Her lips curled in a cat-like smile. “Too bad you weren’t this honest the other night. I know just the place. Let’s go.”
Later that same afternoon Cord pushed back his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked over at his brother, who was doing more leaning in the back of the truck than working.
“Pull the lead out, Colt. I ain’t got all goddamn day.”
“Cut me some slack. I’m whupped.”
“Only reason you’re whupped is because you were up late last night f**kin’ around.”
Not since he’d been doing some f**king around himself, but no way would he share that with his smartass brother. “No. I’m pissed. You’ve been draggin’ ass more than usual lately. I’m sick of carryin’ your share of the load.”
“Some of us have a life.”
“Maybe I could have a life if I wasn’t so busy workin’ my ass off so you don’t have to.”
Colt straightened up and rested on the pitchfork. “Got somethin’ to say to me?”
“I’m sayin’ it. Show up for work on time, Colt. Not hungover, not f**kin’ whinin’ like a toddler. And while you’re at it, maybe you oughta think about the fact this is a small county. Some of the sex shit you and Kane and Kade are doin’ with every woman in the tri-county area is gettin’ around and before long it’ll get back to Ma.”
“Right. Like you have a right to talk. Why do you think everyone says ‘them wild McKay boys’—you and Colby and Quinn wrote the damn book on bad behavior. I’m just sowin’ my oats, same as you guys done.”
“Wrong. I was done by the time I was your age.”
“Well, la-di-fuckin’-da. I think you’re pissed off because Jasmine didn’t invite you to join in the fun and games the other night because you’re old and cranky.”
Furious, Cord jumped off the tailgate. “I’ll show you old. I’m gonna kick your smart ass, punk.”
Colt tossed the pitchfork aside. “Come on up here and try it.”
Just about that time, Colby galloped up on his horse. He reined between the two pickups and the two angry brothers. “What the hell is goin’ on here?”
“Ask Colt. Better yet, why don’t you ask him what he’s done today? Or yesterday?
Or all goddamn week?”
“Accordin’ to Cord, if you ain’t workin’ twenty-four hours a day, you’re a f**kin’ slacker.”
“You’d know all about bein’ a slacker, Colt.”
“Enough. Both of you.” Colby’s horse stuck his head in the back of the truck bed to sniff for food.
“Fine. I’m done anyway.” Colt climbed in his truck and roared off.
Cord stared after his shithead brother, mentally cataloging half a dozen crappy jobs for him to do tomorrow.
“What’s really goin’ on with him? Why’s he bein’ so damn ornery?”
Cord relayed what he’d seen in the Golden Boot. “Only thing he cares about is gettin’ laid and gettin’ drunk. And if you think I’m exaggeratin’, ask Dad. He knows what Colt ain’t been doin’ around here.”
Colby sighed. “I did. That’s why he sent me. He says you’re workin’ too hard.”
“Dad said that? He oughta talk. I ain’t doin’ any more than what I usually do—which just proves that Colt ain’t been doin’ his share. Not just this week, either. Ever since calving season.”
“Didja try talkin’ to him ’bout it?”
“Yeah. I even talked to Kade since he lives with him, see if he noticed anything.
Kade don’t see nothin’ wrong, so I dropped it.”
“You done here?”
“Was ’bout to head home. Why?”
“Channing told me to ask you to supper.”
“She feelin’ better?”
“Nope. Still sick as a dog. Doc says it’ll pass next month. Ma says it’ll pass next month.” He scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “Hard to be excited when she’s so miserable.”
“It gets better. And I’ll bet she’s happy even when she’s throwin’ up.”
Colby smiled. “True. Anyway, she knows you’re missin’ Ky, we’re missin’ him too.
So you wanna come over?”
“Nah. Tell the mama-to-be thanks and I’ll wait ’til she’s feelin’ up to company.”
“Good enough. You care if I hang around tomorrow and keep an eye on Colt?”
“I’d appreciate it. I’m runnin’ behind. Again.”
Cord threw his tools in the back of his truck and started the drive home. The summer air was heavy with heat. Gnats buzzed around his head. Burrs stuck to his clothes. He was hungry. Dirty. Still, this was his favorite part of ranching, gazing across his spread, knowing he’d accomplished something important during the long hours he’d spent outdoors.
About this time he looked forward to cleaning up. Having a bite to eat with his son.
Playing games or watching TV before wrestling Ky into bed.
But after he’d tucked Ky in for the night…that’s when he felt lonely on occasion.
Not a constant ache, more along the lines of a distant memory of the throb of a broken finger. Seemed he’d been alone so long he was used to it.
Yet, Cord wouldn’t be alone tonight. AJ would be rolling in. AJ with her big silver eyes. AJ with her sweet smile and inquisitive nature. AJ with her hungry kisses and look of wonder.
How could she be both innocent and daring? Why had she picked him, a cranky old man with no life, according to his brother, to initiate her into the pleasures between the sheets?
Why hadn’t AJ chosen Colt? He was closer to her in age. More charming. Probably had a lot of experience breaking in virgins.
But Cord knew if his brother so much as looked at AJ with lust in his eyes he’d beat the living shit out of him.
Lord. Part of him was plain nervous. Just how was he supposed to pop her cherry?
Candlelight, soft music, champagne and a slow seduction? Did he have the patience to create an elaborate scene?
No. But what if that was how she’d dreamed it would be?
He’d never been a romantic guy. Maybe he oughta take her hard and fast in the heat of passion. Then they could try some of the more interesting scenarios he’d been thinking up when he’d been alone out on the range all day.