“You’ve no interest in Ginger at all?”
Lie. Lie through your damn teeth, fool.
But Kane couldn’t snow his brother. “There’s interest. And sparks. But I don’t wanna do anything to jeopardize my relationship with Hayden.” He swigged his beer. “Ginger is a temptation that I’ve resisted.”
“And yet, you willingly put yourself in close quarters with her?”
“Yeah, I ain’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box, am I?”
Mouth tight, jaw set, Kade stared at him.
“Is that part of it? You think she’s smarter than you?”
“Think?” Kane repeated. “I know it. I barely graduated from high school, remember?”
“So? I don’t think she gives a shit what grade you got in world history.”
Kane raised his beer bottle. “That would’ve been a D-plus.”
“Hey, I was extremely proud of the plus. Anyway, in addition to her kid, her daddy lives with her, so ain’t nothin’ happening. Like I said. I’m just helpin’ out.”
“How is Dash? You don’t have to like…help him to the bathroom and stuff?”
Kane shrugged, not entirely comfortable discussing the man’s private issues. He’d helped Dash last night, but the ornery coot hadn’t been any happier for Kane’s help than Ginger had been. Like father like daughter. “Not so far. Do you know why Dash moved to Sundance from sunny California?”
“Afraid to ask him?”
“Yes sir. And I know Ginger did some legal work for Sky, which means Sky told you.”
“And you want me to tell you?” Kade asked.
“Yep. If you can’t trust me, who can you trust, bro?”
Kade snorted. “Fine. Ginger and Sky got to swappin’ stories, bein’s they’re both from California.
Evidently Dash’s divorce from Ginger’s mother was nasty. The mother hired some high-falutin’ divorce attorney and she demanded all their physical property as well as excessive alimony. So Dash handed over all the real estate and gave up half of his future earnings to her for a period of fourteen years, until Ginger turned eighteen.” Kade swallowed a drink of beer. “Then he turned around and quit his judgeship, and signed on as Dirk Whitmore’s partner in Wyoming. The ex-wife was beyond pissed about the loss of income and refused to share custody of Ginger. So Dash was allowed to see Ginger for two weeks in the summertime—in California. That was it.”
Kane whistled. “Harsh.”
“Yeah. Makes me grateful we never had to go through any of that shit.”
“Daddy. You’re not s’posed to swear.”
“Princess, if you don’t tell your mama you caught me swearin’, I won’t tell her I caught you with her lipstick.”
Eliza immediately said, “Deal.” She yawned and crawled on her daddy’s lap. “I wanna go home. I miss Mama and my sissies.”
“We’re goin’. Get your winter stuff back on and me’n Uncle Buck will load Shep and his food.”
Seemed strange that the only ones who called him Buck were his nieces, his cousins’ boys, who he considered his nephews, and the kids in the Little Buddies program. The great experiment with changing his name to something completely different from his twin brother’s had lasted until the night he’d picked up a brunette in a bar outside of Gillette. Her continual cries of “Fuck me, Buck” and “Buck me, Buck” and
“Suck me, Buck” were enough to make him ditch the name altogether—not that it’d really caught on.
While they were outside, Kane said, “Can you handle everything Monday and Tuesday?”
“I guess. Gonna be a long weekend for you, huh?”
“Before I forget, Colt said something about you pickin’ up the generators and takin’ ’em in to Brown’s Repair before we hit calving.”
“Why doesn’t Colt do it? It ain’t like I don’t have plenty of my own shit to take care of around here and I’m helpin’ out Brandt and the boys.”
Kade frowned. “I don’t know. He just told me to tell you.”
“Tell me,” Kane sneered. “More like command me. Asshole.”
“Whoa. I’m just the messenger.” Kade’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know what the hell has been goin’
on between you and Colt the last month, but I’m pretty sick of bein’ the go between—”
“And I’m sick and tired of his—”
“Hey! Look.” Eliza stood on the seat and passed him a Ziploc bag of cookies through the sliding beer window—after she’d given one to Shep. “You can share with Hayden if you want.”
“Huh-uh, short stuff. I don’t share.”
“Mama says it ain’t nice not to share. Isn’t nice,” she corrected herself.
“How many bags of cookies you got stashed in your jacket so you don’t have to share them with your sisters?”
She smiled coyly and blew him a kiss. “Bye, Uncle Buck.”
Kane shook his head, charmed by his niece’s sweet slyness.
