Tied up, tied down, p.45
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       Tied Up, Tied Down, p.45

         Part #4 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 45


  Hadn’t she sworn she’d delegate rather than do everything herself? Especially after Eliza’s birth? And here she was stuck in the same pattern she’d been stuck in her whole life? Would she never learn she wasn’t superwoman?

  “Go ahead and snap off a smart question like ‘If you feel so unsafe and unappreciated here, why are you still working for me?’ ”

  Skylar absolutely recoiled.

  Annie shook her finger. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you defensive? Full of pride.

  Glaring at me, unwilling to admit when you’re wrong?”

  Hadn’t Kade accused her of the same thing? She swallowed, but her voice still was barely audible. “Because I was wrong, Annie. Fix it, however you see fit, okay?”

  “Good. ” Annie sidestepped a pile of papers and slammed the door.

  Startled by the sound, Eliza started screaming.

  Sky wished she could scream right along with her.

  She was still sitting on the floor an hour later when Nadia knocked. “Is this a bad time?”

  “No. Come on in and pull up a piece of carpet. ”

  It surprised Sky when Nadia plopped down. But she focused on Eliza. “She’s a beautiful baby. She has your cheekbones. ”

  Skylar tried to remember in the last month if anyone had mentioned Eliza resembled her in any way. She heard Kade’s rumbling voice, s he has your cute little upturned nose.

  I’m hopin’ she gets your freckles too. And your laugh. I love your laugh.

  “She has your disposition. ”

  “Marvelous. I’m the picture of well-adjusted, aren’t I?”

  Nadia sent her a panicked look. “No. I meant, she’s very vocal. ”

  “Thanks. I think. ”

  “Trust me, that’s a good thing, to not be afraid. ” Nadia wrapped her arms around her up-drawn knees. “Look. I want to apologize for putting you in a bad position all these months by asking you to lie to my husband. ”

  “It’s understandable. ”

  “No. It’s not and I’m sorry I missed work the last two days. But after Rex showed up here…and Eliza’s father…” Sky’s gaze snapped up. “He did the right thing, when it wasn’t the easiest thing. When most people don’t get involved. I hid behind the blinds and watched a man I didn’t know from Adam, stand up to Rex, because he was trying to protect you and everyone in this place, including me—who he didn’t know from Adam—

  I realized it was past time I stand up for myself. ”


  She nodded. “Hiding out, hoping Rex will go away won’t change any of the problems and isn’t the example I wanna set for my boy. The reason I was gone the past two days is because I talked to a lawyer. Then I went to the sheriff and told him what happened out here and about some other stuff Rex threatened to do. I filed a restraining order against him. A piece of paper isn’t armor, but it shows Rex I’m done being afraid of him. And we’re done. For good. ”

  “I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that. ” She grabbed Nadia’s hand. “Are you really okay?”

  “Yes. I feel more in control of my life than I have been in years. ”

  “I’m glad, Nadia, I really am. ”

  “All thanks to you. ”

  “To me? I appreciate the sentiment, but you were the one who took that first step.

  It’s easier not to change. ” How well she knew that. She let her head fall back against the wall. “I’ve done some things wrong, things I plan to change as soon as possible. I thought you were coming in here to quit, and I was all ready to whip out my spiel about how I intended to beef up external security and do some things differently around here to get you to stay. ”

  “Quit? I’m not going anywhere. This is the best job I’ve ever had. We all think that. ”

  Nadia rolled to her feet. “You give us more than just a good paycheck and a great place to work, Skylar. You show us how to be strong. You give us confidence in ourselves. No matter what mistakes we made in the past, what’s been done to us, you’ve shown us we don’t have to live there, we can overcome it, change, and work toward a better future. We deserve to live our dreams the same as anyone else. ”

  She slipped out the door leaving Sky staring after her, feeling a little more at peace with her business, and her relationship with her employees, but not having a clue how she could make things right with Kade.

  With everything that’d happened, the mindless sorting of paperwork was a welcome reprieve. Except the phrase, we deserve to live our dreams, hung in the air and stuck in Skylar’s brain on a continuous loop. A life with Kade and Eliza was her dream.

  When she reached the bottom of the fifth box, the corner of an envelope—stuck in yet another safety supply magazine—poked out. Before her fingers connected with the smooth white paper, she knew. This was the letter Kade had sent.

