“How much longer you think you’ll be over there?” Colby asked.
“At least six months. Then I hafta decide if I wanna re-up.”
“Why the f**k would you wanna re-up if you had the choice not to?”
“Jesus, Remy, way to be a prick,” Chet said. “Cam’s like platoon commander. A real war hero.”
“Hero. Right.” Cam concentrated on peeling the label off his beer bottle. “Eatin’ sand, gettin’ shot at, arrestin’ soldiers, filin’ a million f**kin’ reports, patrollin’ hopin’ I don’t get shot at some more, serious hero shit there.”
No one said anything while the waitress brought another round.
Kade took a long sip of beer. It loosened some of the tightness in his shoulders from his huge blowup with Skylar. His pride stung way worse than his jaw and his gut, not that he’d share that with anyone. “I take it Colt ain’t comin’?”
Colby shook his head. “A.A. meetin’ tonight. He don’t miss ’em. And thank God for that.”
“Think maybe you oughta be thankin’ Kade. If it weren’t for him, who knows what might’ve happened to our wayward brother,” Cord said.
“It wasn’t my doin’. I just drove him to rehab. Colt made the decision to go there and get sober all by himself.”
“Well, I appreciate it, and if I haven’t said thanks for lookin’ out for him, I’m sayin’ it now. Not knowin’ what was goin’ on around here, especially after what went down with Dag, really sucked.”
“Sucked pretty bad watchin’ it happen, so in some ways, Cam, you were lucky not to be around.”
Quinn and Bennett walked in and Cord waved them over.
After they were seated, Quinn leaned over and said to Kade, “Where’s your ropin’ partner in crime?”
“His meetin’ night, I guess. He ain’t gonna make it.”
Bennett pushed his hat back a notch and smirked. “Quinn almost didn’t make it tonight either.”
“Yeah, Q, why not?”
“Shut up, Ben. Nobody f**kin’ cares.”
“Come on, bro, it’s a funny story.”
“Not to me. It ain’t funny at all.”
Kade noticed the grim set of Quinn’s mouth and had the perverse hope his cousin had a fight with his wife. Be nice if he wasn’t the only one at the table with woman troubles. He cast a covert look at Cord and Colby, both happily married to sweet women who wouldn’t snap at them for anything, least of all for acting like a man protecting what was his. Skylar’s words echoed in his head: is that macho cowboy bullshit supposed to impress me?
“It can’t be that bad,” Cord said.
Colby laughed. “I recognize that hangdog look, we’ve all been there, you longer than all of us combined. Spill it. What was it Libby wanted you to do?”
“She’s on this kick where she’s tryin’ to find an activity we can do together as a couple.”
“Sex is a couple’s activity,” Chet said. “Hell, you shouldn’t need nothin’ else.”
“Amen,” Cord said, chinking his bottle to Colby’s.
“Spoken like a single man, Chet,” Quinn replied. “Libby says what we do on the ranch don’t count. So ridin’ horses, four-wheelers, checkin’ cattle, and cookin’ ain’t a possibility for couple time.”
Quinn chugged his beer. “This is so damn embarrassin’, can we drop it?”
A chorus of no’s broke the smoky air.
“How long you been married again?” Kade asked.
“Seven years. Been together since high school, so it’s like twelve years and that just proves that she knows how to push my damn buttons. The woman ain’t gonna let up on me ’til she gets what she wants, which is my total humiliation.”
Remy angled closer. “She ain’t makin’ you wear funny clothes in the bood-war is she? Dressin’ you up like an Indian chief? Or makin’ you wear a saloon girl costume with fishnets, spiked heels and pantaloons while she straps on a six-shooter and plays the part of the gunslinger?”
“Jesus Christ, Remy, what the f**k is wrong with you tonight?” Chet hissed.
“Thanks a lot for the mental image of Quinn dressed up as Mae West,” Cam said dryly. “My cousin as a drag queen—worse than combat nightmares for me for sure.”
Cord shook his head. “My brain sort of froze up at the word ‘strap on’, to be real honest.”
Kade choked on his beer.
“Pantaloons?” Colby frowned. “Where’d you even hear that word, Remy? A John Wayne movie?”
“Bein’s Remy is freely usin’ the words pantaloons and boudoir in casual conversation, I’m wonderin’ just how deep his western whorehouse fantasy goes,” Blake said.
“Fuck you all very much.”
“See, compared to the weird shit they’re thinkin’ up, the reality ain’t that awful, Q.”
Bennett hid his smile behind his beer bottle. “So, you tellin’ ’em, or am I?”
“Fine.” Quinn blurted, “Libby signed us up for some damn hippie pottery class.”
“Like in… Writin’ love words an’ shit?” Chet asked with horror.
“No,” Quinn said, “Pot-ter-y.”
“Pottery?” Cord repeated. “Like makin’ flowerpots outta clay?”
They all tried not to laugh, but once Cam’s infectious whoops of laughter rang out, then it was pointless to stay somber.
Blake clapped him on the back. “At least you got out of it tonight.”
“Don’t think Libby ain’t gonna be makin’ me pay for it. So, Cam, I hope you appreciate me bein’ here, ’cause I ain’t gettin’ any pu**y for the next week.”
“Yeah? Least your wife didn’t trick you into f**kin’ her without a condom so you’d knock her up again.”
All eyes turned to Colby.
“That’s right, Channing cut me off for over a week, then bam, nailed me but good.”
“Why you complainin’ about gettin’ nailed?” Chet asked.
“Because she didn’t have an easy pregnancy with Gib. Don’t know why the hell she wants to take a chance again so soon.”
Cam said, “I figure she’s tryin’ to keep up with Gemma and Macie on the baby races. Them two, I swear. Tryin’ to populate Wyoming.”