Branded as Trouble, Page 3Lorelei James
Colt’s cell phone vibrated. He checked the caller ID. Cam.
“Hey. You out keepin’ the peace?”
“Trying to. It’ll be a challenge later since it’s Saturday night.
Got my fill of drunken cowboys fightin’ last weekend. ”
“That part of your duty ain’t gonna end anytime soon. Maybe you should’ve taken Dad up on his offer of workin’ with us. ”
“Fuck off. ”
He smiled, regardless if Cam couldn’t see it. Amused the hell out of him to tease his younger brother, just because he could.
“This is the thanks I get for keeping your humiliation under wraps?”
“Come on, Cam. Ranchin’ with the family ain’t that bad. ”
Cam snorted. “That’s rich, coming from you. How you feelin’?”
“Could be worse. ”
“True. I could’ve been facin’ forward and she could’ve shot me in the dick. ”
“Ouch. Anyway, thought I’d give you a heads up. Blake will be there tonight. ”
“In India’s apartment. ”
“Why? Is he doin’ some remodeling for her after hours?”
“No. They, ah, have a date. ”
The muscles in Colt’s gut tightened. “Golden boy ain’t pouring drafts tonight at the Rusty Spur?”
“Guess not. ”
“Where’d you hear this gossip? The diner?”
“I haven’t been in the diner today. ”
“What the hell? You’re in there like three times a day. ” Cam had a thing for sweet, shy Domini, the cook/waitress/hostess at Dewey’s Delish Dish, the restaurant next door to the tattoo shop.
“There are other places in town I can get dirty looks with my morning coffee,” Cam said without humor. “Anyway, I ran into Blake at the Super-Value. He was buying flowers, I asked him what for, and he mentioned his date with India. ”
Just what Colt didn’t need, to hear Indy and Blake laughing, having a good old time, while he was hiding in the spare bedroom.
Or worse, feeling like a pervert at hearing them squeaking the mattress springs.
“Why you tellin’ me this?” Colt snapped.
A weighted pause hung. Finally, Cam sighed. “Colt, man, it’s me. No bullshit between us, remember? I know you’ve got it bad for her. Probably have for years, huh? I just didn’t want you to be caught off guard. Thought maybe you prefer to clear out. ”
Right then, Colt decided rather than let his imagination run wild about what Blake and Indy had done, he’d stay and learn what they were doing firsthand. “Thanks. I appreciate the warning, but I’ll stick around. ”
“You sure that’s the smartest choice?”
“No. But depending on what happens with them…it’ll give me a reason to move on, either way. Time to fish or cut bait, know what I mean?”
“I hear ya. Just don’t do anything stupid that’ll bring me there in an official capacity tonight, okay?”
“Deal. And, uh, thanks. ”
“No prob. Think you’ll feel up to working out this week?”
“As long as I ain’t sittin’ on a rowing machine, I oughta be good. Why? You ain’t thinkin’ of pussing out on me, are ya, matey?”
Cam laughed. “No chance, rummy. I can still whip your shot-up ass on the treadmill, even with a peg leg. ”
“Bring it. ” Colt hung up. He slowly rolled over and glanced at the clock. Roughly an hour before India closed up shop. Maybe if he was lucky he could get a little shut-eye.
The outer apartment door slammed ten minutes later, followed by the squeak of his door being opened. “Colt? You asleep?”
“Not any more. ”
“Sorry. Look, I think you need to—”
“Rest, yeah I know. You’ve barged in here like a hundred times today. You are single-handedly keeping me from getting any rest. ”
India blinked. “But, that’s not what—”
“I’m sure Doc Monroe mentioned if I didn’t have enough downtime there was a higher chance of infection and complications. ” Colt raked a hand over his stubbled jaw. “So soon as you feed me, I’d appreciate it if you piped down so I can conk out for a while. ”
“I have to come up with dinner for you? Tonight?”
“It ain’t like I’m up to cookin’. ” Might make him a jerk, but Colt loved her wide-eyed expression of alarm. It wasn’t his fault he was laid up; it was hers. And he had no intention of letting her off the hook so easily. Especially about Blake.
