Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 60

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Colby scratched his chin. “You know, we have been treatin’ him with kid gloves since he settled back here. Maybe it’s time we…”

“What?”

“Take the gloves off,” Cord and Colby finished together.

Colt grinned. “I’m in.”

***

Colt returned home hours later to find the light on his answering machine flashing. Probably a telemarketer. Most everyone he wanted to talk to called his cell. He hit play anyway.

Two messages.

“Colt. It’s India. Look, I’m going to be really busy the next couple of days. I hope you understand it’d be best if we just did our own thing until the weekend. I’ll call you then.”

Beep.

He hit pause on the machine and dialed India’s cell. She picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”

“What the hell is this? You’re too busy to see me all week?”

“I explained in the message.”

“Like hell you did. What’s really going on, India?”

Silence.

“I know you’re there.”

“I need a break.”

“From me?”

“From you, from us, from this…”

“How long is this break gonna last? Or is it a permanent break?”

“No! God no. I swear to you, I just need some time alone to think.” She paused. “Don’t you ever need that?”

Yeah, he did. Didn’t mean he liked it. “So do you have an end date in mind for this moratorium on seein’ each other?”

“How about Thursday?”

He bit back a growl. “Fine.”

“I won’t be at the meeting tomorrow night either.”

There went that plan. “Can I at least call you?”

“No. Thursday is not that far away, Colt, I think you’ll survive not talking to me for two days.” Softly, she said, “I’ll miss you.

Take care,” and hung up.

“Goddammit.” He hated this. Especially since he didn’t know what’d sent her into full retreat.

His family? Maybe.

Or maybe…he’d spooked her by his intent to tell her he loved her last night, before she’d stopped him. Why would that scare her?

She had to know how he felt.

Guess he’d have to wait until Thursday to find out.

The message light still blinked. He hit play. “Hi, Colt, it’s Ginger Paulson. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met a couple weeks back at the community center? My son Hayden was in a class and we talked when I picked him up? Anyway, if you could call me back, I’d appreciate it. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.” She rattled off the number and he scrawled it on the scratch pad by the phone.

Yeah, he remembered her all right. The redhead. He dialed her number. “Ginger? It’s Colt McKay. What can I do for you?” He waited while she explained. A big grin broke out when she finished.

“Sure I can meet you. Tomorrow night? At Dewey’s? It’s a date.”

Chapter Twenty-one

The bell on the front door clanked.

India threw her sketchbook on the counter and stretched. Talk about a slow day. She slapped on a smile and entered the main part of the store, which showcased the Sky Blue product line.

“Good morning. Something I can help you with?”

The woman turned around. Carolyn McKay.

India tried not to let her smile slip. She’d known Carolyn for a few years, in a professional capacity, as India the saleswoman who tempted Carolyn with new Sky Blue products. Was she supposed to act differently now that she was dating Colt?

“Hi Carolyn. How are you?”

“Fine. And you?”

I’m dragging ass because your son f**ked me senseless and we didn’t use protection, so I could very well be pregnant with your grandchild.

Not a good answer. TMI, as Keely would say. “I’m good. You looking for something in particular? I’m afraid the lavender and sage hand lotion is backordered until next month.”

“Thanks for letting me know. But that’s not why I’m here.”

“Oh?” Brilliant response, India, maybe you oughta be totally stupid and her if she’s here for a tattoo.

“Did you have a good time at our house Sunday night?”

“Yes. The food was wonderful. Colt has always told me what a great cook you are.”

Carolyn beamed. “Really? Sometimes I wonder if any of my family pays attention to what they’re eating. It’s good to hear my efforts are appreciated.” She paused. “Do you cook?”

“God no. Seems pointless for one. I tend to go for fast and easy.” That hadn’t come out right.

A knowing look entered Carolyn’s eyes. “I see. My niece Chassie tells me Colt is a good cook, not that he’s invited his father and me over for dinner.”

Colt’s choice of dinner guests was not India’s issue. “He is a great cook.”

“He’s cooked for you?”

Crap. She’d fallen right into that one. “Yes. Since I can’t crack an egg, I have to reciprocate in other creative ways.” Ooh. And didn’t that sound totally suggestive?

“I’m sure.”

“That’s not what I meant—”

“And it’s not important. Anyway, I was surprised to hear you were dating my son. Aren’t there…rules against that sort of thing?”

India frowned. “Rules?”

“A.A. rules. About a sponsor not becoming intimately involved with a sponsoree.”

Carolyn was fishing. The relationship between the sponsor and sponsoree wasn’t spelled out on purpose, according to the A.A. guidelines. If she’d done any sort of research—and India would bet money Carolyn McKay had read up on A.A—she’d know that.

What Carolyn wanted was confirmation India was now—or had been—Colt’s sponsor. India wouldn’t betray that confidence, especially since early on Colt demanded everything about his A.A. life be kept from his family, as was his right.

India said, “With all due respect, Carolyn, I’m sure you understand I’m not at liberty to discuss A.A. business with you.”

“Oh sure. I just wondered. I worry.”

“You worry about Colt? Or about me dating Colt?”

“Both, I guess.”

At least she hadn’t lied. “Why?”

“Can I be honest with you? You look like a straight shooter.”

India took it to mean she looked low-class and acted crass. “By all means.”


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