Ginger woke to a spike of pain in her shoulder. Both her legs ached. Her hand smarted. Her mouth was dry.
Last night she’d only stayed conscious long enough to use the bathroom, eat more toast and swallow more painkillers.
And dream. Good Lord had the dreams been spectacular. All starring one hunky, built cowboy, who’d shed his gentlemanly persona right along with every stitch of his western clothes. He’d bound her. Gagged her. Tied her up. Tied her down. Spread her out. Bent her over. Displayed her body solely for his pleasure.
He’d demanded sexual obedience. He showed his bedroom prowess, demonstrating kinky things she’d only read about. So it was disorienting to wake up alone and realize she’d been hallucinating about the sexy gentleman rancher.
No wonder she started out the day cranky.
Since personal grooming had fallen by the wayside for the last two days, cleaning herself up was her first priority. She desperately needed a change of clothes. A change of scenery. Ginger felt like a prisoner in her own body, in her own room, in her own home.
Enough feeling sorry for yourself. Your father deals with this every damn day.
After three false starts, Ginger draped fresh clothes around her neck and hobbled to her master bathroom before Kane bulled his way in and took over. Much as his take-charge nature appealed to her, the last thing she needed was her good-smelling sexy helper to get a whiff of her very rank self.
Carefully unhooking the sling, she kept her right arm immobile as she slowly removed her clothes. It was mortifying to be coated in sweat by the time she’d stripped to just her skin. When she got a glimpse in the mirror of the injuries to her body, she literally gasped.
She looked hideous. Bruises dotted her ribcage. A few were scattered across her upper thigh. An ugly welt protruded on her left shin below the deep gash. Luckily, her coat had protected her arms from cement burns, although her left palm had borne the brunt of her graceless skid across the frozen pavement.
The snappish voice— stop sniveling, it could’ve been worse— dried the moisture forming in her eyes.
A shower wasn’t a possibility due to her cast, but she had to wash her hair. Had to. Thankfully she’d invested in a removable handheld showerhead and she wouldn’t have to wedge her aching body between the toilet and the tub to reach the main spigot.
She filled the sink with hot water and loaded her washcloth with suds from her favorite Sky Blue soap—a creamy mix of sweet lavender and mint. It was harder than she’d anticipated, scrubbing herself with her left hand. By the time she finished, she felt a million times better, but she was exhausted from the effort. And she still had to wash her hair.
Ask for help.
No. She’d done fine on her own, maybe slower than she preferred, but she could do this.
Ginger set extra towels on the floor to cushion the cast and her shin. She cranked on the water, placing the shampoo bottle within reach before bending over the edge of the tub. Her fingers circled the hose for the sprayer and she jerked it close.
Ready. Set. Clean.
Getting her head wet? Easy. Washing her scalp and her long hair one-handed? That sucked. Bad.
Trying to rinse out the shampoo, when she couldn’t feel with her other hand if suds still matted her hair?
In attempting to rinse her nape, water poured into her ears. She hated that echoey, squishing sound in her head. As she adjusted the angle of the spray nozzle, soapy water trickled down her spine, following the crack of her ass to flow between her thighs. When she repositioned the rotating showerhead again, this time to rinse the front of her hairline, she nailed herself right square in the face with the water. For some reason, she screamed, flinging the sprayer aside like it’d been shooting acid rain at her.
Stupid, stupid, Ginger. What is wrong with you? It’s just water.
Gritting her teeth, she opened her eyes to see where she’d tossed the sprayer. Thick rivulets of soap slithered down her forehead and puddled in the corners of her eyes.
She couldn’t see, she couldn’t hear, she couldn’t move. The soap started to burn. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
The door banged open. “Ginger? Jesus, what are you—”
Was that Kane? She shrieked, “Get out! Get out of here right now!” Her eyeballs stung. Her naked body burned with utter humiliation. God. Of all the positions to be stuck in, on her knees, her fat white ass flapping in the wind.
“Why don’t I—”
“Get the fuck out? Good plan.”
The door slammed shut.
She blindly reached for the hose for the hand sprayer. Unable to see a damn thing, she leaned over too far, smacking her shoulder into the bottom of the tub. “Fuck!”
“That’s it, goddammit, hold still.” Kane moved in behind her, straddling her upper torso, squeezing his knees on either side of her ribcage. He reached for the hose and placed the nozzle on the back of her head. “Close your eyes and tilt your head down,” he said tersely.