Like that would work.
Or he could go home and work.
On pictures of her.
He wondered if his day could get any worse.
“Hey, bro, when did you turn into such a macho jerk? That was quite the display of testosterone.”
Keely. Carter thunked his head on his hood. The universe f**king hated him today.
“Yeah, well, I wanted to prove I was a true McKay, ass**le behavior and all.”
“Now that you mention it, you sorta were actin’ like Dad.”
“Great, Keely, just what I wanted to hear.”
“At any rate, I brought you a beer.”
He looked up.
She waggled a bottle of Bud Light at him. “I thought you could use one.”
“Thanks.” He popped the cap off and drank. “What’re you doin’ out here?”
“Hidin’ from the bull rider wannabes and lettin’ Amy Jo deal with them.”
“Meanin’, you ditched her and you were sneakin’ off to drink a beer and you were afraid I’d caught you.”
Keely grinned. “I knew there was a reason you’re my favorite brother.”
“Favorite. Right.” Why wasn’t he surprised his sister hadn’t really come looking for him? No one else had either.
Maybe it’s because you’re acting like a shithead who deserves to be alone.
Keely blithely continued, “Besides, Amy Jo will probably come barreling over to Macie’s camper to listen to her rant and rave about you.”
“Why would Amy Jo care?”
“She and Macie hit it off like gangbusters. And let’s just say Amy Jo is well-versed on dealing with a hot-headed McKay male who can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Carter frowned. “Who are you talkin’ about? She got a thing for Colt?” Lord help the girl if she did. Colt would charm her, bed her, and leave her. And feel no guilt about it whatsoever.
That was worse for poor sweet Amy Jo. Way worse.
“So, how long have you been with Macie?”
He said nothing.
“Puh-lease. Even before your he-man tactics today, your eyes devoured her while you were supposed to be eatin’ supper last night. And I noticed this morning she had a streak of paint—yellow umber to be exact, your favorite color to be even more exact—on her neck. So, I figured you’d been doin’ a little finger painting after the bonfire.”
Softly, Keely said, “You have it bad for her, don’t you?”
His head snapped up. “What makes you say that?”
“Because you didn’t bother with niceties today. You were scared, you were pissed, and you didn’t hide it from anyone, least of all her.”
He clamped his teeth together.
“You work really hard at disguising your intense side, Carter. Almost everyone believes you are this calm, cool, laid-back kinda guy.” She plucked the beer from him and drank. “I’ve spent more time with you than the rest of our brothers have, so you’ve never fooled me. I know what you’re really like. Macie knows that side of you too. Or, if she didn’t, she got a taste of it today. But she knew before, didn’t she?”
“And it hasn’t scared her off?”
“She’s exactly like you, which means she’s perfect for you because she will make your life a living hell. Or heaven on earth. Depending on the day and your collective brooding moods.”
Carter was stunned into silence by Keely’s comments.
“So, no matter what anyone tells you, bro, fight for her. She’s worth it. And I’ll lie through my teeth if you ever tell anybody I said this, but you are worth it too.” She sauntered off and vanished in the copse of scrub oak trees.
He’d underestimated his sister on many levels. When had she become so insightful?
Or had he automatically discounted her lack of understanding about anything important because of her age?
Was he doing the same thing with Macie?
Either way, Carter realized everything she’d said was exactly on the nose.
He also realized Keely had taken off with his beer.
Happy as Gemma had been to see Channing and Colby, she breathed a sigh of relief after the rowdy crew returned to Campbell County.
Cash and Carter hadn’t come to a resolution after the blow up over Macie. Far as she knew, Carter hadn’t been back to the Bar 9. Rather than ask Carter to help Cash with chores, it was easier all around if she did it.
Things hadn’t returned to normal. Since the primary cook had quit at the diner, Macie warned them she’d be working tons more hours. Gemma knew Cash worried about Macie, but she also knew something had changed significantly between father and daughter in the past few days. Not that Cash confided in her, he was determined to figure this out with Macie on his own. Still, she sensed an acceptance, which hadn’t been there.
Like they’d both let down their guards a little.
She wished Cash would let down his guard with her. From a purely professional standpoint, they worked well together. They’d spent hours out in the field, fixing fence, tending cattle, watching for wildfires. She’d learned why he didn’t have a place to call his own, and it broke her heart. They’d sat at the table after supper, mountains of paperwork strewn across the table as they discussed the pros and cons of various breeding programs.
When the stock contracting issue came up, he’d bluntly told her to let it go and to focus on other areas of the cattle business. She’d literally felt the weight of that burden leaving her soul.
Was that because it’d been one of her final ties to her life with Steve? The Bar 9
might’ve been Steve’s when she’d moved in years ago, but it was as much hers now as it’d been his.
The door between the upstairs and main floor slammed. Pine-scented aftershave wafted into the living room and she automatically smiled.
Cash plopped next to her on the couch, grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles.
“You need help with the laundry?”
“Nah. I’ve got it covered. But thanks.”
Sometimes the ease with which he’d inserted himself into her life astounded her. But times like these, it seemed Cash had always been here. Helping her. Loving her.
Whoa. She loved him. The jury was out on how he felt about her.
Why don’t you ask him? What do you have to lose?
Him. She couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. Ever. She’d already waited a year to sort out her own feelings, now was willing to wait as long as it took until he was ready to sort out his.