"He'd still be pushin' us away if not for him findin' you, darlin', I fully believe that."
"Thank you. Cam is a strong man, but he's a worst-case scenario guy. I don't know if that's because he's in law enforcement or what. Even if he could see Carolyn, I'm not sure I'd want him in there because he'd be a Negative Nancy."
"Cam has been that way since he was a kid. One time he had Colt convinced that the mosquito bite on the back of his neck was filled with an egg sac and if he scratched it a hundred bugs would fly out and bite him a hundred more times."
"Good Lord. Now I know where Markus gets it."
Cam's youngest boy was a serious little kid. A deliberate thinker. Oddly enough, he reminded Carson of Cord, not Cam. "What else is goin' on?"
"Anton is competing this weekend in Gillette. Since Cam is on duty, I'll probably end up driving Anton and Gib to the event to get them registered. Channing and Colby plan to come later, depending on…"
What happens with Carolyn.
As far as Carson was concerned, he'd be loading up his wife and taking her home. "Tell the boys I'm sorry I won't get to watch them compete. Anton has come a long way in his bull doggin' skills this summer."
Domini sighed. "It's because he's shot up four inches in the last six months. With this growth spurt I cannot keep enough food in the house for that boy."
"I remember them days."
"Dimitri, Oxsana, Sasha and Markus have art and science camp at the community center all next week. Oh, and Macie and I decided to go to a restaurant management conference in Denver for four days at the beginning of August. Which will leave Cam home with the kids by himself for the first time. I've already informed him that I expect him to deal with our children by himself. No passing off babysitting duties to Anton and Liesl. No dumping them off with Aunt Keely or with Grandpa and Gran-gran or any of his other brothers."
"Aren't those decisions about what he does or doesn't do with the kids when you ain't around his choice?"
She picked at a stray thread on the bottom of her shirt. "Normally I'd agree with you. Cam is a great father. He's involved with every aspect of our kids' lives. But sometimes he says things before he thinks them through."
Now it made sense. "Jesus. What did my thick-tongued boy spout off about?"
"Something that made me want to punch him in his smart mouth. Hence the 'no relying on your massive family and overly kind sisters-in-law' to pull his butt out of the fire. He will deal with his children all by his little self if he thinks it's so easy."
Carson laughed. "Give me the days you'll be gone. We'll ignore his calls. Though, I gotta say, I feel for him. Carolyn left me with all six kids for five days once."
Her look of surprise was there and gone. "Really?"
"Yeah. Keely was…two. Cord was fifteen. Back then Caro did all of the house stuff. I mean, it wasn't that she raised the kids by herself while I ranched, it's just-"
"Carson, it's okay." Domini patted his leg. "No judgment from me. So what happened?"
"The better question is what didn't happen?"
"So when Cam is feelin' all kinds of cocky about how easy it is keepin' six kids in line with no break from the other parent for days on end, ask him about the time his mother left me in charge because I guarantee he'll remember."
Domini smiled. "Thank you. One of these days I'd like to hear what happened straight from the horse's mouth. I have a feeling I won't get the whole story from my husband." She stood. "I won't keep you. I do have munchkins to herd."
"Thanks for comin' by, Domini."
She crouched in front of him. "I know you have a dozen people you can call. But if there's anything you need, day or night, or even if you just need someone to listen to you, remember you can call me. Being married to Cam, being part of the McKays, has given me everything I ever wanted and if I can pay that back, even in a small way, let me know."
"I might take you up on that."
"I hope you do." She patted his hand. "And if you want to eat all those cookies in one sitting? It'll be our little secret."
Carson limited himself to two more cookies. The sugar buzz wore off and he started to crash. He stretched out, his mind flipping back and forth between what dumb thing Cam might've said to the mother of his children and that summer Carolyn had left him in charge…
Five days. With all six kids. By himself.
He could do this.
You deal with five hundred head of cattle every day. Wrangling six kids? Piece of cake.
Famous last words.
Carson stowed Carolyn's suitcase behind the driver's seat. The boys were lined up by age on the walkway to the porch, as Mama McKay said goodbye to her cubs. At fifteen Cord was already taller than his mother. A gangly kid, all arms and legs, and a deeper voice, but not yet to the stage where his mother's affection embarrassed him. At age thirteen Colby was almost the same size as Cord, with a stockier build, and he was obsessed with all things rodeo. Ten-year-old Colton was the instigator of the bunch, but he managed to charm his way out of trouble. The kid was also a brawler-such a chip off the old block; he and Cal had to bust up fights between Colt and Kane at least every couple of weeks. Eight-year-old Cameron and six-year-old Carter were still too young to be much help on the ranch, but they found trouble more often than not, which meant they were tasked with entertaining Keely.