Domini and Skylar turned.
Chassie shifted her roly-poly baby boy from one hip to the next. One chubby hand gripped Chassie’s long braid. “Westin, honey, let go of mama’s hair.”
He cooed, blinked enormous hazel eyes and blew a big spit bubble.
“Blowing me kisses won’t charm me, buddy boy.” She kissed the top of his blond head and attempted to pry his fingers off her braid.
“Need some help?” Domini asked.
“It’d be great if you’d distract him.”
Domini made goofy faces. Poked his round belly until he giggled while Chassie freed her hair.
“Thanks.” She smooched Westin’s plump cheek. “You should show Domini how good you are at giving kisses.”
“I’ll take a kiss,” she said, leaning in. She caught a whiff of powdery baby smell as Westin’s cool mouth connected with her cheek, leaving a drooly wet mark. She laughed and looked up to see Cam staring at her.
The soft, wistful look in his eyes caused her to break eye contact. Caused her stomach to lurch with dread. Caused an immense amount of guilt.
Skylar said, “I haven’t been into Dewey’s in ages. It’s a nightmare to take three kids to a restaurant.”
“Not much has changed.”
Westin wiggled in Chassie’s arms. When she shifted her hold, he arched his back and protested loudly.
“I am not putting you down, so stop fussing.” Chassie flicked her hair aside as Westin tried to snatch it again. “He’s already trying to walk. It’s driving me nuts.”
“You want them to walk and you don’t realize how easy you had it when they weren’t walking.” Skylar smiled. “We weren’t anxious for Peyton and Shannie to start walking at all, after dealing with Eliza, the pink tornado.”
Westin pushed on Chassie’s chest and attempted to either throw himself to the ground, or shinny down her body. When neither option worked, he wailed with full lung power.
“Look at what you’ve done now with that caterwauling. Daddies are gonna come running.”
Sure enough, Trevor and Edgard were both there instantly.
“What’s wrong?” Trevor said as Westin dove into his arms.
Edgard rubbed Westin’s back. “He sounds tired.”
“He’s mad because I won’t let him roll in the dirt.”
“Shoot, Chass, boys get dirty. He just wants to be runnin’ with his cousins.”
Chassie rolled her eyes at Edgard.
The dinner bell clanked.
“I should track down Anton and make sure he eats something besides cookies,” Domini said.
Cam’s hands landed on her shoulders. “Let him be. I’m sure he’s havin’ a great time. Plus, I need to make sure you eat.”
When Domini and Cam were in the food line, she felt guilty seeing Macie, Keely and AJ running around behind the serving tables helping Carolyn.
“I recognize that guilty look, princess,” Cam murmured. “Next time, when you’re feeling better, I’m sure Ma would appreciate your help.”
Sometimes it amazed her how well Cam read her.
The kids got in line. Red faced, sweaty, dirty. Carolyn kicked them out of line and sent them to the pump to wash up. Grama ruled the clan with a velvet fist.
She turned to follow Anton’s blond head in the crowd of dark-headed boys and found herself looking into Carson McKay’s face. Into blue eyes identical to Cam’s. Uncanny, how all Carson’s offspring had his eyes. He gave her a dimpled, charming smile. “We’re glad to have you here, Domini.”
Carson cocked his head at Cam, who towered over his dad by a good five inches. “Son, I understand you and Domini just got married, and you’re figurin’ out how to be parents and balance your jobs. But your mother and I sure would like to get to know your new family.”
Every McKay family member had gone out of their way to make her feel welcome. So Cam’s…standoffish attitude toward his family bothered her and she wanted to let Carson know she appreciated his genuine interest in welcoming her and Anton into the McKay family. “I’d like that, Mr. McKay.”
“Shoot, darlin’, call me Carson.”
“We will definitely find a time to get together soon, Carson.”
Cam whispered, “Nicely done, wife.”
Anton didn’t sit with them. Colby and Cord stood back from the kid’s table, keeping an eye on the kids, while they talked and held yet more dark-haired babies.
This was one fertile family.
Libby plopped down beside her. “How is Anton faring with the multitude of McKay males?”
“Good I guess.”
“I forgot. Not all males.” She pointed. “Look at Eliza.”
Her face was sweaty and smudged with dirt. Weeds poked out of her pigtails. Grass stained her flowered shirt. And she was grinning from ear to ear.
