Keely’s steely blue eyes were a bit too gleeful. “And this would be solely for my benefit?”
“Absolutely.” She ducked out of his embrace. “Ooh. I’m bailing before that hot bull fighter I’m chasing thinks I really am with you.” Keely shuddered. “Later, bro.”
Colby watched his sister saunter off and the trail of young bucks hot on her heels. Keely McKay was smart as a whip, as beautiful and unrefined as a wild horse, and held a razor sharp tongue that’d stripped the skin off of more than one unlucky cowboy. With an independent streak as wide as her stubborn streak, she considered raisin’ hell her God-given right. Woe to the man who wound up trying to tame her and win her heart.
What would Channing’s family say about their daughter? Did they even know her heart? Her wild streak? Her secret desire to be tamed and inflamed?
As Colby made his way back to his family table, he ran into Trevor, who appeared eager to get away from his own family. “Where you goin’?”
“To the bar. And if I don’t come back, don’t tell them where I went, okay?”
“Okay. Have you seen Channing?”
Panicked, he grabbed Trevor’s arm. “Something happened to her?”
“Nope.” Trevor dropped his gaze. “I just haven’t seen her since last night.”
Colby recognized his guilty expression. Jealousy roared through him like a raging forest fire. “You son of a bitch.”
“Did you f**k her when you saw her last night?”
Trevor’s stubborn chin rose a notch. “So?”
Somehow he’d expected Trevor to deny it. Or Colby had hoped that Channing knew he’d been serious about his threat that no other man touched her besides him. “That’s all you’ve got to say to me is so?”
“What’s the big deal? Isn’t that why she’s travelin’ with us? For a little variety?”
Colby loomed over his friend and growled, “I am gonna kick your sorry faggot ass right f**king now.”
Trevor didn’t back down. In fact, he stepped up. “Back off, McKay.
I’m warnin’ you. I’m in a piss-poor mood, half-drunk and rarin’ to beat on someone. Since you’re in my face it can just as easily be you.”
“You prepared to bleed for her?”
“Probably more than you are.”
“What the f**k does that mean?”
“Aren’t you the one who told me you wouldn’t be jealous if Channing and I spent time alone together? And now you are? Since when do you think you have the right to freak out about anything concernin’ her?
Especially when we both know the minute Channing shows up here tonight you’re gonna pretend you don’t even know her.”
“Low blow, Trev.”
“Yeah? Well, nothin’ happened between me and Channing last night anyway. Not that it matters. You and I are both good at lyin’ to ourselves and neither of us is in a position to be makin’ promises to no one. Our families have pretty much seen to that, ain’t they?” He angled his hat toward the McKay table. “Is Amy Jo the one your dad picked for you?”
Colby was livid and snapped off the first thing that came to his mind.
“It ain’t none of your business.” He turned and walked it off.
He hated this whole situation, mostly because he hated that Trevor was exactly right.
Or were he and Trevor both wrong? If they couldn’t make changes in their own lives, who could?
When Colby reached the table, he granted Amy Jo a big smile and offered his hand to her. “How about if you and me dance? There’s a couple of things I’d like to talk to you about.”
Channing and Gemma had fortified themselves with a little liquid courage before they headed to the big dancehall blowout. Luckily, their campsite was within walking distance of the building, so if they knocked back too much beer, they’d have no problem stumbling back to the horse trailer.
Seemed everyone in Cheyenne had shown up. The place was loud and crowded. The tables were all full. Boots stomped. Shiny shirts and belts sparkled. Laughter rang out. Booze flowed.
Gemma knew tons of people and introduced her to everyone.
Channing felt herself retreating. Becoming quietly observant as she faded into the background.
They’d found a tall table to stand beside and a round of fresh beers had miraculously appeared. Gemma talked loudly over the music and conversations. “Opening night of ‘The Daddy of ‘em All’. What do you think?”
Two cowboys went skidding past on the sawdust floor, fists and hats flying until some brave soul stepped in and broke it up and made them take it outside.
Before Channing could answer, a brunette placed her hands over Gemma’s eyes from behind and growled, “Guess who?”
“Justin McBride?” Pause. “Keith Urban?” Another pause. “Is it…Keely McKay?” Keely squealed and Gemma whirled around to squeeze the girl a big hug.
Even if Channing hadn’t heard the familiar last name, the family resemblance would’ve tipped her off. This dazzling, dark-haired woman with eyes the color of sapphires and big dimples was the spitting image of Colby—in petite, feminine form.
“Channing? This is Keely McKay, Colby’s baby sister.”
Keely shook Channing’s hand. “Baby sister. Everyone treats me like I’m twelve. I’m almost twenty-one.”
“You’ll be twenty-one in another two years,” Gemma corrected, and knocked Keely’s hand away from her beer. “Anyway, what’re you up to besides no good?”
“I came down with Mom and Dad to watch Colby compete.” She grinned saucily. “And to find a bad cowboy who wants to lead me astray.
Can you introduce me to one or ten to save me some time?”
“Right. Doesn’t Daddy keep an eagle eye on you, since you’ve been known to get into a fair amount of trouble?”
“Yes.” Keely’s smile vanished. “An eagle eye in the form of Amy Jo Foster. We’re sharing a room, which means I have to be very quiet if I want to sneak out at night.”
“What’s Amy Jo doing here?”
“Daddy’s attempt at matchmaking.”
Gemma glanced at Channing and then away quickly. Channing knew something was up. She didn’t dare ask, because she was more than a little afraid of the answer.
“Plus, she’s keeping the buckle bunnies away from him.” Her blue eyes widened. “Shit, here comes Daddy. You didn’t see me,” she said and squatted down, before she scooted away, ducking through the throng of people until she vanished in the crowd.