He wanted to know what she tasted like, to take the kiss he was desperate for. He was just about to do that when the rumble of the truck pulled them apart.
Caleb watched as Maddie stepped back. “Time for some fun.”
Leaving his house behind, he nodded at Ryan before helping Paige into the truck, then Maddie. Placing a hand on her thigh, he reached for the seatbelt. Her thigh tensed beneath his touch, and he wondered if she felt the connection, too.
Ignoring the urge to pull her out of the vehicle and carry her to his room, to show her how a real man took care of his woman, he handed her the seatbelt and rounded toward the driver’s side.
Paige was talking a mile a minute. He listened, all too aware of the woman by his side. The drive into town didn’t take long enough. He found somewhere to park, and saw how busy it was. After helping Maddie down, he took Paige’s hand and saw his brother waiting for him.
Before he turned to leave he made sure Maddie was safe with Ryan before leaving her alone.
Fucking take her for yourself.
He was pissed off that he’d not gotten to ask her himself.
In fact, he’d assumed that she’d be with him and Paige. Of course, he’d then given her the night off, which had then made him aware of exactly who she was going to the fair with.
“Maddie’s with Ryan?” Mike asked.
Paige rushed toward Martha, and was embracing her cousins.
“I thought we agreed that you liked her?” Mike asked.
Glaring at his brother, Caleb didn’t say another word. He didn’t need to. Moving through the crowds, he stayed close to Paige, paying for the rides and making sure she had a good time.
Every now and again he saw Ryan and Maddie together. He’d be firing a gun, winning her a bear or at least trying to win her something.
Maddie had this huge smile on her face, and so long as she looked happy, he was okay to leave her on her date.
The hours ticked by, and Martha was the driver who’d agreed to take the kids back. Paige was having a sleepover for the night. He kissed her goodnight and told her to behave.
“Where’s Maddie?” Paige asked. “She always says goodnight.”
His heart twisted. “She’s busy.”
“I’m never too busy to say goodnight,” Maddie said, appearing behind Paige.
Ryan was there with her. He watched as Paige threw herself into Maddie’s arms, hugging her tight.
“You be a good girl, and tomorrow we’ll have an entire day of baking cupcakes.”
“You promise?” Paige asked.
“I’ve got no choice. Ryan’s told all the ranch hands. They’re expecting some Paige cupcakes.”
His daughter giggled, and he watched her climb into Martha’s car. She waved at them, and Caleb watched her go.
“Let’s go and get this party started,” Mike said, shouting.
He followed his brother toward the bar. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ryan place his arm across Maddie’s shoulders, comforting her.
Why was he comforting her?
Caleb wanted to break that fucking arm that thought he could touch her.
Maddie wasn’t Ryan’s.
She’s not yours either.
They all ended up at the bar where lots of drinks, dancing, and fun were being had. Mike ordered them all a beer, and Caleb watched as Ryan and Maddie made their way onto the dance floor. They were surrounded by so many people, but he spotted Maddie. It was next to impossible to miss her, the red hair like a beacon for him to spot. He loved her red hair, and there had been many times over the past few weeks where he’d wanted to run his fingers through it, or see it spread out across his pillow.
“You’re drooling,” his brother said.
“You know, everyone can see that you want her. Even Mom can, and she’s usually blind to those things.”
“Maddie’s my nanny.”
“No, she’s your daughter’s nanny. Besides, she’s a beautiful woman.”
“I’ve sworn off beautiful women. I don’t need the hassle that they give me.”
Mike sighed. “We’re back to Ivory again?”
“When are we not back to Ivory?” He’d been taught a very valuable lesson, and he didn’t care what his brother or mother said. He wouldn’t allow himself to be caught by a woman again.
“I’ve seen the way Paige has warmed to her, and not only that, I’ve seen the way Maddie has warmed to the ranch. She loves it there.”
He’d seen her love for his home as well. There had been many times he’d caught her humming to herself as she fed the animals, or cleaned away the weeds in the small garden that he’d provided. She never looked pissed off when food needed to be made, or when the ranch hands were in need of drinks. In fact, she and Paige would often climb into the truck and deliver them without him calling ahead and asking.