“Ding ding ding! Give the man a prize for guessing the correct answer.”
“Christ. How could I be such a f**kin’ idiot? I’d never take Eliza from her. Never. I just wanted Sky to see how seriously she oughta take the safety issues at the plant. I’ve been tryin’ my damndest to make the three of us be a real family, not tear us apart. To show her I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
“You can talk until you’re blue in the face and she won’t believe you.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because she’s the type who needs what she calls ‘tangible proof’.”
“I asked her to marry me so I could put a damn ring on her finger. What kinda concrete proof could be better than that?”
“There is one thing that you could do…never mind.” She shrugged. “You thought I was joking around with the no pain, no gain comment? I wasn’t. Come talk to me when you’ve figured it out.”
Great. More games. More puzzles. More reasons for him to take his cousin’s advice and lay low for a while.
India didn’t speak further until she pulled into the driveway and parked. “I knew you were a different kind of man when you barged into her life and offered her everything she never thought she’d have. After I figured out the McKay family connection, I asked Colt about you. He told me you’re the most honest, kind, and forthright man he’s ever known.
He says you cared enough to save him when no one else did.”
Embarrassed, Kade looked away.
“Skylar doesn’t need saving in the same way, but she needs you. Don’t let her fears chase you away, Kade. Fight for her.”
“I’m a little tired of fightin’ at the moment.”
“I can imagine.”
Kade stared at Skylar’s front door before he faced India. “You ever heard the phrase
‘nice guys finish last’? It’s true. Been true my whole life. So, maybe it’d be nice for me for a change, if someone thought I was worth fightin’ for.”
He climbed out of the car leaving India in stunned silence.
Heeding Kade’s advice about her impetuous behavior, Skylar didn’t race down the porch steps when a set of headlights appeared at the end of the driveway. She paused in the doorway until she recognized India’s car. What was her sister doing here at eleven o’clock at night? Then Kade’s truck pulled up, but Kade didn’t jump from the cab. Colt McKay did.
What the heck?
The sight of Colt helping Kade out of the passenger’s side of India’s car finally spurred Sky into action.
“What’s going on? Omigod, Kade, you’re bleeding!” Her heart rate kicked up, her stomach lurched as she looked at his battered face. “What happened?”
“Can we get him inside first?”
“Oh. Right.” She held open the door.
Kade shrugged off Colt’s help. “I can walk.”
He passed by without looking at her and headed to the kitchen.
She followed him, even when it was apparent he didn’t want her to.
Colt said, “If you’ve got a first aid kit, please get it.”
“Okay.” She turned but India snagged her arm. India’s eyes searched Sky’s face.
“Please don’t be stupid. This man is hurting and not just because he was in a fight. He needs you tonight. Forget whatever else happened today, be there for him—”
“Indy?” Colt called.
By the time Sky brought the kit, a bag of ice rested on the upper right half of Kade’s face. She scrutinized his swollen mouth, the bumps and bruises on his jaw, the deep gash above his eyebrow. Her gaze tracked the splotches of dried blood on his cheek and the long line of brownish-red trailing down his neck.
Don’t cry, be strong. She inhaled slowly and was amazed her voice didn’t shake.
“Does it hurt?”
“Let me see.” Sky’s stomach made a seesawing sensation as she inspected the deep cut. “I take it you opted for no doctor and no stitches.”
“Didn’t seem that bad.”
“Well, it sure isn’t good.” She brushed a bloody clump of hair from his forehead, over and over, at a loss for what else she could do to fix this for him. “I probably need to clean it before I can put on a bandage.”
Colt dropped Kade’s keys on the table. “Since you’re in capable hands, we’re gonna head back to town.”
“Thanks. Both of you. I appreciate your help.”
“No problem.” India turned to Sky. “Is Eliza sleeping?”
“She’s upstairs in our room, if you want to take a peek.”
“I will. Don’t worry, I won’t wake her.”
“I’ll wait outside,” Colt said.
Sky ripped open an antiseptic wipe and lowered the ice pack. She winced. His eye was completely swollen shut and his eyebrow had a deep gash, which was still oozing.
She dabbed around the area. “What happened to you?”
“A guy jumped me outside of the Golden Boot. He thought I was someone else. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t drunk and pickin’ fights.”
“I wasn’t going to ask that.” But Sky wasn’t surprised Kade was defensive. She’d taken him to task on his violent behavior earlier in the day and she knew he wouldn’t appreciate her apology now. “What’s the other guy look like?”
“Not a scratch. He caught me off guard. I’d be in much worse shape if Colt hadn’t come along when he did. My cousins showed up at the end.” He hissed. “Shit that stings.”
“Sorry.” Sky wiped the area three times before she was satisfied it was clean. She attached the bandage. “It should stop bleeding now. You want something for the pain?”
“Nah. I’m good, thanks.”
She used a warm washcloth to gently clean his face and neck. Rather than relax into her touch, he tensed up. “I’m trying not to hurt you, Kade.”
“It’s pretty much a given that you will, even when you don’t think you are.”
Her hand froze. Was he referencing something besides his injury? “Kade, please listen to me. Can we talk about this? I’m so—”
“Forget it. That’s probably good enough anyway.”
Stung into silence, Sky dumped water out of the Ziploc, adding more ice, and rewrapped the cold pack in a clean kitchen towel. “Here. This should help with the swelling.”