Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 15

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Not possible, but his body still craved a drink so badly his teeth hurt.

He’d tried to get out of an unhealthy situation with India, only to find himself defending her at the first opportunity.

The silence in the community center after the auctioneer announced India’s prize package tied Colt’s guts in knots. India might act tough, but beneath that hard outer shell was a softie trying to find her place within a community that didn’t easily welcome strangers.

Or didn’t readily believe long-time citizens could change.

They were both screwed. No wonder they’d been together these last few years. And Fallon, while trying to make it an insult, had it exactly right: they did deserve each other.

How could he convince India that statement was true?

The high point of the night had been the ten minutes of heaven he and India carved out in the supply closet. Nothing else mattered but the need pulsing between them. Each kiss, each touch, awakened the sexual beast sleeping inside him.

Maybe that’s why he’d been content living a celibate life. He’d needed to learn who he was as a man, not a male who only thought with his dick.

So what now that the beast was fully awake?

Sate it. With lots and lots of sex.

Colt knew if he drove back into town and trolled the bars he could have a woman in his bed within an hour. But there was only one woman he wanted in his bed.

India.

Avoiding her had only produced a sharper ache. Lining up a date with another woman only proved he’d compare every female to the tattooed smart mouth who’d stolen his heart. Goddamn, she could piss him off one second and fire his blood with lust the next.

Drown your sorrows. You deserve to cut loose and try and forget about her.

Nights like this were the worst, being unsure and frustrated only increased his cravings for alcohol.

So booze was out. Sex was out. Sleep was a lost cause. That left one thing.

Colt changed into workout shorts. In the spare bedroom, he slipped on his boxing gloves and beat the stuffing out of the punching bag until he was sweaty and too exhausted to think.

The next morning the phone rang as Colt came inside from stacking wood. Only three people called him before eight on Sunday. India, his cousin Chassie, and his mother. Lately Chassie didn’t bother phoning first, she barged right into his house. He didn’t need to look at the caller ID today. “Hey, Ma.”

“Good morning!”

Carolyn West McKay was the cheeriest morning person on the planet. He poured the last of the coffee in his mug and listened to her chatter like a chipmunk. She’d get to the point of the call eventually. But she had this perverted sixth sense—if she thought you were trying to speed her along, she’d find irrelevant things to yammer on about.

“…just wanted to double-check that you were coming for an early family supper tonight.”

Finally. “How early?”

“Four o’clock.”

“Sure, I’ll be there.”

“Good. Cam is coming when he gets off shift. Wish Carter and Macie and their boys could be here. Keely too. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a family dinner.” Her weighted pause actually caused Colt to hold his breath. “Is there a chance you’ll be bringing a date?”

Shit. He wasn’t surprised word of his date with Fallon—and the fiasco afterward—had already fueled the gossip channels. Still,  that was fast, even by Sundance standards. “Nope. No date. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Oh. No, son, I’m not disappointed. I’m looking forward to catching up. You’re not around as much since you built that house out in the middle of nowhere.”

“Everywhere in Wyoming is out in the middle of nowhere,” he said dryly. “Besides, it’s only thirty miles.”

“Seems like you’re three thousand miles away,” she murmured.

Sometimes I wish I was.

As he hung up, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d looked forward to Sunday dinner with the family, instead of feeling a sense of dread.

The McKay house was complete chaos. Kids running around, babies crying, his mother and his sisters-in-law jabbering like they hadn’t seen each other in months.

He’d been hanging out with his nephews in the family room, when he realized he was the only male adult in the room. He tracked his brothers and his father outside, lounging against the split rail fence running along the front of the house, drinking beer and shooting the shit. Even after three years of sobriety, they weren’t comfortable popping a top or two around him. Which was just another reason Colt only stayed long enough to be polite. Not that he contributed much to any conversation.

Carson said, “I don’t know what the hell Charlie was thinkin’.”

“Why didn’t Quinn and Bennett say something?” Colby asked.

“’Cause I don’t think they knew.”

Cord tipped his long neck beer bottle toward Colby. “I’ll bet you fifty bucks Aunt Vi had something to do with it.”

“You’re on.”

They chinked bottles.

Colt shifted his stance and dropped his water bottle, reminding Cord, Colby and his father he was not part of the fence.

“What do you think about it?” Carson McKay demanded.

“So they bought a pair of llamas, big deal,” Colt said. “I don’t see how it affects us. Besides givin’ us ample opportunity to razz our cousins to no end with the question: Is your mama a llama?”

Laughter broke out. Cord’s son Kyler’s obsession with that book as a toddler meant they’d all been forced to read it until they could recite the thing from memory. That’d been a happy period in Colt’s life, one of the memories of that time not tainted by alcohol.

“Seems Ky’s reading skills will come in handy with the new baby.”

All gazes zoomed to Cord.

He grinned like a loon. “AJ’s pregnant. She wanted to wait until she’s past the first trimester to tell folks, bein’s it’s her first baby and all, but I can’t help it.”

Carson clapped Cord on the back. Colby said, “Congrats. Man, must be something in the water. Channing, Macie and AJ are all pregnant at the same time.”

“Least they’re not all gonna pop durin’ calvin’ season,” Carson said.

If both his brothers’ wives were pregnant during the busiest time of the year, it meant Colt would shoulder a bigger chunk of the responsibility.

Big surprise. Didn’t it just figure everyone in the family assumed he’d be around to pick up the slack? Hell, when push came to shove, only Cam and Carter owned less of the McKay herd than he did. They both had other jobs. Colt’s sullen side silently retorted that no one expected them to do more than their fair share. In fact, with Cam’s war injury he couldn’t do much. And Carter split his time between here and his in-laws’ place in Canyon River.


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