It took forever to load, which was odd because it wasn’t a full order. Kane wasn’t happy with only half the amount of cake they’d ordered. When Kane questioned why, Denny informed him Colt had already been by to pick up the other half for the McKay Ranch account.
That pissed Kane off. If Colt had intended on getting the cake all along, why had he made such a big deal about Kane picking it up right away? It incensed him further when he saw Colt’s rig—loaded with the other half of the cake—parked across from Sandstone Building.
Probably wasn’t the smartest thing, storming into the Sky Blue and India’s Ink in his present mood, spoiling for a fight. But Kane scaled the steps and burst through the door anyway, sending the cowbell door chime clanking. Not even the sweet scent of lavender that Ginger favored calmed him down.
Colt looked up from the magazine he was thumbing through. He yelled over his shoulder, “It’s just Kane, Indy.”
Just Kane. He fought a sneer.
“So what brings you by, cuz?” Colt asked as he strolled from behind the counter. “Lookin’ for some sweet-smelling potion to lure the ladies into your lair?”
Colt froze. His eyes narrowed. “Jesus. What crawled up your butt and died?”
“You. I get sick of your wisecracks like I’m still some horny fuckin’ teenager.”
“Lighten up. I was jokin’.”
“Well, it ain’t funny. And it hasn’t been for years.”
“Ain’t you in a special mood? Why in the hell did you bust in here and decide to take it out on me?”
“You know goddamn good and well why I’m here.” Kane pointed to the street. “Why’d you only pick up half the order of cake?”
“Because we’re runnin’ low.”
When Colt didn’t answer, Kane stepped closer. “Why didn’t you pick up the whole order?”
“Are you seriously chewing my ass for this?”
“Yes. Because you made it clear I needed to get to town ASAP and pick it up. So after a spectacularly shitty morning, I finally get to the feed store and find half our order is missin’.”
“It ain’t missin’, Kane, it’s right there in the goddamn trailer.”
“Oh yeah? So you’re gonna deliver that half to the hopper out by the old Foster place?”
Colt stared at him coolly.
Which gave Kane the answer he needed. “You son of a bitch. You took half the cake for your separate cattle operation with the Glanzers.”
“So? I didn’t take it all. And for Christsake, it’s supplemental feed. Not a big deal.”
Kane glared at him.
“When the feed store told me they were gonna be temporarily out of stock for a week, I took what we needed.”
“What about what we need?”
“What’s the big deal? We’ll get the other half next week when the Glanzers’ order comes in.”
“The deal is, you’re more worried about your little side cattle deal with Trevor, Chassie and Ed than you are with what’s goin’ on with our herd right before calving.”
Colt stepped forward, his eyes blazing fire. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“Do I? All’s I know is you made a big hairy damn deal about havin’ this cake order handled early and now you’re tellin’ me it don’t matter? You’re tryin’ to cover your ass. Probably so you can pass off the really shitty stuff that needs done to me, Ben, Brandt, Tell and Dalton when the time comes.”
“Don’t you fuckin’ lecture me about what needs done before them calves start droppin’. We own—”
“Don’t you even think about sayin’ that you guys own more than we do,” Kane warned, “or I will punch you right in your smart mouth.”
“The facts are the facts, Kane. Between me and my brothers, we own four times as much as of the McKay Ranch as the rest of you combined.”
Kane reacted instinctively. He cocked his right arm and his fist connected with Colt’s jaw with a loud crack.
Caught off guard, Colt staggered back. Before he recovered from the first punch, Kane drew his fist back again and nailed Colt in the eye.
“What the fuck?”
“I warned you. And this has been a long time comin’.”
“Bring it, fucker.” Colt jumped him. A blow landed on Kane’s chin, then on the side of his head by his temple. He jabbed and connected with Colt’s gut, and then quickly followed with a shot to Colt’s ribs.
When Colt doubled over, Kane used an uppercut on Colt’s jaw and knocked him to the floor. Then he pounced on his cousin, fists flying.
Colt dodged the blows and bucked, throwing Kane sideways. But Kane recovered quickly only to feel a fist plow into his mouth. The taste of blood seeped through his teeth and ran down the back of his throat and down his chin.
He popped back up on his feet, only to see Colt do the same. They bobbed and weaved like prizefighters. Colt feinted left, catching Kane’s eyebrow with his wedding ring.
