For anyone who missed it: Raining in my Heart is now free at Amazon and Smashwords.com.
Julie’s father died and she must go home. Going home isn’t easy for Julie McKay since she hadn’t seen her father in a long time and she’s had a daughter he never got to see. But in her father’s will she is shocked to find out that the father that adopted her, is her real father, and that if she agrees to stay on the ranch for a year she’ll be a very rich woman. Can she up end her life and go home?
“Wade? What are you doin’ in here? I thought you’d be up at the big house with all the girls.” Cade laughed as he threw his hat on his bunk and glanced at his brother who was just finishing a shave.
“Nellie had that calf, huh?” Wade smiled.
“Yeah, we got ourselves a brand new bull in the making. He’s got good markings; you need to take a look.”
“Great.” Wade sighed with relief. “Well, I reckon I won’t be goin’ up there any more than I have to for a while,” Wade answered, wiping the excess shaving cream from his chin, and going toward his bunk.
“Why, what do you mean?”
“You know as well as I do, according to the will, the girls have to stay here for a year. Some of them are balking at the idea.”
Cade swiveled on one boot. “A year? Are you kidding me? They won’t last a month, much less a year.”
“The old man left it all in black and white. If they want the money, they gotta stay. Old man’s orders,” Wade said, taking the things out of his pockets and laying them on the nightstand by his bunk. “They’ll stay.”
“Bet that didn’t set too well with Julie.” Cade chuckled as he pulled a boot off and let it drop to the floor with a thud.
“They were all sorta hashin’ it out as I left.” Wade rubbed his chin. “Sure didn’t want to get in the middle of that. Letty was downright angry, and Julie didn’t look very happy.”
“You’re still the ramrod, he didn’t change that, did he?” Cade asked, pulling the other boot off as he sat on the edge of the bunk.
“Well sort of, you’re a ramrod too now.” Wade glanced at his brother sheepishly.
“Me? Now how did that happen?” Cade shot him a strange look.
“Just lucky I guess….” Wade smiled and winked. “His way of sayin’ he knew who did the work around here.”
“Well, I appreciate that,” Cade admitted, leaning back on the pillow and glancing at Wade. “Just didn’t expect it is all. You know, he must have done a lot of thinking about his dying, as he planned everything out.”
“You’ve earned it. I’ve pointed the fact to him a number of times.” Wade smiled.
“Not changin’ the subject but…did ya see the kid?” Cade asked.
“The kid? Now who on earth would that be?” Wade asked as he relaxed on his bunk.
“Julie’s kid…” Cade frowned at his brother. “Your kid…” he muttered under his breath.
Wade reacted slowly, his eyes rounding on his brother as though it had to be a joke. “M-my kid? What the hell are you talking about?” Wade rose and hit his head on the bunk overhead. He grabbed at his head and frowned at his brother at the same time.
“W-well, she was your girl. I just thought… I mean…geez, have you seen her? She looks just like…” Cade stopped, and eyed his brother. “Well good gosh, why are you so surprised?”
Wade stared at his brother for a minute then rubbed his chin once more. “I’ve been tryin’ to tell you for years now. Julie wasn’t my girl. And that’s probably why she ran off when she did. Everyone on this ranch thought she was my girl. But she wasn’t. She had a crush on me that summer is all. I thought of her as a kid. I think she finally realized it when she left. But Julie and I…”
“Call it what you want, but Julie was in love with you,” Cade countered.
“Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. But it wasn’t like you seem to think between us. I’ve tried to tell you that for years, but you wouldn’t listen.” Wade frowned now. “Look bro, I liked her and yeah, maybe I had the big head because she took such an interest in me, but I didn’t love her and she wasn’t my girl and we never…”
Cade sat stone still. “Never?”
“Never? But—” Cade wrestled this information in his head for a few minutes. If Wade never touched Julie…and Kellie had all the ear marks of a Weston…then…
Cade became silent. His smile faded into oblivion. If Wade and Julie hadn’t done anything, then…
His eyes widened, his breath hitched, sweat peppered on his forehead. “Oh my God!”
He jerked on his boots, looped his belt in his pants and put his hat on his head. Stomping loudly out of the bunk house, he headed for the big house. He wanted some answers.
However, when he got to the back door he hesitated before barging in. “What am I supposed to say now? Do?” He hadn’t given himself time to sort this out. Right now he needed confirmation.
“What the heck am I gonna say?”
He could still hear voices in the kitchen. Julie and Letty were talking. It sounded as though everyone else had gone to bed. He wanted to barge his way in and demand some answers, but he wasn’t sure how to handle this. He’d never been faced with such news before.
He checked his watch in the moonlight. It was nine-thirty. He paced the outside grounds for several minutes. He hadn’t the slightest idea where to start. Was that pretty little girl his? Could it be, and if it was why had Julie waited so long to tell him?
