Tied up, tied down, p.8
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       Tied Up, Tied Down, p.8

         Part #4 of Rough Riders series by Lorelei James
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Page 8

 

  “Might sound stupid, but I’d convinced myself that for once, the name I had, the name you knew me by, didn’t matter, because you were interested in the man inside.

  Yeah, I realize it was dumb. But I didn’t have any idea on how to go about making it right back then. ”

  She waited, unsure of where he was going with this and unsure of how she’d respond.

  Kade reached for her hand. “Except I can make it right now. Let’s start over. ”

  “It’s too late. ”

  “It’s never too late. Come on. I’ll go first. ” He formally shook her hand. “Howdy, little lady. I’m Kade McKay. ”

  Skylar laughed.

  “You shore are purty. Anyone ever told you that you have a beautiful laugh? Like bluebells in springtime. ”

  “Kade. ”

  “You maybe wanna go out with me sometime?” He grinned and gave her an exaggerated wiggle of his eyebrows. “Or do you just wanna skip all that normal datin’ stuff and have my baby?”

  She laughed again. It’d been a long time since she’d made that carefree sound. She’d forgotten how Kade had tried to cajole her out of a mood during their dates, if she’d had a stressful day at the office. Not only was he sweet, he was the rare person who could make her laugh. She squeezed their joined hands. “You goof-ball. ”

  “C’mere. ” He tugged her until she fell across his lap. His arms came around her, keeping her close. “You looked like you could use a hug. ”

  She twisted her neck to gape at him. “You remember that?”

  “I remember everything. I had nothin’ but time to think about it. All of it. ”

  Even when her mouth said, “This isn’t a good idea,” Sky’s attempt to squirm away was half-hearted at best.

  “Relax. I ain’t gonna maul you. We’ll be less apt to argue if we’re close like this.

  Plus, if I have hold of your hand, you won’t be tempted to take a swing at me, since rumor has it you’re a fighter. ”

  She wondered where he’d heard that. Did she have a reputation around town as a hard-nosed business woman? Cold, efficient and emotionless? No matter, for now, she’d let him soothe her with simple human contact, just for a minute or two.

  “You take Eliza to work with you every day?”

  “Yeah. She’s usually pretty good and it helps I can set my own hours. I try to keep us both on a daily schedule. If I have to be on a conference call, or meet with salespeople and distributors, I can leave her with the onsite daycare. ”

  “You have onsite daycare at Sky Blue?”

  “It’s the one thing I insisted on. The women working for me all have kids. Since a large chunk of their paychecks would go for childcare, I set up an area onsite and have them care for each other’s children so they can keep every penny they earn. ”

  “Smart. But how’s that work?”

  “I opted to have all employees rotate all positions. It cuts down on training time, since they are trained on every job. Every six days they rotate from the factory into the daycare. So even if someone is sick, we won’t get behind on production because another employee can step in and do her job. Plus, it is a load off their minds that their kids are close by, and well-cared for, which in the long run means steady productivity and happier employees. ”

  “How many people work for you?”

  “I have six full-time employees in the factory. One woman who helps me with office work. ”

  “I’ll bet you have a waitin’ list a mile long for potential employees, if any one of those women would be foolish enough to quit workin’ for you. ”

  “Now that I’m a mother, I know I made the right decision in setting up the business the way I did. ”

  Kade was quiet. “So when it rolls around to quittin’ time, you drive up the road and spend your nights carin’ for Eliza? After bein’ with her all day?”

  “Eliza isn’t a burden, Kade, she’s everything to me. I never knew I could…love someone that much. ” Her voice dropped. “Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by her, by what a perfect little being she is and how much she’s become my life…” Sky was still stunned every day by how much Eliza’s birth changed her as a person. Now Kade was here, giving her the opportunity to bare all the emotions she’d kept inside about how their miracle “oops” was the best thing that’d ever happened to her.

  Would he understand? Or did it just make her seem pathetic that she had no one else to talk to? Especially when she knew he had support from his huge family?

  Sure, Sky could spill her guts to India; God knew she’d listened to India’s issues for years. But India had already provided tons of emotional support during Sky’s pregnancy and Eliza’s birth. It seemed cruel to wax poetic about the sheer joys of motherhood and her beautiful baby considering the heartbreak India had suffered through a few years back. As much as Sky appreciated and genuinely liked her employees, there was a line of propriety between worker and boss she didn’t feel comfortable crossing. Between setting up her business and birthing Eliza, she hadn’t had much opportunity to get to know other women in the community or to make friends.

