“Soon. But don’t be sneakin’ into the bathroom to get yourself off because I’ll know.

And I will not be a happy camper, darlin’, because I want you to be primed for everything I can give you tonight. Promise me.”

Skylar panted against his neck. He heard her swallow hard. “I promise.”

“Good enough.”

Skylar’s skin was so hypersensitive she feared a single touch, even an accidental brush of Kade’s callused finger on her hand would send her careening into an orgasm. In public.

Her first thought was to put distance between them. Get Eliza and come up with an excuse to leave. Since Kade had to unload the horses at Colt’s before he came home, she’d have time to find a semblance of composure before the man set to breaking it down again.


She blinked. “What?”

“You wanna wander around and wait for the presentation of the buckles and awards?

Colt and I did finish in the money.”

Her neck flushed in memory of Kade on a horse. Of Kade with a rope. His power, grace, concentration and speed. She could not wait to have all of that completely focused on her. “I never said congratulations on second place. You’ve gotta be happy.”

“Not bad for two ranchers who haven’t team roped for years.”

“You guys looked damn good. Although, I did lose twenty bucks to your cousin Chassie.”

Kade’s eyes widened. “You bet on me?”

“I wasn’t gonna bet against you.”

“That’s so damn sweet.” He smiled. “C’mere and give me some sugar.”

“Huh-uh. We don’t need any additional rumors flying about us.”

“What rumors?”

“Besides the one we’re living in sin?”

“Which is your fault, sweetheart, ’cause I’ve asked you to marry me. More than once. Try again.”

Crap. Good thing she hadn’t said, living with their secret love child. She’d never live that down. She took a different, flirty tack, which felt damn good. “With the hot and bothered way you’ve left me? I can’t guarantee I won’t jump you, or sneak off to touch myself, earning myself a whole passel of trouble for doing either, without your permission, if I simply hold your hand.”

“There’s part that’s hopin’ the ‘jumpin’ on me’ school of thought wins out.”

Outside the horse trailer, Skylar started toward the picnic area where Eliza was and Kade snagged her elbow. “I thought we were gonna wander around.”

“Don’t you want your parents to see the presentation? Beings that you placed and all?”

“Shoot. I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll tell them meet us by the north end.” After he made the call, he said, “Been a while since I’ve had a beer and I sure could use one, how about you?”

Now that Sky thought about it, she hadn’t seen Kade touch a drop of alcohol since he’d moved in. “Sure. I’m curious, didn’t you drink when we went out last year?”

“Used to. Don’t so much any more.” They walked in silence until they were through the parking lot and standing in front of the beer tent. He paid for two drafts, gesturing for her to precede him into the seating area.


“No problem.” Kade sipped the foamy goodness, licked his lips and sighed.

“Just so you know, if you want to keep beer in the fridge, I’m fine with that. I’m sure Eliza wouldn’t mind if you had the occasional beer either.”

His eyebrows drew together. “You think the reason I’m not drinkin’ is because of Eliza? It’s not. It’s ’cause of Colt. And it ain’t just about the drinkin’ entirely. Other issues surfaced because of it, things that’d been simmerin’ for years.” His thumb rubbed the lip on the plastic cup, as he seemed to struggle for the right words. “I’m talkin’ about family stuff, fistfights, hard words, unspoken resentment that was pittin’ brother against brother. I wondered if any of us was ever gonna be able to work together on the ranch again. I was glad to get out of there. Last year was the ugliest, lowest point of my life.”

She didn’t interrupt.

“Colt’s been sober for a year. I’m proud of him and I respect his sobriety enough that I don’t drink around him. I haven’t been drinkin’ at all in the last year anyway.”

“Not many honky-tonks up in the north forty?”

“No. Funny thing is, Colt was supposed to head up the cattle grazin’ experiment, not me. But after all that’d gone down with Dag, and me messin’ up so bad with you, and dealin’ with the rest of the McKay/West family shit, I volunteered. I needed time to get my head on straight. Kane says Colt’s had a rough go, mendin’ fences with his brothers.

Guess we all learned some things take time to heal.”

Skylar let her fingers drift down Kade’s arm and she covered his hand with hers.

