Branded as trouble, p.15
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       Branded as Trouble, p.15

         Part #6 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
 
Page 15

 

  “Twins were a surprise, that’s for damn sure. Not that I’m complainin’. ” He smiled. “Much as I love our girls, I love spendin’ time alone with my wife, so thanks. ”

  “You guys deserve it. ” She picked up her overnight bag. “And you’re welcome. See you later. ”

  “Huh-uh, not so fast. Tell me about this goodbye kiss Uncle Colt laid on you that impressed Eliza. ”

  Dammit. “It was no big deal. ”

  “So, it ain’t gonna bother Colt if I tell him you said that kiss wasn’t a big deal?”

  India spun around. “Don’t say that to him. ”

  “Your words, not mine. ”

  “Fine. It was a big deal, okay? A very, very big deal. And while I’m confessing, you should know he spent the night here too. ”

  Kade’s eyes narrowed. “Were you two havin’ wild monkey sex while you were supposed to be watchin’ our kids?”

  “No! Colt and I aren’t having sex, which is why the kiss was such a big deal. ” She took a deep breath. “Colt and I have had our…issues come to a head in the last two weeks. We’ve been friends for so long that it shocked both of us to figure out we don’t want to be friends anymore…ah hell, we’re dating, okay?”

  “Since when?”

  “Since last night. He came over and helped me with the girls, because I was stressed. After they were in bed, we ended up talking for hours. Which was different than all the other times he and I have talked for hours. Then this morning, he played outside with Eliza while the twins napped. But he did lay a sloppy, wet kiss on me before he left and Little Miss Tattle-Tale saw it. ”

  Kade didn’t utter a word, which bothered India worse than if he would’ve chewed her out. “I don’t know how to say this. ”

  Not good. “Just spit it out, Kade. ”

  “You’re family, Colt is family. There’s more at stake here for everyone than the two of you datin’ for a while and then callin’ it quits. I’m as close to him as I am to Buck. I don’t wanna see him get hurt. He’s been hurt enough. ”

  India looked away.

  Kade put his finger under her chin and lifted her face back up.

  “But I don’t wanna see you get hurt either. You’ve had your share of hurts too, Indy. ”

  “What are you getting at?”

  “I don’t know. Just be careful, okay? Be mindful. And just so you know, I’m gonna tell him the same thing. Even if it pisses him off. Ever since he sobered up, he’s wary of family getting into his personal business. ”

  Yeah. She’d figured that out before he’d shared some of his backstory with her.

  She opened her mouth. Closed it. But ultimately blurted, “Colt was involved in a big fight with his family last night before he came over. ”

  “Ah hell. What happened?”

  “I don’t know. He said something to his dad, Colby and Cord said something back, and then Cam jumped in. ”

  “Shit. ”

  “Yeah. Evidently Cam told everyone off. Then he took off.

  Colt wasn’t real anxious to get to the ranch today. ”

  “I can imagine. Is that why he was hanging around, teaching Eliza to throw rocks?”

  “Teaching her? That kid is a deadeye. She was teaching him. ”

  Kade grinned. “That’s my girl. ”

  “You might give him a call tomorrow to see if he’s all right.

  And remind him of our date. ” She winked. “It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all if you hinted around to him that I’d liked to be romanced. Flowers, poetry, expensive chocolate, hand holding at the movies, walks in the park, fine dining…you know, normal, traditional dating stuff. ”

  “That ain’t you at all, Indy,” he scoffed.

  “Maybe that’s who I’d like to be with him. ”

  The dumbfounded look on Kade’s face was priceless.

  Chapter Ten

  Dating Week One

  The back door opened. India craned her neck and her stomach performed a loop-de-loop when Colt sauntered inside.

  The man simply didn’t play fair. He wore a pair of faded Levis that hugged his every thigh muscle. Her gaze followed the contours of the black long sleeved T-shirt molded to his broad chest and wide shoulders, giving him the appearance of a sleek, black panther. He exuded confidence, sexiness and raw magnetism.

  And she wasn’t supposed to sleep with him? For two weeks?

  Right.

  Be interesting to see which one of them broke first.

  When he grinned and stalked her, India felt kinship with prey and fought against taking cover. “You’re early. ”

  “Just anxious. ” He grabbed her hand and brought her fingers to his lips, in a gesture both corny and sweet. “Are you ready?”

  “Yeah. Where are we going?”