  Did she just want friendship from Kade McKay?

  “Skylar? What’s goin’ on in that pretty head?” he murmured.

  Emotional soup. Wanna bite? Sometimes it’s hot; sometimes it’s cold.

  Kade turned her around to face him. “Hey. ”

  “It’s not like I had a choice. ”

  “You do now. ” He caressed her cheek. “I’ll be here every night as soon as I finish up on the ranch. I ain’t gonna let you do this alone any more. ”

  Might make her a fool, but she wanted to believe him. She wanted to throw herself in his arms and weep with gratitude. But blind faith had caused more problems in her life than self-reliance, so she kept her shield of skepticism intact. “Just like that? No arguing?

  You’re just accepting this? Accepting her?”

  “Yeah. ” His thumb traced the dark circles she knew were visible beneath her eyes.

  “No doubt Eliza is my child. She’s my responsibility. In my mind, that means you are, too. Believe me, that isn’t a burden either. ”

  Rational thought vanished when he touched her. His sweetly spoken heartfelt words, his gentle caress, the warmth in his eyes packed an emotional punch and she didn’t attempt to dodge the blow.

  Then the look in Kade’s eyes changed from comfort to pure male sexual power. His thumb moved down and swept across her bottom lip. Over and over. Making it softer.

  Wetter. He didn’t say a word; he didn’t have to.

  Her mind screamed retreat. She felt the shift in him and tried to stop her body from answering in kind. His breath fanned across her cheek in an erotic stroke of heat. No man had ever looked at her the way he did. It scared the living crap out of her; it always had.

  She tried to scramble away, but he clamped his hand around her upper thigh.

  “Let me speak my piece before you run off. This isn’t what I came here for. But there’s been a hot spark between us since the day we met. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna deny it’s happenin’ again. ”

  “Denial would be easier. ”

  “Maybe for you. Not for me. Never for me. I pretended with you once. I won’t do it again. Ever. ” Then he released her, and walked out of the room.

  Nice going, McKay. Tell her you’re not going to maul her and what’s the first thing you do?

  Growl and go all Big Bad Wolf on her.

  Christ. He was an idiot. One touch, one hopeful, coquettish look from Sky and he morphed into a horny toad. Kade inhaled several deep breaths and stared out the window above the sink.

  His feelings for Skylar hadn’t changed. Things had gone to hell between them last summer before he’d mustered up the guts to confess he’d fallen for her. Hard. And judging by the way she was acting, she wouldn’t welcome any declaration of his feelings or his intent. At least not ri
ght now. Seemed he had no choice but to hang back and let this play out at her pace, not his. Luckily he was a patient man.

  Calmer, Kade grabbed a bottle from the refrigerator. Eliza would be up soon, he may as well get ready to feed her.

  Soft footsteps stopped behind him.

  Kade spun around. “Look. I’m sorry. I touched you like I had a right to. I don’t. The last thing I want is to make you uncomfortable in your own house. ”

  “Let’s forget it, okay? Chalk it up to being a stressful day. I’m going upstairs to get your room ready. Eliza is still down here in the bassinet. Will you listen for her to wake up?”

  “Sure. Where am I sleepin’?”

  “In the guest bedroom. ”

  “Where does Eliza usually sleep?”

  “In my room. ”

  “That’s gonna be a problem when I get up with her in the middle of the night. ”

  “No it won’t be. I’ll just deal with the night feedings and get up with her like I always do. ”

  “The hell you will. I’m here to care for our child. That means day and night. If she sleeps in your room, so do I. ”

  Skylar looked petrified for a moment before she regained her composure. “Funny, McKay. You had me going there for a second. ”

  “I ain’t kiddin’. ” He crossed his arms over his chest, knew it looked belligerent and didn’t care. “I’d be fine if you moved her crib into the guest bedroom with me. ”

  “But all her stuff is in my room. I hadn’t planned to decorate and put her into her own room for at least another month. ”

  “Then it’d be smart to keep her right where she is, wouldn’t it?”

  She blinked with the same owl-eyed expression Eliza had earlier. “So what you’re saying, is…”

  “It appears you and I are gonna be roomies, darlin’. ”

  “Oh no. ”

  “Oh yes. You stay on your side of the bed. I’ll stay on mine. ”
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