Cowboy take me away, p.51
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       Cowboy Take Me Away, p.51

         Part #16 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
 

  “Just showing up with food, I guess, since Tracy is in charge.”

  “You gonna say anything to Stuart and Janet?”

  Carolyn shook her head. “I know it’s been a couple of years but I’m still mad at them. Chet and Remy know better to push me on this. At least they’ve stepped up.”

  “How could Stu and Janet just ignore that situation with Boone? He’s their grandson—their only grandson. I mean, yeah, Dax screwed up years ago, but one strike and he’s out of the family? That sounds like something Dad would’ve done.”

  “Which is why I don’t want to go to the stupid reunion. Beings our boys are competing in the rodeo that day, I’m planning on having the McKays—and a few select Wests—over here the day after. Will that work?”

  Kimi wrinkled her nose. “Can we selectively invite McKays too?”

  “I wish. But I’ve already mentioned it to Joan. I’d like to make the event alcohol free—not just to keep Casper from getting stinking drunk.” It’d be easier for Colt to be there, even when everything she’d read said the recovering alcoholic needed to decide the social limitations, not his family or friends. Just letting her son be was harder than she’d imagined.

  “We’ve got time to figure out the menu. I’m just hopin’ that Kade gets to bring his baby girl.”

  “How do you think Cal will react to the news he’s a grandpa?”

  “I’m about to find out.” Kimi waved and she was gone.

  Several hours later Kimi returned, livid about Cal chewing her out for telling her sister they were grandparents before she’d told him. So Kimi and Cal, the couple who never fought, had a huge row, right in front of Carolyn and Carson.

  An infuriated Cal had chased after Kimi and stormed into the house. He’d cornered Kimi in the dining room. “Oh no you don’t, you little brat. You don’t get to tell me to fuck off and then run and hide.”

  Kimi swigged directly from the bottle of whiskey she’d lifted from the liquor cabinet. “Not running. Not hiding. You were a dick to me, Calvin McKay. So don’t be so goddamned shocked that I don’t wanna be around you.”

  He loomed over her. “Suck it up. You were in the wrong, and you know it.”

  “I was not. You weren’t home!”

  “I have a fuckin’ cell phone for situations exactly like this one,” he bellowed.

  “Which you won’t answer because you’ll be too busy doin’ some stupid cow thing.”

  “Stupid cow thing?” he repeated. “I’ll remind you the stupid cow thing keeps you in hair dye and rhinestones.”

  Oh no. Cal did not go there. Carolyn heard Carson groan behind her.

  “You are such a prick!” She whipped the bottle of whiskey at him.

  Fortunately Kimi was a crappy shot and Cal had great reflexes. He caught the bottle. There wasn’t much booze left. He drained the remainder and set it aside. “Apologize to me right now, Kimberly Jo West McKay.”

  He used her full name, knowing full well how much she hated it.

  “Why should I? With that glug of booze you knocked back I see we won’t kiss and make up since you’ll have a case of whiskey dick.”

  Cal laughed. Hard. “Wild cat, I ain’t ever had whiskey dick in my life and you damn well know it.”

  “Why are you being like this? You never give a damn what Caro and I talk about.”

  “This time is different. I always thought we’d hear about our first grandbaby together. How would you like it if I knew about that precious baby girl and told a buncha people before I told you?”

  That gave Kimi pause. “Fine. I shoulda told you first.”

  “That ain’t an apology. Try again.”

  At some point Cal had trapped Kimi against the wall. She put her hands on his hips to push him back. “I’m sorry.”

  Cal laughed—a little snidely. “That’s one. You owe me more than one apology.”

  “For what?”

  “For callin’ me a dick. For callin’ me a prick. For questioning my ability to perform. And wild cat, I’ve never left you wanting on that front, have I?”

  “No.”

  “So apologize.”

  “Sorry.”

  “Huh-uh. Offer the proper apology to the injured party.”

  “What?”

  “On your knees.”

  Kimi murmured something that caused Cal to growl and dip his head toward her chest.

  That’s when Carson grabbed Carolyn’s hand and they hightailed it out of their own house.

  They didn’t stop moving until they reached the barn.

  “Good Lord, I didn’t need to witness that.”

  “No shit,” Carson said. “That was about as awkward as the time Keely caught us playin’ master and slave in the dining room.”

  Carolyn twined her arms around his neck. “Speaking of…been a long time since we’ve horsed around like that.”

  He grinned. “No ball gag this time, slave, so on your knees.”

  “Right here in the barn?”

  He quirked that sexy eyebrow in challenge. “You doin’ something else right now?”

  “No.” She lowered to her knees and looked up at him. “But I’m still not ever calling you master.”

  For the first time she drifted away into the catacombs of her mind with a smile on her face and the taste of Carson on her tongue.

