Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 59

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“Good to know.”

Both men leaned against the truck. Colby still favored the leg he’d busted up rodeoing, and had taken up a cockeyed position.

Cord crossed his arms and his legs, keeping his face shadowed beneath his hat brim.

“So why are you here?”

Colby tipped his head up and looked Colt square in the eye.

“To apologize for bein’ a prick to you.”

Whoa. Not what Colt expected.

“I ain’t gonna make excuses about what I said a few weeks back, ’cause it’s over and done. We both know it was wrong. We all know this situation has been buildin’ for a while. You’ve pissed me off so many times since I quit the circuit and started workin’ on the ranch that I’m surprised we ain’t come to blows before now.”

“Hell, I’ve been pissing you off since I was born,” Colt said.

Colby shot him a smile. “Ain’t that the truth.”

“And Colt, you and I did come to blows,” Cord added.

Just another blackout drunk moment Colt didn’t remember.

“So until Cam pointed it out a couple weeks back,” Colby continued, “I hadn’t considered I’d kept up that shitty attitude toward you even now that you’re clean. Because I was used to actin’ that way, I realized I didn’t know how not to be mad at you, bro.”

Silence.

“Then when you built this house, away from us, and up the road from Trev, who’d always been my best friend, I guess I was pissed and jealous. Makes me an immature f**k to spout off the shit I did to you. You didn’t deserve none of it. Jesus. I don’t know if I can ever apologize enough.”

“You don’t hafta—”

“Lemme say my piece. I’m sorry I— we—didn’t kick your ass when we saw you losin’ the battle with booze. You shoulda been able to turn to us, Colt, instead we turned you against us. I don’t blame you for wantin’ to distance yourself. No wonder you prefer Kade and Buck to us, at least they had your back when you needed it.”

Colt glanced away.

“As long as we’re spillin’ our guts, I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to include you in my life with Channing either. All Gib could talk about on the way home from dinner last night was you.”

“He’s a great kid.”

“And I’m really f**kin’ sorry you’ve borne the brunt of the work in your sobriety while I was workin’ banker’s hours because I’ve got a wife and kids to go home to.

“Bottom line is Cam was dead on and it pisses me off I was too stubborn to see it. I didn’t believe you could change, even when the proof was right in my face for the last three years. And it sucks that if Cam didn’t have the balls to speak the truth, we all probably would’ve gone on like this for years, huh?”

“Probably.”

Another moment of silence.

Cord shifted his stance. “I ain’t got much to add. Colby pretty much said it all. But I will say I’m just as much a sorry sonuvabitch.

Maybe more. Christ, Colt, I’m so f**kin’ sorry. It never shoulda gotten to this point. We all know the strained relationship Dad has with Uncle Casper. As the oldest kid I swore it’d never happen to any of us. I’ll be damned if I didn’t sit back and let it happen.

“When you sobered up I wasn’t sure it’d stick. Hell, I watched you strugglin’ that fall when you returned from treatment until you found an A.A. meeting. And what did I do the instant AJ and I got married? I quit hangin’ out with you. I even went a step farther than Colby; I justified my actions by convincin’ myself you were better off with A.A. support than with ours.”

“Look, I ain’t gonna lie. I needed A.A. I wouldn’t have survived the first year if it hadn’t been for A.A.” If it hadn’t been for India. “I dealt with a lot of shit I didn’t want any of my family to know about. So blame on the ‘backing away’ response is equal.”

“I’m supposed to tell you from Carter that although he ain’t around as much as he’d like, he feels guilty,” Colby said.

“Especially since all of us banded together and knocked some sense into him when he needed it. Must’ve seemed like we couldn’t be bothered to do that for you.”

Colt looked back and forth between his brother’s hangdog faces. “Lemme ask you something. Did your wives put you up to this?”

“Nope. AJ’s been worried,” Cord said. “But she’s been feelin’ too crappy to do much but yell at me for knockin’ her up.”

“Same with Channing. Though, I gotta say, if either one of them were in top form, along with Macie, they woulda thrown their lot in with Keely and kicked all our asses. Keely knew what was up.

Might’ve saved us all some grief if we woulda listened to her.”

“What about Ma? Any of this her doing?”

Colby shook his head. “I’m pretty sure Ma’s in worse denial than the rest of us. First thing she said after Cam blew up was she raised us to treat each other better.”

“That’s it?”

“Uh-huh. And Dad…”

“You don’t gotta explain nothin’ to me about Dad,” Colt said.

Both Colby and Cord smiled.

This time the silence wasn’t filled with tension.

Colt said, “I appreciate you guys comin’ by and bein’ up front with me. It’d been easier to ignore it.”

“No lie there.”

“So we okay?” Colt asked.

“I reckon. Except Colby and I would like you to help us draw up a more structured distribution of ranch duties.”

“Jesus. Dad’ll hate that.”

“Tough shit. That ain’t his decision,” Cord said. “This ain’t a monarchy.”

Wow. Bucking Carson McKay’s iron rule about “doin’ what needs done” and receiving apologies from both his brothers? This was shaping up to be a damn fine day. The family changes would take some getting used to for all of them, still, Cord and Colby had taken the first step to making things better and Colt admired that. He could work with that.

But they could all use a little levity. “So, do we give each other a big group hug now, or what?”

Cord said, “I vote for the ‘or what’ option.”

“Meaning?”

“Let’s dick with Cam. I’m beginnin’ to think our little brother feels left out of our family dramas.”


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