Branded as trouble, p.42
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       Branded as Trouble, p.42

         Part #6 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 42

 

  “Because a leopard doesn’t change his spots, India. Knowing the truth about him will save you a lot of heartache. You wouldn’t be the first woman in this area to fall for his lies and lines and you won’t be the last. ” Cat pushed onto her elbows and looked at India over her shoulder. “Besides, didn’t Blake West ask you out?”

  “Yeah he did. ”

  “What happened?”

  Colt happened. “We decided to stay friends. ”

  “Was that before or after you and Colt hooked up?”

  “Before. ”

  “See! That’s what I mean. You and Colt had been friends forever, and when his cousin starts paying attention to you, a cousin he’s always had a rivalry with, then Colt becomes interested in you?

  Isn’t that just a little…ironic?”

  It wasn’t as if India hadn’t thought of that. And discounted it.

  She opened her mouth to protest, but Cat wasn’t done.

  “Almost as ironic as Carolyn McKay waltzing in here yesterday. ”

  “She’s a regular customer of Sky Blue. ”

  “But I’m betting she didn’t come in here to buy lotion. I’m betting she came in here to talk to you. Did she warn you off Colt?”

  India looked up. “Why would she do that?”

  “Because you’re not the type of woman she wants her darling son dating, are you?”

  “My, my Cat, what a tangled web you weave. I’m finding it impossible to follow a single thread. ”

  Cat gave her a superior sniff. “What do you mean? It’s obvious. ”

  “Not to me. First you say Colt is going to dump me because he dumps every woman. Then you say his mother is worried we’re going to have a permanent relationship, so she comes to warn me off?”

  “Which brings me back to my original point. You being at the McKay family dinner. I think that tipped Mama McKay off Colt’s fling with the local tattooist might go on a little longer and she had to do something to stop it. ”

  Fling. As if.

  “So what did she say to you?”

  None of your goddamn business.

  “Because you looked upset. ”

  Maybe it’s because I look like I could use a big bottle of scotch.

  “Probably not as upset as you were knowing Colt came into the diner with another woman last night. ”

  “Who?” Dammit. She shouldn’t have asked. It’d be just like Cat not to tell her. And then for India to find out it’d been Colt’s sister-in-law and to get pissed off for nothing.

  “That gorgeous redheaded lawyer who moved to town earlier this year and took over her father’s law office…Ginger Paulson?”

  That’d explain Colt’s evasiveness about the woman talking to him at the community center. “Maybe it was business. ”

  “Oh honey, it sure didn’t look like they were talking business. ”

  Cat gasped with mock distress. “Oh, India, I’m really sorry I opened my big mouth and told you when you didn’t know. ”

  No, you aren’t sorry you miserable pot-stirring, gossiping, lazy-assed bitch.

  Rather than allow catty Cat the satisfaction of seeing how badly she’d upset her, India shrugged. “I appreciate you telling me.

  Like you said. I’m just dating him. No big deal, nothing permanent, we’re having some laughs. It’s not like I’m picking out wedding dresses and invitations. ”

  Suspicion darkened Cat’s eyes. “Really? You’re sure you’re not upset?”

  “Positive,” she lied. “Besides, I am getting what I want from Colt McKay. ”

  “What’s that?” Cat asked.

  India’s lips twisted in a parody of a smile. “Now where would be the fun in telling you, when I want it to be such a big surprise for him?”

  Colt was stuck in hell—the foyer at the back of the building between the tattoo studio and the stairs leading to India’s apartment.

  He’d been there for the last twenty minutes.

  He racked his brain trying to remember whether he’d slept with Cat, but it was pointless. There was a period of eighteen months that’d been a total blur. But he did know in the years he’d been sober, whenever she’d come on to him at Dewey’s, he’d let her know he was not interested. In fact, he’d been downright rude to her on a couple of occasions.

  So…his rudeness, not calling her after a two-night stand…he could see why she had it in for him.

  What sickened him, as much as Cat’s tactics to turn India’s niggling doubts into full-blown doubts, was that India hadn’t defended him. Not once. She’d demanded clarification on a couple of points. But never once had she said, you’re wrong. I know Colt. I know his heart. I know his soul. I know the man he is now, not the man he was.

  Not fucking once.

  And what was up with her cryptic claim, I am getting what I want from Colt McKay?

  A gut-level fear froze his breath in his lungs. Was India just another person who took what they wanted from him, expected his support, but when push came to shove, couldn’t offer it in return?

