Cowboy take me away, p.4
Cowboy Take Me Away, p.4Part #16 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
And he didn’t give a damn.
Carolyn said, “I have to go.”
His gaze flipped to her. “Don’t leave. Let’s talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to say—”
“You really runnin’ away from me because my last name is McKay?”
“Why else would I…” That strong chin went up a notch and she crossed her arms over a pair of impressive breasts. “I’m not running away from you, Carson McKay.”
“How? By coming over there and kissing you?”
Carson grinned. “Not what I was gonna suggest, but sugar, I’ll take more of them sweet and hot kisses anytime you wanna give them to me.”
“What was your suggestion?”
“Meet me here tomorrow night.”
“See? Runnin’ from me.”
“No, I have family obligations.”
He raised an eyebrow. “On a Friday night?”
“Not everyone can go out and tear it up every night of the week like wild-living cowboys—excuse me—ranchers,” she retorted.
Carson started toward her. “Whatcha gonna be doin’ tomorrow night? Got a date?”
“None of your business.”
The thought of some other guy picking her up, touching her, talking to her, tasting her sweet lips made him growl, “Tell me.”
“Stop pestering me about this.”
“Not a chance.” By the time he reached her, she’d started studying her shoes. He tipped her chin up. “Talk to me. No bullshit.”
“I’m afraid you’ll laugh.”
“My dad gets paid on Fridays. He gives me money and I buy groceries for the week. So my Friday night is spent at the grocery store. Exciting, huh?”
“Your dad really is tryin’ to turn you into a nun, isn’t he?”
“Because I’m not out at the bars on a Friday night?”
“Because he’s got you believin’ that a beautiful, single woman shouldn’t mind grocery shopping alone on a Friday night.”
Carolyn closed her eyes. “You don’t understand.”
“I think I do. You’re expected to take care of your family when you’re home. No shame in steppin’ up to your responsibilities and takin’ pride in what you do. But the fact you’re here tonight shows me you’ve carved out at least a little free time.” He stroked her cheek. “And I want you to spend that free time with me.”
“Think on it. Please.”
He didn’t move until she gave him a grudging, “Okay.”
Then he forced himself to walk away from her. He’d give her a week to make a decision. After that, he was going after her.
He’d been so deep in the memory he hadn’t heard Nurse Lissa approach. “Yes?”
“Let’s get you suited up.” As she helped him dress she detailed the protective outwear he’d have to put on every time, even for a five minute visit.
“You’ll have a few minutes alone with your wife before the twenty-four-hour isolation begins.”
Carson approached the bed, his stomach in knots, his heart so heavy he swore that it was what made his feet move so slowly and not this hazardous materials suit he wore.
He clasped her hand in both of his, hating how cold her skin was, hating the layer of latex between them. His gaze encompassed her beautiful face. He wanted to kiss her. Or at least put his lips on her forehead and bathe his lungs in her scent. Or press his mouth to the side of her throat, hoping to feel that familiar way her pulse leapt whenever he kissed her there—even after almost fifty years together.
But he settled for a light stroke on her cheek. “Sugar, don’t leave me. I can’t live without you—I ain’t even gonna try.” Emotion choked him so his words were barely above a whisper. But she needed to hear him, because he had no doubt she could hear him. The plastic face shield covering the lower half of his face required him to speak louder. “I’m here. Right here, right beside you where I’ve always been and where I’m always gonna be. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I love you. Come back to me. Please.”
He forced himself to move before his tears fell. Wouldn’t want to give her an infection. He probably had rust in his tear ducts.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d cried.
Come back to me. Please.
God. The man sounded so forlorn.
Why? Carson McKay never sounded like that.
Carson, honey, I’m right here.
Wait. Where was here? Where was she?
And why couldn’t she see anything?
Wake up, wake up, wake up. You’re in a dream.
But her eyes wouldn’t open.
Come back to me. Please.
Come back…from this dream?
