Rode Hard, Put Up Wet Page 28

“I had no idea.” She studied his face. “When did that happen?”

“Four years ago.” Cash finally found the guts to look at his daughter. Comprehension dawned in her big brown eyes, before those same beautiful, wise eyes filled with tears.

Shit. He’d never dealt well with tears.

“Oh Dad. That was right around the time mom died, wasn’t it?”

He nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you had enough shit to deal with, Macie, without me addin’ to it. I’ve never given you anything—”

Macie threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and sobbed like her heart was breaking.

Cash held her tightly, offering her comfort she’d never sought from him. Soothing her. Holding her. His child. Feeling like a total selfish prick because on some level, he was happy, happy, that she’d turned to him for something.

Macie’s cries slowed to the occasional hiccupping stutter. Still she didn’t release her grip on him. He had the good sense not to let go of her either.

Finally he murmured, “Better, honey-girl?”

“No. I hate this. I’ve always hated it.”

Cash’s stomach plummeted to the toes of his cowboy boots. “Hate what? Me?”

“No, I hate that I don’t know you. Hate that it’s so goddamn awkward to get to know you. I want everything to be butterflies and rainbows in my life, just once. I want us to finally make that connection and be, I don’t know, like a real family. Instead of polite strangers.”

She started crying again and this time, he cried silently right along with her. Holding the best mistake he’d ever made.

“You probably think I’m a bawl baby, huh?” she asked after a time.


“What then?”

“I never thought I’d be so happy to be wearin’ your tears on my shirt.” He squeezed her hard and kissed the top of her head. “We’re gonna make this work, Macie. We’re gonna be a family, ’cause Lord knows, we both need one.”

She nodded against his chest. Still making no move to leave him.

“Can I ask you something?”


“Why didn’t you ever get married and have another family?”

That question surprised him for the second time. “I guess I never found a woman who would put up with me.”

“I’m serious.”

“I am too. I’m set in my ways, Macie.”

“My way or the highway, huh?”


“But what about when you were younger? Before you got so set in your ways?”

“I figured there was no rush. That I’d have plenty of time to settle down when I was older.” Cash didn’t want to muddy the waters and discuss his relationship with Gemma and all that he wanted from her now that he’d found a woman who would put up with his wicked ways. “The same holds true for you too. You’re young. I’m sure there are things you wanna do. Travel. See the world.”

Macie snorted.


“My mom was the gypsy type, not me.”

Cash leaned back to look at her. “You want to settle down?”




He kept his tone casual. “With Carter McKay?”

“No. I like it here because you’re here, Dad. But if you’re talking about me and him?

I don’t know. Probably wouldn’t work anyway.”

Cash wanted to tell her it probably wouldn’t and encourage her to nip the relationship in the bud. But he bit his tongue and listened.

“He and I are so different. He’s smart.”

“So are you. You passed your GED when you were fourteen.”

“Hah. He’s got a Masters of Fine Art.”


“That’s not all. He has ties to the land and to his family and I don’t know what that’s like.”

“Is he messin’ with your head? Tellin’ you what you have and what you’ve accomplished in your life isn’t good enough? Makin’ promises that you know he ain’t gonna keep?”

Her eyes narrowed and he recognized that challenging look: He’d seen it staring back at him in the mirror. It gave him a spark of pride that she did have something of him in her after all.

“Can I talk to you about this? Rationally? Or are you gonna run off half-cocked?”

Cash grimaced and pointed to the four clips on the tailgate. “Half-cocked? I’m fully loaded.”


“Kiddin’. I ain’t gonna shoot him.” Yet. “Go on.”

“It’s like he runs hot and cold. He treats me like I’m everything and then the next day, it’s like I don’t exist.”

“He’s an idiot.”

“Yeah.” She smiled and wiped the tears from her face. “Never mind. I’m babbling.

It’s my stupid hormones.”

