“Huh-uh. Tell me what happened with you and Mitch first.”

“He was so sweet. He’s such a great kisser and we just kept taking it a step farther each time until I had sex with him.” Marin sat up and sighed. “I almost did a really dumb thing and got pregnant.”

Shocked, Sierra said, “Are you serious?”

“We had sex a few times, like maybe five times, and we didn’t use birth control, which was stupid. So I was a week late and freaking out and Mitch was all, I ain’t marryin’ you if you were dumb enough to get knocked up. That pissed me off. So after I got my period, I broke up with him. Asshole.”

“God. That is scary. I can’t even imagine you pregnant right now.”

“Me neither. This really sweet and shy girl who you’d never think was messing around? She dropped out last year because she got pregnant. Now she’s workin’ at the Pizza Barn in Moorcroft and living with her parents. Her baby daddy was another one of them scum-sucking cowboys like Mitch.”

Sierra grinned. She’d missed Marin so much.

“So…” Marin poked her in the shoulder. “You and the hottie known as Boone West. I’ll warn you I’m gonna be pissed as hell if the rumors are true and you’ve been sneaking around with him since school started and you didn’t tell me.”

“I’m friends with him, but nothing else, I swear. I did a dumb thing too.” Sierra told her what had happened at the party and how Boone had rescued her. “So we decided we had to pretend to be together for a little while, but I’m not sure if we’re still doing that. I’ll have to ask him when he comes over tomorrow.”

“Your dad lets him in the house? I heard he punched Boone in the face and knocked him out cold at the hospital.”

“Puh-lease. I love my dad, but Boone? He’s like don’t-fuck-with-me tough. Know what I mean?”

Marin sighed. “Yes. And that is so totally hot in a guy.”

“No lie.”

“So you and Boone didn’t even…?”

“Kiss? Nope. But I have to ask…” Sierra fought a blush. “What was it really like? With you and Mitch?”

“It hurt the first time. Then the next time it didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel that great either. I kept hoping it would get better, but honestly, I don’t get what the big deal is.” She grinned. “But I bet it would be awesome with Boone.”


“Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.”

Her dad walked into the room and she was happy for the interruption.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Sierra looked at Marin. “Much better now.”

“Glad to hear it. Good to see you again, Marin.”

“You too, Mr. Daniels.”

“Please, call me Gavin. You girls need anything? Drinks? Snacks?”

“Can you stay a little longer?” Sierra asked Marin.

“Sure. It’s not like I’d rather be doing homework.”

“Thanks, Dad, pizza rolls would be good.”

“I’m on it.” He cut to the back staircase.

“You know, Arizona, your dad is kinda hot.”


A beat passed. “Know who else is hot?”


“Boone West.”

Sierra sighed. “I’m never gonna live this down, am I?”

“Nope.” Marin smiled. “Because you’ll have me around every day to remind you.”


“Admit it. You missed me.”

“I really did.”

Chapter Thirty-Two

Late February…

Gavin scanned the crowd at Ziggy’s. With more than half the damn men wearing black cowboy hats, he wandered through the entire bar before he saw Dalton, sitting at a table in the corner, far from the action. He took the chair opposite him. “Hey, Dalton.”

“Gavin. Glad you could make it.”

“I was surprised by the invite.”

“Well, we haven’t had a chance to catch up…” Dalton sent him a sheepish smile. “I’m fresh outta drinking buddies, now that Tell and Georgia got hitched, so since you ain’t hitched either, you were selected.”

Gavin grinned. No bullshit. He liked that. He ordered Crown and water from the cocktail waitress after she finished flirting shamelessly with Tell. “Vi told me Tell and Georgia flew to Vegas. Did you go?”

“I stood up for Tell. I never turn down a chance to go to Vegas. That said, I wouldn’t get married in Sin City on Valentine’s Day, but that’s what they wanted. From there they flew to Acapulco. I hung around a couple days after, played some cards.”

“Did you win?”

“I won big enough one night they upgraded my room at the Hard Rock to the high roller’s suite. Immediately all sorts of lovely ladies volunteered to help me celebrate.”