The instant Kane felt the slicing sting, he roared and intended to leap at his dumbass cousin, but found himself immobilized.
“Jesus Christ. That’s enough. Both of you.”
When the hell had Kade shown up? He blinked trying to clear the blood dripping into his eye, and saw Brandt had a similar hold on Colt.
“Let me fuckin’ go,” Kane said.
“Yeah. Let him go,” Colt taunted, “I ain’t done kickin’ his sorry ass.”
“Too bad your lips ain’t swollen shut like your eye is,” Kane shot back. “But I can change that in about one second when I punch you in the fuckin’ mouth.”
“Shut up, both of you. Nobody’s hittin’ nobody. What the fuck happened?” Kade demanded.
Kane breathed hard and glared at Colt. Colt was having his own difficulty breathing. And yeah, maybe it was petty to see that Colt only had one eye to shoot daggers at him, but it made Kane happy he wasn’t the only one sporting blood and bruises.
“They got into a fight about cake,” India said.
Kane’s head swung her direction. She stood behind the counter, white-faced, holding Hudson as he tried to scramble onto the counter.
Fucking awesome, Kane. Getting into a fistfight with your cousin in front of his kid. Way to be mature.
Talk about a stellar fucking start to his day.
He turned his head and spoke to his brother. “Let me go. I ain’t gonna go after him again.”
Almost reluctantly, Kade released him.
Kane picked up his hat. Adjusted his clothes. He looked Colt in the eye. “You think on what I said.
Bottom line is I don’t give a shit if their cattle starve. But I care if ours do.”
He walked out of the store and hit the halfway point to his truck before he muttered, “Fuck it.” He headed the opposite direction, to the one place Colt wouldn’t track him down: the Golden Boot.
Looked like he’d be having lunch in town after all. A liquid lunch.
An hour later Ginger found Kane hunched over the bar in the far corner of the Golden Boot. Two empty shot glasses in front of him next to a bottle of Bud light.
So far he hadn’t noticed her. He was engrossed in breaking the pretzels in the bowl in front of him into tiny brown pieces.
Her heart stumbled upon seeing his animated face so miserable. She wanted to put her arms around him and hold him tight. Comfort him and take care of him like he’d done with her.
So why don’t you?
Before she even took off her coat, Ginger came up behind Kane. She rested her chin on his shoulder, close to his neck, and slipped her hands underneath his arms. “Hey.”
Kane remained frozen for a second, then he turned his head and buried his nose in her hair. “Hey.”
She squeezed him a little tighter.
“What’re you doin’ here, Red? Lookin’ for a nip to get you through the afternoon?”
“No. Looking for you.”
“Mind if I join you?”
“Please.” He spun on his barstool to help her take off her coat. Even when he was distracted and miserable he showed her gentlemanly courtesies, not because he was trying to impress her, but because that was his way. Kane’s gaze landed on her feet. “I’m surprised you didn’t bust your ass wearin’ them heels.”
She placed her burgundy pump on the metal part of his stool, using it as support as she sat next to him. “Don’t you like these shoes?”
“I didn’t say that.” He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “What are you drinkin’?”
“Is it horribly lame if I say…ginger ale?”
“Nah. It’s kinda cute.” Kane waggled his empty bottle at Lettie and said, “And bring her a ginger ale.”
Ginger looked around the bar. Completely empty. Which was unusual. She said, “Slow day, huh?”
when Lettie brought her drink.
“We hit a few of those this time of year. We’re actually closed for inventory today. But I made an exception for one of the wonder twins.” She didn’t stick around to chat with them—also unusual.
Or maybe it was the “don’t fuck with me” vibe Kane was throwing off that sent Lettie scurrying away.
Kane sipped his beer.
She sipped her ginger ale. She caught their reflection in the bar mirror. From here she could see the door and the entire length of the bar. So he had known when she’d walked in.
“So, counselor, if you ain’t here for a three-martini lunch, which one of my meddlin’ relatives called you? Kade? Skylar?”
That shocked him. “India ratted me out?”
“Yes. She… Omigod, is that…blood on your face?”
“Probably. What’d India say?”
He didn’t care he’d been bleeding? “India said you were here drowning your sorrows and maybe I ought to check on you. Then she gave me a message for you.”