The door suddenly opened and Julie stared up at him; she had changed into pajamas and a robe and looked comfortable. “Cade, what are you doing here this time of night?”
“How can you tell us apart so easily now?” Cade’s mouth twisted into a sardonic smile.
The question seemed to fluster Julie and she turned a beautiful shade of pink.
“I don’t know.” She turned away and then twisted back around. “I guess I’m old enough now to see the differences. And there are some you know. For one thing, you don’t usually wear a frown on your face, like you have right now. You walk with a swagger to some extent, carrying yourself differently than your brother. And…you have a much softer voice.”
He nodded slowly his glance going over her; he hadn’t noticed any of those differences. Right now how he walked wasn’t on his mind either. “And you’ve noticed this with one visit home?”
Julie smiled. “I guess I have…”
“Well, is everyone gone to bed?” he asked, glancing about the kitchen through the screen door.
“Yes, it’s getting late; shouldn’t you be headed that way too?” Julie asked. “I mean I figured you went to bed with the chickens since you are up before dawn.”
“N-no, not yet. Look, we need to talk….” Cade pushed past her to the kitchen and threw his hat on the table, blowing a napkin in the air. Julie watched him as she headed for the coffee pot.
“Want a cup?” She turned to look at him.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll need that,” Cade said. “Might even need something stronger.”
“Now that sounds ominous. Want to tell me what put the bur under your saddle?” Julie almost laughed as she put a cup on the table for him.
“Sure…sure, I’ll tell you. I’ll come right to the point.” He fumbled with his hat then hooked it on the back of the chair, holding it there for a minute before he let go. “I want to know how come I’ve got a half-grown kid in there, and you’re just now letting me in on it?” His glance stormed at her.
Julie nearly dropped the pot she was holding. She looked up into azure eyes that nailed her to the front of the stove. Cade’s eyes held something deeper than anger, more worrisome, his eyes held hurt, she’d never seen him like this.
Her mouth fell open, but words failed her. She hadn’t once thought how she would ever tell Cade. She hadn’t planned on telling him anything. How had he guessed?
“Who told you?” She barely got the words out as she met his glance.
“Who told me? That’s priceless…Do you think I wouldn’t see the resemblance? But, I hadn’t a clue she was mine until Wade told me.”
“Wade?” She looked more puzzled than ever. “But he didn’t know. I haven’t even talked to Wade in years, other than to say hello.”
“He said you and him never…” Cade stopped and moved away now. “He said you never did anything…”
“That was a little bit of a shock. No, that’s a hellova shock.” Cade shook his head and came to stand just in front of her; putting the coffee on the table, he stared into her face. “I took one look at that kid and knew she was kin to me. I just thought…well, I thought it was Wade’s daughter. I thought I was her Uncle, and proud of it, but I never dreamed I was the daddy. When Wade didn’t say anything, didn’t acknowledge her, I asked questions and got some answers that floored me. I still don’t know what to say, how to react to all this. You could have prepared me a little Julie.”
Julie swallowed hard. She sat down at the table and fumbled with her mug of coffee, her thumb absently stroking the handle.
And as though it just dawned on him, Cade lowered himself in a chair on the other side of the table. “That’s why you never came back. You didn’t want to tell me…did you?”
Julie glanced up and saw the hurt in Cade’s expression, the storm still unsettling inside him. “I guess that’s part of it. But…it’s not as simple as that, and you are bound to figure that out. I’m sorry…really I am. But…you just don’t understand. Please listen to me, Cade.”
Cade looked at her and looked away. “Oh yes I do understand. You were in love with Wade, not me. You had the wrong man that night. You wanted it to be his. I understand that. I understand that real well. But you’ve robbed me now, robbed me of my little girl. And you’ve robbed her of a father who would have loved her…been there for her. She thinks I didn’t care all these years. That I didn’t love her. God…Julie…she thinks…God knows what she thinks.”
Julie’s eyes widened. In all the time she’d known Cade she’d never seen him so serious. The fact that he was hurt made Julie instantly rethink the situation. Guilt fed her inner most fears now. “I never realized how you might feel, either. I never looked at it that way, Cade. I’m truly sorry if I misjudged the situation. I thought I was doing the best for everyone concerned. It was only one time, there were no words of love between us. Not really. I didn’t want you to have to be involved. It wouldn’t have been fair back then to tell you, you had a life to live.”
Cade stared at her then slammed his hand on the table, making another napkin bounce into the air.
“Involved, being her father makes me involved, Julie. There wasn’t a crowd that night in the barn, it was you and me.” He came to stand beside her, and pulled her to her feet. Staring deep into his eyes, Julie gulped. “Not even Wade was there. And there was more than just lust involved, I thought you knew that, sensed it. I thought a girl could tell when a man makes love to her. We didn’t just have sex, we made love. My God, Julie, we made love all night, not just once, but…Maybe you were too young to realize that, but it’s true. I knew what I was doing. But then I guess you couldn’t tell the difference, since I was your first.”
