Tied up, tied down, p.36
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       Tied Up, Tied Down, p.36

         Part #4 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 36

 

  Had Kade ever picked up diapers and formula? She wandered into the living room and saw Eliza on a blanket on the floor and Kade lying on his side next to her.

  He said, “I think she’s gonna roll over soon. ”

  “She’s too young. ”

  “Not accordin’ to Brazelton. Lookit how fast she’s kickin’ them legs. Any time now she’s gonna be rockin’ and rollin’, ain’t you, baby girl?”

  Eliza grinned and made a goo noise.

  That girl was shameless when it came to charming her daddy.

  “You know, I think she’s teethin’, that’s why she’s been so cranky. ”

  “Could be. ”

  “Isn’t she supposed to be gettin’ another round of shots at four months?”

  “Yeah. I haven’t made the appointment yet. ”

  “Huh. Well, we don’t want her fallin’ behind schedule. Be best if it was taken care of right away. ”

  Skylar crossed her arms over her chest. “Why don’t you take care of it? Eliza sees Dr. Monroe. She’s in Moorcroft. Set it up in one of the convenient Monday through Friday, nine-to-five timeslots, wait with other sick kids for two hours for an appointment that lasts ten minutes. This time you can hold her when she screams as they poke needles in her legs, since I know how much you love needles. And you can walk the floor with her for two days afterward because the shots always make her sick and cranky. ”

  “Hey, now. Don’t get defensive. I was just sayin’—”

  “I know exactly what you were saying, Kade. You want to be involved with every little thing? Here’s your chance. And while you’re at it, why don’t you pick up diapers and formula because we’re almost out. And we’re running low on food and laundry soap and cleaning supplies and everything else it takes to run this household. ” She spun on her heel and stomped to the laundry room.

  Thwack. She threw the sopping wet clothes in the dryer. Stupid spin cycle wasn’t working. Might as well wring the damn clothes out by hand or it’d take forever for the load to dry. She couldn’t hang them outside since it was still raining.

  By the time she’d squeezed out the excess water in the laundry tub, hung up the drip-dry items, started another load and swept up the last of the powdered detergent she’d spilled all over the floor in her fit of anger, Skylar had calmed down some. And realized she’d been a total jerk to Kade. The man always did everything she’d asked, a lot of times he did things before she even thought of them. He was nothing but sweet and cheerful, helpful and kind to her and to Eliza, and she’d snapped at him like a fishwife.

  Wife.

  Dammit, that wasn’t a word she should use to describe herself or her relationship with Kade. She was not Kade McKay’s wife.

  And doesn’t it bother you just a little? He hasn’t asked you to marry him after he’d made love to you? Not since the night he tied you up.

  No. That was not it. Unhappy if he asked her; unhappy if he didn’t ask her. She was not that psycho and controlling.

  Was she?

  Yes, it appeared she was.

  Argh.

  Sky sucked it up and went to apologize to him. She found the living room empty.

  She dashed upstairs. No Kade. No Eliza.

  Oh hell no. He hadn’t gotten pissed off and taken off with their baby, had he?

  Can you blame him if he did? Haven’t you been afraid all along he’d take her or sue for joint custody?

  She flung open the front door. Sure enough, his truck was gone. Sky unearthed her phone and dialed his cell number, a number she’d programmed in, but never called.

  Didn’t that just speak volumes about how much she wanted to prove she didn’t need him?

  Argh.

  “Hello?”

  “Kade? Where are you?”

  “I’m in my truck. ”

  “Is Eliza with you?”

  “Yes, she’s with me. Why?”

  “What are you doing?”

  “Goin’ to the store. ” Pause. “Isn’t that what you were anglin’ for when you threw that hissy fit, not more than a half hour ago?”

  Shit. Shame heated her cheeks. “It wasn’t a hissy fit. ”

  He laughed softly. “Yeah, sweetheart, it was. ”

  She managed a smile. “Fine, it was. But I didn’t expect you to drop everything and go right then. ”

  “Well, I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ else and it needed to be done, or else you wouldn’t have made such a big deal about it, right?”

  The man was so damn even-keeled. Why wasn’t he barking at her for being such a bitch to him? Demanding an apology?

  “Skylar?”

  “Yes, it needed to be done. I’m sorry I snapped at you. Thank you for taking care of it. ”

  “See? That wasn’t so hard. And you’re welcome. ”

  “I’m just not used to help of any kind, especially not immediate help. ”

  “That’s another thing that’s gonna change. Look, I wanna help out, but I need direction. I’m a longtime bachelor, darlin’. I’d live on chili and ramen noodles and wash clothes only when I was completely out of ’em if I was in charge. ”

  “Good thing you have me, huh?”

