’s nothin’ wrong with it.”


Edgard had forgotten how intuitive Colby was. The man defined pragmatic and loyal. The three of them had shared good times during the years they traveled the rodeo circuit together. Edgard knew Trevor missed that close friendship.


But the fact he was here showed he cared. Edgard would talk with Cassie and Trevor about inviting Colby and Channing and their brood over. Maybe they had isolated themselves more than they’d realized.


“When you put it that way...I definitely don’t think we should homeschool. My ranting was a knee-jerk reaction.” Chassie sighed. “Maybe Westin will have homework if we send him to school in Sundance. He complains now he doesn’t have any.”


Colby grinned. “Gib was the same way. Braxton...we practically have to hogtie that kid to the chair to get him to finish his schoolwork.”


Trevor pointed at Colby. “He gets that from you, pard. We were both the same way.”


“True. I’m lucky my former schoolteacher wife cracks the whip on the boys.”


“So did any of this convince you to send Westin to school in Sundance?” Colt asked.


The three of them looked at each other. Trevor spoke. “We’ll talk about it tonight and make our decision. I’m pretty sure Westin will be on board with it. We appreciate you both comin’ and setting us straight.”


“That’s what family does, dumbass.”


Everyone pushed back from the table.


“If you do decide to transfer him, give me a heads up. Me’n Chan will meet you at the school early on Monday.”


Edgard clapped Colby on the back. “Will do. You and your lovely wife and kids oughta come over for supper sometime in the next few weeks.”


Colby gave him a big smile. “That’d be great. I’ll talk to her.”


“When is Channing due again?” Chassie asked.


“We’ve got a ways to go since she’s only three months along.”


“Six kids. Man, how’re you gonna do that?” Edgard asked.


“No clue. But hell, it’s that third kid that’s the killer. After that?” He shrugged. “No big.”


“We ain’t testing that theory,” Colt said. “Three is enough because Ellison gets into enough trouble for two kids.”


“Didja ever find out why he smeared McKenna with peanut butter?” Trevor asked.


Colt sighed. “He wanted to see if the dog would lick it off her. McKenna was so happy to have Ellison’s attention she just sat there and let him do it.”


Chassie snickered. “I know it’s not funny...the kid looks like an angel but he has such a devilish streak.”


“We’re gonna hafta keep an eye on Max and Ellison when they start school.”


Ramona came downstairs with the kids.


After goodbyes were exchanged, Edgard glanced at the clock. The kids would be asking about supper soon and neither he nor Chassie had made anything.


“Listen up. Get your shoes on and grab your coats. We’re goin’ out for pizza.”


Didn’t have to tell them twice. Pizza out usually meant a special occasion. Westin, Sophia and Max scattered.


“Pizza, huh? What’re we celebrating?”


“We’re celebrating us.” Edgard dropped a kiss on Chassie’s mouth. “I like bein’ home with you guys, but some of what Colby said rang true. We do isolate ourselves out here. One way for people to see us as a normal family, is to do normal family things. Like goin’ out for pizza on a Wednesday night.”


Trevor came up behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist. “Excellent idea, Ed. where we goin’?”


“The Pizza Barn in Moorcroft.” He waited, figuring he hadn’t quite pulled off innocence.


Chassie opened her mouth, but closed it. Then her eyes took on a determined glint. “By the look on your face, Edgard Glanzer, I know you’re aware that Wednesday night is family church night. so there will be lots of them churchy-type families havin’ pizza afterward.”


“Good. Then they’ll see we’re happy with our decision to lead this life, and our children are well adjusted and well loved.”


Chassie hugged Edgard and then Trevor. “I’ll get my coat and make sure the kids are ready.”


“So we’re kicking dirt in some faces tonight?”


Edgard shivered at the deep rumble of Trevor’s voice flowing over his neck. “No. I’m not suggesting we put on a PDA to show the world we don’t care. I want people to understand they’re not about to run us off. Especially since I suspect we’ll be transferring Westin to school in Sundance. We’re here for good.”


Monday morning Westin was bouncing in his seat. From nerves, or excitement, Chassie didn’t know.