  Support or trust?

  A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

  Colt shifted the bouquet of flowers and lumbered up the steps, not bothering to tiptoe. They’d tiptoed around these issues plenty, it seemed, and the time had come to face them dead on.

  India heard the stairs creak and knew Colt had come calling a day early. Her heart leapt for joy and she set the tattoo gun on the tray table. “Almost done, give me one sec. ” She hustled to the backroom.

  The foyer was empty. Ever since she’d tossed the wrench at his head, Colt kept his distance when she was working. But really, had he been in such a damn hurry he’d left the back door open? Her hand curled around the doorknob and she pulled the door shut. A click echoed in the enclosed space.

  A familiar click.

  Heart pounding, India opened the door to determine her ears weren’t playing tricks on her.

  Click.

  She hadn’t heard him go upstairs until just now. Which meant…he’d heard every word.

  You mean he knows you didn’t defend him.

  Colt didn’t understand how a woman like Cat operated. The only way to keep their relationship private, and not fodder for Cat’s gossip mill, was to ignore her.

  But Cat taunted you and you fell for it.

  Heartsick, India dragged her feet returning to her tattoo station.

  She picked up the tattoo gun and dipped the needle in the ink.

  “You okay?”

  No. “Yeah. ”

  “Well, then, as I was saying—”

  “You know what, Cat? The truth is, I have a vicious headache.

  Let me concentrate on this last petal and you’ll be done. ”

  Numb and weary, she shifted into autopilot as she finished adding in the last of the pink to the rose.

  After she swabbed the area and Cat admired the tat re-furb, India taped a bandage on it. “I’ll ring you up out front. ”

  Cat stopped. “Ring me up? What do you mean?”

  “You didn’t expect me to re-ink you for free, did you?”

  The look on Cat’s face said exactly that.

  “That’ll be a hundred bucks. ”

  “For a re-ink? A new tattoo doesn’t cost that much. ”

  “Ah, but those aren’t special Kat Von D tats, are they? I had to take extra care not to wreck her design, and that’s much harder than starting from scratch. ”

  “Seems a little pricey. ”

  India just hoped it hadn’t cost her everything.

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Rather than pace until India came upstairs, Colt found a vase and put the flowers in water. Then he paced.

  Did he admit he’d overheard the conversation? Did he play dumb and see if she brought it up first?

  Yeah, he’d go with that option.

  He wandered to her bedroo
m. The bed was unmade. The sheets were twisted into a knot. Pillows were strewn across the floor, as if she’d thrown them. That made him smile. She was a restless sleeper.

  The scents of cinnamon and lemon lingered in the air. His gaze landed on the silk scarves piled on the dresser. Between her scent and the memory of what he’d done to her with the scarves, his cock started to stir. Not good to greet her with a hard-on. He backtracked to the bathroom.

  Makeup, washcloths, empty coffee cups littered the bathroom counter. He washed his hands and was looking for a hand towel when he saw the calendar.

  Whoa. Why did India need a calendar in the bathroom?

  Curious, Colt picked it up. Several days were X’d out. Some in blue. Some in red. He flipped the page. Days were marked for the following month. Not hard to figure out what the red days meant.

  A weird feeling arose as he looked at the dates. A yes was scrawled on the blue X’d square three days ago. The night they’d had sex against the pickup. A yes was jotted in the blue X’d box for four days ago. The night she’d spent at his place and he’d fucked her nine ways ‘til Sunday. A no was written in the blue X’d box for the last two days in which he hadn’t seen India at all. A blue X

  marked today and tomorrow. Then nothing until four weeks from the first blue X. Exactly four weeks.

  Son of a bitch. Colt knew enough about biology to understand why India was marking the days. This was a fertility chart and blue indicated her most fertile time.

  I am getting what I want from Colt McKay.

  He didn’t have to tax his brain to figure out what India wanted from him: a baby. She wanted a baby so bad she’d…steal it? She didn’t care if it wasn’t what he wanted?

  Jesus. He wanted kids some day. He wanted kids with India, but he wanted a say in when and if that happened. Not for her to take away his choice by staging a “do me right here, right now”

  stunt that ensured he couldn’t say no.

  You could’ve said no. By saying yes you reverted back to the behavior you used to be known by. So are you really mad at India?

  Or yourself?

  Colt couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. Had he put his trust in the wrong person? He stumbled out of the bathroom. When he reached the living room, India opened the apartment door.
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