Tied up, tied down, p.16
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       Tied Up, Tied Down, p.16

         Part #4 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 16


  Crap. She should’ve known he’d figure that out. It was a silly ploy anyway and she was surprised it’d worked as long as it did.

  “I’ll still get up with Eliza at night. I bought another baby monitor for my room so I can hear her. But you might wanna keep in mind I won’t be back until late the next coupla nights. ”

  Ask him where he’s going.

  Like hell. The old, stubborn Skylar asserted herself and pointed out they weren’t married. Kade could do whatever he wanted and damn him for not being satisfied with her in bed or out of it. But wasn’t that just the story of her life? “Anything else?”

  “Nope. ” He pointed to the living room. “Unless you’re up for watchin’ a little TV

  with me now that we got that long overdue discussion outta the way?”

  Frustrated with him, but mostly herself, she half snarled, half growled as she stormed up the stairs.

  She heard Kade say, “I guess I can take that as a no. ”

  Chapter Ten

  “Hey, baby girl. Stop screaming. Ssh. It’s okay. Mama’s right here. Ssh. ”

  Eliza kept right on wailing. For the fourth hour in a row. She wouldn’t eat. She wouldn’t sleep. She didn’t have a dirty diaper. Or diaper rash. She didn’t have a fever.

  She hadn’t thrown up. She didn’t have gas. She didn’t have diarrhea. She was beyond fussy.

  And Skylar didn’t know why. Made her feel like an awful mother. She’d had to leave work before noon because Eliza wouldn’t stop crying. She’d tried putting her in the swing. The baby bouncer. She’d tried rocking her and singing to her and reading to her.

  She’d strapped on the Snugli and walked up and down the driveway. She’d soaked her in a soothing bath steeped with calming herbs. She tried rubbing her tummy. Rubbing her back. Nothing worked.

  On a whim, Sky packed Eliza in her car seat and headed for Sundance. Usually the rhythmic sounds of the tires clacking on the bumpy road put Eliza straight to sleep.

  Today it didn’t matter. Eliza cried all the way into town. All thirty miles.

  Sky parked in front of Sky Blue, juggling the baby carrier—complete with screaming, mad baby—the diaper bag, the Snugli, her purse and her sanity. She trudged inside. It was one of the only times she was thankful the store was empty.

  Eliza shrieked as Skylar set the carrier on the floor.

  India barreled around the corner. “What’s wrong? Why are you here in the middle of a workday? Is Eliza sick?”

  “I don’t know. She won’t stop crying. ” Sky unceremoniously dropped everything else where she stood. “I’ve done everything I can think of and I’m at my wit’s end because nothing is helping. ”

  “Well, aren’t you a little banshee today, Miz Eliza Belle? How about if Auntie Indy takes over for a while, hmm? Mama’s ears need a break?”

  She watched as India lifted the angry baby out of the carrier and tried to calm her down.

  Eliza was having none of it.

  Her heart clenched at her baby’s continued distress. “Maybe it is something serious.

  Should I take her to the doctor?”

  “It’s your call, Sis. She’s your baby. You oughta know. ”

  Skylar burst into tears. “But I don’t! I’m the worst mother on the planet!” She knew it wasn’t fair to bust in on poor India, making her deal with a hysterical mother and a screaming baby, but she had no one else to turn to.

  What about Kade?

  The thought of calling him, confessing her ineptitude with their daughter, letting him see how completely she’d lost it…well, she cried even harder at exposing that flaw, when he already thought she had plenty of other flaws.

  That was the other thing. Why didn’t Eliza fuss around him? Not that he’d been around the last two nights, and dammit she missed him. She sniffled and the sobs kept coming.

  India was gently bouncing Eliza in her arms, eyeing Skylar warily.

  “So what? I’m crying. ”

  “You never cry. ”

  “I never do a lot of things I should. I’m so tired of everybody thinking I’m some kind of robot. Of everyone thinking I can handle everything. ” She started bawling harder. “I can’t! How do women have cranky babies and demanding jobs and confusing relationships and run a household by themselves without going insane?”

  “I don’t know, but I’m wondering if a stiff shot of whiskey wouldn’t be the best thing for you right about now. ”

  That caused Sky to laugh through her sobs and Eliza’s wails. “Great advice coming from an alcoholic. ”

  She smirked. “At least I didn’t suggest you snort a line of coke or smoke a joint. ”

  A loud pounding sounded on the door that separated the business spaces. A muffled voice inquired, “Indy? You okay?”

