Dalton had been saying that for a while, so Ben shrugged it off. “You should.”
“Besides, I’ll bet it ain’t your buddies that’re holding your interest. Got a woman stashed there?”
He looked at Kade, standing next to Colby, and blatantly changed the subject. “Rielle mentioned seeing Skylar last week. She said Sky had been sick. Is that why you weren’t around?”
Kade nodded. “Some flu thing. I’m just damn glad the girls and I didn’t get it.” He knocked on the wooden bar top.
“You sure the sickness wasn’t from Sky being pregnant?” Cam said slyly.
“Fuck off, lawman. Some of us know when to say when.”
“And some of us not so much,” Colby muttered.
“No way. Channing is pregnant again?” Kane asked.
“God no.” Colby also knocked on wood.
“Libby ain’t pregnant either,” Quinn offered.
“Ditto for Indy.”
“Add AJ to the not list,” Cord said.
“Did this conversation have a point?” Tell demanded. “Or all you gonna whip out baby pics next?”
“Yeah, cause you don’t have a picture of your nephew Landon in yours,” Keely inserted.
“We’re just tryin’ to figure out who’s pregnant,” Kane said. “Cause at least one woman in this family is always knocked up.”
All eyes zoomed to Brandt.
“What the hell? Jessie’s not pregnant.”
A beat passed. Then all everyone turned and looked at Keely.
She bristled. “What did I do now?”
“We’re just wondering…” Colt drawled.
“If you’ve got a bun in the oven?” Cord finished.
“I’ve got a whole package of them right here.” Keely whipped a roll at Cord’s head. “Jerk.” Then she pegged Colt with one. “Asshole. You telling me I look fat?”
“Put away the dinner rolls, Nolan Ryan. We ain’t sayin’ you look fat. We’re just tryin’ to figure out who Ma is knitting the new baby blanket for.”
“Not me. Jesus. Jack and I have only been married a year. And after I saw AJ in labor with Beau?” She shuddered. “Maybe never.”
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad.”
Keely threw another roll at Cord. “Not that bad? Didn’t AJ threaten to cut off your big swinging dick filled with demon seed if she ever saw it again?”
Cord smirked. “She didn’t mean it, trust me.”
“Kiss and make up with your big swinging dick, did she?” Colt said with a snicker.
More laughter broke out.
“How did we get on this subject anyway? I was hoping there’d be no baby talk for a change,” Dalton complained.
“We got on the subject because my brother was avoiding your question about the women keeping his interest in Gillette,” Quinn said.
Ben scowled at him.
“Or maybe he only wants us to think that. Maybe he really has his eye on a woman closer to home,” Keely tossed out.
Thanks a fuckload, Keely.
Quinn’s beer bottle stopped halfway to his mouth. “Ah hell. I should’ve seen that one comin’.”
“I’m confused,” Ben said. “Should’ve seen what one comin’?”
“Not what, who. You know, your hot, sexy, single neighbor, Rielle Wetzler?” Keely added, “How’s she doin’ with that bed and breakfast? I don’t ever hear anything about it, which can’t be good.”
Dalton stood. “Count me out of the conversation when it comes to the Wetzler girls.”
“And count me out of the conversation where you guys are tryin’ to marry off the last of us single McKays,” Tell said. “We like livin’ the carefree bachelor life.”
Ben noticed his married cousins exchanging smug looks after he, Dalton and Tell high-fived.
“Nothin’ goin’ on between me and Rielle. We’re friends. I’ve built some furniture for her. Done some repairs at the B&B. She keeps an eye on my dogs when I’m gone. Just normal neighborly stuff. Plus, she’s at least ten years older than me.”
Cord grinned. “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. Trust me.”
“Maybe she does all that stuff because she wants to be more than just friends. You should ask her out,” Cam suggested.
“You might even get to put one of the beds you made her to good use,” Quinn teased.
“Very fucking funny.”
“Ooh. Someone’s sensitive.”
Male laughter erupted.
He snapped, “We watchin’ bull riding or didja bring nail polish so we could give each other manicures while we gossip?”
Keely rang a cowbell in the kitchen. “Come and get it!”
