Tied Up, Tied Down (Rough Riders 4) - Page 31

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“I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like growing up, always questioning people’s ulterior motives. Must make it hard to trust not only yourself, but everyone around you.”

“It does.”

“Whatcha see is what you get with us, honey.” Kimi tucked a loose hair behind Skylar’s ear and murmured, “I’ll be damned. You are a little shy, aren’t you?”

“About some things.” She studied Kimi’s kind eyes. “Is it obvious?”

“Only to me.”

Skylar gave her a skeptical look and Kimi cracked.

“Okay, it’s partially mother’s instinct, and partially Kade making me promise to look out for you because he can’t be with you. He’s worried about leavin’ you alone to deal with our crazy family.”

That man embodied sweet and something undeniably warm moved through Sky.

Kimi squeezed Sky’s shoulder. “Even knowing that, and as much fun as we’re having, I’m afraid I’ve gotta leave you to your own devices for a bit. The rodeo is about to start. You better get settled and I’ll meet you later.”

Skylar climbed the stairs in the grand stand. Clouds covered the sun, blocking some of the heat. She secured her sleepy baby in the Snugli, strapping it to her chest and stood next to the railing. The noise or the crowds didn’t bother Eliza. Sky took a minute to breathe it all in. The scents, the sights, the sounds of rodeo. Nothing like it in the world.

Saddle bronc riding ended and the steer wrestling—bulldogging—was set to begin.

She listened to the announcers extolling the qualities needed to be a great bulldogger, and couldn’t fathom why any man would throw himself off a moving horse onto a moving horned animal.

“Skylar?”

Startled by someone calling out her name, she looked down and saw Chassie grinning up at her.

“Hey. You wanna come sit with us?” Chassie pointed to a small group of people by the bottom railing.

Yes. “Oh. I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Nonsense. You’re family and we’d love to have you.” Chassie winked. “I’m always lookin’ for a leg up on McKay gossip. Plus, it’ll be fun. I promise. Nothing like the chaos in the tent at the West family reunion. You were lookin’ a little goggle-eyed.”

“I was.” Sky followed Chassie and listened while she made introductions.

“Everyone, this is Skylar Ellison, and the sleeping babe is the infamous Eliza Belle, who proud papa Kade’s been braggin’ on to everyone within spittin’ distance. So who’s next?

Name and family affiliation to make it easier on Skylar since she’s already been subjected to the West family today.”

“I’m Macie McKay, we’ve met at your store a few times.”

They had met, but for some reason Sky hadn’t connected her to the McKay family.

“You run Dewey’s?”

“Oversee it since we live in Canyon River half the time.”

“Cat does a great job. The food is wonderful and the place is so homey.”

Macie beamed. “Thanks. Is India here?”

“No. She’s holding down the fort. I hope we get lots of traffic because of the rodeo.”

A long, lean man with McKay blue eyes and a riot of unruly curls waved. “Carter McKay of the Carson McKay branch. I’m Kade’s cousin. Macie’s my wife, and our son Thane is a couple months older than Eliza. They’ll have a lot of fun growin’ up together.”

“Raising hell together you mean. Thane and my twins, Rider and Ella, are napping in the camper under Velma’s watchful eye.” The older blonde woman, who appeared to be pregnant, thrust out her hand. “I’m Gemma Big Crow. No relation to these McKay yahoos, except by marriage. My husband Cash, is team roping with Chassie’s husband Trevor, and sorry to say it, hon, but they’re gonna kick some major butt today.”

“You wish,” Carter said. “Kade and Colt are on fire.”

“Huh-uh. Dad and Trev rule.”

Chassie leaned over. “FYI, Macie is Cash’s daughter from a previous relationship.

Carter is Colt’s younger brother.”

“I’m never going to keep all this straight.”

“It takes time, but you will. Despite their surface similarities they’ve all got distinct personalities.”

Sky thought of Kade’s comment about feeling interchangeable with not only his twin, but his male McKay cousins and felt a punch of sympathy. If she didn’t know him, she’d probably be like everyone else and lump him in with his family.

The announcer’s voice boomed. “First up. Buck McKay. Not a McKay name I’m familiar with.”

Carter laughed. “The SOB really did it. Said he was gonna do something drastic to set himself apart.”

“Set himself apart from who?” Macie demanded.

“From Colt, but mostly from Kade. Kane—aka Buck—is determined to get his new nickname to stick. Aunt Kimi is appalled.”

“Is Kade his hazer?” Gemma asked.

“Yep. Poor Kade got roped into all sorts of events,” Carter said.

Sky leaned over and asked Chassie, “What in the world is a hazer?”

“The rider who keeps the steer in a straight line for the bulldogger is called a hazer.”

The chute opened, a steer bolted into the arena and two horses raced after it.

Skylar didn’t see Buck launch himself onto the steer and flip it over. She was too busy staring at Kade—all grace and control—atop the sleek and powerful horse. It was the first time she’d seen him duded up in full cowboy regalia. She was used to him coming home from work, dirty and tired, but she’d never seen him look like this.

Was chasing down cattle on horseback part of his daily routine? A guilty feeling twisted her gut when she realized she knew nothing about his life as a rancher. Talk about self-centered. He’d taken a big interest in her business, why hadn’t she returned the favor?

“You’re looking flushed.” Gemma scooted over and thumped the bench. “Sit.”

“Thanks.” Skylar rubbed circles on Eliza’s back as she dozed in the front pack. The normally soothing motion did nothing to soothe Skylar because she was wound tight as a spool of thread.

After a minute or so, Gemma said, “First time you’ve seen Kade in the arena?”

“First time I’ve seen him on a horse. Seeing how he moves and rides…I had no idea.”


Tags: Lorelei James Rough Riders Billionaire Romance
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