Branded as Trouble (Rough Riders 6) - Page 64

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Suspicion darkened Cat’s eyes. “Really? You’re sure you’re not upset?”

“Positive,” she lied. “Besides, I am getting what I want from Colt McKay.”

“What’s that?” Cat asked.

India’s lips twisted in a parody of a smile. “Now where would be the fun in telling you, when I want it to be such a big surprise for him?”

Colt was stuck in hell—the foyer at the back of the building between the tattoo studio and the stairs leading to India’s apartment.

He’d been there for the last twenty minutes.

He racked his brain trying to remember whether he’d slept with Cat, but it was pointless. There was a period of eighteen months that’d been a total blur. But he did know in the years he’d been sober, whenever she’d come on to him at Dewey’s, he’d let her know he was not interested. In fact, he’d been downright rude to her on a couple of occasions.

So…his rudeness, not calling her after a two-night stand…he could see why she had it in for him.

What sickened him, as much as Cat’s tactics to turn India’s niggling doubts into full-blown doubts, was that India hadn’t defended him. Not once. She’d demanded clarification on a couple of points. But never once had she said, you’re wrong. I know Colt. I know his heart. I know his soul. I know the man he is now, not the man he was.

Not f**king once.

And what was up with her cryptic claim, I am getting what I want from Colt McKay?

A gut-level fear froze his breath in his lungs. Was India just another person who took what they wanted from him, expected his support, but when push came to shove, couldn’t offer it in return?

Support or trust?

A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

Colt shifted the bouquet of flowers and lumbered up the steps, not bothering to tiptoe. They’d tiptoed around these issues plenty, it seemed, and the time had come to face them dead on.

India heard the stairs creak and knew Colt had come calling a day early. Her heart leapt for joy and she set the tattoo gun on the tray table. “Almost done, give me one sec.” She hustled to the backroom.

The foyer was empty. Ever since she’d tossed the wrench at his head, Colt kept his distance when she was working. But really, had he been in such a damn hurry he’d left the back door open? Her hand curled around the doorknob and she pulled the door shut. A click echoed in the enclosed space.

A familiar click.

Heart pounding, India opened the door to determine her ears weren’t playing tricks on her.


She hadn’t heard him go upstairs until just now. Which meant…he’d heard every word.

You mean he knows you didn’t defend him.

Colt didn’t understand how a woman like Cat operated. The only way to keep their relationship private, and not fodder for Cat’s gossip mill, was to ignore her.

But Cat taunted you and you fell for it.

Heartsick, India dragged her feet returning to her tattoo station.

She picked up the tattoo gun and dipped the needle in the ink.

“You okay?”

No. “Yeah.”

“Well, then, as I was saying—”

“You know what, Cat? The truth is, I have a vicious headache.

Let me concentrate on this last petal and you’ll be done.”

Numb and weary, she shifted into autopilot as she finished adding in the last of the pink to the rose.

After she swabbed the area and Cat admired the tat re-furb, India taped a bandage on it. “I’ll ring you up out front.”

Cat stopped. “Ring me up? What do you mean?”

“You didn’t expect me to re-ink you for free, did you?”

The look on Cat’s face said exactly that.

“That’ll be a hundred bucks.”

“For a re-ink? A new tattoo doesn’t cost that much.”

“Ah, but those aren’t special Kat Von D tats, are they? I had to take extra care not to wreck her design, and that’s much harder than starting from scratch.”

“Seems a little pricey.”

India just hoped it hadn’t cost her everything.

Chapter Twenty-three

Rather than pace until India came upstairs, Colt found a vase and put the flowers in water. Then he paced.

Did he admit he’d overheard the conversation? Did he play dumb and see if she brought it up first?

Yeah, he’d go with that option.

He wandered to her bedroom. The bed was unmade. The sheets were twisted into a knot. Pillows were strewn across the floor, as if she’d thrown them. That made him smile. She was a restless sleeper.

The scents of cinnamon and lemon lingered in the air. His gaze landed on the silk scarves piled on the dresser. Between her scent and the memory of what he’d done to her with the scarves, his c**k started to stir. Not good to greet her with a hard-on. He backtracked to the bathroom.

Makeup, washcloths, empty coffee cups littered the bathroom counter. He washed his hands and was looking for a hand towel when he saw the calendar.

Whoa. Why did India need a calendar in the bathroom?

Curious, Colt picked it up. Several days were X’d out. Some in blue. Some in red. He flipped the page. Days were marked for the following month. Not hard to figure out what the red days meant.

A weird feeling arose as he looked at the dates. A yes was scrawled on the blue X’d square three days ago. The night they’d had sex against the pickup. A yes was jotted in the blue X’d box for four days ago. The night she’d spent at his place and he’d f**ked her nine ways ‘til Sunday. A no was written in the blue X’d box for the last two days in which he hadn’t seen India at all. A blue X

marked today and tomorrow. Then nothing until four weeks from the first blue X. Exactly four weeks.

Son of a bitch. Colt knew enough about biology to understand why India was marking the days. This was a fertility chart and blue indicated her most fertile time.

I am getting what I want from Colt McKay.

He didn’t have to tax his brain to figure out what India wanted from him: a baby. She wanted a baby so bad she’d…steal it? She didn’t care if it wasn’t what he wanted?

Jesus. He wanted kids some day. He wanted kids with India, but he wanted a say in when and if that happened. Not for her to take away his choice by staging a “do me right here, right now”

stunt that ensured he couldn’t say no.

You could’ve said no. By saying yes you reverted back to the behavior you used to be known by. So are you really mad at India?

Or yourself?

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