Rode Hard, Put Up Wet Page 39


She smiled and teased, “Come on, Dad. Show me how an old pro does it. Every time I saw you yesterday you were eatin’ dirt.”

Cash bit back a grin. “Think your old man ain’t got it in him anymore?”

“Didn’t appear you had it in you yesterday.”

“It’s a new day.”

“Five bucks says you land on your butt before the buzzer sounds.”

“You’re on, girlie.” He strode toward the piece of equipment and whirled around to remind her, “Hit the switch when I nod my head. Then sit back and prepare to be awed.”

Macie’s laughter filled something inside him he hadn’t realized was empty. He hopped on the machine and jerked on his riding glove. He wrapped the bull rope.

Unwrapped it and rewrapped it.

“Are you stalling?”

“You wish. Get ready to pay up.” Cash adjusted his hat over his eyes. Moved his hips from side to side. Threw his free arm up in the air and nodded.

The bull kicked on. It spun right; Cash readjusted his knees when the movement blew his feet out and up. The front end lifted, slamming him back, but he didn’t fight it and stayed on. Another jumping right spin. Two hard lefts, one last buck and the eight seconds were history and he was still on.

He whooped and jumped off, surprised by how much he’d wanted Macie to see him succeed.

She grinned as he approached. “Nice ridin’, Dad.”

“Thanks. Pay up.”

“Will you take a personal check?”

“Nope. Cash only.”

She snickered. “You should have that tattooed somewhere.”

A calf bawled in the distance.

Cash quietly tried to restore his breathing.

“So, can I sit on that thing?”

He frowned. “I remember you tellin’ me you’d never ride a bull.”

“I don’t want to ride it; I just want to know what it feels like to be on a big, bad bull substitute, which is the closest I will ever get to one of those nasty creatures.”

“Sure. Come on.”

Cash lifted her on the back of the apparatus. He showed her how to wrap the rope, how to spur, how the free arm was the key to achieving balance. He was happy she’d taken an interest in something he’d spent years of his life learning to perfect.

The lesson in bull riding was about over when he heard, “What the hell do you think you’re doin’?”

He turned and saw Carter storming toward them. The fence wasn’t an impediment to the angry young man; he put one arm on the railing and jumped sideways over it.

“Get off that thing right now, Macie.”


“I cannot fuckin’ believe you put her on the back of a goddamn mechanical bull.”

“Wait just a minute. I can explain—”

“Explain what?” Carter shouted. “How damn dangerous it is? That’s a little hard to explain to her when she’s dead. Christ, she could’ve broken her neck.”

“She wasn’t—”

“Jesus, Cash, what were you thinkin’?”

“Stop right there, McKay.”

“I ain’t kiddin’, Macie, get off that death trap or I’ll drag you off.”

“You can’t talk to her like that.”

“I can talk to her any damn way I please since it appears I’m the only one who cares about her!”

“Shut your mouth, McKay, and listen up.”

“No, you listen.”


“Do you really think I’d put my daughter in danger?” Cash kept his hands clenched in fists by his sides in an effort not to take a swing at this self-righteous punk.

Carter didn’t answer; he just glared with his hands curled on his hips, looking ready to do some swinging himself.

“Well, do you?”

“No. But I think she’d do whatever it took to get your attention, including puttingherself at risk by climbin’ on the back of a bull.”

Ugly silence hung in the air.

“Ain’t got nothin’ to say to that do you, ’cause you know it’s the truth.”

“That’s it, boy, you went too far.”

“Not nearly far enough. If you want to fight, bring it, old man.”

“I don’t give a shit who you—”

Macie stepped between them. “Stop. Both of you.” She whirled on Carter and snapped, “Walk it off. I mean it, Carter.”

He didn’t budge.

By that time Cash noticed they’d drawn a crowd, including Gemma, Colby and Channing, Keely, Amy Jo and the boys he’d been teaching. Great.

Cash turned and walked away.

Macie moved in front of him and grabbed his hand. “Thank you. I had fun. Don’t listen to him.”

Cash reached out and stroked his free hand down her soft hair. “I wasn’t. I’d never do nothin’ to hurt you, Macie.”

