“I’ll fill you in, since I see the questions in your eyes but you’re too polite to ask, which will change once you’re firmly in the bosom of the buttinsky McKays. Quinn and I have been married the longest of any of his cousins and we’re the only ones without kids.

So at family functions I hear that question over and over, until I snap at perfect strangers.” She smiled again. “Ignore me. Everyone else does.” Her eyes focused on an object over Skylar’s shoulder. “Well, well, speak of the ignorant devil. There’s my darling husband now. I’ll head him off at the pass and spare you from our marital spat.”

Libby met a stocky man with his hat pulled down so low Sky couldn’t see his face.

They fought. Not loudly, but body language spoke more than words anyway. The fight didn’t last long. Libby stomped off and her husband didn’t chase her down. He just watched her go. Didn’t appear airing family grievances was better than keeping them bottled up for Quinn and Libby. The scene bothered Sky enough that she knew she’d forego her usual none-of-your-business mantra and ask Kade about his cousin’s situation later.

At loose ends, she spied Carolyn and Kimi taping down tablecloths on the long picnic tables and headed that direction. “Need help?”

“Nope. Soon as I finish I’m gonna take my granddaughter off your hands.”

“Sounds good.”

Kimi’s smile died when she looked at Carolyn, who’d gone absolutely still.

“Caro? What’s wrong?”

Carolyn took off like a bat out of hell and ran across the yard.

All conversation everywhere ended abruptly.

A lone figure loped down the driveway. The duffel bag in his hand dropped to the dirt as Carolyn launched herself at him. He spun her around and she was sobbing so loudly they all heard her.

Kimi gasped softly. “Oh my God. That’s Cam.”

Carson hurried past. Keely shrieked and she was running down the driveway.

“Who’s Cam?” Skylar asked.

“Cameron McKay. Carolyn and Carson’s son who’s been in Iraq.”

“They didn’t know he was coming?”


Carter, Colby, Cord and Colt hustled by. As soon as the group finished their private reunion, the remaining family members rushed to meet him.

Although it made her feel like a voyeur, it was one of the most poignant scenes Sky had ever witnessed and she turned away in embarrassment to hide her tear-stained face.

Damn hormones.

But Sky also realized that no matter what happened between her and Kade, Eliza would always be welcomed with open arms in this loving, tight-knit family.

Chapter Seventeen

Kimi bounded back to the seating area where Skylar hung on the periphery. “It’s good to see Cam home in one piece, even if it is only for a few days. Every time he’s gotten leave in the last few years, something awful happens over there and it’s cancelled.”

Skylar searched the McKay crowd for Kade. “That’s too bad.”

“Sweetie, I know that look.”

“What look?”

“The, ‘I’m a new mother and I’m always exhausted’ look. The ‘who in the heck are all these people’ look. The ‘where did my man wander off to’ look.”

Even through her melancholy, Sky was mightily amused by Kade’s mother. “You recognize all those looks on me already, Kimi?”

“Yep, and this time Kade had nothing to do with it. Here, lemme take Eliza for a bit.

Why don’t you sneak into the house where it’s quiet?”

Touched that Kimi seemed to be looking out for her once again, she said, “Thanks. I do feel a little lost in the crowd today.”

“It’s them durn hormones. Having a baby messes you up physically and emotionally for months afterward.” She shook her head. “I don’t know how you young women do it all these days.”

“You had two babies at the same time. I don’t know how you did it.”

“To tell you the truth, I don’t either.” She laughed. “It’s sort of a blur.”

“Tell me about it.”

Kimi made a shooing motion. “Now go on, scat. Eliza and Grama have serious showin’ off to do.”

Inside the big, old farmhouse, Sky wandered upstairs. Although the styles were the same, this one was much bigger than her house. Six bedrooms ringed a long, wide hallway. At the end opposite the staircase was a small bathroom. She snuck inside and shut the door, half-wishing she, Kade and Eliza could just go home.

Home. This area was Kade’s home. She’d bet this house was as familiar to Kade as the house he’d grown up in. She stared out the window at the shadowed ridge of mountains in the distance. The hilly prairie, heavy with tall, dry grass, clumps of scrub cedar. Little black specks she assumed were cows. A landscape completely foreign to her, which fit since the ranching lifestyle was equally foreign to her.

After washing her hands, she’d decided to call India, feeling guilty for her unintentional family neglect of her only sister, when two raps sounded on the door.