  Sky flipped it over. No return address. Post marked Gillette, WY…two months ago.

  Using a pen, she slit open the top and dumped the letter on the floor. She unfolded the single piece of lined notebook paper. The blocky printing filled up half the page: Skylar—

  I’m probably the last person you expected to hear from. I hope you won’t crumple this up and will give me a chance to explain.

  After the bad way it ended with you last year, I needed time to re-evaluate some things. I moved to a remote section of the ranch, which is why I haven’t approached you before now.

  In the year I’ve been alone on the range, I’ve had time to think about what happened between us. What I did wrong. I can honestly say I’m ashamed of myself. My intention wasn’t to deceive you, but to get to know you.

  When I get back into town in the next month, I’d like to call you, maybe meet for coffee (or chocolate cake?) and see if time has healed the rift I caused. I believe there’s still something worth exploring between us, something worth working out, something worth fighting for. I’d like to start fresh.

  I hope you don’t find this out of line, and I’m saying this from my heart. Being with you changed me. Time and distance haven’t changed my feelings for you. But I hope the same time and distance have changed yours for me and you’ll give me—us—a second chance.

  All My Best,

  Kade McKay

  Kade wanted her. It was right there in black and white. He’d wanted to be with her before he found out about Eliza. No ulterior motive. The sweet, honest man had thrown his heart out, not knowing if she’d slice it to ribbons in her paper shredder.

  Fat chance of that. Now that she had his heart she was keeping it safe forever. So, despite their rocky start, they’d finished what they’d begun not a month ago, but a year ago,they’d fallen in love, the forever, permanent kind of love she never thought she’d find or deserve.

  Sky didn’t realize she was crying until the tears splashed on the page.

  She had the overwhelming urge to shout it from the rooftops: He likes me! He really really likes me! Likes? He loves you.

  You love him; he loves you. It’s the most simple thing in the world.

  Was it?


  Eliza squealed and Sky glanced at her.

  Her daughter batted those big blue eyes, flashed a gummy grin…and rolled over.

  “Eliza Belle McKay! How long have you been able to do that?”

  The baby made a gurgling sound suspiciously close to a laugh.

  Still sobbing through her laughter, she said, “Wait until your daddy sees your new trick. He’s gonna be over the moon. ”

  And Sky couldn’t wait another second to tell him everything. She picked up her babbling baby and ran out the door. “Annie!”

  Her coworker raced out to see Sky sprinting away from her office. “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. I’m leaving to fix another thing in my life. ”

  “Are you coming back today?”

  “I hope not. So you’re in charge
. Get used to it. ” Halfway down the hall, Sky stopped and turned to look at her friend. “Is it really that simple?”

  Immediately Annie smiled. “Yes, honey, it really is. ”

  Skylar found Kimi and Calvin’s place easily enough, and felt another punch of guilt that she’d never been here before. That was something else she’d prioritize, making time for family, their family of three, and the McKay/West bunch that was such an important part of Kade’s life. Maybe sometimes she and Kade and Eliza could stay overnight here, so Kade didn’t have to drive so blasted far. Heck, she’d move here and make the commute to Sky Blue if it came right down to it.

  She started up the short sidewalk the same time a dark-haired man exited the house.

  They nearly collided and both took a step back. Neither said anything as they eyed each other.

  “Hey, Skylar. How are you?”

  This didn’t have to be awkward. “Good. You?”

  “Tired. ” He bent down and peered at Eliza.

  But Eliza’s little feet didn’t kick with happiness. She didn’t coo and smile. She stayed still and watchful.

  “She knows I’m not him, don’t she?”

  “Yes. ” Sky kissed the top of Eliza’s head. “She’s Daddy’s girl. Daddy has her wrapped around his little finger. ”

  “My brother is a lucky man. She’s beautiful. ” Kane smiled. “You look just like your mama, doncha, sugar?”

  No surprise Kane was still a total charmer. “Everyone says she looks like Kade. ”

  “Then they’re not lookin’ very hard. ”

  “Speaking of Kade…where is he?”

  “He’s finishin’ up the south hay field. Why?”

  “I need to talk to him. ”

  Kane straightened. “Now? Can’t it wait until later tonight when he’s done?”

  “No. ”

  Skylar half-expected Kane to get in her face. Demand to hear why she was interrupting his brother’s workday.