Sky wiped her eyes and shook her head. “Please. If you can help her…”
“I’ll see what I can do.” AJ sat in a chair and stretched Eliza out on her lap, belly up.
Holding her head with one hand, she rubbed her thumb from the base of the baby’s skull to the bottom of her neck. She massaged the left side and right side, speaking softly to Eliza as she continued to gently rub and Eliza continued to shriek.
After several long minutes, which seemed a lifetime to Skylar as her precious baby wailed, the cries tapered to whimpers. The whimpers ended with a hiccup. It became quiet enough they heard Eliza sigh deeply.
Skylar felt that sigh clear to the marrow of her bones.
India peered at the infant. “It’s a miracle. What did you do?”
AJ blushed. “Nothing, really. Massaged her neck. We learned when babies are learning to hold up their heads, it can create extra pressure on the tendons in their neck.
When they get all tense, they seize up, mostly in their neck, where their vocal cords are.
They scream, it hurts and they scream more.”
“Thank you.” Skylar stared at the twisted Kleenex in her hand. “I feel like such an idiot. I didn’t know that.” Tears welled up again. “There’s lots I don’t know.”
“Hey, I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone to massage therapy school. Trust me, my sister had the same issues with all three of her kids, so it’s not you.”
Sweet words. AJ was the sweetest woman around.
AJ continued to rub Eliza’s neck and the baby’s long lashes fluttered closed. “As long as you’re here…I have a bone to pick with you, Skylar Ellison.” Those silver eyes locked on hers. “Why didn’t you tell me Eliza was Kade’s baby? All this time and I had no clue you were carrying a McKay?”
Ooh. Not so sweet now.
“Kade didn’t even know,” India pointed out.
“You bet your behind he didn’t, because no way would Kade have let you go through pregnancy and childbirth alone. I’ve known him all my life and he is not that kind of man. Cord told me the only reason Kade took that job up in the north country was because he’d had a bad break up with a woman. I never imagined that woman was you.”
Skylar bit back the retort, I never imagined he’d pretend to be his twin brother and knock me up, either.
“And if you’d bothered to tell any of us you were pregnant, we would’ve made sure he received the message.”
“Am I going to be defending my decision to the entire McKay family for the rest of Eliza’s life?”
“Probably.” AJ straightened Eliza’s jumper. “We’re all overjoyed because you birthed a girl McKay. Keely has been the only girl for four generations.”
“Kimi mentioned that.” Kade’s mother had called a couple of times to chat after Kade had taken Eliza to see her grandma. Kimi was a real spitfire. She claimed she had to be tough to survive being married to a wild McKay man and raising two more McKay hellions. Sky developed an instant rapport with Kimi, even when Sky shied away asking questions about Kade and his childhood, because she didn’t want to seem nosy.
“My sisters-in-law have hope the next McKay out of the chute, so to speak,” AJ
grinned cheekily, “will be the stem-less variety.”
“What about you, AJ? Since Channing and Macie have both birthed boys, you itching to be the one to break their streak?” India teased.
“God no. Ky is plenty for us to handle right now. Besides, Cord and I’ve only been married since December. We’re breeding horses for the time being, not kids.”
Footsteps echoed from the back room. A deep male voice asked, “India? You seen my wife?” Cord McKay crossed the threshold.
Skylar stared. Good God. Was every single one of the blasted McKay men so sinfully good-looking? No question this man was related to Kade—same dark hair, same vivid blue eyes.
But Cord only had eyes for AJ. Hungry eyes. “Hey, baby doll. I was lookin’ for you.”
“And you found me.”
“Appears you found your way to the babies again,” he murmured and angled over her shoulder to examine Eliza.
“I can’t help it. Isn’t she the sweetest thing?”
“Yes, she is. Least that’s what her daddy says.” Cord’s eyes met Skylar’s, almost in challenge.
Sky’s mocking look challenged him back. “Kade is a sucker. He’s already promised to buy her a pony.”
“I imagine so.” He thrust out his hand. “I’ve seen you around, and I know India, but we’ve never been introduced. Cord McKay.”
She shook his hand. “Skylar Ellison. Do all you McKay cousins and brothers look alike?”
“The wonder twins notwithstandin’, I don’t see the resemblance, but other folks do. I imagine we all oughta wear name tags tomorrow, so you don’t get us mixed up.”
“What’s going on tomorrow?”
“The big rodeo. Kade and Colt are competin’. Everybody’s talkin’ about it. I figured you’d be there so Kade could show off the baby.”
“He hasn’t mentioned it, but he’s been pretty scarce the last couple days.”
An awkward moment followed.
“Well, I’m sure Kade’ll tell you about it when he finds time.” Cord set his hand on AJ’s shoulder and squeezed. “I came to remind you we gotta get Ky pretty quick.”
AJ stood and handed the sleeping baby to her mother. “Thanks for letting me have my baby fix. See you tomorrow.”
The couple barely cleared the backroom when AJ gasped and a low masculine laugh answered. The connecting door slammed.
“Those two. I swear they’re always doin’ it in her studio. I think it’s the only chance they have to be alone without rambunctious Ky underfoot.”
“Kids do have a way of messing up the best laid plans.”
“Sounds like you have some experience with that?”
Rather than respond, Sky wandered. She was too restless to sit and half-afraid if she quit moving Eliza would wake up. Her thoughts wandered to Kade.
Why hadn’t he told her about the rodeo? Because he’d planned on taking Eliza, but not her? Because he expected come Saturday she’d pass on his intriguing offer and that part of their relationship would be over? They’d be friends, Eliza’s parents and nothing more to each other? That thought made her sort of ill.