“I wish you were my teacher, Mrs. McKay,” she announced before flouncing away.
I wish I had a little girl just like you.
Libby briefly squeezed her eyes shut. Don’t go there. She had enough issues and failures to deal with, thank you very much, starting with the demise of her marriage to Quinn McKay.
Damn stubborn man. What would spur him into action? To get across this wasn’t a game? This was their life hanging in the balance.
Quinn hadn’t balked at her demand of a trial separation. He’d taken it in stride and blithely continued his day-to-day life on the ranch, content to hole up in the horse trailer until she “came to her senses”.
Three months had gone by and they were at an impasse.
It didn’t help Libby hadn’t spoken directly to her husband in that time frame. Her involvement with their ranching operation made their lack of daily communication a real dilemma. Being the efficient sort, she’d created a schedule for ranch business and bill paying, and for personal issues, such as when Quinn could use the shower and the washer and dryer in the house.
The system worked, but it forced them to leave each other notes. His were terse and to the point. Hers were polite and filled with detailed explanations. Which pretty much summed up their marriage in the last year or so.
But Libby still loved Quinn. She missed him like crazy. Yet after last night, she questioned whether love was enough. Why wouldn’t he fight for her? For them? Why was it solely up to her to enact the changes they both so desperately needed?
If you’re so eager for change, why haven’t you signed the legal complaint paperwork the attorney gave you that’s been in your desk for a month?
But at least she’d made an effort to test her wings and gauge if walking away from him for good was a possibility. Bored and lonely, Libby had started hanging out with her single female coworkers at Ziggy’s, a bar which catered to a younger crowd than the other honky-tonks in the area. Getting hit on by eager, hot cowboys did wonders for her self-esteem, even when she’d only flirted, danced and accepted the occasional free drink.
Then Quinn began showing up. He’d hunker down in a booth, drinking beer, sometimes alone, sometimes with his brother. Quinn never approached her. He just watched her.
Until last night.
Quinn’s clipped, “Get your goddamn hands off my wife,” had instilled a tiny seed of hope. Libby secretly wished for Quinn the Barbarian to hoist her over his shoulder and cart her out of the bar. She fantasized her he-man would be in such a lust-filled state to have her, he’d fuck her against his dirty pickup, not caring who might see him staking his claim.
Afterward, he’d race them home and make mad, passionate love to her for days on end. In their bed.
On the kitchen table. In the shower. Up against the corral. All the while confessing his undying love for her. Profess he’d been a fool. He’d do anything to keep her and guarantee her happiness for the rest of their lives.
That hadn’t happened. Libby had to face reality—it probably never would. Last night Quinn had simply muttered and walked away. Given up. Dashing her idiotic, girlish romantic dreams of reconciliation.
Tears fell as she reached for the file folder in the back of the drawer. She pulled out the sheaf of legal papers titled Complaint. Libby scrawled her name on the bottom line, dated it and crammed the whole works in a manila envelope.
The rest of Mrs. Rich’s rambunctious second-grade class barreled into the library. Libby hastily set the envelope on her desk and put the whole thing out of her mind.
A sage-scented breeze stirred Libby’s hair as she exited the school hours later. Exhausted, she juggled a bag of books and her car keys, so she didn’t notice the man leaning against her car until the tips of his boots were within view.
Libby raised her chin. Her heart whomped when her gaze caught familiar blue eyes.
Even after fourteen years together, just seeing him set her pulse racing. Quinn was the stereotypical Wyoming rancher, more rugged looking than classically handsome. He’d maintained the same stocky build as in his younger years, although it appeared he’d dropped weight since being forced to cook his own meals. But it looked good on him. Everything looked good on him.
His face was smoothly shaven. The fresh scent of his aftershave, mixed with the aroma of his sun-warmed skin, drifted toward her, swamping her with longing.
To top it off, Quinn had worn her favorite shirt, the one she’d bought him for Christmas, navy blue with pearl-snap buttons and white stitching around the pocket flaps. The cut of the material showcased his wide shoulders and broad chest. The sleeves hugged his muscled biceps, every bulge earned the hard way from manual labor required to run a ranch. The dark fabric emphasized his coloring, his blackish-brown hair, the long, thick, sooty lashes surrounding his mesmerizing blue eyes.
Those intense eyes locked onto hers. Quinn gave her the unsure smile she hadn’t seen in ages. Her heart thumped harder.
