Did he? Did he know she was crazy in love with him? Why else would he send her to Ky’s bathroom? The last two nights he’d been so thoughtful, cleaning her up.
You’re worrying too much. Cord doesn’t believe in love, he believes in lust and that’s all he’ll see when he looks at you because he can’t offer you anything else.
Cord knocked on the door. “AJ? Baby doll, you okay?”
“Yeah. Be right out.”
She used another cloth to swipe her face and neck before she put her clothes back on.
He’d slipped on a pair of jeans and a clean T-shirt. She found it incredibly intimate his feet were bare. The man rarely exposed his body or his thoughts, so maybe he was opening up to her a little. A tiny bit of hope surfaced again that she was making progress with him.
“You want scrambled eggs? Or a sandwich?”
“Eggs are fine, but you don’t have to cook for me. I can make it myself.”
He walked over and kissed her nose. “Sit. It’ll be done in a minute.”
AJ knew Cord was completely at home in a kitchen. Her father never had been. She suspected Carson McKay wasn’t either. But up until a couple of weeks ago Cord had been mother and father to Ky and he’d had no choice.
He slid two steaming plates piled with eggs and toast on the breakfast bar, then came around to sit beside her.
“Looks good. Thank you.”
“No problem. You need ketchup?”
“Ky won’t eat eggs without drownin’ them in red goo.”
“Hopefully my palate is more developed than a four-year-old boy’s.”
Cord’s fork stopped above his plate. “I didn’t mean—”
“I know. I was teasing.”
They ate the rest of the meal in silence. Cord picked up the plates and shoved them in the sink next to the frying pan and the breakfast dishes.
“Since you cooked you want me to do those?”
A strange, tight look crossed his face. “That’s not necessary.”
“I don’t mind.” AJ squirted dishsoap in the sink and turned the water on. “So I know it’s probably too soon, but did you and your dad talk about what you’re gonna do with our ranch?”
“Some. We’ve talked about plantin’ buffalo grass in the north pasture to see if it’ll take.”
“Smart. I’ve always been worried about overgrazing in that section. My dad wasn’t vigilant as far as rotation. Before you bought us out I’d planned on having mom talk to you about resting the grazing field to the south this fall anyway. Looks a little rough for the wear.”
Cord seemed unusually quiet, in a considering way, and AJ realized she’d revealed she knew too much. She scrambled for a subject change. “As far as plans for our house?
It needs some work. Major work.”
“Guess we won’t make any decisions until…”
“We’re gone, right?” She scrubbed the plates and placed them on the left side of the sink.
“Sorry, that was kinda thoughtless.”
“It’s okay. I haven’t really wrapped my head around the fact it won’t be my home anymore.” She dropped the cleaned forks next to the plates. “Keely said I could come home with her whenever I wanted, which was sweet, but visiting won’t be the same as living here.”
“You talked to Keely?”
“Of course I talked to her.” AJ rinsed the soap from the dishes. She reached for the dishtowel, but Cord had it in his hand and plucked up a plate to dry.
“What else did you talk to my little sister about?”
“Why don’t you come right out and ask me if I talked to her about us making mattress angels?”
“Fine. Does she know?”
“That’s just f**kin’ great.”
She whirled around. “I trust her. I don’t care if you are pissed off about it. She’s my best friend and I talk to her about everything that’s going on in my life. The fact you’re her brother doesn’t matter and if it bothers you—what the hell are you staring at?”
“Put down the fryin’ pan, AJ. Unless you plan on smackin’ me upside the head with it?”
“What?” AJ looked at her hand and saw she’d been shaking the soap-covered cast iron pan in his face. “Sorry.”
Cord took the pan and rinsed it. He dried it before speaking again. “Would it bug you if the situations were reversed and I blabbed to your sister about everything goin’ on between us?”
Attempting to stay calm, AJ unplugged the sink. Rinsed out the dishrag and twisted it, spreading it out to dry over the edge of the counter before she answered him. “A—I don’t blab; neither does Keely, so you can rest assured no one in the McKay family will find out that you and I are boinking like bunnies. B—If I have to choose between screwing around in secret with you for a few weeks or having Keely as my friend for the rest of my life, then no contest, because she wins. Hands down.”
AJ made it to the door before Cord caught her.
“Wait a minute, that wasn’t fair.”
“You’re right. It wasn’t.”
He stared at her, that brooding expression darkening his handsome face, as if he expected her to say something else. To apologize for something that wasn’t her fault.
“Thank you for tonight, Cord, it was…great. It’s been a crazy day and I’m a little on edge. I’ll see you later.”
She wasn’t particularly surprised he let her go. But she was surprised by how eager she was to get away from him.
“Where the hell is Colt?” Cord barked at Kade the next morning over the phone.
“Yeah, I know it ain’t your day to watch him. No. I’ll do it myself. I don’t got time to ride over there and haul his drunken carcass outta bed again.”
Cord clicked his cell phone off. “Goddamn, he’s lookin’ to get his ass whupped.” He threw his mug in the sink, noticing he’d forgotten to dry the silverware after AJ had left.
That was another screwed up situation. Things’d been going great guns last night. He hadn’t blamed his sudden tension on AJ’s admission that Keely knew about them. No, doing dishes together was what sent him into a belligerent retreat.
Cooking for her hadn’t been a big deal. But the second she started washing plates, knowing exactly where he kept his dishrags and dish soap, a funny feeling, sort of like hope had spread inside him. Had he tossed her out? No. He’d automatically reached for the dishtowel to dry. Like they’d done that household task together all the time. Like it was natural. Like it was the first of many times.