“Better for who?”
“For all of you.”
“Bullshit.” Kane gave him a long, measured look. “Did you know that my Grandpa McKay lived with us from my fourth birthday until he passed when I was almost thirteen?”
“I vaguely recall something about that.”
“Since Carson was older than my dad by like ten minutes, Grandpop deeded him the family ranch house after my grandma died. Plus, Uncle Carson and Aunt Carolyn kept havin’ all them kids and needed the space. Grandpop didn’t much like his son Casper, so movin’ in with him was out as an option. And he wasn’t too fond of my Uncle Charles’ wife, Vi, neither. So he came to live with us.”
“How’d your mama feel about that? Wasn’t there bad blood between the Wests and the McKays?”
“For years. But my Ma never got along with her own father, and Grandpop never had a daughter, so surprisingly, the two of them hit it off like gangbusters.”
“It’s hard not to like your mama.”
“She is something else.” Kane smiled. “So Kade and I were raised by both our parents and our grandfather. It didn’t cause problems because Ma and Dad handled all the discipline. Grandpop never butted in—at least if he did, it wasn’t in front of my brother and me. He taught us everything from how to hunt and fish, to how to rope and ride. How being honest wasn’t a character trait to be discarded when it suited.”
Dash was quiet for a spell and Kane wasn’t sure he’d gotten his point across.
“But that’s where I’m back to reminding you that I can’t do any of those things with my grandson because I’m in this damn wheelchair.”
“As frustrating as that must be to you, who taught Hayden how to play chess? Or to use critical thinking skills? You’ve passed on your love of history to him. The kid devours books. Just because you’re not out on a horse with him or worming a fishhook for him don’t mean you’re useless to him. Far from it, Dash.” When the man opened his mouth to argue, Kane braced himself to fight back with everything he had.
“The McKay family is massive. Now Hayden will have cousins, aunts and uncles and more family than he can shake a stick at.”
“But none of them will replace you. I ain’t lookin’ to replace you either.”
“Look, havin’ my grandpop in my life growin’ up didn’t seem special or cool because we didn’t know any other way. He was always there. Always part of the family. That’s where me’n Hayden are alike. It’s what I knew. It’s what Hayden knows. You’ve been in his life every day since he moved here. I’d bet he can’t remember a day when you weren’t around. You are his family. So don’t do this to him. Or to Ginger.
Or hell, even to me.”
“To you?” he repeated skeptically.
“Yeah. I’m a selfish bastard. I want Hayden to continue havin’ this same kind of childhood—growin’
up in his house surrounded by his family—that I did. His life wouldn’t be the same without you in it every day, Dash. Neither would Ginger’s. And I don’t want you cheatin’ this baby out of the same chance to know you because you have some misguided sense of pride. Please. Swallow it and come back home with us where you belong.”
Silence floated between them. Kane stood and gazed out the window, allowing Dash time to compose himself. He needed time to get a handle on his emotions too. He hadn’t realized how strongly he felt about this until he’d said it out loud.
Finally, Dash spoke. “All right, McKay, you made a very convincing argument. I’ll agree to live there, as before, on one condition.”
“Damn lawyers and their conditions,” Kane muttered. “What’s the condition?”
“I’m never getting out of this wheelchair. My body will eventually fail me. The time will come when I’ll require fulltime care and I won’t put that burden on my daughter, on my grandson, or now, on you. So promise me when that day arrives, you’ll back me, despite whatever claim my daughter makes that she’ll be happy caring for me in perpetuity. She’ll need to let me go. You’ll have to side with me, Kane. Against her. It won’t be easy, but I deserve to leave the situation with a little dignity.”
Kane whirled around and faced him. “Dammit, Dash. I don’t even wanna think about that.”
“You have to.”
“Can’t we wait to make that decision until that time comes?”
Dash shook his head. “I need the promise now.”
“Because you’re a man of your word. To be honest, this has been weighing on me for a while. I knew I’d never get Ginger to stick to it. But you? You will.”
He opened his mouth. Found the words stuck in his throat. He swallowed a couple of times. “Okay.
You have my word.”
Dash was visibly relieved. “Good.”
“Now can I tell your daughter you had a change of heart?”
Kane skirted the recliner and stopped to place his hand on Dash’s shoulder. “Thank you. I mean that.”
“I know you do, son.” He covered Kane’s hand with his. “I look forward to whipping your butt in poker for many years to come, McKay.”
“Bring it. And don’t cry foul when I end up with a whole pile of your money.”
Dash’s laughter followed Kane out of the room.
He’d cleared the doorjamb when Ginger launched herself at him. She squeezed him so tightly he could barely breathe.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I thought maybe you’d need backup, so I hung out here, but you did fine on your own. Better than fine actually.”
“Good to know,” he murmured.
“You’d make a damn good lawyer,” she said.
“Bite your tongue,” Kane shot back.
Ginger smirked. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
“Not in the last hour.”
She peppered his face with kisses. “I love love love you, Kane McKay.”
“I love love love you too, Red.”
“I’m feeling much better. How about if we pick Hayden up from school and go out for an early family dinner?”
Kane brushed the curls from her face, wondering if he’d ever get used to the idea that this beautiful, perfect, smart, sexy woman had picked him. “Sounds good. Glad to see you’ve got your appetite back.”
“That’s not the only appetite I’ve got back,” she purred.
He chuckled and untangled her arms from his neck. “Hold that thought.” He walked the twenty steps back to Dash’s room and yelled inside. “Hey, Gramps? Think you can make yourself presentable before I come back to get you in an hour or so? We’re all goin’ out for supper.”
“Does that offer include beer?”
“Then I’ll be ready.”
Ginger looped his arm through his as they walked past the front desk. “Why an hour? Why don’t we just load him up now?”
“Because it’s my job as your baby daddy to sate all your appetites. And guess which one will always get priority?”
She blushed. And giggled.
He so was going to love being married to this woman for the rest of his life. “We have an hour, an empty house, and it’d be a damn cryin’ shame to let it go to waste.”
“Effective time management. Just another thing I love about you, cowboy.”
“What can I say? My mama raised me right.”