“Ah. I have plans tonight. ”
“Really? I hope you’re makin’ me something good to eat, because I’m starved. ”
She bit her lip. “No. I mean I have plans to go out. ”
“Out as in…out to grab us some food?”
“Umm…no. Out as in, out on a date. ”
He paused. “You have a date?”
“Yes, I have a date. ”
“Yes, tonight. ”
Colt laughed. He kept laughing.
“What’s so damn funny?”
“You are. Whoa. ” He clutched his stomach. “You really had me goin’ there for a sec. ”
“Had you going? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Come on. Stop kiddin’ around, Indy. It hurts when I laugh. ”
India actually stomped her foot. “You find the fact I have a date… funny?”
“Yep. ” He laughed harder.
“It’s not funny!”
“Yes, sugar, it is. ”
“Stop laughing. ” India crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m single, I’m fun, and it’s Saturday night. It is not that far out of the realm of possibility that some man would want to take me out and show me a good time. ”
Instantly Colt sobered. “Where’s this mystery man takin’ you for the rip-roarin’ good time in the Sundance metro area?”
She shrugged. “Out. ”
“Out…where? Not out dancin’, ’cause you don’t dance. Not out drinkin’, ’cause you don’t drink. ”
“There are lots of other places we can go. ”
“Really? Name one. ”
Her mouth opened. And closed. Opened and closed again. She looked like an air-starved trout, not that he’d voice the comparison out loud.
“Wasn’t it you, complaining to me, just last Saturday night, that there was nothin’ to do in this town?”
“So, I’m curious as to what’s changed in seven days. ”
Those beautiful sapphire eyes sparked danger. “Why? What’s it matter to you?”
Colt reined in his temper. Barely. “Two reasons. One, because damn near every Saturday night for the last two and a half years, I’ve heard you whine about the lack of entertainment options. I’ve offered to take you to rodeos, church socials, tractor pulls, community dances, demolition derbys, casinos, on horseback rides, fishin’, campin’, huntin’ and concerts. What have we ended up doin’ nearly every Saturday night?”
She kept her mulish mouth shut.
“Watchin’ movies or playin’ cards or cooking dinner. So yeah, maybe I am interested in what kind of fun and games this guy has offered you that I haven’t. ”
India glared at him.
“I’m waitin’. ”
“Fine. He’s cooking me dinner and then we’re watching a movie at his place. ”
He grinned even when he considered what a rat bastard his cousin Blake was and how much he’d like to kick his ass.
“Oh, wipe that smile off your face, McKay. You said there were two reasons. What’s the other reason you’re being so damn snoopy about my personal life?”
“You think I’m snoopy?”
“Either that or you’re living vicariously through me. ”
Colt opened his mouth to protest, then clamped his teeth toge
ther, choosing to glower at her.
“What’s the matter? Did I hit too close to home?”
“Forget it. ”
She stalked closer. “No. You thought it was so damn funny that a man would actually want to spend time with me—”
“What exactly have I been doin’ with you every weekend for the last two and a half years, huh?” Besides spinning my wheels?
“Spending time with me, but it’s not the same thing. ”
“Because we are not dating. ” She lifted both pierced eyebrows, drawing his attention to the sexy silver hoops. “Omigod, Colt. All this time, you haven’t thought we were—”
“No, I ain’t that stupid,” he retorted. “I just find it ironic that after you shot me in the ass, and I’m layin’ here in your house, in pain, you’ve got no problem leavin’ me here while you’re flitting off to go on a damn date. ”
India did her trout impression again.
Jesus. Way to sound like a needy, bitter bastard, McKay.
“Look, I didn’t think—”
“No, you didn’t think, which is typical behavior for you, Miz Impulsive, so I’m not surprised. ”
“Just go. I’m tired. ” Colt shut his eyes and rolled to his side, giving her his back.
“Just go,” he repeated. “Shut the door on your way out. Oh, and have a freakin’ awesome time on your date. ”
He heard her shallow breathing as she debated on berating him or leaving him.
Guess which one she chose?
The door snicked softly as she let herself out.
Colt felt neither vindicated nor relieved.
Damn him. Her first real date in forever and Colt McKay had sucked all the fun out of it before she’d even left the house.