She listened but couldn’t hear his voice.
A loud click echoed.
Was that the sound of a door closing? Where was it coming from?
Carolyn followed the sound and floated down the pathways of her mind. Doors of all sizes loomed before her.
One of these doors had to lead back to her current reality. She shouldn’t have retreated when they started jamming tubes in her nose and throat. But it was loud and painful—surely she wasn’t dead if she could still feel pain?—and she’d hidden in the shadows of her mind.
But now, the deeper into her mind she traveled, the lighter it’d become.
So many doors.
Then she noticed one door was ajar.
Maybe it was the exit? Could she escape her subconscious?
The door made no noise when she opened it.
She found herself in her mother’s bedroom, sucked back in time to early summer the year she’d graduated from high school.
The morning after the night she’d met Carson McKay…
“Don’t hover in the doorway, child, come in.” Her mother scooted over and patted the bed. “Sit. Tell me about the dance last night.”
Carolyn settled on the twin bed and reached for her mother’s hand. The arthritis had gotten so bad in the last couple of years her fingers were claw-like and almost useless. It killed her to see her mother bedridden, to see the listlessness in her eyes from the amount of medicine she took to deal with the pain.
But her stoic mother wouldn’t complain.
“Liebchen,” she said softly. “Talk to me.”
Liebchen. Her mother had always called Carolyn her little sweetheart—it was one of the few German words her mother still used.
She forced a smile. “Beverly took off with Michael about half an hour after we got there.”
Her mother clucked her tongue. “That girl is fast. Michael will get what he wants from her and move on.”
“Oh, I don’t know. He leaves for basic training at the end of the summer and as soon as he’s done they’re getting married.”
“Ach. She’s too young.” She shifted on the bed. “Did Beverly introduce you to anyone?”
The image of Carson McKay’s perfect face flashed in her mind and she felt her cheeks heat. His good looks aside, he was so much…more than the boys she’d gone to school with. The only trace of boyishness in him was in that dimpled smile and the devilry twinkling in his dark blue eyes. The rest of him was all man—wide shoulders, broad chest, strong arms, rough-skinned hands. An earthy mix of sun and soil and soap emanated from him; an irresistible musk that tempted her to rest her face in the crook of his neck and just breathe him in.
“You did meet someone.”
“What’s his name?”
“Carson. He’s a little sure of himself, but that’s probably because he’s so good-looking.”
“Did he ask to see you again?”
She finally met her mother’s gaze. “Yes. But I kind of ran off after…”
Her mother’s brown eyes sharpened. “Did he try somethi
“No. We were outside just talking—” you’ll go to hell for lying, “—and someone shouted to get his attention. That’s when I learned his last name is McKay.”
Carolyn looked down as she traced the frayed ends of the yarn ties holding the eyelet and satin quilt together.
The air seemed to stretch so thin she had a hard time breathing. Finally, she blurted, “But don’t worry. I’ll stay away from him.”
“That my father is Elijah West? Yes.”
“How were things between you before you learned each other’s last names?”
She smiled, remembering the man’s audacity. “Carson told me he was gonna marry me.”
Her mother raised both eyebrows. “You mean he asked to marry you?”
“No. He said I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and we oughta skip all the dating stuff and get married.” She suspected he’d only been half kidding. Although Carson had seemed ready to run when she’d told him she was eighteen. But that kiss, that glorious kiss had changed his mind.
It’d changed everything.
She’d kissed a few boys over the years. Even if she’d made out with a hundred guys nothing could’ve prepared her for kissing a man like Carson McKay. Nothing. Carson was heat and passion. When he’d pressed his hard body against hers? She finally understood Beverly’s claim about need overtaking reason.
Carolyn’s head snapped up guiltily. “Sorry. I know—”
“I think you’d like to get to know him better.”
Shocked, she stammered, “B-but—”
“Whatever is between your father and Carson’s father is their issue. Not yours. Not Carson’s. You’re an adult. You’re allowed to make your own decisions. If you want to spend time with Carson? That is your business.”