“When you realize it ain’t you, and it is his fault for how he’s makin’ you feel—”

“I’ll keep it to myself.”

Cash opened his mouth. Shut it.

“But thanks. So when we’re done cleaning up, you want to come and try a piece of caramel apple pie?”

“With whipped cream?”

“I don’t have any in the camper.”

“Gemma has some in the fridge. I’ll grab it and be right back.”

Shooting guns and having pie with his daughter. It was turning out to be a damn fine day.

Three hours later Cash’s cell phone rang while he filled water tanks in the south pasture.


“Cash? It’s Colby McKay.”

“Colby, you old dog. How’s it goin’?”

“Good. You?”

“Good. How’s Channing?”

“As beautiful and docile as ever.”

“That’ll be the day. She’s got you pussy whipped.”

“True, but I ain’t complainin’.”

“She wouldn’t let you. So, what’s up?”

“You ever thought about teachin’ bull ridin’?”

Talk about from out of left field. But he and Colby never had time for small talk.

“No, but you’ve caught my interest.” He listened as Colby gave him a brief rundown.

“Sure. I’ll take a crack at it. I probably oughta clear it with Gem first. But I don’t see it bein’ a problem with her. Those boys interested in anything else? Bronc or bareback ridin’? ’Cause she has some rough stock she’d like to test out.”

“I’m sure them boys would love anything you throw at ’em.”

“Our kinda kids, eh?”

“Yep. Though, I don’t think they make ’em as tough as us anymore.”

“We always thought we were way tougher than we actually were.”

“No lie there. We’ll see you next week sometime. I’ll give you a jingle before we head your way.”

“You ain’t comin’ here to take home your brother Carter, by chance?”

“Carter? No. Why? He causin’ problems?”

“If that boy breaks my daughter’s heart, I’ll be sendin’ him home to the McKay Ranch in a casket.”

“You have a daughter?”


“Shit. Sounds like we have a lot of catchin’ up to do, Cash.”

“And some splittin’ up to do. I’m inclined to start with his fool head.”

“Hang tight. If I pass along what you just said, the whole McKay family will be there in two hours with horses and ropes—not necessarily for him. So, I’m gonna ask you not to kill him just yet.”

“Fair enough, but no guarantees.”

Chapter Twenty-one

“Cash? You want another beer?”

He’d been sitting in the darkened living room for over an hour. He shoved aside his thoughts about his conversation with Macie and focused on Gemma. “Nah. I’m good.”

“You’re pretty quiet tonight. Everything okay?”

“Actually, everything would be great if you’d come over here and give me a little sugar.”

“Yeah?” She sauntered over and plopped herself on his lap. “I was beginning to feel neglected.” She kissed his throat. “Lonely.” She kissed his chin. “Horny.” She kissed his mouth in that sexy teasing way that gave him an instant erection. “Very, very horny.”

“I’ve heard about you horny widow types. Always thinkin’ ’bout…”

“About what?”

“You tell me, horny Widow Jansen. What’s that gleam in your eye mean for me tonight?”

“It’s so damn dark in here I’m surprised you can even see my eyes.”

“Shee. It’s my Indian scout night vision. Wait. I’m getting something else from that vision. I’m sensin’ you want to—” he let his tongue dip into her ear, “—blow me.”

“You are good. Let’s go upstairs where I can spread you out on the bed and work you over real good.”

“I’m comfy right here.”


“What’s the rule about arguin’ with me?”


“Good answer.” Cash trailed his lips along the long, tasty line of her neck.

“Unbuckle my britches and put your hands on me, Gem.”

“You wear your jeans so damn tight I won’t be able to get them—or you—off unless you stand up and take ’em off.”

“Whatever makes it easier for you.” Cash put her back on her feet and stood beside her. Gemma kissed him while she unbuckled his belt. She kissed him as she unbuttoned and unzipped him. She kept kissing him as she shimmied his jeans and boxers to his knees.

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