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Hospital, Day 6—afternoon

  “Today on Maury: I’m retired, I’m not raising your love child! We’ll hear about one woman’s struggle after she discovered her husband had fathered a child with their grandchildren’s barely legal babysitter.”

  Seriously? There was such shit on daytime TV.

  But Carson secretly loved this train-wreck show.

  The talk show host came back on the screen. “How do you plan to spend your retirement? Eleanor Peabody imagined she and her husband of thirty-five years would travel the world together. But during the first few months of his retirement, Henry began an affair with their grandchildren’s eighteen-year-old babysitter, Shania.” Boos echoed from the audience. “Now Shania is pregnant and she expects Henry to take responsibility for his child. Where does this leave Eleanor? Stuck helping raise her husband’s love child during her golden years? Henry is here too and he’ll tell you why Eleanor needs to step up.”

  “Carson?”

  He about shot out of his seat and turned to face his son-in-law. “Jesus, Jack. You scared the crap out of me.”

  “Sorry.” He glanced up at the screen. “Am I interrupting?”

  “No. I never watch this garbage. I was just bored.” He stood and clicked off the TV.

  “You seem surprised to see me.”

  Carson gave Jack Donohue a once-over. Dressed impeccably in a snappy suit and shined shoes. It no longer pained him to admit Keely had done well in her choice of husband. Jack was a smart, savvy businessman, who adored Keely but wasn’t a pushover for their headstrong daughter. “I thought Keely might’ve put her foot down and said you couldn’t break rank.”

  Jack lifted one dark brow. “You do know me, right? When have I ever let that sassy cowgirl dictate what I can and can’t do?”

  “Point taken.”

  They took seats opposite each other. “Since germs are an issue, I’ll throw it out that Piper and Katie are as robustly healthy as their twin brothers.”

  “Happy to hear that. I know it was a rough winter.”

  “I had no idea kids got sick that much. I considered buying stock in the pharmaceutical company that manufactures amoxicillin. Summer weather seems to cure the nasty bugs, thank God.”

  “What is the wild bunch up to?”

  “Piper has been holding princess school for Katie because she’s been spending too much time playing with JJ and Liam.”

  Carson smiled. “What fun things are the Donohue twins doin’ that’s pullin’ Katie away from her big sister?”

  “That’s the thing. Nothing. It’s just Piper is so damn bossy. Katie gets sick of it.”
>
  “Cord and Colby had those same issues, as did Cam and Carter. Poor Colt got caught in the middle.”

  “Weird question, since you’re a twin. Did you and Cal have your own…language?”

  That was a weird question. “Not really. We’ve got nonverbal communication, which most folks find odd. But I’m not sure it’s a twin thing as much as we’ve worked together since we were boys and we knew what needed done without havin’ to say it out loud. Why? Are your twins speakin’ in tongues or something?”

  Jack shook his head. “Keely would swear they’re speaking demon. They have that nonverbal thing too. We purposely don’t dress them the same. At first when they were babies it was to tell them apart. We kept that ankle band on JJ for a year until the boys developed their own personalities.”

  “Kimi and Cal had to do the same thing with Kade and Kane. By the time they were three none of us had issues tellin’ them apart. At least when they came over to our place.”

  “Why’s that?”

  “Because Kane immediately went lookin’ for Colt. Them two were rough-housin’ as soon as they could walk. Whereas Kade helped Caro with whatever kid of ours was a baby. Lots of experts about twins in this family.” Carson swigged from his bottle of Dr. Pepper. “Are you here on Keely’s behalf?”

  “I told her I planned to stop by. She also knows I agreed with your decision to limit all access to your wife.”

  “Did that cause problems?”

  “I wouldn’t let it. Keely is acting like a spoiled brat and I told her so.” Jack’s eyes softened. “How are things with Carolyn?”

  “No change. The docs are giving her another day. Then they’ll bring her out of it.”

  “How are you holding up?”

  “Been the worst six days of my life. Every goddamned minute feels like an hour.” Or a lifetime.

  “I can’t imagine. You saw how much of a mess I was when Keely collapsed during her last pregnancy. And that was only a few hours I didn’t know what was going on with her. I wouldn’t have any hair left if it’d been longer.”

  “Your kids will turn it gray soon enough. What’s new in the business world? Buy up any towns lately?”

  “Working on it. I need some place to lock my daughters away when they turn fifteen.”

  Carson snorted. “If they take after Keely it’ll start when they turn thirteen.”

  “You’re kidding, right?”

  “Nope. Carter caught Keely kissin’ a friend of his behind the rodeo stands when she was only thirteen. I guess the poor kid about crapped his pants when Carter rounded up a bunch of McKays and warned him off his baby sister. Course, Keely took offense to bein’ called a baby and punched Carter in the gut. When Colt stepped in, she kneed him in the nuts.”

