Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 54

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“So you never answered my question, India. What’re you thinking about?”

“I’m contemplating my place in the universe. Or my navel.

Take your pick. They seem to be one in the same these days.”

“Smartass.”

“Sorry. I needed a second to clear my head because it is overwhelming. What are you out here thinking about?”

“I’m a trained soldier. It isn’t my job to think. It’s my job to do what I’m told.”

“Is that why you went into law enforcement? Just another set of orders to follow?”

“Maybe. You have to admit…the uniforms are sexy as shit.”

India laughed. “And every woman loves a man in uniform.”

“Loves. Right.”

Rather than quiz him on why he was so determined to keep Domini at arms length, she asked, “Do you miss being a soldier?”

“Yes.” More sloshing liquid. “And no.”

“Well, that cleared things up a whole bunch for me, thanks.”

Cam’s chuckle wasn’t particularly pleasant. “Welcome to my world.”

She shivered as much from his tone as the temperature.

“You want my coat?”

I want a drink of whatever you’re having.

“No. Thanks, though. I should head back inside. Probably time to eat.”

“They’ll come looking for us. Or maybe I oughta say Colt will come looking for you.”

“You don’t sound too happy about that prospect.” India faced him, or where she thought he might be lurking. “In fact, several times, like at the basketball game, you’ve questioned whether I should be with Colt because he ends up injured around me.”

“Sorry for snapping, I was on edge about Domini’s situation that night.” Pause. “Besides, why would you give a shit what I say or what I think?”

“I don’t. But if you think Colt doesn’t listen to you or care about what you say or what you think, you’re an idiot, Deputy McKay.”

She could tell that statement caught him off guard. “I wouldn’t torpedo the first decent relationship Colt’s ever had, India. Far from it.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Although, you drive that motorcycle too damn fast.”

India flashed him a cheeky smile. “You’ll have to catch me first to prove that, copper.”

Cam laughed.

“So you’re keeping your torpedo launcher away from me…because you think I’m gonna keep Colt on the straight and narrow?”

“No. It’s Colt’s responsibility to stay on the straight and narrow, not yours. Despite the fact you two wage war over the dumbest shit, and fight just so you can make up, you’re good for him. You’re a good person, Indy. A lot of the people in his past haven’t been, including some people in his family. He deserves a woman who understands him. Who sees his past and doesn’t judge him for it. Who sees him as the man he is now, not who he used to be.”

“Amen. Maybe you oughta share that insight with your family.”

“Believe me, I’ve tried.”

The porch door banged and Colt stepped out. “Hey. What’re you doin’ out here without a coat on?”

“Just thinking.” She wouldn’t out Cam. If he wanted to pipe up, that was his business. “It got a little stuffy in there.”

“I understand that. You okay?”

No. I could use a big, stiff drink. “Of course.”

“Good. Come on, supper’s ready.”

Of course.

She’d never admit a fallacy. Instead, she’d just slap on a happy face even if she was bleeding on the inside.

India was like that in A.A. too. Willing to deal with other people’s issues, while skirting her own. Did she ever feel…overwhelmed? Did she ever have that urge to drink until she passed out?

Probably not. Of all the people Colt knew, India seemed to have the addiction thing whipped. She had total control of her demons and some days he wished he was as confident in his sobriety as she was.

No one noticed India’s quiet demeanor at the supper table. She smiled. Laughed in all the right places but that restrained laughter never reached her eyes.

The only time a portion of the mask slipped was when she watched his nephews. A wistful look would soften her features. The same look she got watching her nieces. But if Colt let on he’d noticed? He knew her back would snap straight. Directly followed by a determined lifting of that elfin chin.

It drove him insane she had to act so freakin’ tough all the time when he knew she wasn’t.

When the kids began to get restless and whiny, Colt took it as a sign for them to leave.

After five minutes of silence cruising down the gravel road, he said, “Sorry you had a sucky time.”

“I didn’t have a sucky time. Why’d you think that?”

“Because you were awful quiet.”

“It’s sort of hard to get a word in edgewise with your family, so you can hardly blame me.”

“Blame you? For what?” Colt slammed on the brakes and threw it into park in the middle of the gravel road. “For Christsake, India, will you at least be honest with me?”

“Hey! Do you mind giving warning next time so I can brace myself for whiplash?”

“Funny, I was just thinkin’ the neckline on that shirt makes it look like you’re already wearing a neck brace.”

“Since when do you critique my clothing?”

“Since when did you start dressing like my mother?”

Her mouth dropped open. “Omigod. You are such an ass.”

“Why does that make me an ass?”

“Because it’s none of your goddamn business what I wear.”

“Yeah? So tell me. Why did you wear a long-sleeved shirt?”

She gave him a stony stare. “Because it’s October, Einstein.”

“Fine.” He let his gaze focus on her nose, then her eyebrow, her ears and finally her br**sts. “But where are your hoops? And studs? Why’d you take all of your piercings out?”

“I don’t wear them all the time.”

“Yes, you do. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Were you tryin’ to look more acceptable to my family?”

India’s defiant posture said it all.

“Why do you give a damn what my family thinks about your tattoos, piercings and funky clothes, India? I don’t. I didn’t take you there so you could change who you are to please them.”


Tags: Lorelei James Rough Riders Billionaire Romance
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