And her father’s lover.
Yeah. They weren’t ready to go there yet.
“So, you’re doing some modeling for Carter?”
“I guess. He’s been pretty mum on what it’ll turn out like.”
Gemma frowned at Macie’s baggy black sweats. “Those seem a little informal for the kind of art Carter does.”
“Let’s just say there was an incident with my clothes today, and Carter lent me these.” Casually, Macie said, “It’s pretty cool you’re letting Carter live here this summer.”
“It works, since he’s willing to help me out.”
“How long have you known him?”
“Since he was about ten. Technically, that’s how long I’ve known the whole McKay clan.”
“So what’s his family like?”
“His folks are nice. His brothers are sweet-talkin’ hell raisers. The youngest, his sister Keely? She’s hell on horseback. They’re a close bunch. All the boys except for Cam live around the McKay ranch.” She blew on her coffee and looked at Macie.
“Just curious. Dad doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of them.”
“Yes, he does. He just don’t like the fact Carter is sniffin’ around you.”
When Macie didn’t respond, Gemma said, “You thought of how to break it to your dad you’re doin’ more than posin’ for Carter?”
“It’s that obvious?”
“No. But wearing Carter’s clothes and the love bites on your neck might tip him off.”
Gemma waited and hid a smile behind her cup.
“I know I just met him, but he’s so…intense. I don’t know if he’s feeding me lines about his art or what. And I sure don’t want my dad to say—”
“—I told you so?” Gemma supplied.
“No. I don’t want Dad to think I’m a fool. Especially when I’ve yet to see a single thing Carter has drawn or painted or sculpted or whatever he does with clay. And I’m not just talking about when he’s supposedly using me as a subject. Wouldn’t you think he’d have something that he made where he lives?”
Gemma set down her cup and stood. “Follow me. I want to show you something.” In the living room she unhooked an 8 X 10 frame from the wall next to the china cabinet and passed it to Macie. “Carter drew that for me.”
“Holy cow. It’s beautiful. This was your husband?”
“Yeah.” She let her gaze skim over the pencil and charcoal portrait of Steve. “Carter gave that to me about a year after Steve died. Somehow he managed to capture not only Steve’s personality, but his soul.”
After a solid minute passed, Macie slowly raised her eyes. “That’s what I’m afraid of, Gemma. That he’ll see too much.”
Gemma’s heart lurched. Macie was so like Cash in so many ways. “I wish I knew what to say to that, Macie, but I don’t.”
“That’s okay. Thanks for not spewing a buncha bullshit. I’d rather have the truth.”
Once they were back in the kitchen, Macie glanced at the papers strewn across the table and said, “It’s late. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“You didn’t. Honestly? I was glad for the company. You do know you’re welcome here—both in the house and on the ranch. If I hadn’t made that clear, I meant to.”
“Thanks. I should go.” Macie stopped and turned around. “If my dad wakes up will you tell him I was here and I’ll see him tomorrow?”
Gemma watched the flashlight bobbing across the yard. Only when the lights in the camper were flicked off and she knew Macie was safe did she head for bed.
“Medium-well. Baked potato with sour cream and a side of…what is the vegetable tonight?”
The man scowled. “Disgusting. Give me the salad with Thousand Island dressing.
On the side. No onions. No tomatoes. No carrots. Light on the bacon bits and cheese. No croutons.”
Macie expected him to say “light on the lettuce”. She waited for more instructions and the customer stared at her like she was an idiot. She pasted on a smile. “Got it. Your salad will be right out.”
The diner was busy enough for the next hour she didn’t have time to wish she was slaving over a hot grill instead of bringing Clem, a regular with a sweet tooth and a toothless smile, his tenth cup of coffee.
“Order up, Macie,” TJ yelled from the kitchen.
“Thanks.” She tossed a sprig of parsley on top of the plate and delivered it to her customer. Hopefully he was her last customer of the night. She was ready to go home and knock back a beer or six.
“What’s wrong?” Velma asked as she dumped two ladles of French dressing on a bowl of iceberg lettuce.
“I don’t know. I’m just cranky.” And horny. Which made her even more cranky. She was never horny. Or she’d never been until Carter McKay sent her hormones into overdrive.
Why were her hormones causing problems now? Simply because it’d been a week since she’d seen or heard from Carter?
Yeah, she knew he was working. Although, she hadn’t heard that from him directly, but from Gemma. Luckily her father hadn’t chimed in about Carter’s absence a couple of days after finding him in her bed. Evidently there hadn’t been any projects around the Bar 9 that required Carter’s help either. Which meant her dad had plenty of time to spend with her. Which was great. They’d gone horseback riding twice, and she’d spent her free mornings watching him work with Gemma’s horses.
So why was she so cranky?
Instead of taking out her frustrations on customers, Macie snuck into the kitchen and chopped celery and green peppers for the Western-style potato salad for tomorrow’s lunch special. Dicing onions always made her cry. She’d leave that task for the morning.
Unless she needed another reason to hide out in the kitchen. And cry.
She’d restocked the dry goods and was rolling silverware when the wind chimes clanked behind her, signaling more customers.
Macie groaned. “Velma, can you take the next table? I forgot to—” drink all the cooking sherry in the pantry, “—check the apples for worms—”