  “The Pizza Barn in Moorcroft. ”

  Why were they going out of Sundance? Was Colt embarrassed to be seen with her?

  He must’ve seen the questions in her eyes. “Have you been there?”

  “No. ”

  “Good. I wanted to take you someplace neither one of us have been for our first date. ”

  “You’re determined we’re really gonna do this dating thing?”

  “Yep. ”

  “Have I mentioned I suck at dating?”

  “But, you haven’t dated me. ”

  “I’ve known you for three years. What’s so different about dating you?”

  “I’ll be a perfect gentleman. ”

  “Then no way do I want to date you, McKay. ”

  “I’ll be a gentleman for two weeks, then all bets are off. ”

  “If I refuse?”

  “Too late. You already agreed to my terms. ”

  “I was under duress. ”

  “Good to know my kisses fluster you that much. ” He smooched her nose. “Let’s go. ”

  The Pizza Barn didn’t exactly drip romance. The square table was standard, covered with a red and white checked tablecloth.

  Plastic flowers jammed in a Perrier bottle coated with dripped wax was centered between a shaker of Parmesan cheese and crushed hot peppers.

  “Do you know what you want?”

  India batted her lashes and cooed, “Guess. ”

  When the waitress came by, Colt offered India a smug smile and recited their usual pizza order. “A large pepperoni with green olives and two mugs of rootbeer. ”

  After she’d dropped off their drinks, she’d warned them it’d take at least an hour to get their pizza. India said, “Why do you think the wait is so long? There’s hardly anyone in here. ”

  “Because they want customers blowing tokens in the arcade.

  Which is a great idea. ” He scooted out of the booth. “Come on, let’s check out the games. ”

  Colt dragged her to the arcade and bought twenty bucks worth of tokens. She watched as he played every game from simulated golf to shooting hoops. Damn man made every shot. He was probably a helluva basketball player in his day.

  When he hopped into a virtual NASCAR machine, complete with padded seat, steering wheel, goggles and gearshift, she allowed a weary sigh to escape.

  “Don’t you wanna play?” Colt indicated the empty machine next to his. “Or are you afraid I’ll beat you?”

  “I know you’ll beat me,” she retorted as she slid into the seat.

  “I suck at this kind of stuff. ”

  “Didn’t you play video games in high school?”

  “Not really. Unless you count the time my boyfriend dragged me out of the fall festival and down the street so he could challenge the high score on Pac-Man at Burger King. ”

  “Seriously?”

  She crossed her hand over her heart. “No kidding. I never fully recovered. ”

  “I’ll bet the game was the only place he scored that night. ”

  “You got that right. ” Well, they’d scored some premium grass r
ight after that, but it wasn’t something she wanted to confess to Colt. She blew out an impatient breath after struggling with the mass of wires attached to the goggles.

  “Here, lemme help you. ” Colt brushed her hair from her face; his touch lingered on the curve of her neck. India held perfectly still, hoping he’d kiss her. But he only eased the helmet on with a friendly pat on her helmeted head. “Ready?”

  “No. ”

  He dropped four tokens in the slots anyway. The racetrack roared to life inside her goggles and she was lost to everything but the thrill of the chase.

  It wasn’t much of a contest. Colt won every game. Evidently gentlemanly behavior didn’t include allowing your date to win even one race.

  India ripped off the goggles with mock disgust. “I give. Now can we play a game that I might have a chance at beating you?”

  “Like what?”

  She spied the skee-ball racks in the corner and grabbed his hand. “Like that one. ”

  “Sugar, have you ever played?”

  “No. But how hard can it be? Bowling with croquet balls?” She preened a bit. “I rock at croquet. Bet I can kick your butt. ”

  “What are you willin’ to bet?”

  “That’s just an expression Colt, don’t be so literal. ”

  His answering chuckle was low and sexy. “Just as I suspected. ”

  “What?”

  “You ain’t willin’ to put your money where your sexy mouth is. ”

  He thought she had a sexy mouth? “And you are?”

  “Yep. ”

  “Okay, Mr. Moneybags, you’re on. ”

  “Name your bet. ”

  “One dollar. ”

  “Nope. ”

  “Fine . Two dollars. ”

  He shook his head. “Not what I want. ”

  “What do you want?”

  “How about a kiss?”

  Her midsection tightened and blood rushed into all the places blood wasn’t supposed to rush on a first date. “Three dollars?”
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