"So what the f**k did Dad say to you today, Carse?" Cal demanded. "You had two damn doubles."
Without taking his gaze off his brother and his girlfriend, he said, "Dad threatened my future with the ranch. He didn't come straight out and say he'd kick me off and cut me out, but he sure as f**k implied it."
"That's a crock of shit," Cal said. "He knows he can't run the ranch without you. He also knows if he cuts you out we'll all walk-at least I will."
"Me too," Charlie said. "But I ain't so sure about Casper."
"He's too f**kin' lazy to step up," Carson said. "And if we all walked? Dad would be forced to hire men, which we know he ain't gonna do."
"Only McKays work McKay land," Charlie mimicked their father's favorite edict.
"He'd have to sell, which won't happen because he just bought two new sections in the last year."
"I knew he was bluffing as soon as he opened his mouth," Carson said. "Still pissed me off. He just had to speak his piece when Carolyn was in the next room."
"Did she hear him?"
Carson shook his head. "But she knows something happened."
"How'd things play out with the Wests today?" Cal asked.
"Worse than with Dad. Eli wouldn't even eat at the same table as me. Only reason I sat to the table at all is because of Carolyn's mother."
"I dunno, Carson. She's pretty and she seems real sweet, but is she worth the trouble?
Carolyn laughed right then and the sound flowed through him like liquid happiness. He wanted to say, "She's definitely worth everything I have to go through to make her mine," but his brothers would rag on him endlessly for such a sappy comment, so he merely said, "Yep."
Carolyn waited on the front steps of Carson's trailer, her leg bouncing as she tried to focus all her restless energy in one place. She probably could've gone inside-she knew neither Carson nor Cal locked the door-but waltzing in without an invite would feel like trespassing.
The sun beat down, frying the top of her head, making the skin on her arms sting. Thankfully she hadn't worn stockings or they'd be melted to her legs.
She should've gone home. The sun porch would've cooled off by now. She could strip, lie on her bed and let the breeze wash over her, hoping it'd wash away the ugly words that'd been tossed around today as if she wasn't there.
She'd done an onsite first fitting in Moorcroft for Missy Ludwig, the bride, and her two bridesmaids, Tammy and Edie, the catty women Beverly had pointed out to Carolyn. And to make matters more fun, the first bridesmaid she fitted was the brunette, Edie, who Carson had his arm around. Her nasty glower could've torched Carolyn's hair.
Carolyn had stayed professional, just like her aunt had taught her, when Edie started asking questions.
"So you're really dating Carson McKay?"
"Yes, I am."
"How long has that been going on?"
"Longer than most. That's probably just because you're not from around here."
"My parents live here."
"But you didn't go to school here. Where'd you go?"
"A Catholic academy in Billings."
"You were studying to be a nun?" She laughed. "That would be a challenge for Carson McKay. Trying to sweet talk a nun candidate out of her habit."
"Turn to the left please."
Edie paused as she admired herself in the mirror. Then, "You sure Carson hasn't dumped you and you just haven't realized it yet?"
Do not let your hand slip and jab her with this pin.
"He was downright hostile to you that night at the dance when he had his arm around me and invited me back to his place."
Tell her you and Carson had a fight and he was just using her to make you jealous.
No. She wouldn't stoop to that level. "We've been out almost every night for the last two weeks. I'm surprised you haven't seen us."
"But I didn't see you out with him last night. Looked like he was having a good old time without you. And he wasn't alone." Edie smirked at Carolyn's look of surprise. "Oh, sorry, you didn't know?"
"I know what I need to." After Carolyn finished pinning the hem, she said, "Turn."
"Yeah, right. Bet you don't know what kind of man Carson really is. He's using you; he uses everyone. It's a game with him. He'll see if he can get you to fall into his bed and he'll f**k you over as you're falling for him. Then he'll drop you like a bad habit-not that he's dropped any of his own bad habits. He's done the love 'em and leave 'em thing so many times, with so many girls, it's no wonder he had to go looking elsewhere for fresh meat." Edie's piggy eyes scanned Carolyn head to toe. "Young meat."
Carolyn blinked at her.
"Oh, sweetie. Are you gonna cry?" she cooed maliciously.
Like I'd give you the satisfaction. "Of course not." She jerked on the bodice. "Maybe you should think about wearing a padded bra with this dress so there's not such a huge gap in the bust line. There's nothing I can do to fix that." She couldn't manage a smile. "You're done. Go ahead and hang the dress on the back of the door and send in the next bridesmaid."