“And what happens when Dad finds out? He might kick me out.”
“I won’t let that happen. I promise.”
Her mother had never stood up to her father. If Carolyn pursued something with Carson McKay she’d be totally on her own, with no support.
Like that’d be anything new.
Carolyn managed a fake smile. “I’ve found some patterns I’d like your opinion on.”
“Clothes for you?”
“New clothes you can wear on your dates with Carson McKay?” her mom asked with a sly smile.
“Mom. Give it up.”
“Never. Now show me what you’re working with.”
Late Saturday afternoon, Marshall, Stuart and Thomas, Carolyn’s three brothers who still lived at home, traipsed into the kitchen.
“I love it when you’re home for the summer,” Thomas said, sniffing the air. “We get decent meals for a change.”
Marshall and Stuart each punched him in the arm.
“Ouch! I’m only telling the truth.”
“Truth is, you can’t cook worth shit, Thomas, so it’s worse for us when it’s your night to cook.” Marshall lifted the lid on the pot on the stove. “Sausage and cabbage smells good, sis.”
“It’s done. Wash up and we’ll eat.”
Stuart sidled up beside her. “Has Mom eaten yet?”
“She was hungry earlier so I sat with her while she ate. She’s resting.”
He squeezed her shoulders. “Thanks.”
“Does she ever come to the table?”
“Nope. She eats in her room or she doesn’t eat. That’s her choice, not ours.”
Marshall snatched two slices of bread off the cutting board. “Ma especially doesn’t eat when Thomas cooks.”
“I told you guys I’d rather be on dish duty every night. But that is another bonus of having our sister home. She cooks and cleans up.”
None of them disputed Thomas’s statement. As much as she loved her brothers, the instant she’d stepped foot in the house, they’d abandoned their regular duties and she’d become cook, cleaner, gardener, laundress and parental caretaker.
Carolyn took her usual seat at the table and looked at each of her brothers until they set down their utensils and bowed their heads in prayer. “Thank you, Lord, for the bounty you’ve given us. Amen.”
After they crossed themselves and a chorus of amens, they dug in.
She dished herself a plate. “Where is Dad, anyway?”
Their oldest brother and his wife Sonia lived on the small parcel of land that used to be the West Ranch. Since her father had no interest in ranching—he’d worked in the coal mine in Gillette her entire life—he’d passed the land on to his oldest son as soon as Harland was of age.
Supper was a fairly silent affair as her brothers were too busy stuffing their faces to bother with conversation.
Thomas pushed his plate away first. “Good meal, sis.”
He grinned and said, “Thanks. So, got any plans for tonight?”
“Nothing after doing the dishes. Why?”
“There’s a ballgame in Hulett. I’m meeting my buddy Randy there and then we talked about hitting Dusty’s afterward. Guess there’s a decent band tonight.”
“Randy…is he your short friend with the big mouth?”
Thomas snorted. “That’s Andy. Randy went to college on a partial baseball scholarship. He’s home for the summer. He’d really like to meet you.”
Since she’d lived in Montana the last six school years, she’d only stayed in contact with Beverly and she didn’t know Thomas’s friends. “I’ll go as long as you promise you won’t ditch me.”
“I almost wish I was goin’ along tonight,” Marshall said. “But I’ll probably be heading to work about the time you two roll in.”
“Sneak in,” Stuart corrected. “Even when Dad will be pretty drunk after bein’ with Harland, you don’t want him to know what time you got home.”
“Not a problem for me since I’m sleeping in the sun porch. I can climb through the window,” Carolyn said. Sleeping in the sun porch didn’t bother her. The small space had been tacked on the back of the house as an afterthought, and the poor insulation meant the room stayed cool at night.
“How long will it take you to get ready?” Thomas asked.
Cowboy Take Me Away by Lorelei James / Romance & Love / Western have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on40 votes