She draped her arm over his shoulder. “All that jumping is bound to upset your stomach. Can you take a couple of deep breaths so you don’t throw up on your first day?”


He nodded.


Chassie kissed the top of his head. Her eyes met Trevor’s in the rearview mirror. She returned his smile.


The closer they got to Sundance Elementary, the more jittery she became. Even when she knew they were doing the right thing, she worried about her son getting lost in the hallways or eating alone or dealing with more bullies.


“Mama. You’re squeezing me too tight.”


“Sorry. I just love you.”


“I know.”


The semi-circle drop-off zone in front of the building wasn’t jammed with vehicles yet. She craned her neck to see behind them. This traffic wasn’t bad at all.


“Chass? Baby, do you see that?” Edgard asked softly.


“What? Where?”


“There. Right in front.”


When Chassie peered out the window, her jaw dropped.


Lined up in front of the school, were all her McKay relatives and their spouses. Cord and AJ, Colby and Channing, Colt and India, Cam and Domini, Keely and Jack, Kade and Skylar and Kane and Ginger. The other McKays, ones she wasn’t related to, were there also—Quinn and Libby, Ben and Ainsley, Tell and Georgia, and Dalton. Plus, her West cousins, Chet and Remy and Boone.


Approximately ten thousand McKay offspring raced around the adults.


After they exited the car, Westin slipped his hand into hers. “Mama? Why are you crying?”


“Because I’m happy that you get to go to school with all your cousins.” She sniffled and leaned her head against Trevor’s bicep while Edgard stroked her back.


They faced the McKay throng.


Colby stepped forward. “Surprised to see us?”


“Surprised and grateful. And...” She couldn’t finish.


“Kids have enough to deal with without all the B.S. that was goin’ on at the other school. That won’t happen here. We can pretty much guarantee it.”


Colt moved to stand next to Colby. “No one wants to take on the McKays one on one, let alone all of us. You guys know you’ve always had our full support with your lifestyle, we just wanted to make sure everyone in town and everyone whose kids attend this school knew it too.”


Chassie didn’t bother to stop her tears. She’d always felt like she’d had some support in the McKay family, but nothing on this level.


Boone West crouched in front of Westin. “Know what? I transferred from the school in Moorcroft to this one when I was in third grade.”


Westin’s eyes lit up with the hero worship he reserved for his older, cooler cousin. “Really?”


“Yep. I promise you’re gonna like it a whole lot better.”


Chassie couldn’t believe her scrawny, sometimes mouthy cousin had turned into such a thoughtful young man. And a good-looking kid to boot.


Boone pushed to his feet and hefted his backpack over his shoulder. “Anyone says anything to you, you let me know, okay?”


“Okay.”


“Good. I’ll see you on the bus.” Boone grinned and Chassie swore the girls walking by actually sighed. The boy was on the road to being a heartbreaker.


Then Boone offered his hand to Trevor and Edgard. “I’ll keep an eye on your son.”


“We appreciate it,” Trevor said. Then he looked at his longtime friend Colby. “Above and beyond. You don’t have any idea how much this means to all of us. Thank you.”


“You’re welcome.”


And as the trio walked their son into school, they understood their rough road had just gotten a little easier.


ALL KNOCKED UP


A Rough Riders novella featuring Keely and Jack Donohue from All Jacked Up and Slow Ride.


Author’s note: This story begins two months after the end of Rough Riders book 14—Gone Country…


All Knocked Up: Chapter One


Keely—seven months pregnant...


Keely West McKay Donohue had this pregnancy thing down pat.


Well, except for the occasional glitches when her heightened emotional state hit overload and she had a teeny, tiny, barely noticeable…episode or two.


Most of those incidents hadn’t really been her fault.


Like when the grocery store had run out of her brand of laundry soap again and she’d attempted to express her displeasure to the manager. But he’d refused to listen to reason, calling her consumer’s request a crazy woman’s rant, puh-lease—she hadn’t even hit rant stage. Then the weasel had barricaded himself in his office, had her escorted from the premises by a pimply fifteen-year-old and banned her from the store for life. Luckily, the other grocery store in town had been much more accommodating. They’d even assigned her a shopping assistant to personally escort her through the store every time she showed up.

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