“I’m sorry and I’m not blowing smoke up your chaps when I say I understand what you’ve been through. My sister is a recovering alcoholic and a former drug addict. The last time they pumped her stomach? She coded twice. I thought I’d lost her. And the worst part at the time? My guilty feeling of relief. My life had revolved around middle of the night phone calls—from the hospital, or her scary drug dealer boyfriend, or the police, or trying to scrounge up cash for the bond agency, because she was in jail. Again.

With our parents dead, I was all she had. I had to witness her ruining her life and nothing I could say or do would change her behavior. Fortunately, India wised up. She’s been clean for five years.”

Neither said anything, they sipped beer in the stuffy tent, lost in thought.

Finally Kade said, “Ain’t I just a barrel of fun? Maybe we could talk about something else? When’s Eliza’s next doctor’s appointment?”

“Much as I love our darlin’ baby girl,” she grinned when he looked up at her mimicking his vernacular, “I don’t wanna talk about her.”

“Then what?”

Sex. Tell me what’s in store for tonight. In detail. Maybe with a hands-on preview.

“We’re supposed to be getting to know each other, right? So, tell me about your day to day ranch duties.”

Kade lifted both brows. “Why? You lookin’ to take a nap?”

“No, I’m serious. I saw you on the horse today and I realized I don’t have any idea what it takes to raise cows.”

“Money. Stupidity. Stubbornness.” He sipped his beer. “Sorry. What we do depends on the season. Right now, we gotta make sure the cattle have water where they’re grazin’.

The cows have been pregnancy tested. The calves have had their vaccinations and aren’t ready to wean quite yet. We start cuttin’ hay in another week, that’s long, hard work, pretty much sunup to sundown. Something’s always broken, equipment wise. Then there’s the fences. Lord. I could hire a crew of twenty and send them out seven days a week for the next year and never get all the damn fence mendin’ done.”

“Wow. You must have a lot of land.”

He gave her a sardonic look. “Or a lotta bad fences.”

“Funny. So do you ride horses every day?”

“No. Wish I could, but it’s faster to take the truck or the four-wheeler. I keep my horse at my folks’ place. He’s an old work horse, not a rodeo horse like Colby’s.” He took another sip. “What about you? Do you ride?”

“I can ride, not very well. And I do like it, but I don’t have a horse.”

“Seems a shame. You have a sweet setup with that big barn and the corrals.”

“Maybe someday, when life isn’t so chaotic, I’ll get a gentle horse. What do you do for fun when you’re not working on the ranch?”

“Been so long, I don’t remember. I used to like to do a little dancin’ at the Golden Boot. Do you two-step?”

“I’ve never been very good at dancing.”

He angled over the table, a mere kiss away. “You said the same thing about blowjobs and you proved yourself wrong there, so I’m thinkin’ I’d like to prove you wrong on the dance floor. There’s something mighty enticin’ about the thought of holdin’ you in my arms in public, Sky, holdin’ you without apology.”

The molten heat in Kade’s eyes made her knees quake.

The loudspeaker boomed with news of the presentations. He eased back, drained his remaining beer and stood. “Better get a move on.”

Kade kept his hand pressed in the small of her back as they crossed the grounds to the stands. Several young women studied him with blatant sexual interest, from the tips of his boots to the brim of his cowboy hat, lingering on the fit of his Wranglers and the size of his belt buckle. A couple of brave rhinestone cowgirls were so happy to see him back in action, they approached him to offer to make up for lost time, in whatever capacity he chose. Suggestions were tossed out, without shame.

Not one of the pouty-faced women called him Kade. Every single one called him Kane. And Kade didn’t correct their assumptions. He’d probably gotten so used to it, he either didn’t notice, or it didn’t bother him.

It bothered the crap out of Skylar. Kade wasn’t interchangeable. Kade was unique.

And dammit, these buckle bunnies could kiss her butt. Kade McKay was hers.

When an older brunette, with over-teased hair and an overbite, slid her fingers up the buttons on Kade’s shirt, Sky wondered if she were somehow invisible. Would these same

“ride-me-cowboy” buckle bunnies be so eager to throw themselves at him if he held Eliza?

Probably. Kade was damn fine-looking and one of the most eligible bachelors in three counties. His obvious physical attributes were a bonus, as far as Sky was concerned.

What made him irresistible to her these days? He wasn’t afraid to show he loved his child to distraction. He rolled out of bed in the middle of the night so Sky could sleep. It was all the sweet, thoughtful, just plain nice things he did for her and Eliza, simply because he was that type of man and he enjoyed doing it, not because he had to or it was expected.