Those luscious red lips divided and her moist chocolate-scented breath drifted out.

He set the fork on her tongue. “Suck it off. Oh yeah, just like that.” His gaze zoomed to her throat. “I wanna sink my teeth into that hot spot where I see your pulse poundin’. I wanna lick it from bottom to top.”


“What?” He dragged his eyes back to hers.

“I think the crotch on my nylons melted you’ve gotten me so hot. And suddenly I could care less about cake.”

Kade swept his thumb across the pouty swell of her bottom lip. He showed her the dab of chocolate he swiped before he brought it to his mouth and sucked it away.


“You are the devil.”

“Devil’s food, baby, the best kind.” Kade allowed a smirk. “That mean I’ve redeemed myself?”

“Uh.” She cleared her throat. “Yeah.”

“Will you go out with me again, Skylar? For coffee. To a movie.” He smiled slyly.

“Or just for dessert? Whatever you want.”

She appeared to consider him carefully. “How about if you meet me out front of the feed store at seven the night after next?”

“I’d like to pick you up at your place if it’s a date.”

“Not a good idea.”

Damn. Kade thought he’d been making progress with her. “Don’t you trust me?”

Skylar nudged him so he scooted out of the booth and she stood next to him. “After the way your sweet-talkin’ activated more than my sweet tooth? I don’t trust myself.”

She swept her fingers over brim of his hat. “Stay out of the drugstore aisle, McKay, and don’t be late.” A swish of her hips and she was gone.

Kade shook the memory away. He parked and studied the revitalized Sandstone Building. On the far end was Dewey’s Delish Dish, a family restaurant his cousin Carter’s wife Macie managed. On the other end was Healing Touch Massage, owned by AJ McKay, his cousin Cord’s wife.

Smack dab in the middle was Sky Blue and India’s Ink. And inside that space was his child.

Sweet Jesus. He’d never been so damn nervous in his life. He climbed out of his truck and sauntered up the wooden plank stairs. At the ornate metal door, he took a second to breathe, realizing the woozy sensation was from lack of oxygen to his addled brain.

A set of chimes tinkled when he entered the store.

Scents bombarded him. Not heavy and cloying like expensive perfume, but simple and sweet. Natural. Reminiscent of the wildflowers on the wide-open Wyoming prairie.

Reminiscent of Skylar.

Speak of the devil… Right then Skylar came around the corner and froze.

They stared at each other in complete shocked silence.

Lord, she was easy on the eyes. An earth goddess in a floaty turquoise dress, which exposed her swan-like neck to perfection. A scarlet sash tied around her waist brought his attention to the sexy curve of her hips. Be-ringed bare toes peeped out from beneath the jagged skirt hem. Her auburn hair was longer, curling near the bottom of her full breasts, but it suited her gypsy image.

Kade cleared his throat and met her wary gaze head-on. “Is it true, Skylar? Do we have a baby?”

Her response was a long time coming. Finally, she nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I tried to, Kade. I called your parents’ house. You weren’t there. I was told you’d moved. I didn’t know where. I didn’t know if you’d care.”

Rather than snap bullshit at her, he expelled a frustrated sigh. “That means you didn’t get my letter?”

Her green eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What letter?”

Shit. “I sent you a letter about a month ago. Tellin’ you I was comin’ back. Askin’ if we could let bygones be bygones and start over.”

“Start over as in… Start dating?”

“Uh. Yeah.”

“I didn’t receive any such letter.” She squeezed her eyes shut for a second. “What else did it say?”

Her expression clearly said she thought he was lying. He had sent the damn thing.

It’d taken him nearly a week to pen a few lousy paragraphs. “We can talk about all that later. Right now, I’d like to see my daughter.”

“She’s sleeping.”

“I don’t care. Wake her up.”

Skylar’s mouth opened. Then closed. “I’ll be right back.”

That had to be the longest, most excruciating minute of Kade’s life. His whole body shook. He even had to lock his damn knees to keep them from quaking like a newborn colt’s. Sweat dripped down his spine and soaked the waistband of his jeans. He clenched his teeth and his fists.

Just when he thought he couldn’t stand the wait another second, Skylar appeared.

