He sighed. “I hope they can work it out. My girl deserves a chance at happiness.”
“Speaking of chances… I was a little surprised you didn’t bust Carter’s chops and gave him a second chance.”
“Takes a big man to admit he was wrong. Takes a bigger man to apologize and swear to make it right. Besides, where would any of us be without second chances, eh?”
Gemma knew the smartest thing she’d done was taking a chance with her heart, and getting a second chance at love. “Every day you give me a new reason to love you, Cash.”
“I still think I got the better end of the deal. You see the best in situations and people, not the worst. How you saw beyond a vagabond rodeo Indian cowboy with ties to nothingand no one—”
Gemma spun in his arms. “I saw a good man with a good heart. I still see that.” She kissed his chin. “Neither one of us is perfect. We’ve both been rode hard by life; we’ve got a lot of miles on us. But we ain’t used up yet.”
“Thank God. The way I look at it, we have a good forty or fifty years left together.”
He waggled his eyebrows beneath his Stetson. “So, purty boss lady, you wanna mess around a little before we start chores?”
“Always. But there is one thing I want to talk to you about.”
“It is. I want to stop using condoms. I don’t like the damn things.”
Cash went utterly still before he leaned down and locked his gaze to hers. “What are you sayin’, Gem?”
“If I get pregnant, then I get pregnant. If I don’t, it wasn’t meant to be. I know I’m old and the risks are huge, but I kinda feel like this might be a second chance for both of us.”
“You humble me, winyan.” He placed one hand on her belly and one on her heart.
He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to hers. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Now take me to bed or I’m gonna fire you for slacking on the job.”
The next evening
“It’s my last night here and I don’t want to be a wallflower at some street dance.”
“Macie, you promised. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Fun for who? I won’t know anyone.” A dance was the dead last place she’d ever see Carter McKay. Not that she’d be looking for him or anything.
“You’ll know me.” Amy Jo inserted her contact and blinked. “Keely always ditches me at these things anyway, so it’ll be nice for me not to sit by myself for a change.”
“You sure you won’t ditch me the second you catch sight of Cord McKay?
Especially when he sees you all tramped up?”
“He wouldn’t look twice at me if I rode into town buck-ass nekkid on the back of a purple longhorn bull.” Amy Jo snorted. “The only reason Cord would talk to me is to ask me if I’d babysit Ky.”
“And you’d ditch me in a heartbeat to do it.”
“Nope. As much as I love that little guy, my babysitting days are over. I’m officially a college coed so I’d better start acting like one.”
“Been watching Girls Gone Wild DVDs for some ideas, Miss Amy Jo?”
“No. I’ve been watching Keely McKay for years, which is better.” She grinned.
“And you’re supposed to be calling me AJ, remember?”
“My mistake, AJ.” Macie studied Amy Jo—AJ—as she applied eyeliner. AJ was dead wrong if she thought any man could overlook her. With her white-blonde hair, enormous gray eyes, pouty red lips, and long legs, she looked every inch a cool, sleek Scandinavian model—not at all like the Wyoming cowgirl in pigtails and dirty jeans that Macie had met just last month.
AJ adjusted her black silk bustier. “What are you wearing?”
Macie glanced down at her white eyelet camisole shirt and faded jean skirt. “What’s wrong with this?”
“Nothing. Oops we’re gonna be late.” Her smile seemed strained. “Let’s go. I’ll drive.”
“But I thought I’d drive so if I want to leave—”
“Huh-uh. You’re riding with me. Or I can call Keely. You choose. But I believe she said something about making an entrance on a Harley.”
“That was just plain cold, AJ.”
She spun the keys on her finger. “This is gonna be so great.”
Macie froze. A strange feeling rippled through her. “What?”
“You’ll see. Let’s go find us some cowboys to tame, girlfriend.”
Two blocks of Main Street were cordoned off. Macie and AJ wove through pickups and four-wheel drive vehicles lining the side street. Shouts sounded above the bass line of the Western song blasting from the loudspeakers.
Macie was having a hard time keeping up with AJ’s long-legged strides, mostly because she was dragging her feet. She wanted to go home.
When she’d left the Bar 9 last week, she had no destination in mind. She’d ended up at Kat’s apartment in Denver. While she’d been wallowing in ice cream, margaritas and Kat’s pierogis, Amy Jo Foster had called her. She and Keely McKay were headed for Denver to finalize a few last minute things and had a couple of questions on the metro-Denver area.
Neither Keely nor AJ asked why Macie was in Colorado instead of Wyoming.
Neither asked about Carter. Instead, they’d spent a few days together. She showed them around the city. Tagged along while they picked out furnishings for their apartment.
When AJ heard about Macie’s new horse, she asked her to hang out and ride horses at the Foster ranch. Macie admitted the week went by faster than she imagined. The days did anyway. The nights were long, and the only time she allowed herself to cry over Carter McKay.
Right now, she just wanted to hop in her Escape and drive back to Canyon River and try to rebuild her life. She missed her dad. She missed Gemma. She missed Velma and the diner. She missed the ranch. She missed Carter something fierce.
Don’t think of him. Think of how next week, he’ll be plastering naked pictures of you in Jackson Hole.
It made her ache. She wasn’t wrong about her ultimatum to Carter, but it’d never hurt so bad to be right.
AJ stopped abruptly. “Damn.”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Right now.” AJ started up the sidewalk to a small white building, with the words Community Center centered above the door. The windows were dark.