  Jack mock shuddered. “She is one scary-ass woman when she’s mad.”

  “She had to be or her brothers or cousins wouldn’t take her seriously. At first they called her cute when she got mad. Then they realized she’d take an inch of skin offa them with that razor sharp tongue of hers. Then they also realized maybe they shouldn’t have taught her how to punch so hard.”

  “Lettie at the Golden Boot told me that Keely gets a lot of her scrappiness from Carolyn. Is that true?”

  “Let’s just say Keely wasn’t the first woman in our family to get a lifetime ban from a local bar.”

  Jack laughed. “I knew it.”

  “So with her Gran-gran’s and her mom’s DNA, I’m thinkin’ Piper will be hell on wheels when she hits twenty-one.” Or seventeen—not that he wanted to worry Jack ahead of time.

  “Then I’ll be pounding on your door, asking for advice. Or bail money.”

  Carson raised both eyebrows. “You’re assuming I’ll be around? I’ll be damn near ninety-two.”

  “You’ll be around,” Jack assured him. “Medical technology already replaced one of your worn out body parts. You might end up being the first bionic McKay.”

  “Right. With just one part replaced there’s still a bunch of stuff I can’t do.”

  “Not back on a horse yet?”

  “I’m wondering if I’ll ever ride again.” His eyes narrowed. “Don’t you say nothin’ to Keely. She’ll get it in her head that I just need more damn therapy.”

  “Maybe the better question is do you want to ride again?”

  “You’re the first person who’s asked me that.”

  “That’s not an answer, Carson.”

  “I know. I’ve been ridin’ my whole life. It’s tough on a body. If I keep doin’ it… What’s next? Havin’ my other hip replaced? Then my knees? Then havin’ my spine fused together with metal rods? I ain’t sure I wanna spend my life in the hospital. Especially after what happened with me during surgery.”

  “Can’t say as I blame you. Besides you are retired. It’s not like you have to ride a horse every day to make your living.”

  Carson shifted back in his chair. “Bein’s we still live in the thick of things, the boys come over and ask for advice and help occasionally. I feel retired, but I’m not out of it completely.”

  “No plans to spend winters down south?”

  “Maybe a week or two. Especially if Ky ends up goin’ to ASU. But Caro won’t ever want to stay away from here for long. Too many memories.” Carson paused. “Too many grandkids.”

  Jack honed in on the ASU comment and they spent the next ten minutes discussing the activities various McKay offspring were involved in, which segued into a conversation about college sports, which led to a discussion about Carter’s most recent commissions—metal sculptures depicting famous western athletes in action. Then the conversation came full circle as they talked about Jack’s projects and the growth of Keely’s physical therapy business.

  “I want Keely to hire an employee, but she’s dragging her feet,” Jack said.

  “Why? I thought she wanted to be home more.”

  “She does. But she doesn’t think she’ll find anyone who’s qualified who only wants to work twenty hours a week. I’ve crunched the numbers for her and if she hires someone fulltime, she’ll still be in the black the first year. With another therapist, if she increases the amount of clients by a third, she’ll double her income in three years.”

  “And the girl ain’t listening to you…why?”

  “She’s stubborn. She says I already have enough money—” he snorted as if that couldn’t possibly be true, “—and I should retire and stay home with the kids.”

  “Retirement ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

  “I’ve heard that.” Jack checked his watch. “Speaking of work… I have a phone conference to prepare for. Is there anything I can do for you before I take off?”

  Carson shook his head. “It’s a whole lot of waitin’ around.”

  “If you think of something—anything at all—call me. I say that knowing full well that you won’t.”

  “You’ve already done enough if you can keep my Keely girl on an even keel throughout this.”

  “She puts on a happy face for our kids but once they’re down for the night, she does a whole lot of staring into space.”

  “I’m familiar with that. But I pace too, just to mix it up.”

  Jack smiled. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a flask. “For when you’re missing your Irish and need a nip to get you through this last day.”

  “Thanks.” Carson nestled it in the bag of magazines on the floor. “Comin’ from Mr. Moneybags, I imagine it’s higher quality stuff than Jameson.”

  “Of course. Once I get you used to drinking Laphroaig you’ll never go back.”

  La-froyg. Even the name sounded fancy. “Unlikely, but I appreciate the gesture.”

  “Take care.” Jack paused before he turned the corner. “Keely…will swallow her pride and come see you.”

  “I’d like that.” Carson studied him. “So you are here on her behalf?”

  “She’s my wife, she’s miserable and it’s killing me that I can’t fix it for her.” He raked h
is hand through his hair. “So yeah, I have to at least try.”

 
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