“And they thought Keely was hell on wheels. I say look out for her.”
Domini scanned the picnic tables, but she didn’t see Channing. “Where’s Channing?”
“Lying down upstairs.” Libby chuckled. “Can you believe she’s pregnant again? Some of us can’t even have one baby and she’s knocked up every time I turn around.”
She didn’t press Libby on her some of us can’t even have one baby comment, but she was curious as to why Libby just blithely tossed it out there.
She can tell a stranger about her fertility issues but you can’t even tell your husband about yours?
“This is their fourth in six years. Miles is only six months old.” Libby gave her a droll stare. “FYI: Channing is blaming the cherry bombs for her current state. Said she got home, got naked with Colby and neither remembered a condom.”
Domini couldn’t help but laugh. “If it’s a girl, I hope they consider naming her Cherry.”
A beat-up Suburban pulled up. Carter McKay exited the driver’s side. A tall, muscular guy Domini vaguely remembered from Colt and India’s wedding reception sauntered around the front end of the vehicle.
Talk about gorgeous. Talk about impeccably dressed. He wore tasseled loafers, black dress pants, and a gray cashmere sweater layered over a black mock turtleneck. His dark hair was a little long, but created a sophisticated, bad boy, devil-may-care aura that added to his dazzling looks.
Carter’s oldest two boys ran up and hugged their dad and then Mr. Overdressed, who grinned and didn’t seem to care if the dirt on their clothes transferred to his.
Domini glanced at Cam, but Cam’s eyes were narrowed at someone behind her.
“For Christsake, what the hell is he doin’ here?”
“Keely!” AJ said.
Domini turned around. Keely had worn that same furious look the night of the bar fight. Not a good sign.
“I’m not kidding. Who invited him?”
“We did.” Macie took her youngest son, Spencer, from Keely’s arms as a precaution. “He’s staying with us for a couple days. What were we supposed to do? Leave him at home?”
“I’m sure he’d love to spend the day staring at his perfect face in the mirror. Or combing his perfect hair. Or figuring out how he can be even more of a perfect dickhead. Oh right, that’s not possible for Jack-off, because he’s already the biggest dickhead on the planet.”
“Keely West McKay, that’s enough.” Carolyn came up behind Keely, set her hands on her shoulders and whispered furiously in her ear.
“No. Not possible. You are dead wrong, Ma, and I’m ticked off you even suggested it.” She wheeled around and hustled into the house.
Carolyn and AJ exchanged a look. AJ sighed and chased after Keely.
Oddly enough, Cam said, “Excuse me,” and left the table too.
Confused, Domini faced Libby. “What was that about?”
“Keely used to date Jack’s younger brother. No love lost between them, which is awkward since Jack is Carter’s best friend. Keely and Jack are constantly sniping and one of these days they’re gonna kill each another.”
“Oh.” Quinn and Libby jumped into a heated discussion with Buck and Kade. When ten minutes passed and Cam hadn’t returned, she dumped her plate. Anton was nowhere to be found. Babies cried. Kids shrieked. Dogs barked. People were everywhere. It was chaotic and loud.
What would it be like to really be part of this boisterous family? To understand the rivalries and alliances? To build relationships that would last beyond the length of a job? To have roots in not only a place, but with people?
She’d put down roots in Sundance, more so than in any other place she’d resided, but the temptation to leave existed. She had nothing to keep her here.
What about Cam? He wants to give you all this.
He should give it to a woman who can give the same thing back to him—babies, family, that long-term community connection.
Isn’t it up to Cam to decide that? Aren’t you doing what you hate; taking away someone’s choice?
It hit her. Her reproductive problem wasn’t the total issue. She’d used it as an excuse. She’d been more than willing to share her body with Cam, but her heart? No.
Why had she demanded so much brutal honesty from him but she’d not done the same, except for when it came to sex?
She wandered to the section of the yard between the house and the barn. On edge. Wanting so much to come clean, to have the kind of marriage with Cam she didn’t think existed. To have a real chance with him. Not for Anton’s sake, but for hers.
Speak of the devil. Warmth suffused her body. Not surprising he’d tracked her down when she needed him—the man was inordinately attuned to her. “I was just thinking of you and here you are.”
He turned her toward him. “What’s wrong?”
Cam’s grip increased on her shoulders. “Are you sick? Do we need to go home?”
“No. We need to talk.”