Ranching was a dangerous life. Fatal accidents happened all the time. Not in their family in recent years. And not because of a bad decision that could’ve easily been avoided.
A f**king senseless waste of a life.
Jesus. He couldn’t believe Dag was dead. None of them could.
Voices murmured. Cord loosened his tie and Keely caught him looking at his watch.
“What time do you have to leave?”
“In about an hour.”
“You sure you want to go alone? I could drive you.”
“Thanks, sis, but I’ll be fine. It’s gonna be a quick trip.”
“Did you talk to him today?”
“Yeah. He don’t understand and I’ve done a poor job explainin’ it to him.” By the time Cord decided to tell Ky what’d happened to Dag, his son had plain gone into hysterics and demanded to come home. Oddly enough, Marla agreed Ky should be with him. They’d changed the plane reservations and Cord was scheduled to leave on the last flight out of Cheyenne to Denver, en route to Seattle. As happy as he’d be to see his boy for the first time in a month, a layer of sadness dimmed his enthusiasm. Death changed everything.
Carter shoved his empty cup across the table. “Sorry I’m gonna miss seein’ the little squirt, but we can’t stick around.”
“My fault,” Cash said. “I doan wanna leave Gem alone with the twins overnight. She says she can handle them but she shouldn’t have to. We brought two horse trailers and we still need to load up the horses I bought from AJ before we take off.”
Cord’s stomach clenched at the mention of AJ’s name.
“That means you guys are leavin’ me to deal with Colt once I track him down?”
Shit. Cord hadn’t thought of that. “Can it wait until I get back?”
“What am I, Colby, chopped liver? I didn’t get to knock some sense into Carter the last time we had a McKay fall out of line, so I’m entitled to let loose on another one of my stupidly clueless brothers.” Keely gave Cord a pointed look.
“You know what.”
Kane said, “Don’t sweat it. Kade and I’ll be around.”
Quinn scratched his head beneath his hat. “Count me and Bennett in, if you give us enough warning so we can make the drive. Chase has gotta get back on the road too.”
“Where you competin’ next?” Cash asked.
“Wichita. Big purse. Lotsa points.”
“That’s a long way. You drivin’ straight through?”
“Good luck and be careful.” When Cash stood to leave, everyone at the table followed suit.
After Cord was on the road, he heard his cell phone beeping and he saw he’d missed a call from AJ. Damn. They’d been playing phone tag for a couple of days. The day after Dag died she’d gone to Billings with Jenn to get her mother moved into the assisted living facility. She wouldn’t be back until after he and Ky returned.
Yeah, he knew it was over. He knew he shouldn’t call her back. He should just let it go. He should just let her go. But the idea of not seeing her again? Not talking to her?
Not laughing with her? Not touching her? That was just another reason why his reunion with Ky would be so bittersweet.
He hit redial anyway and left her another message. Cell service through Wyoming was spotty at best so he knew chances were slim they’d actually connect. Why did everything in life have to be so goddamn hard?
Why don’t you just buck up and tell her how you feel?
Right. So she could walk away from him?
Maybe she’d stay.
Nah. The die was cast. The ball was in play. There was no way to go back and he really couldn’t see how he and AJ could go forward when they’d literally be miles apart from Sundance to Denver.
It was a damn long, lonely, depressing drive to Cheyenne.
Two days later…
While Kade and Skylar waited for the check after a crappy meal at Ziggy’s sports bar, which neither of them tasted, he saw Colt.
Happy as Kade was to know his cousin wasn’t dead, because no one had seen him since Dag’s funeral, he was less than happy when Colt stumbled to their booth drunk as a skunk, high as a kite with a vulgar look in his bleary eyes.
“Hey, cuz. Who’s the purty lady?”
“Skylar. Skylar this is my very drunk cousin, Colt McKay.”
“Colt. Nice to meet you.”
“So how come you haven’t brought her by the Boars Nest? ’Cause she ain’t the adventurous type?”
“No. Because I don’t live there anymore.” Kade had a moment of panic. What if Colt was here with Kane? Why in the hell after half a dozen dates hadn’t he come clean about his real identity? Because it’d gone too far and he was a total f**king dumbass.
“Excuse us, we were just leavin’.”
“Hold on, hold on. I’ll let ya go get lucky,” he winked lewdly at Skylar, “soon as you tell me what the hell Kane did with my extra set of truck keys. Can’t find ’em anywhere.”
“Is my brother here?”
“No, your brother ain’t here. That’s what I’m sayin’. The bartender took my keys. I keep an extra set in my glove box and they’re missin’. Kane didn’t give ’em back last time he borrowed my truck.”
“You shouldn’t be drivin’ anyway.”
“When did you turn into such a f**kin’ pussy, Kade? Jesus.”
“Shut up, Colt, and go someplace else. For Christsake go sleep it off in your truck.”
“Think you got the right to tell me what to do like everyone else in my goddamn life? Fuck that. I’ll knock you into next week, you smarmy cocksucker.”
Skylar said, “Take it easy, Colt. You’re confused. Maybe Kane and I should take you home.”
Colt frowned and looked around wildly. “Kane? He’s here?”
“He’s right there.” Skylar pointed at Kade.
No no no. Kade knew everything was about to go horribly wrong.
“Darlin’, I may be drunk as shit, but you’re the one who’s confused. That ain’t Kane.
Skylar stared at Kade as if she expected him to dispute it. While she waited, two more shadows fell across the table and they both looked up to see Colby and…Kane.
Skylar gasped. Her gaze zipped back and forth between the twins. “There are two of you?”