She approached him cautiously, holding a bundle wrapped in a fluffy yellow blanket, nestled against her lush breasts.

Kade couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t take his eyes off that tiny bundle. Lord. It was so damn small. How could there be a living, breathing human baby in there?

When Skylar sidled up next to him and peeled back the blanket, revealing a sweet, perfect, beautifully pink face, Kade had a moment of utter pride and joy before his vision dimmed.

He swayed and everything went black.

Chapter Three

Terrific. One glimpse of his fifteen-pound baby daughter and the big, tough cowboy had passed out cold. Skylar rocked Eliza side to side, waiting for Kade to come around on his own. She was half afraid to rouse him because he might come up swinging, as the McKays were rumored to do when backed into a corner.

Finally, he groaned. “What happened?”

“You fainted.”

Kade pushed to his knees. “Can you blame me? Ain’t every day a man learns he’s a daddy.”

Huh. No macho posturing. No excuses for his swooning behavior. That surprised her. “You okay?”

“I guess. Good thing I gotta hard head.” He rolled to his feet and snagged his hat.

“What’s her name?”


“Eliza what?”

“Eliza Belle.”

“No. What’s her last name?”


“Like hell. That’s the first thing that’s gonna change.”


“Give me a second to think.”

The more Kade paced and muttered to himself, the more nervous Skylar became.

Suddenly he stopped and was right in her face. “Fine. We have a baby. You can change her name the same time you change yours. We’ll get married.”


“Married. As in you and me are gettin’ hitched as soon as possible.” He looked down into Eliza’s face and the hard line of his mouth softened. “She needs a mother and a father and luckily she’s got both.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re getting married, McKay.”

“Why not?” Kade lifted those blue eyes, eyes identical to their daughter’s. His dark gaze seemed to pierce a hole in her resolve.

“Because you cannot barge in here and make demands. It may work riding roughshod over cattle and horses but it won’t fly with me. We don’t even know each other.”

“The hell we don’t.”

“Think about it. We had what? A dozen dates? We haven’t seen each other in a year?

We are basically strangers.”

“Strangers? We created a child together. That makes us one helluva lot more than strangers.”

“I disagree.”

“I don’t give a rat’s behind whether you agree or not. This little gal,” he pointed a thick finger at Eliza’s dark head, “ain’t gonna be a stranger to me any longer.” That fiery blue gaze snagged hers again. “Maybe you’re right. You don’t know me. So let me tell you something. I ain’t walkin’ away from her. Ever. I take care of what’s mine. Period.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You don’t wanna get married? Fine. We’ll get to know each other better first, since that’s what’s got you all fired up, thinkin’ that we’re strangers.” He paused. “In fact, that’ll work out better anyway.”

“What will?”

“I’ll just move in with you. We’ll see how that goes first.”

Warning bells clanged in her head. “Oh no. Absolutely not.”


Kade sighed. “Look. Be reasonable. This ain’t about you and me, what we were, or weren’t, or what we will be in the future. This is about her. I know it ain’t easy bein’ a single parent. I watched my cousin Cord struggle with it. You’ve been doin’ all this pregnancy and baby stuff on your own and for that I’m truly sorry, Sky. I can’t change the past. But I am here now. I will be a hands-on father, not to help you out, but because I wanna be in my daughter’s life all the time, not just as a weekend daddy.

“So, for now, it’d be best if we didn’t pass her back and forth between us, until I get to know Eliza where you and she are both comfortable. And that is in your house, under your watchful eye so I don’t do something stupid or wrong.” He smiled shyly. “To be real honest? I don’t know nothin’ about girls. Especially baby girls.”

When Kade looked at her like that, she remembered how she’d ended up pregnant in the first place. The man oozed an earnest sexuality that still packed a wallop. Evidently time away from his intense eyes and devilish grin hadn’t made her immune to his considerable charms because she found herself agreeing. “Okay.”

Eliza squirmed and emitted a disgruntled cry.

Rather than retreat from her squawking, Kade tenderly touched Eliza’s plump cheek.

“Hey there, beautiful girl. What’s got you fussin’? You hungry?”

Skylar melted a tiny bit at his immediate acceptance and interest in his daughter.