  India walked over and twisted the lock. The door opened and AJ McKay stepped through. “I heard a baby crying. ”

  “Crying is putting it mildly. ”

  “Poor thing. ” AJ looked at Sky. “You okay?”

  “Frustrated. ”

  “I imagine. Mind if I hold her?”

  “Knock yourself out. Or knock her out, whatever works,” India muttered, and passed Eliza to her.

  AJ placed one hand under Eliza’s head and neck and the other on the baby’s butt.

  “Such a mad face on such a pretty girl. What’s wrong, cutie-pie? Just having a bad day?”

  “I don’t know what’s wrong with her. I’ve tried everything. And I-I…” More tears fell. She wanted to scream in misery right along with Eliza.

  “I’m sure you have. ” AJ nuzzled Eliza’s cheek and cooed, “Yes, sweet baby, she’s a great mama to you, isn’t she?”

  “She’s not very happy with her mama today. ”

  “Sometimes those people who make us the happiest can also make us the most mad,”

  AJ said. “It’s a trade off. ”

  That observation startled Skylar.

  India said, “Eliza’s mad all right. Look at how hard she’s shaking. ”

  A thoughtful look crossed AJ’s face. “Skylar, do you mind if I try something with her?”

  Sky wiped her eyes and shook her head. “Please. If you can help her…”

  “I’ll see what I can do. ” AJ sat in a chair and stretched Eliza out on her lap, belly up.

  Holding her head with one hand, she rubbed her thumb from the base of the baby’s skull to the bottom of her neck. She massaged the left side and right side, speaking softly to Eliza as she continued to gently rub and Eliza continued to shriek.

  After several long minutes, which seemed a lifetime to Skylar as her precious baby wailed, the cries tapered to whimpers. The whimpers ended with a hiccup. It became quiet enough they heard Eliza sigh deeply.

  Skylar felt that sigh clear to the marrow of her bones.

  India peered at the infant. “It’s a miracle. What did you do?”

  AJ blushed. “Nothing, really. Massaged her neck. We learned when babies are learning to hold up their heads, it can create extra pressure on the tendons in their neck.

  When they get all tense, they seize up, mostly in their neck, where their vocal cords are.

  They scream, it hurts and they scream more. ”

  “Thank you. ” Skylar stared at the twisted Kleenex in her hand. “I feel like such an idiot. I didn’t know that. ” Tears welled up again. “There’s lots I don’t know. ”

  “Hey, I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone to massage therapy school. Trust me, my sister had the same issues with all three of her kids, so it’s not you. ”

  Sweet words. AJ was the sweetest woman around.

  AJ continued to rub Eliza’s neck and the baby’s long lashes fluttered closed. “As long as you’re here…I have a bone to pick with you, Skylar Ellison. ” Those silver eyes locked on hers. “Why didn’t you tell me Eliza was Kade’s baby? All this time and I had no clu
e you were carrying a McKay?”

  Ooh. Not so sweet now.

  “Kade didn’t even know,” India pointed out.

  “You bet your behind he didn’t, because no way would Kade have let you go through pregnancy and childbirth alone. I’ve known him all my life and he is not that kind of man. Cord told me the only reason Kade took that job up in the north country was because he’d had a bad break up with a woman. I never imagined that woman was you. ”

  Skylar bit back the retort, I never imagined he’d pretend to be his twin brother and knock me up, either.

  “And if you’d bothered to tell any of us you were pregnant, we would’ve made sure he received the message. ”

  “Am I going to be defending my decision to the entire McKay family for the rest of Eliza’s life?”

  “Probably. ” AJ straightened Eliza’s jumper. “We’re all overjoyed because you birthed a girl McKay. Keely has been the only girl for four generations. ”

  “Kimi mentioned that. ” Kade’s mother had called a couple of times to chat after Kade had taken Eliza to see her grandma. Kimi was a real spitfire. She claimed she had to be tough to survive being married to a wild McKay man and raising two more McKay hellions. Sky developed an instant rapport with Kimi, even when Sky shied away asking questions about Kade and his childhood, because she didn’t want to seem nosy.

  “My sisters-in-law have hope the next McKay out of the chute, so to speak,” AJ

  grinned cheekily, “will be the stem-less variety. ”

  “What about you, AJ? Since Channing and Macie have both birthed boys, you itching to be the one to break their streak?” India teased.

  “God no. Ky is plenty for us to handle right now. Besides, Cord and I’ve only been married since December. We’re breeding horses for the time being, not kids. ”

  Footsteps echoed from the back room. A deep male voice asked, “India? You seen my wife?” Cord McKay crossed the threshold.