"Heard my name," Carson said, getting right in Bob's business. "Got something to say to me?"
"Don't recall speaking directly to you, McKay, so just keep walkin'."
"How about I don't. How about I stay right f**kin' here until you prove you can keep that fat trap of yours shut."
Bob stepped forward, his gut leading the way. "How about you make me."
Carson's answer was an uppercut to Bob's jaw. Before Bob recovered, Carson nailed him in the sternum.
Since Bob was still swinging as he went down, Carson connected with a right cross to Bob's ear and another one to his jaw.
That was the last punch he got in before Bob's buddies jumped him.
Fuckers had him pinned down so he couldn't fight back-but he sure as f**k wasn't letting these pussies get the best of him. He managed to crack one guy in the nose with his head and the guy dropped to his knees, yelling about his busted face.
He didn't know how many hits and kicks he'd sustained-his head had gone woozy from the booze and the pain-when the guys pounding on him went flying.
Someone hauled him upright to his feet by his biceps.
Carson wiped the blood from his eye and spit a mouthful of red goo on the ground. He swayed and someone tried to bolster him, but he jerked away. He was on his goddamn feet. He didn't need any help staying there.
A loud roar sounded. He glanced over to see Cal, Casper and Charlie doling out punishment to Bob's friends and a couple of other guys who'd stupidly tangled with them.
A crowd had gathered to watch the show.
Carson rested his hands on his knees, trying to breathe through the pain. Fuck. His ribs, his back, his head all throbbed. When he looked up, he saw three more guys rolling in the dirt and Cal and Charlie looming above them.
Then Casper took an elbow to the gut, which spurred him to tackle the guy and whale on him until Charlie tapped him on the shoulder.
"Anyone else?" Cal shouted, spinning in a circle.
"The McKays starting fights," someone yelled from the back. "Big surprise."
"And we always finish fights," Charlie snapped back. "Come up here and say it to our face, coward."
No one stepped forward.
"Anyone else wanna have a go at us? We're ready."
For a moment Carson thought the entire crowd might rush them. But then they slowly backed away.
"Not that it matters, but you wanna tell us what the f**k that was about?" Cal asked.
Carson bent down and picked up his hat. "I was walkin' by Bob and he made a crack about the McKays. Couldn't let it slide."
Charlie said, "Dad is gonna rip into us when he hears about this."
"Let him." Casper sneered. "Wasn't like we had a choice. He'd yell at us just as bad if he found out we let the number one son get a beatin' and we didn't step in to save him."
"Fuck you, Casper," Carson said. Even when Casper wasn't being an ass**le, he somehow managed to turn into one.
"How bad you hurt this time?" Cal asked.
"I'm fine. I just need to walk it off." Sleep it off would be better. But even in his boozed and beaten state Carson knew the second he closed his eyes, he'd see Carolyn's face. The torment in her eyes when she noticed he had his arm around another woman. The way she seemed to shrink into herself when she believed he'd used her and was discarding her.
Rage roared inside him again. His fist might've connected with the metal hood of the car behind him if not for Cal lunging and knocking him sideways. "What the hell, Carse?"
"He's drunk," Casper said.
Not drunk enough. He didn't know if there was enough booze in the world to numb the pain.
"Leave him alone," Charlie said. "Let's go back into the dance. See if any of the ladies wanna get with us."
"Fine, but you ain't drinkin', pup."
Cal positioned himself across from Carson as they leaned against the doors of somebody's cars. "You wanna tell me what's really goin' on?"
"I can help with that."
Carson faced the guy, recognizing him as another one of Carolyn's f**kin' brothers. "If you're gonna hit me, you'd better make sure you knock me the f**k out with the first shot. 'Cause I ain't goin' down easy." Especially not for a West again.
"Yeah. I saw that."
"Who're you? Cal demanded.
"Thomas West. Carolyn's brother."
Cal snarled, "What the f**k do you want, West?"
"To talk to Carson."
"You gonna talk to me like your brothers talked to me?"
Thomas stepped closer. "What'd they do?"
"Harland slammed me up against the barn and tried to choke me. Darren stopped by and said he'd drop a couple of diseased sheep into my cattle herd. Marshall said sparks from the railroad are known to start grass fires in prime grazin' land. Stuart was the least creative but the most to the point. He said he'd beat me to death with a hammer if I ever came near Carolyn again."
"When the hell did this happen?" Cal asked, dumbfounded.
"Last two days." Carson reached for his flask, but remembering he'd left it in his truck, he dropped his hand. "Don't bother warnin' me off your sister. I'm done with her."