Tied up, tied down, p.7
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       Tied Up, Tied Down, p.7

         Part #4 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 7

 

  “Great. ” He squinted at her and challenged, “Doesn’t sound like you like her much. ”

  India’s blue eyes nearly turned black with anger. “I worship her, I’d do anything in the world for her, and I’m thinking about punching you in the mouth for suggesting I don’t, McKay. ”

  Kade held up his hands. “Sorry. ”

  “Skylar and I are polar opposites, but that doesn’t change the fact she’s the greatest person in the world and she’s a wonderful mother. ”

  “Which is all good and well, even if she won’t agree to become my wife, I am movin’ in to help care for Eliza. ”

  “You are?”

  He nodded.

  Another pause hung in the air. Then India smiled like a loon. “That’s hysterical. She won’t marry you, so you just bulled your way into being her roommate?”

  “Pretty much. ”

  “Surprises me she allowed it. ”

  “Me too. Sky might be all kinds of reserved, but I am damn determined to have my way on this, India. ”

  “I can see that. Since I’ve already given you the 4-1-1 on her, I should also warn you Skylar is used to being in charge of everything. ”

  “So am I. ”

  “Yeah? Then it oughta be interesting to see if she’ll even let you be a father to Eliza. ”

  “Let me? I am Eliza’s father. I ain’t givin’ her a choice. I’m here for good. Eliza better get used to it. Sky’d better get used to it. ” Kade sent Skylar’s sister a half-menacing smile. “You’d better get used to it too. ”

  “Please. You don’t scare me, cowboy. I deal with drunks and druggies and bikers all damn day. But one thing my sister and I do have in common? We’re both fighters.

  Hardheaded. You determined to get your way is not gonna be easy. For either of you. ”

  He didn’t rise to the bait. Nor would he back down. “Nothin’ worthwhile ever is. ”

  India considered him without malice. “No pain, no gain, huh?”

  “Not the phrase I’d choose, but yeah, I suppose that fits. ”

  “Good luck, because, man, are you gonna need it. ”

  Kade grinned. “Oh, I don’t need luck. I’ve got something even better. ”

  “What’s that?”

  “A strong set of ropes, an iron will, and all the patience in the world. ”

  Chapter Five

  The spicy aroma of tomato and chili powder greeted Skylar at the front door. She half wondered if she’d stumbled into the wrong house, especially when a gorgeous man strolled down the hallway with a grin a mile wide. A grin aimed at her.

  “And here I was hopin’ you’d yell, ‘Hey honey, I’m home’. ”

  “Sorry to disappoint you. ”

  “Maybe next time. Lemme take her. ” He plucked the baby carrier from her arm like it weighed nothing.

  “Thanks. ” Skylar kicked off her sandals and noticed Kade was barefoot. She also noticed he’d changed out of his usual cowboy attire. Instead of Wranglers and a long-sleeved shirt, he wore faded black sweatpant shorts and a gray tank top, which showed off his muscular arms and broad chest.

  “Supper’s done whenever you’re ready. ” He headed for the living room.

  She followed him and bit back a groan. The view from the rear was just as good as the front view. His wide shoulders tapered into a narrow waist, ending with an ass so round and tight she could’ve bounced a quarter off it. Or sunk her teeth into it to double-check if it was as firm and yummy as it looked.

  Get control of yourself, Sky.

  Why was she having this physical reaction to him again? Strictly hormonal on a biological level because he was the father of her child?

  No. You’re reacting this way because that man—your new roommate—is smoking hot.

  He set the car seat on the floor. “You wanna show me how to get her outta this contraption?”

  “Sure. Push the red button, move the handle up until it locks. Then unfasten the seatbelt. Just like that. See? Easy. ”

  Eliza’s eyes blinked open and she stared at Kade as he lifted her out.

  “Well, aren’t you a bright-eyed little thing?”

  Skylar watched him, chattering away to his daughter like it was an everyday occurrence. Her emotions shifted from jealousy to relief to flat-out amusement. The man was a goner for Miss Eliza Belle. He’d taken to her faster than Sky ever imagined.

  “Is she always this good?”

  “No. ” Sky glanced at the clock. “Give her an hour. She gets really fussy around dinnertime. And then right before bed. ”

  “I’ll keep her entertained if you wanna eat. ”

  “She does have a baby bouncer. You don’t have to hold her all the time. ”

  Kade’s eyes met hers. “I wanna hold her. You’re gonna have a devil of a time gettin’ her away from me. ” When Skylar balked, he amended, “That didn’t come out right. What I meant was…I’m just pretty much stunned by her. Not only that I didn’t know she existed, but if it’ll ever sink in that she’s really mine. And I’m responsible for her for the rest of her life. ”

  “It’s a daunting concept, isn’t it?”

