Tied Up, Tied Down (Rough Riders 4) - Page 36

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The molten heat in Kade’s eyes made her knees quake.

The loudspeaker boomed with news of the presentations. He eased back, drained his remaining beer and stood. “Better get a move on.”

Kade kept his hand pressed in the small of her back as they crossed the grounds to the stands. Several young women studied him with blatant sexual interest, from the tips of his boots to the brim of his cowboy hat, lingering on the fit of his Wranglers and the size of his belt buckle. A couple of brave rhinestone cowgirls were so happy to see him back in action, they approached him to offer to make up for lost time, in whatever capacity he chose. Suggestions were tossed out, without shame.

Not one of the pouty-faced women called him Kade. Every single one called him Kane. And Kade didn’t correct their assumptions. He’d probably gotten so used to it, he either didn’t notice, or it didn’t bother him.

It bothered the crap out of Skylar. Kade wasn’t interchangeable. Kade was unique.

And dammit, these buckle bunnies could kiss her butt. Kade McKay was hers.

When an older brunette, with over-teased hair and an overbite, slid her fingers up the buttons on Kade’s shirt, Sky wondered if she were somehow invisible. Would these same

“ride-me-cowboy” buckle bunnies be so eager to throw themselves at him if he held Eliza?

Probably. Kade was damn fine-looking and one of the most eligible bachelors in three counties. His obvious physical attributes were a bonus, as far as Sky was concerned.

What made him irresistible to her these days? He wasn’t afraid to show he loved his child to distraction. He rolled out of bed in the middle of the night so Sky could sleep. It was all the sweet, thoughtful, just plain nice things he did for her and Eliza, simply because he was that type of man and he enjoyed doing it, not because he had to or it was expected.

Throughout the conversations, Kade remained polite to his admirers. Skylar also noticed his warm hand remained firmly planted on her back. Even after they’d made their escape.

She spied Kimi and Eliza. Kade ambled up. Eliza took one look at him and her feet churned with glee. He grinned, stealing her from Kimi’s arms. “There’s my girl. Didja miss us, sweet thang?” He bussed the top of her bonneted head.

“She was an absolute angel,” Kimi said. “Skylar Ellison, meet my sister Carolyn McKay. She had to skip out on the West reunion earlier because her daughter-in-law Channing got sick.”

As they shook hands, “Your last name is McKay too?”

“Yep. We’re sisters who married brothers. Long story we’ll no doubt bore you with at some point. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your Sky Blue products. Kimi has me hooked.”

“I always love to hear that.”

“You must not work at the shop in Sundance much?”

Sky shook her head. “I trust it to India while I’m running the manufacturing plant outside of Moorcroft.”

Kade moved to block the sun from Sky’s eyes. “You oughta see her setup. It’s something. Way beyond anything else goin’ around here.” He rattled off a bunch of things that Sky was surprised he remembered from the brief tour. And he almost sounded…proud of her.

Carolyn whistled. “Kade, are you driving from Moorcroft to the ranch? Every day?”

“Yep. Ain’t no big deal.”

“Sixty miles is quite a stretch, especially when you’re tired from working.”

He rolled his eyes. “You sound just like Ma, Aunt C.”

“I worry about all my family members, Kade, not just the ones I gave birth to.”

“You’d say the same thing to Colby or Cord?”

“If they were driving one hundred and twenty miles round trip every day, I’d ask them to be careful too.”

Skylar got right in his face. “You’re driving that many miles? Every day?”

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Bewildered, she could only stare at him and feel more guilty. “I didn’t know. No wonder you’re so tired. You shouldn’t have to—”

“Have to don’t enter into it at all.” He lowered his voice so only she heard him.

“Because it don’t matter. I want to. I’d drive twice that to be with you and Eliza every night.”

She melted and only managed a humble, “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh. This ain’t a temporary thing for me, so I figured I’d better get used to it early on.”

This ain’t a temporary thing for me.

The announcer listed the program order and team-roping trophies were second on the list. Kade passed Eliza to Sky. “I’ve gotta help Colt, then I’ll be right home.”

“But there’s a get-together at Colby and Channing’s place tonight,” Kimi said.

“Everyone in the family is gonna be there.”

“Everyone except us.” Kade exchanged a hot look with Skylar and a wave of anticipation flowed through her. “Eliza’s had enough excitement today. She’s had a rough week and she needs an early bedtime.”

“Fair enough. But you are comin’ to the brunch at Carolyn and Carson’s tomorrow?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Kade winked at her. “Later, sweetheart.”

Kimi and Carolyn moved closer to the action, while Sky watched from the fence.

She swallowed her jealousy at the legions of women who surrounded Kade and Colt.

Strange thing was, neither man seemed particularly interested in any of them.

Cash Big Crow and Trevor Glanzer hammed it up for the crowd. After the all-around title was announced, with Trevor as the winner, Trevor and Chassie took the stage. A buzz filled the air.

Trevor commandeered the microphone. “Last year due to an accident, my wife lost her brother, Dag West, and I lost a good buddy. Dag left behind many family members and friends. So in honor of Dag, his love of rodeo, and his love of this community, the Devil’s Tower Rodeo Association has created an annual award in Dag West’s memory.”

Murmurs of approval and a smattering of applause.

“Every year this award will go to the cowboy or cowgirl, who’s shown heart, guts, and a whole lotta try at this event and others around the area. Someone who’s overcome obstacles and still embodies the ideals and western way of life.”

More buzz reverberated through the crowd as folks speculated who’d win.

“Chassie and I are happy to announce that this year’s winner is a man well-versed in the cowboy way, a man who has thrived in spite of it.” Trevor paused for the laughter to die down. “The First Annual Dag West Memorial Award goes to…Colton McKay.”


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