Gavin laughed. Dalton, like the rest of the McKays, had the rugged good looks women seemed to go for. He was a strapping guy, easily several inches taller than either of his brothers. Broader too. That baby-face was deceiving, according to Vi. Dalton McKay liked to fight. And he liked to win.

Once the drinks were on the table, Dalton lifted his glass for a toast. “To the last two single McKays standing.”

After Gavin drank, he felt the need to point out, “Since Rielle and I are in a relationship, technically I’m not single.”

“Technically you’re not a McKay either.” Dalton laughed. “Sorry. Couldn’t resist. So it’s serious with you and Rielle?”

“Wasn’t something either of us expected, but it’s…” He wanted to say she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but that sounded sappy, so he said, “Good. We’re taking it day by day.”

“Sierra is cool with it?”

“She seems to be. Sierra’s been a bit of a humble Tigger since the accident, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ve been there, as you well know.”

He looked Dalton in the eye. “I don’t hold that intervention with Ben against you, Dalton. You did what you thought was right. You were looking out for someone you cared about.”

Dalton turned his lowball glass on the cocktail napkin. “It sure opened my eyes about a lot of things.”

“Mine too, to be honest. Anyway, Sierra and Rielle get along well. They like each other and spend time together, but I don’t force the issue. Might sound obvious, but I’m Sierra’s parent, Ree is not. It’d be easy to put expectations on her since we’re living together and because she’s a woman who’s been a single parent. We’re still figuring out boundaries.”

“How did Rory react to Rielle being in a relationship with you?”

“Not so well. Why?”

Dalton shrugged. “I ain’t surprised. Bein’ an only child, she’s always been spoiled by havin’ all her mom’s attention. She ain’t gonna be happy sharing it, even when she’s old enough to know better.”

That just reminded Gavin of how big a step it’d been for Rielle to keep her daughter out of the intimate relationship in her life.

“Plus, it’s gotta piss Rory off that Rielle is involved with a McKay.”

“Why’s that?”

“Oh, I suspect the McKays offering to buy the Wetzler’s land over the years had some to do with it.” Dalton sipped his drink. “I suspect I had a lot more to do with it.”

“Yeah? What makes you say that?”

“It’s…complicated. I’ve always considered Rory a friend. But after that night in Laramie, she’d rather punch me—and she usually does—than look at me.” He paused. “Me’n Rory got into it the night she was at the Golden Boot with Sierra.”

“Sierra didn’t mention it.”

Dalton laughed. “That surprises me since your girl had to put Rory in a headlock to keep her from goin’ after me.”

Gavin decided he’d be better off not knowing what else had gone down that night. “So you really called me up because you’re looking for a drinking buddy?”

“Partially. Feelin’ sorry for myself. The other part is to ask if you’ve got any plans for the land you own that abuts your brother’s section?”

“I’ll be honest, Dalton, after what happened before, I suspect it’s in my best interest to keep the family peace, to change the subject now, before you ask me something or tell me something I don’t want to know.”

“How about if I share what’s on my mind but we’ll keep this discussion between us for the time being. That way, both our asses are covered.”

“Deal.” Gavin leaned back in his chair. “So what’s going on?”

“This fall we agreed to lease Charlene Fox’s place for two years, and at the end of those two years, we have first purchase option. Do you know what piece of land I’m talking about?”

“Does it make me a greenhorn if I say no?”

Dalton offered a wide smile. “Nope. The land is adjacent to your creek access.”

Gavin frowned. “My creek frontage is only about thirty yards. Rielle’s section has most the creek frontage.”

“Yeah, I know. But she’s—or rather Rory has—made it plain she doesn’t want cattle close by. But with your section adjoining Ben’s, there’s a chance Ben and Quinn will address leasing grazing rights from you.”


“Yes. Ben and Quinn are your brothers, and they wouldn’t expect to get the rights for free—but bein’s you are a greenhorn, their brother and rich in your own right, they’d try to get a deal and tie up the lease rights for years. The chunk you own isn’t the ideal piece of dirt, and it’s undeveloped, which means it’d be a lot of work on their part to get it cleared. So I’m wondering if that work load is beyond your brothers’ capabilities, since it’s just the two of them running things and they don’t have extra time or hands.”