“I know.”

“And in case you’re wonderin’ ’bout some of the crap he was throwin’ out, don’t listen to him either. You do have my attention. You’re smarter than to do something stupid to get it.”

“I know that too.” Macie stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. She whispered,

“I’ll go double or nothing with you on that bet. Same time tomorrow. Bring your money.”

Cash smiled as he watched her walk away from him…and from Carter McKay.

Chapter Thirty

“Dumbass. Get away from me.”


“Don’t. Talk. To. Me.”


“No. Go.” She slammed the camper door in his face and locked it. Then she cranked Dwight Yoakam to a million decibels, effectively cutting off all communication.

Damn. Carter kicked a dirt clod as he lumbered back to his pickup. How had everything gotten out of control? One second he’d been striding across the yard, looking forward to seeing Macie’s smiling face. Looking forward to showing his family what they were together. The next second he’d seen her perched on the back of that bucking bull and his heart just…stopped. He didn’t think; he just reacted.


No shit. Now he’d pissed off Macie and her father.

But he knew what he’d said hadn’t been totally out of line, merely bad timing. Macie was so eager for any kind of family connection, especially with Cash, Carter suspected she would do anything. Or listen to whatever free or bad advice her dad offered. Yeah, Carter could just hear that conversation:

Forget about McKay. He’s proven he’s an insensitive prick, just like the rest of the goddamn McKays. Besides, you’re young. Don’t make the same mistakes I did when I was young. There’s no need for you to settle down. Or to settle for a hothead like him.

Then the son of a bitch would probably hand over the keys to his camper and encourage her to hit the road—allowing Cash uninterrupted time with Gemma. If and when Macie returned, Carter McKay would be long gone. Which is exactly what Cash Big Crow wanted.

“Fuck.” He could totally see that scenario happening, since he knew Macie had no intention of sticking around here beyond summer’s end.

How could he make her stay?

He couldn’t. Not today, anyway. His only other option was to skulk around her door like some…whipped dog. Begging for scraps of her attention.

Like that would work.

Or he could go home and work.

On pictures of her.


He wondered if his day could get any worse.

“Hey, bro, when did you turn into such a macho jerk? That was quite the display of testosterone.”

Keely. Carter thunked his head on his hood. The universe fucking hated him today.

“Yeah, well, I wanted to prove I was a true McKay, asshole behavior and all.”

“Now that you mention it, you sorta were actin’ like Dad.”

“Great, Keely, just what I wanted to hear.”

“At any rate, I brought you a beer.”

He looked up.

She waggled a bottle of Bud Light at him. “I thought you could use one.”

“Thanks.” He popped the cap off and drank. “What’re you doin’ out here?”

“Hidin’ from the bull rider wannabes and lettin’ Amy Jo deal with them.”

“Meanin’, you ditched her and you were sneakin’ off to drink a beer and you were afraid I’d caught you.”

Keely grinned. “I knew there was a reason you’re my favorite brother.”

“Favorite. Right.” Why wasn’t he surprised his sister hadn’t really come looking for him? No one else had either.

Maybe it’s because you’re acting like a shithead who deserves to be alone.

Keely blithely continued, “Besides, Amy Jo will probably come barreling over to Macie’s camper to listen to her rant and rave about you.”

“Why would Amy Jo care?”

“She and Macie hit it off like gangbusters. And let’s just say Amy Jo is well-versed on dealing with a hot-headed McKay male who can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Carter frowned. “Who are you talkin’ about? She got a thing for Colt?” Lord help the girl if she did. Colt would charm her, bed her, and leave her. And feel no guilt about it whatsoever.

“No. Cord.”

That was worse for poor sweet Amy Jo. Way worse.

“So, how long have you been with Macie?”

He said nothing.

“Puh-lease. Even before your he-man tactics today, your eyes devoured her while you were supposed to be eatin’ supper last night. And I noticed this morning she had a streak of paint—yellow umber to be exact, your favorite color to be even more exact—on her neck. So, I figured you’d been doin’ a little finger painting after the bonfire.”

Carter sighed.

Softly, Keely said, “You have it bad for her, don’t you?”

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