  “Yeah. I really haven’t been around babies all that much, if you wanna know the truth, so I’m gonna need your help. ”

  Skylar expected gruffness, not Kade to act as bewildered and awestruck as she’d been. She touched his forearm, offering him reassurance “Give yourself more than a day to process it all, Kade. I had six months to get used to the idea of a baby, while she was growing inside me. You’ve had six hours. The more time you spend with her, the easier it’ll get. ”

  “You trust me with her?”

  “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. Besides, I didn’t know all that much about babies either. To some extent, it is instinctive. Only way to learn is by doing. ”

  Sky sidestepped him and wandered to the kitchen, shocked at how easy it was to leave Kade with their daughter.

  He’d cleaned the counters and washed dishes. A pot of chili simmered on the stove.

  A round bakery box with a chocolate frosted cake sat in the middle of the table. She sagged against the doorway. He’d remembered her favorite dessert.

  Dammit. It’d be easier to keep this situation impersonal if he was a complete dickhead.

  Impersonal. Right. A little too late for that. They had a child. The man had proposed to her not four hours ago. Apparently, he’d moved in. And apparently, she didn’t mind.

  She expelled a heavy sigh and muttered, “Maybe I should’ve just said yes. ”

  “The offer still stands, Skylar. ”

  His deep voice next to her ear sent a shiver through her. “You scared me. ”

  “I know. ”

  Did he mean he knew sneaking up on her scared her? Or was he talking about his marriage proposal? Rather than dig herself into a hole, she bit back the demand for clarification.

  During dinner she shared the abbreviated version of her pregnancy and Eliza’s birth while Kade pored over the pictures and information in the baby book. When Eliza began to fuss, Skylar taught him how to mix formula, how to warm a cold bottle and how to test the temperature. After he finished feeding Eliza, Sky tossed him a spit-up rag and instructed him on burping.

  Kade listened so attentively Skylar half-expected him to whip out a notebook and jot down notes. It didn’t faze him when Eliza barfed all over him. Changing a diaper didn’t make him turn green. He walked the floor until Eliza fell asleep in his arms, and he still wouldn’t relinquish his hold on her.

  “Seriously. Put her in the bassinet. She’ll nap for an hour and then she’ll want to eat again before she’s out for the night. Or part of the night. She still doesn’t sleep straight through. ”

  Reluctantly, Kade laid Eliza on her back in the bassinet, tucked a blanket around her and flopped on the opposite end of the couch.

  He expelled a long slow bre
ath. “We need to talk. ”

  She waited, half-afraid/half-curious about how this’d play out.

  A beat passed. “First off, I wouldn’t have taken the job if I woulda known you were pregnant. ”

  “What would you have done? I didn’t find out until the end of November. By then I was a little more than three months along. And I did call your parents’ house to talk to you. I had no idea what I should do when your brother said you’d be out of touch until the following summer. ”

  He scowled. “You talked to Kane?”

  “Briefly. I wasn’t comfortable having him pass on the message about your impending fatherhood. ”

  “So you kept the information to yourself?”

  “What other choice did I have?”

  “What choice did you have? Jesus, Sky, that’s the problem. You seem to think you get to make all the choices and keep all the control in this relationship. You have since day one. ” Kade shoved a hand through his hair. “I’ll admit I made a mistake in not tellin’ you I wasn’t Kane. But you cut me off without lettin’ me explain my side of things. ”

  She bristled. “You pretended to be someone else. I slept with you thinking you were Kane. How is that my fault?”

  “It isn’t. ”

  “At least we agree on that point. ”

  Kade sighed. “Skylar. I don’t wanna fight with you. ”

  When it occurred to her he’d used the word relationship, she looked at him oddly.

  He stared right back, completely nonplussed. “Does anyone ever mix you up with your sister?”

  “No. Even before India became the tattooed woman we weren’t hard to tell apart.

  Different eye color, facial structure, body type. ” India was lean and muscular and sometimes Skylar resented that she’d been cursed with a rounder, womanly physique, but they were easily distinguishable from one another.

  “This ain’t an excuse, but you don’t have any idea how that feels. Not only am I saddled with an identical twin, but we also look just like our other McKay cousins in three counties. Some folks act as if we’re all interchangeable. So I’ve heard ‘one of them McKay twins’ or ‘one of those wild McKay boys’ my whole life. Seems I don’t have an identity beyond my last name.
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