“Hey, Libby. You, ah, look good. Real good.”
“Thanks. What’re you doing here?” A panicked thought crossed her mind. “Did someone die?”
“No.” He paused. Frowned. Seemed highly flustered. “It’s sorta sad you’d think that’s what it’d take to get me to come around.”
Libby shrugged. “You haven’t come around.”
“True enough. But last time I checked, the roads run both ways, darlin’ wife.”
She notched her chin higher. “What do you want?”
Her stomach did a swoopy roll. “Excuse me?”
He kept leaning against the driver’s side door, hands jammed into the pockets of a new pair of dark blue Wrangler jeans, his going-to-town boots crossed at the ankles. “I’m here ’cause I’m waitin’ for you.”
For a second, his shoulders tensed. Then he pushed away from the car and ambled toward her.
“Because I don’t like you dancin’ with other men.”
Taunting him usually had no effect. No matter how pissed off he might be, Quinn McKay never caused a scene. Never acted improper or impulsive in public, which was why his outburst in the bar last night had thoroughly confused her. Hell, he rarely acted improper or impulsive in private. So, she couldn’t help the flip, “Oh. Is that all?” to see if she could goad him into another heated reaction.
“No, that ain’t all. I’m also here to remind you that you’re my wife and I don’t share what’s mine.”
A chill skittered through her at his possessive tone. “I didn’t think you cared.”
“You thought wrong. Now dump your stuff in the back of the truck and get in. We’re goin’ home.”
Libby’s jaw dropped. The book bag hit the dirt. Her temper skyrocketed and her voice escalated. “Just like that? You think after three months of ignoring me and our problems that you can just show up and… command me? I’ve got news for you buddy, not happening. Too little, too late.”
A heavy pause lingered. She expected him to remind her to lower her voice. She didn’t expect him to lower his head until her face was shadowed beneath the brim of his ever-present cowboy hat.
“Wrong answer. Better late than never is my new creed.” Quinn peered into her eyes so closely she felt his breath fanning her lips. “I agreed to give you the space you demanded, Libby. Now I can see that was a fool-headed mistake on my part. So you’re gonna rectify it.”
“By givin’ me the second chance I deserve.” Quinn lifted his hand to her face. It shocked her to see that strong, capable hand trembling. He dragged the back of his rough-skinned knuckles down her cheek.
Oh God. When was the last time Quinn said that simple word to her? And meant it?
Libby stared at him, puzzled, yet unable to squash that last bit of hope. Was she seeing new determination in the eyes of the man she’d loved most of her life? A man she swore she knew straight to the bone?
The soft, gruff way he’d spoken her name as a question, not a demand, tore at her resistance. “What?”
“Spend the weekend with me. Just you and me.”
“And what happens come Monday morning?”
“We’ll take it one day at a time and see how it goes from there.”
“If I agree to the weekend, you’ll give me time to think it over next week? No matter what happens?”
“Yep. I promise. No pressure.”
Perfect. She’d be in Cheyenne at the state librarian’s conference next week. It’d allow her physical and emotional distance from him, and time to put it all in perspective, no matter how the weekend turned out.
You’ve got nothing to lose. This is the chance you never thought you’d have.
“Please. Come home. I, ah, managed to fix supper.” A sheepish smile was there and gone again.
“Nuthin’ fancy, just fried potatoes and sausage. But I sure would like to share a meal with you tonight.”
Libby kept her gaze steady and retorted, “Just as long as you understand that sharing a meal doesn’t mean we’ll be sharing a bed, Quinn McKay.”
Quinn’s hand dropped and he stepped back. “I wasn’t tryin’ to… I never thought…” He smiled with deliberate slowness. “Hell, Libby, if I woulda wanted to be in our bed again, I woulda said so up front. You probably don’t believe me, ’cause you seem to think the worst of me these days, but I didn’t fix a quick supper in exchange for a quickie.”
Heat climbed up her neck, setting her face aflame. She’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. Again. Not that Quinn pointed out her faults and failings like she’d freely done with his.
In his understated, gentle way, he said, “I’ll see you back at the house.” He hopped in his mud-covered truck and roared away.
Quinn had set the kitchen table with their wedding china before he’d left for town. He snagged a beer from the fridge, but hesitated before popping the top. Would Libby attribute his openness and willingness to talk to alcohol? Probably. He slid the Budweiser back on the top shelf.