AJ eyed the stripper, whose junk was peeping out of the top of a metallic snakeskin G-string. The man looked little more than a boy. With his hands fluffing his shaggy rock star hair and the seductive way his slender hips gyrated, she knew no mere boy could move like that.
Four women from Liza’s church whooped, elbowing each other to line up first to shove money in the string circling the guy’s tattooed pelvis. In the corner by the food, seventy-something Bebe was winning the deep-throat-a-bratwurst contest. Marijane Jackson Goodhue, the president of their graduating class and extremely pregnant, showed how well she could roll meatballs in her mouth.
Liza’s wish had come true. This was one wild-assed party. Packed to the rafters with women from all over the county—including Cord’s mother, Carolyn, and his Aunt Kimi.
There were four six-foot tall inflatable penises making the rounds. Any woman who played the bratwurst game won a headband decorated with bobbing light-up penises. AJ
turned her head to the left and the spring on her headband caught in her hair again.
“Where’s the bride-to-be?” someone shouted from the stage.
AJ lifted Liza’s arm above her head and waved it madly. A horde of women descended on Liza, dragging her to a chair up front, which left AJ free to sneak to the punchbowl.
As she refilled her cup, Carolyn McKay sidled up. “Fancy meeting you here, Amy Jo.”
“Likewise.” AJ tried not to stare at the headpiece Cord’s mom wore and wondered if Carolyn was trying not to stare at hers.
“Keely is gonna be so mad she missed this party. I think we oughta rub it in real good, don’t you?”
AJ grinned and clinked her mug against Carolyn’s. “I’ll drink to that.”
“Better. She’s anxious to get on with her life. We’re going to Billings in a couple days to find a place for her to live.”
“The company Jenn works for had an opening. She can start in the next couple weeks, which will give the kids time to adjust before school starts.”
Carolyn placed her hand on AJ’s arm. “How are you adjusting, sweetheart?”
AJ shrugged. “We’ll see. I haven’t officially left here yet.”
“I know you’ve probably heard it from Keely, but you are welcome at our home anytime.”
“I appreciate that. And I know that Macie and Carter are looking forward to being around here more often. Exciting news about the baby, huh?”
“Very. Can you believe I’m gonna be a grandma again? Times three? I love my little Ky, but I’m beside myself about Channing and now Macie. Lord. Doesn’t seem that long ago I was sittin’ in a chair like that one, about to pledge my life to a wild McKay.” A wistful look crossed her face.
“Lots of people told me not to bother trying to love a man like Carson McKay. I knew he was gruff from the get-go. He holds a grudge. He’s set in his ways. Carson is a cowboy rancher to his very core. Not big on public displays of affection. But I never listened to what any of them said. In my heart I knew what kind of man he was and still is. It isn’t the public displays that matter. The important affection in a relationship is given in private anyway.”
Was that a hint that Carolyn knew the type of affection her son Cord was giving her in private?
“Good Lord that’s not very private, is it?”
AJ’s head swiveled to see what Carolyn was gawking at. Oh man. The stripper spread his legs wide and was doing the bump and grind—in Liza’s face. His butt was completely exposed and seemed to be covered in a sheen of oil. To discourage women from grabbing onto him?
“Hang in there, sweetie, it’s worth it in the long run,” Carolyn said, the penises on her head bobbed merrily as she returned to her seat up near the action.
Was that a warning her son was a chip off the old block? Or an encouragement AJ
should follow her instincts as far as Cord was concerned?
Problem was, AJ didn’t trust her instincts anymore. She’d started the quest to win Cord’s love weeks ago. Now she wasn’t sure what she’d do with it if she ever got it.
Not that Cord gave off any signals he was falling in love with her. In lust?
Definitely. They’d curl up to watch a movie or eat a meal together and rush to get naked together. Not that she was complaining—hello, world’s hottest cowboy rancher had it bad for her—where was the downside in as much nasty, raunchy sex as she could take?
Near, as she could figure, no downside. Except she still loved him. Not with the hero worship of a five-year-old girl, but with the eyes of a woman who knew a good man.
With the eyes of a woman who knew she’d need years to capture the heart of Cord McKay…and she had two weeks.
Tonight was the third night in a row she hadn’t been with him. Not to be churlish or to punish him. She spent her day fulfilling the needs of one person, only to race over to Cord’s place to fulfill his needs. What about her needs? The ones that didn’t have a blasted thing to do with family love or sexual gratification?
To cement the idea her personal needs and goals mattered, she’d driven by the Sandstone building in Sundance a couple of times. It was the perfect size for a start-up massage studio. Too bad she didn’t have the capital to remodel—not even after the sale of seven horses. With her young age and no land ties to the community, she’d have a devil of a time convincing the local banker to give her a loan.
Now that she thought about it, she and Keely hadn’t gone beyond the “wouldn’t it be great to run a massage parlor in Sundance” pipe dream. No planning. Which allowed her to figure out a plan to make her dream happen on her own.
She needed a patron. Maybe the economic development department for the state of Wyoming had business incentives to keep natives in the area. It’d be worth looking into.
The time had come for her to be assertive in all areas of her life.
As if on cue, her cell phone rang. Keely.
“What? No. I can’t hear you. Who? No. Haven’t seen him. But your mom is here.
Look, K, I’ll call you later with all the juicy details.”
“Where are the bridesmaids?” Liza’s sister Glenda barked in the microphone. Glenda scanned the room from the makeshift stage, grinning when she made eye contact with AJ.
“There’s one! Amy Jo Foster, come on down!”
Yippee. AJ wanted that skanky guy to rub his crotch in her face like she wanted to get gored by a bull.