  “Very good thing, but you’re foolin’ yourself if you think the only reasons I’m with you is because you can cook and do laundry. ”

  Are you with me only because of Eliza?

  “Besides, sweet thang told me she had a hankerin’ to ride in the truck. ”

  She laughed. “She did?”

  “Yep. She loves Gretchen Wilson. She already knows all the words to ‘Redneck Woman’. ”

  Sky pressed her forehead to the rain-slick wooden pillar on the porch. She resisted asking him if he’d grabbed the diaper bag. Or if he’d bundled Eliza up since the night air was damp. Or if he knew what kind of formula and diapers to buy. She really resisted asking him why he hadn’t asked her to come along.

  Because the sobering truth was, Kade didn’t need her to come along. He could handle anything when it came to Eliza, with or without her.

  Why didn’t that thought make her happy?

  Because she wanted him to need her, the way she was beginning to need him.

  “Sky, we’re at the store. We’ll see you in a bit. ”

  She clicked the phone shut and stayed on the porch, absorbing the warm rain, feeling bewildered, and a little bereft.

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Lights bobbed up the driveway. Kade’s truck rolled to a stop. The door opened and a baby wailed. Skylar dashed down the porch steps before Kade had Eliza out of the car seat.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “She’s mad at me for some reason. She screamed all the way home. Again. ”

  “I’m sure it’s not you personally, Kade. ” Sky unbuckled Eliza, picked her up, and right away Eliza snuggled into her and quit crying.

  Kade froze. “What did you do to get her to stop?”

  “Nothing magical. Must be luck. ” She draped the blanket over Eliza to keep the rain off. Inside, while she waited for the bottle to warm, she changed Eliza’s diaper and put her in her fuzzy pajamas.

  After sucking down the bottle, Eliza fell asleep as if she’d been drugged, rosebud mouth slack, dark head thrown back. Sky settled her in her crib and returned to the kitchen.

  Kade was drinking a beer, gazing out the back door. She saw six canisters of formula, three bags of diapers, a gallon of milk, a bag of apples, a six-pack of beer and a chocolate cake.

  Hmm. She hadn’t given him a list, but still, slim pickin’s. “Kade? You okay?”

  “No. I never knew how damn hard it was to shop with a baby. Like a dumbass I took her out of her car seat, thinkin’ the car seat would take up too much room in the cart. So I’m holdin’ her, tryin’ to steer the cart with one hand. I made it to the baby aisle and loaded up her stuff. By the time I reached the bakery, she was screamin’. She screamed
in the dairy aisle. She screamed in the produce section. All these people were starin’ at me like I was the worst parent ever—or glarin’ at her like she was one of them bratty kids you hear all over the store. I grabbed beer and booked it to the check-out. ”

  He drained the bottle and set it on the counter. “And Eliza was the damn Energizer Bunny—she just kept on a goin’. The checker couldn’t wait to get rid of us. I loaded the pitiful amount of groceries in the cart and realized I couldn’t push it, hold her, and unlock the truck door, even if it hadn’t been rainin’. I had to ask the carryout boy to help me.

  With five lousy bags. ”

  Skylar circled her arms around his waist, pressing her face into the middle of his back, hoping she was giving him half the effortless comfort he always offered her.

  “Shopping is hard. I usually leave Eliza with India when I go to the store to stock up. ”

  “Wish I’da known that. No, I’m glad I learned firsthand how hard it is just to do simple things when you’re cartin’ around a baby. ” Kade turned into her embrace and tilted her face up. “I’m sorry I wasn’t around, Sky. For everything. For your pregnancy and her birth, but mostly because you’ve had to do all this stuff yourself and it ain’t fair. ”

  “Stop beating yourself up. Let’s move forward, not back. ”

  “Okay. Does that mean—”

  A blinding reflection of headlights flashed in the window behind Kade. Skylar looked over her shoulder. A car had pulled up by the outside fencepost and cut the lights.

  “What the hell?”

  “What?”

  “Who is dropping by at ten at night? Were you expecting anyone?”

  “No. ”

  “I don’t like this. Not at all. ” She scurried out of the house and made it halfway up the gravel driveway, when the rear car door opened. The chink chink chink of glass bottles hitting rocks echoed back to her.

  “Hey! What are you doing?” She began to run. “This is private property!”
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