Kade kissed her square on the mouth. “Deal. Now excuse me, I gotta get ready for work. I hear my boss lady is a real hard ass.”
Sky said, “Baby girl, I think I created a monster.”
“He’s great with kids.”
If one more person said that to her today, Skylar was going to scream.
Annie said, “Instead of doin’ arts and crafts, he’s teaching them to throw a rope. And at naptime, he had them drape their blankets over the desks and pretend they were camping out, Old West style. He even got Joey to fall asleep.”
“And, he promised to bring them a pony to ride next time.”
Sky slapped her hands on the desk. “Annie. Why are you barging in here and telling me all this when I have work to do?”
“Because I knew it’d drive you crazy.” Annie offered her a benevolent smile. “Don’t you think you oughta tell Kade how you feel about him?”
“Yes. No. Hell, I don’t know. I mean, I will when it’s not so complicated.”
“Don’t seem so complicated to me, but then again, I’m just a country girl. You love him, he loves you, get a preacher and get married. Simple.”
Skylar slumped back in her chair. “What makes you think he loves me?”
“He’s here, on his day off, takin’ care of kids that ain’t his, in order to help you out?
Sugar, if that ain’t love, plain as day, I don’t know what is.” Annie left and closed the door.
A couple hours later Kade was outside dumping garbage when an old Dodge truck pulled up to the outer gate, not in the general parking area.
The bearded guy behind the wheel poked his head out the window and studied the building from top to bottom, side to side. Like he was casing the joint.
The behavior raised Kade’s hackles. Still, he decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. The man disappeared inside the truck cab, then sat up. He tipped a bottle of booze and took several long swallows. Then he jumped out of the truck, puffed up his chest and all Kade’s doubts were fully realized.
This guy was trouble.
Kade intercepted the man about thirty feet from the front entrance. “Something I can help you with, buddy?”
“I ain’t your f**kin’ buddy. Move.”
“Whoa. Then how’s about you tell me who you are?”
The man sneered. “How’s about you back the f**k off, and lemme handle my business.”
“See, that’s where I have a problem. What goes on in that buildin’ is my business so you’re gonna hafta tell me yours before I let you step another foot on this property.”
“My wife is in there. I wanna talk to her. Now get the hell outta my way.”
“What’s your wife’s name?”
“None of your business.”
“Again, it is my business. Tell me her name and I’ll get a message to her.”
“I’ll give her the message myself, ass**le. Move.”
“No. What’s your name?”
“What the f**k is it to you?”
Kade was beyond pissed. “Wrong answer. Get in your truck and go home.”
The man’s beady black eyes shrunk to pinpoints. “You can’t keep me from my family. She took our kid and she’s hidin’ out in there and I got rights.”
“I don’t give a good goddamn about your rights. Get off this property. Now.”
“It involves my boot in your ass, buddy.”
“Bet you’d like that you f**kin’ pervert.”
The steel door banged open and Skylar stormed out. “What is going on?”
“You!” The guy brushed past Kade, menace in every ounce of his posture.
Rather than take a chance this idiot might hurt Skylar, Kade jerked him to a stop by the back of his shirt.
The man twisted, leading with his fist. He clocked Kade in the jaw with enough force that Kade stumbled back. The guy came after him again, swinging and missing, then driving a punch straight to Kade’s sternum.
“Fuck!” Kade launched himself at the idiot. They fell to the soggy ground and Kade landed a solid right to the man’s mouth. Blood burst from the guy’s lip. Kade followed through with another right, but the guy rolled and Kade’s fist connected with mud. Before Kade regained his balance, the man hit him in the side of the head.
Even though he’d gotten his bell rung, Kade automatically swung low and heard the whump of air as he punched the guy in the stomach. A splash followed as the man fell into a puddle.
When Skylar moved to stand between them, Kade jumped up and blocked her from the man’s long reaching arms, even when the guy was curled up on the ground. “Stay back. You have no idea what this guy is capable of.”
“I had no idea that you were capable of this kind of behavior.”
Stung, he said, “He took the first swing.”
“I don’t care. Step aside. I’ll handle this.”
“The hell you will.” Kade dropped his voice. “Get in the goddamn building, Skylar, right now.”
“Last time I checked, I owned this place and you do not get to dictate to me here. So back off.”
“No. I will not let you put yourself in a dangerous situation because you think you can handle it.”
Skylar’s eyes were as cold as he’d ever seen. “I’ll handle it my way and it won’t be with physical violence like you’ve handled it.”
“There ain’t any other way.”
She sidestepped Kade and addressed the prone man. “Rex. Get off my property and don’t come back. If I see you within fifty feet of the front door, I’m calling the sheriff.”
Mud-covered Rex scrabbled to his feet and shuffled back to his pickup, amidst mutterings of lawsuits. He gunned the engine and was gone.
Kade seethed. Hadn’t she learned her lesson last night about purposely putting herself in danger? How did Skylar know the idiot didn’t have a gun in his truck? He could’ve pulled it out and started firing at her and gone after everyone in the building. He growled, glaring at her for her short-sighted decision to let the guy go.
Without turning away from Kade, she pointed to the building. “See those kids plastered to the window? Kids you spent all day caring for? They’ve been watching you beat the shit out of another man. Every single one of them has had to deal with domestic violence in some form. This is the one place they shouldn’t have that fear. You brought that fear to them today in Technicolor.”