“Skylar? Sweetheart, you all right?”


She stepped out and resisted throwing herself into his arms. Streaks of grease dotted his face. He looked cute and surprisingly, a bit perplexed.

“Hey. Sorry. I got roped into helpin’ fix an old tractor with Blake and Chet and Remy. Then when Cam showed up I realized I’d left you alone for a coupla hours.”

“Understandable. It’s also understandable that I want to go home.”


“Don’t worry. I know it’s your family time. I won’t whine and make you come with me. You can stay. No big deal. I’ll call my sister to come get me, if you and Eliza wanna hang out.”

Kade bent down until they were nose to nose. “That’s what you think? I’d be pissed off about you tryin’ to get me to leave here?”

She hadn’t meant to sound petulant. She hadn’t meant to make him mad either. “I realize you want to be with your family.”

“Wrong. You are my family.”

Before she could respond, footsteps echoed up the stairs. Kade grabbed her hand and towed her into the next room and quietly closed the door.

“What are you doing?”

“Findin’ someplace private where we ain’t gonna be overheard by everyone.” Kade crowded her against the wall. “You wanna tell me why you’ve got that lost look in your pretty eyes and why you’re hidin’ out in the damn bathroom?”

Because I was adrift until you showed up.

“Sky?” he prompted.

“I’m tired, I’m so tired all the damn time and it’s been stressful meeting your whole family at once.”

“I imagine. Despite what you think, we can go home right now, if you want to.”

She was ridiculously thrilled he considered her place home. She reached up to wipe a grease smudge from his nose. “Got a little dirty playing with your big boy toys, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Don’t be. It looks good on you.” Sky let her fingertips wander over the angles of his face, cheekbones, jaw and up to his forehead. “Very, very good.”

Kade stared at her in that way which made everything feminine inside her go all soft and moist.

“Anyway, Grama Kimi just absconded with Princess Eliza and she’d probably throw a fit if we attempted to leave.” Skylar brushed a piece of hay out of his hair. He smelled good. Like earth and animals and machinery. Like home.

“Can’t have Grama disappointed,” he murmured.

“No.” She continued to stroke his temple and the smooth section of skin in front of his ear, loving the chance to touch him however she pleased.

The air in the room seemed heavier, thicker with intent. His. Hers. For once, she didn’t fight it. She embraced it. Encouraged it.

“Know something, Mr. McKay?”

“What, Miz Ellison?”

“The truth is, I looked lost and lonely because I was lost and lonely. I missed you.

Even though everyone has been really nice and welcoming, it’s not the same if you’re not with me. Then I really seem like a whiner for feeling that I don’t belong here with these people.”

“You lumpin’ me in with ‘these people’, Sky?”

“No. That’s not what I meant.”

“Then where do I fit in, darlin’?”

Hoping to lighten both their moods, she teased, “You fit in me perfectly.”

“Cheeky woman.” Kade turned his head and kissed her forearm. Then lightning fast, he pinned both wrists above her head with just one of his rough-skinned hands.

She squeaked with surprise. “What are you doing?”

“Enforcin’ a new rule.”

“Is this like the naked rule?”

“Yep. If you touch me, I get to touch you.”

“You are touching me.”

“Not where I wanna be touchin’ you.”

She wet her lips just to watch his eyes flare with desire. “And where would you like to be touching me?”

“Everywhere. But I can get real specific in a helluva hurry.”

“Show me.” She arched into him as he nuzzled her neck. “Please.”

“Goddamn, Sky, I want you so fuckin’ bad I can’t think beyond hikin’ up your skirt and nailin’ you against this wall.”

Her silent chant of do it, do it, do it throbbed in her blood so loudly she hoped he’d hear it.

Kade breathed in her ear, “I’ve been thinkin’ about last night all damn day. Have you?”

“Uh-huh. It was the hottest sex ever.”

“When I get you home, I’m gonna try my damndest to turn it up a notch or ten.”

His mouth was like liquid fire on her skin. “Kade. I-I don’t want to wait until we get home. I want you now.”

“Thank you, Jesus. I was wonderin’ how fast and sweet I was gonna hafta talk to do this.” He tugged at her skirt until it pooled around her ankles and he crushed his mouth to hers. His hand was between her legs, stroking her through her panties. He broke away momentarily to whisper, “I love the skirts you always wear. Not only do you look sexy as hell, nothin’ like easy access to this hot body I can’t get enough of.” He kissed her again.