“And the last…” Julie whispered.
Cade gasped; another surprise!
“In my own defense Cade…” Julie looked down, afraid to meet his gaze. “I was young and vulnerable too. I didn’t want to put something on you just because I made a mistake. And that night…was all my mistake. I realized that. You were so gentle with me, so tender. But then when I found out I was expecting…well, I thought I could love her enough for both of us. You didn’t deserve instant fatherhood. My own father would have made us get married, I know that. That’s partly why I ran away so soon afterward. I thought I was doing you a favor. I truly did. You had a good position here, my father might have fired you, had he known. I had to leave, don’t you see? I didn’t mean you harm. Or to hurt you. But…now I see where I messed up, and I don’t know how to rectify it. I wasn’t looking at the whole picture,” Julie burst out. “For you or for her.”
“Our being together that night was a mistake…” she admitted.
“Well now.” His voice deepened as he stared down at her. “That’s priceless.”
His fingers gently reached to trace her lips. Julie didn’t move; her eyes slowly met his. The same crazy feelings came over her as when he took her for his own. A melting feeling, an uncontrollable feeling.
“I didn’t want you to feel responsible for what happened. Making love was all my fault. I’d planned to seduce Wade that whole day. And when someone told me he was in the tack room, well, I thought… well, you know what I thought. You look so much alike, and I didn’t bother wheeling you around and looking for the scar above Wade’s hairline. When you reacted as if you loved me, I didn’t bother checking an ID. I let it happen. I never realized ’til I walked out that next morning what I’d done. I should have. If I’d been thinking at all I would have known. Wade walked up to me, stared at me with those cold blue eyes and I knew. I couldn’t hold my head up. I felt so cheap. I felt I’d used you. Wronged you. So I ran. When…when I realized I was pregnant I was afraid to tell anyone, especially Dad.”
“You didn’t have to be afraid of anything. We could have straightened it all out back then, if you’d told me. Your father wasn’t that unreasonable.”
“Really, then why did he make the rule that no cowboy on his land would date a McKay? I was scared witless, not just of your reaction, but Dad’s too.”
“If it had been Wade’s you would have stayed and told them both, though, wouldn’t you?”
“No! That’s not true, Cade.” Julie whirled around at him, her hands coming to his arms and holding him. “I had a lot of respect for you. So much so I refused to trap you into a marriage I was sure you didn’t want,” Julie protested and turned away. Then as though she thought better of it, she whirled about to stare into Cade’s face. “That’s not why. By the time I realized I was pregnant, things had changed, Cade. I had realized too that I didn’t love Wade. But because I had planned it all, and had been so sure of myself, I blamed myself. I felt you were the innocent victim. I couldn’t come home and tell you. I couldn’t face my own shame. No telling what Dad might have done at the time. And I didn’t want to cause you trouble. It shouldn’t have been your responsibility at all. I came on to you, that was my fault. I caused it all. I realized that soon enough. I was ashamed of my actions. I resolved that whatever happened from then on was my own fault, my responsibility.”
“Good God, Julie, do you have to keep apologizing for the whole thing?” Cade sounded tortured. He shook his head. “Making love is a responsibility. Even I know that. There can be consequences; I knew that as well as you, maybe more than you did at the time. It wasn’t a mistake totally. I wanted you Julie or it would have never happened. And I’d have married you without your father making me.”
He turned away from her and stared out the door. “I-I wanted you that night Julie and when you came so willingly into my arms, I couldn’t turn you away. I thought if we made love you’d begin to see me. But you never did, did you?”
“Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought, either. But…not any longer. I wanted you to see something besides my brother. I wanted you to see me. But—you never did, did you? Still, that’s my little girl in there. You think I wouldn’t have loved her? I’d have cherished her like a priceless piece of art. I’d have been proud to claim her. And I don’t shirk my responsibilities either. You never got to know me enough to know that. I’ve worked my butt to the bone at this ranch, because I love it here. I’ve always loved this place. Me and Wade didn’t have our parents long, and when I came here I was just a kid. Your dad gave me a chance. A chance I couldn’t believe. But when we made love…well, if there were any mistakes that night, they were mine. I’d never leave here unless you found it unbearable to live around me.
“I guess, in the long run, it will be up to you. Right now…it’s raining in my heart, has been a while. You know why? For what I’ve missed with that little girl, and with you. That’s how I feel, how I felt. Right now I’m a little hurt, confused and even a little angry. I guess you thought you were protecting me all these years. For that I should feel grateful. But to find out now…that I’m a father…after all these years I’ve missed with her. How do I make that up to her? You never understood me. Your father learned to, but not you. Oh… I understand. You made it perfectly clear you were interested in Wade, not me. But when you came in that tack room and started messing with me that day, I decided to teach you a lesson. I’d wanted you so long…”
“Wanted me…but…Cade…you never said anything,” Julie cried. “Not once, why didn’t you say something…?”
