He sank his teeth into her earlobe. “You must be feelin’ better if you’re bein’ contrary first thing.” His warm breath drifted across her cheek. “Say yes, Ginger.”

“Yes, Ginger,” she teased.

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“There’s that smart mouth I’ve been missin’ something fierce.” He kissed her, sealing their lips together.

Clothes disappeared. Kane pushed inside her on a long, smooth glide and her body was ready for him.

He made love to her sweetly, passionately. The intimacy of being cocooned in their own little world in the predawn hours amazed her. Body to body, heart to heart, face to face.

When his pace increased, it sent them spiraling into the abyss of pleasure together.

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More dreamy kisses. More feather-light caresses. He whispered, “Go back to sleep, sugar. No reason for us both to be up.” He headed for the shower as she snuggled into the sheets that smelled like him.

Ginger awoke an hour later. She saw Kane’s wristwatch on the nightstand and knew she hadn’t been dreaming.

“And then Buck came over. We took care of Mom and we worked on the puzzle and we played some games. And he made me do chores! So when Mom napped we went to Buck’s house to check on his dog and other ranch stuff,” Hayden added.

Ginger sipped her tea and watched her father’s reaction to the news Kane McKay had spent both nights here while he’d been out of town.

Her dad smiled. “Sounds like you had a great time while I was gone.”

Hayden nodded but Ginger saw the hint of sadness in her dad’s eyes. “For some of us, it wasn’t a great time. I still don’t feel back to normal.”

“You should go in and see Doc instead of self-medicating.”

“I will. If I’m not better by the time I’m done with this cycle of antibiotics.” She stood and started clearing supper plates. “Who wants a brownie?”

“Me!”

She looked at her dad. “How about you?”

“No thanks.”

Odd. Brownies were his favorite dessert.

Hayden stuffed his entire brownie in his mouth and raced away from the table.

“Something on your mind, Dad?”

“Is it me?”

“Is what you?”

“The reason that you don’t feel comfortable having McKay in the house overnight while I’m here?”

Her face flamed. “It’s not that. Kane wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t been sick. I didn’t call him.

Hayden did.” She pointed at him. “And you don’t get to act pissy about Kane showing up to help out, because if I recall, you called him and insisted he check up on me at my office.”

He sighed. “True. It’s just…it seems…”

“What?”

“Forget it.”

“No, Dad, tell me.”

His voice dropped. “I don’t care that you’re sleeping with him, Gigi. You’re a grown woman. You’ve sacrificed your personal life for both Hayden and me the last few years. While I appreciate it, I don’t want to be an excuse for you.”

Confused, she said, “An excuse for what?”

“For you to act like you don’t need the happiness that only comes from an intimate relationship.

While your mother and I were mismatched from the start, when I met Linda, it was like the clouds had lifted and I was finally standing in the sun.”

Ginger reached for his hand. Her dad rarely talked about the woman he’d married after moving to Wyoming. Ginger had only met Linda once, but she’d made her father happy. She knew it wasn’t a coincidence that his arthritis had taken a turn for the worse the year following Linda’s death from cancer.

That’d also been around the same time Ginger had given birth to Hayden. Her father had reached out to her and she’d grabbed for him with both hands and hadn’t looked back. She couldn’t imagine her dad not being in her life.

“What I’m saying is I’ve had my happiness. I’d never stand in the way of yours.”

He pushed away from the table and left her staring after him, wondering if that was his stamp of approval as far as Kane McKay went.

Chapter Fifteen

An unexpected winter storm blew in. Ginger paced, watching the snow pile up outside her office window. At one-thirty she sent Rissa home before the Wyoming Highway Patrol closed the roads. At three she called the Sundance retirement home, making sure they had room to keep her dad overnight. The change in accommodations didn’t bother him; he’d dealt with unpredictable Wyoming weather much longer than she had.

Hayden’s school field trip to Casper caused her the most concern. The potential for fifty kids and four teachers stranded in an old school bus out in the middle of the prairie? Not good.

When she heard on the radio that I-25 had been closed from Casper to Wheatland, she knew Hayden wouldn’t be coming home, which alleviated her safety worries. She just hoped he wouldn’t eat dairy, or shellfish, or strawberries. She hoped he wouldn’t run around like a madman and need to use his inhaler. If she could just talk to him, tell him she loved him, tell him to be careful, maybe she could stop wearing a hole in the carpet in her office.