While plates were being filled, Ben shooed his dogs outside and turned on VERSUS. Once everyone was settled, Ben brought another round of beer before he fixed a plate for himself. He looked around, glad his cousins had put their differences aside and not only worked together, but could hang out together occasionally. They were all too hotheaded and stubborn for their working relationship to always be sunshine and roses, but at least that relationship wasn’t combative day in and day out.
A collective groan rippled through the room when a bull stomped the crap out of a rider’s leg.
Low stakes betting didn’t last more than ten riders because Tell won all rounds. Being a PRCA rough stock judge was an advantage.
Buck-offs were more common than an eight-second ride so the speculation was high that Chase had a shot at the championship round, since his first score put him in the top twelve.
After Keely ended her cell phone call, she squeezed between Cam and Colt on the couch. “Carter and Jack say hey to everyone.”
“You couldn’t go an entire afternoon without checking in with your lord and master?” Cord asked.
“I don’t have to check in, jerkface. Jack called me because he misses me.”
“I’ll bet he was drunk,” Cam said.
Keely elbowed him in the gut.
“Brandt, have you checked in with Jessie yet? It’s been at least an hour since you’ve talked to her.” Dalton added kissing noises and Tell muttered about being pussy-whipped. Brandt cuffed them both in the back of the head.
All in all, just a normal McKay gathering.
Chase’s match-up was announced. He’d drawn Red Bull Rebel. Chase was on the bull by the time the camera panned to him, helmet on, testing his wrap. Another shift of his hips and he nodded to the gatekeeper.
Red Bull Rebel went nearly vertical right out of the chute. Ben mumbled, “Come on, bro. You got this. Stay on him.” Chase had total control during the spin. Ben didn’t look away from the screen until Chase hit the eight-second mark and the cheering started behind him.
High-fives were exchanged all around the room. Ben grabbed the remote and rewound so they could watch it again. Immediately after the score of eighty-eight was announced, the camera panned to Ava, Chase’s wife, in the audience.
“Chase has really turned his ridin’ around,” Brandt said.
Ben muttered, “He needed to.”
“I’ve never seen anyone more determined when we worked them bulls last summer. One day, Chase climbed on twenty-five bulls.” Colby shook his head. “Crazy damn kid. Me’n Cash kept waitin’ for him to say enough but he never did.”
“Hey, Ben?” Kane said. “Me’n Kade are goin’ antelope huntin’ next weekend. Do you still want the hides if we bag a couple?”
“Yeah. Any deer skin you don’t want either.”
“What are you doin’ with them?” Colt asked.
“Tanning them and adding pieces to furniture. I’m not sure if it’ll work, so I need extra skins to experiment on.”
“I’ll pass the word along. I know Trev and Ed got permits to hunt damn near everything.”
After Chase placed seventh, the party broke up.
Ben was too restless to sit inside, so he headed out to his workshop. But his thoughts kept drifting to Angel. He hoped she wouldn’t talk herself out of returning to the Rawhide.
It’d been a common occurrence, in Ben’s experience, that once a woman was out of the club atmosphere, she’d get to thinking about how she’d willingly given herself over to a dominant partner. She’d become mortified by her behavior. In the moment, it’d been a heady experience. In the outside world, it seemed…wrong. Dirty. Out of character. A violation of her feminist sensibilities.
Not that Ben disagreed some dominant/submissive relationships were borderline degrading. It bothered him that some women’s foray into the scene only showed the worst side. Not the best side, like Layla and Murphy, who’d been together for years. Their devotion to each other’s needs was undeniable. Ben wasn’t looking for a lifestyle sub, but a woman who understood this wasn’t a phase with him. He was a dominant to the core and always would be. He couldn’t be with a woman who wouldn’t accept that side of him—no matter where they met.
Planing boards for mission-style nightstands took his mind off constant speculation about the odds of Angel showing up.
He suspected it’d be a long week.
Oh my aching ass.
Ainsley’s butt still stung on Monday morning. Bad. She’d immersed herself in a cool bath as soon as she’d returned to the hotel after her sexcapades at the Rawhide Club with Bennett. Every time she felt that burning twinge, it reminded her of him. Of how he’d known the pain would morph into something else entirely for her.
And that knowledge had shaken her very foundation.
She prided herself on being a logical woman. But what she’d experienced with Bennett defied logic. A smart, independent, capable female ceding all control, in essence saying, here’s my body, do to it what you please, don’t let me think, just make me come.
Did that make her a mindless slave to pleasures of the flesh?