“How can you say something to a girl that’s crazy about someone else? Especially when that someone else is your brother? And that hands off rule the McKay girls didn’t help.”
Then suddenly he pulled her into his arms and he stoked her cheek gently, staring into her eyes. Slowly, he captured her lower lip with his own, toying with it gently. It was so soft, so tempting. He tugged her lips apart and he swept her into another world as his lips covered hers in possession. Her lips yielded and he thought he heard a sigh escape her, as he masterfully swept her away into the loving void he created. His arms went around her, crushing her softly against him. He reveled in her reactions, weak at first, then much stronger as her lips responded to his mating call.
Emotions hung in the air between them as he slowly released her. After a long silence, she stared into his eyes.
“I honestly thought you’d see the difference and know. I’m not even sure you see it now,” he was saying as he let her slide back into her protected cocoon. He watched her reactions as he let her go, saw the light in her eyes slowly go out again, he saw the blush on her cheeks slowly return to normal.
“Oh yes, I see it now,” she finally breathed, trying to forget the kiss that branded her. “But I guess it’s too late, isn’t it?”
“Must have been kind of a blow to you when you realized you’d made love to the wrong brother. I often wondered how long it took you to realize it. Naturally, you couldn’t stand the thought it was my kid and not Wade’s, so you hid her from us both…dammit Julie…I knew you didn’t love me…but to do this….to your father too.”
“Cade, I never meant to hurt you…or anyone for that matter. I was young…scared.” She stood before him and tried to make him see reason. She had felt his kiss to her toes and no one had ever kissed her like that in her life. Cade was in love with her, still, and yet, he couldn’t see her feelings. He was also convinced she didn’t care.
“Never meant to hurt me…are you kidding? That night was as much my fault as it was yours, Julie. You see I wanted you. Always have, until now…”
“I don’t understand, what do you mean by that?” Julie stared into his eyes.
“As much as you wanted Wade. I wanted you, loved you.”
Julie’s eyes widened with his admission. She was right, Cade had loved her? Then why hadn’t he said something? Perhaps it would have made a difference.
Cade went on. “Yeah, as crazy as you were for Wade, I was for you. But you just couldn’t see it. Wade…was in love with this place, his job, his position. He never looked at you. You took my love and threw it in the trash can like it never even happened. Admit it, you never once realized I made love to you that day and through the night. Didn’t it ever occur to you that I might have felt something? You walked away from here and never once looked back. I vowed then I’d never have anything to do with a cold, calculating McKay again. But that was before I figured out who Kellie is. Look Julie, despite how we feel about each other, before this is over, she’s going to know who her father is…and that I love her! And granted I know she can take my love and throw it away too, but at least she’ll have the choice to do so. It’s her God-given right, and she’ll have it.”
“You can’t just tell her. Just blurt it out. How could you explain it? It might have devastating effects on her.”
“Not as devastating as not knowing the truth. Not as devastating as thinking I never cared about her. No matter what you think or feel Julie, our daughter was conceived in love, my love…”
“Cade, why didn’t you ever say something?”
“It wouldn’t have done any good, you were in love or thought you were with Wade. You don’t tell a girl you love her when she’s madly in love with your brother.”
“Oh God…it could have made so much difference.” Julie gasped.
“Could it? At the time, I didn’t think so…” Cade hung his head, and then looked into her tear blurred eyes and rubbed his finger erotically against her lip once more. “I guess it’s too late now…”
“No matter what you think of me, Cade, I was trying to protect you in a way. It was a long time later before I realized that what you offered that one time was so much more than Wade ever had. But I was so embarrassed for the whole thing, I couldn’t face you. By the time it all came together in my mind, it was too late for the truth. You never said anything about your feelings. How could I know…?”
“It’s never too late for the truth.” Cade’s jaw tightened.
“Cade, I ask you to think about this before you act. Please. For everyone’s sake…I never meant to hurt you…If I could undo everything, I would. Let me tell her. Give me some time to tell her…”
“I’ll probably forgive you someday for this, Julie, but right now it’s a little hard to swallow.” He looked down at the steaming coffee, took a sip, and slammed it on the table. He turned to look at her. His eyes traveled her slowly. “Well honey, you sure managed to put a bur under my saddle this time…” And he stormed out the door, slamming it.
“Oh my God…” she whispered under her own breath after he left. “Why didn’t he tell me?”
Links to Raining in My Heart:
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Book Two of the McKay’s is out: Ring of Fire at Smashwords and at Amazon. Sells for $2.99
Book Three is going on Pre-Order any minute now. Twelfth of Never
Book Four is in the writing right now
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