At four o’clock the principal called and assured her the kids were fine, tucked away in a hotel in Casper. Here she was freaking out and Hayden was probably having the time of his life, hanging out with his buddies with no parents around.

Still, she worried because Kane hadn’t texted her back. So much of his time was spent out in the elements, in places where no one could get in touch with him. Hopefully he was hunkered down in his trailer with his dog, riding the storm out.

Ginger had no choice but to outwait the blizzard in her office. She checked the food situation. Four packages of instant oatmeal, six packages of Cup o’ Noodles, half a package of Fig Newtons, two protein bars and a Snickers. She ripped open the candy bar wrapper. Her first course would be chocolate.

And truthfully, it wouldn’t be bad being snowed in. She had a couch and a blanket. She could work as late as she wanted without guilt about neglecting her family. If she got bored, she could watch TV shows on Hulu. If she got lonely…no cure for that. She spent so little time by herself in recent years she really didn’t know what to do.

She’d just tossed the empty Snickers wrapper when a loud bang sounded at the front of the building.

The strong gusts had probably blown the door open. She left her office and started down the stairs only to see a large hooded figure lurking in the foyer. She screamed.

The head whipped around and the hood fell back. Kane snapped, “Jesus, Ginger. You scared the hell out of me.”

“You? What about me? I’m here alone and then I see the abominable snowman lurking in my foyer!”

His sheepskin coat was coated with snow, as were the coveralls and snow boots.

“Yeah, well, the wind’s whistlin’ a little too loud for me to knock politely.”

“What are you doing here? The roads are terrible, or closed, according to the radio.”

“I had to get a couple of portable propane tanks in case something freezes. I saw your car and wondered what the devil you’re still doin’ here.”

“The Mercedes isn’t exactly an all-terrain vehicle. Plus I was waiting to hear about Hayden’s class, and I had to verify the folks at the retirement home are keeping dad tonight.”

“So once again you worried about everybody except yourself.”

She folded her arms over her chest. “I’m safer here than trying to get home. I decided to stay put.”

“Smart cookie. But I have a better idea.” He gave her the hot grin that could’ve melted polar ice caps.

“Why don’t you come home with me?”

“You’re going back out in this?”

“No choice. This close to calving I’ve gotta check cattle in the mornin’, even if it’s still blizzarding.

So what’s it gonna be, Red?”

“But Hayden—”

“Is in Casper. Cam told me about Anton, Kyler and Hayden getting snowed in on the school field trip.

They won’t be back until tomorrow at the earliest, and if Hayden needs to get in touch with you, he’ll call your cell anyway, right?”

He had a point.

“You and me, spendin’ the whole night together. Alone. You gotta admit this chance ain’t gonna come along very often.”

Wow. She hadn’t considered that. Cuddled up to Kane all night, instead of camping out on the lumpy office couch? “Okay. Let me get my stuff.”

“Quickly. And bundle up. I’ll wait here so I ain’t draggin’ snow all over the carpet.”

Ginger shut down her computer. She shoved her cell phone and the charger in her purse and switched out her low-heeled pumps for snow boots. Coat on, hat on, scarf on, gloves on, she turned off the lights, grabbed her bag and returned to the foyer. “Ready.”

His critical gaze stopped at her knee length skirt. “Don’t you have pants?”

“No. This is it.”

“Let’s hope we ain’t gotta walk anywhere far.”

Kane’s big truck plowed through the snowdrifts in town. Once they were out of town, visibility was nearly zero and their progress slowed considerably.

The sky remained a pitch-black backdrop as the truck’s headlights cut through the swirling flakes, which weren’t falling softly—en masse the flakes became a blur of pure white. Wind whipped icy crystals with enough gale force they created a pinging sound against the windshield. The truck bumped over piles of snow blocking the road. A couple of times she caught sight of drifts several feet high before the truck broke them into a powdery spray that floated away on the wind.

Ginger stayed quiet throughout the drive. She had no idea where they were or how far they’d gone.

Nearly forty-five minutes had passed since they’d left Sundance.

The truck slowed. Stopped. Kane leaned forward and squinted. “Can you see any light out there?”

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