Cowboy Casanova Page 57

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Gavin whistled. “She’s into the life too, isn’t she? I’m guessing she’s your sub?”


“She was my sub.”


“For how long?”


Not nearly long enough. “A month.”


“She ended it?”


“Yeah.”


“So what if she wouldn’t have?”


“I’d still be with her. The ironic thing about Dalton seeing me at the club? I hadn’t been there for the month I’d been with Ainsley. As I walked around? I felt nothing. I just fucking missed her. Missed who I was with her.” And it all poured out. “Since the night I met her I felt our relationship would be different. Club subs want good times and the anything-goes sex. Bringing them out of that world and into mine wouldn’t work. But Ainsley…works. She’s smart and sexy. She challenges me. She gets me. She goes from bein’ the bank prez, to hanging out with me, to bein’ my sub, all in one night. Almost seamlessly. She’s amazing.”


“So what did you do to fuck it up?”


“She’s the bank president. No one can know she associates with lowlife sexual degenerates like me who belong to the Rawhide Club,” he said with a slightly bitter edge.


Gavin shook his head and chuckled.


“What?”


“You. All ‘I’m the dominant, I’m in charge’, and yet, here you are, moping around in your house with your dogs. You’re not that guy, Ben. I’m that guy and trust me, it’s beyond fucking pathetic. So I’m going to mimic the ‘be a man’ advice you gave our brothers. If you want this woman for the long haul, make it happen. Screw the club. You haven’t needed it the last month, you don’t need it now. Play with her here. Or at her place. Set your own rules. Or change the rules.”


Ben was as flustered by the admonishment as he was by Gavin’s admission of brotherly ties. “It’s not that easy.”


Or was it?


Chapter Thirty-One


Ben had come inside from cleaning out the cattle truck when she burst through his front door. The dogs went berserk. Barking and jumping until she threw two rawhide chews out the door and slammed it shut behind them.


Christ. His mother was mad as a wet hen. She angrily pulled off her purple gloves finger by finger. Only after she’d shed the outer layer did she seem calm enough to speak. “Hello, son.”


“Mom. It’d be nice if you didn’t banish my dogs from their home every time you come over.”


“Those mutts belong outside. I’ll take a cup of coffee if it’s fresh.”


He poured a cup, refilled his mug and faced her.


“You look like hell, Bennett.”


“Gee, thanks. What brings you by?”


“This and that.”


She curled her hands around the coffee mug and wandered to the kitchen window, appearing to gather her thoughts.


Not good.


Finally she looked at him. “I heard something a little disturbing today.”


His gut roiled. Goddamn Dalton. Hadn’t he stressed the importance of keeping his big mouth shut? Was it a coincidence that one day after Dalton’s accusations, Ben’s mother showed up, hot under the collar? How was he supposed to look her in the eye when she questioned him about the rumor? Would she be disappointed? Would she ask where she’d gone wrong raising him?


Ben managed a nonchalant, “What did you hear?”


She blew across her cup, expecting him to fess up like a ten-year-old boy.


Not happening.


She sighed. “Tell me about the woman you took out for lunch last week.”


Why did she give a rip about that?


“Just answer the damn question, Bennett.”


He was punchy if he hadn’t realized he’d uttered that out loud. His thoughts backtracked. Last week? Right. A last minute lunch with his client from Jackson Hole who’d been driving through town to give him an overdue payment. “You mean Dani? She’s a friend. That’s it.”


“That’s it?” she mimicked. “You move fast, which I find disturbing.”


This conversation wasn’t about Dalton’s intervention? His relief was short lived.


“What happened between you and Ainsley? Weren’t you two an item just last week? Because I like her.”


I like her too. A lot. In fact, I fell in love with her.


“Bennett?”


“Ah, well, it’s sort of complicated and—”


“What did you do to her?”


Ben’s gaze hooked hers. “Me? Why does the problem have to be from my end?”


His mother rolled her eyes. “Because you’re a McKay.”


“Like that makes me a defective man or something?”


“Watch your tone, Mister,” she warned. “It’s my job as your mother to find out if you’re being a jackass to the only decent woman to come into your life in years.”


He snorted.


“Were you trying to make Ainsley jealous by having lunch with another woman? Right under her nose?”


Jesus. Was his mother on crack? “I’m tired of everyone in this family poking their nose into my personal business—”


“Bennett Andrew McKay.” Her cup hit the counter and liquid sloshed everywhere. “My God. Sometimes your pigheadedness is astounding.”


Thoroughly reprimanded, Ben sponged up the mess with a paper towel and waited for the lecture, because guaranteed she had one prepared.


“You brought Ainsley to our attention, by inviting her to a family party. I drive by your house every day. I know she’s been an overnight guest.” She peered at him over the tops of her glasses. “On many occasions. I’m pretty sure you two weren’t playing Parcheesi.”


He blushed. Goddammit. He never blushed.


“So I’m a big enough person to admit my visit the weekend you were sick—and don’t get me started on how I had to find out that my own son was sick from Rielle—was to check this woman out for myself. Because heaven knows you’d never tell me if you were involved with someone. But when I asked her, she insisted there wasn’t anything between you.”


Why did that sting?


“Of course I didn’t believe her. So when Carolyn called me today because she saw you cozied up to that ex-stripper last week—”


“Dani is not a stripper!”


“Hence the term ex-stripper.” She drained her coffee and lifted an eyebrow. “Not going to deny it?”


Ben counted to fifteen. “Mom. What does this have to do with anything? Why are you here?”


“To meddle, naturally.”


“Doesn’t Dad get after you for that? I thought you promised to knock that crap off.”


“Ah ah ah. I promised no more meddling in Quinn and Libby’s life. Chase and Ava aren’t around enough for me to meddle. So that leaves you, my dear middle son, as my man in the meddle.”


“Great.”


“So no bullshit. What happened between you and Ainsley?”


Defeated, and tired of playing the denial game, he ducked his face from her probing gaze. “We were involved but she…” Brought everything inside me alive. Created hope in me I hadn’t felt in years. Then she validated my biggest fear: no woman I wanted would ever want me, as I am, long-term.


“Bennett. Look at me please.”


Maybe he’d gotten his Dom tendencies from his mother, not his father. He glanced up and she was standing in front of him. “Oh, son, come here.” She opened her arms and Ben walked into her embrace without hesitation. He might tower over her now, but her hugs hadn’t changed from when he was a little boy. There was fierceness in her hugs. Protectiveness. Unconditional love. Funny how he’d forgotten that. Ironic how she’d known he’d needed the reminder.


“You are a good man. If she can’t see that…” She eased back and fussed with his collar. “Then she’s a blind fool.”


“Thanks.”


Ben expected her to leave. But she chatted away about Adam and Amelia’s latest antics. His father’s upcoming birthday. Chase and Ava. Quinn and Libby. Gavin and his daughter. The situation with Casper. When she talked about tattoos, Ben tuned her out. He had a shit ton to do and daylight was wasting.


“And so I have to go…but I have a confession to make. There’s another reason I stopped by today.”


Here it comes.


“I don’t want you to get upset if I pursue a friendship with Ainsley.”


His jaw dropped. “What? How can you be buddy-buddy with a woman you just called a blind fool?” With the woman who rejected me?


“Because she and I have a lot in common. Besides, I’ve been trying to widen my social circle. Vaudette can be such a self-righteous pain in the patootie.”


Typical of his mother to carry on three conversations at once and expect him to follow each one. What the devil did her best friend Vaudette Dickens have to do with anything? Wait. Was she trying to tell him something? “When did you talk to Ainsley?”


“I had lunch with her today.”


Stunned, he just stared at her.


“I got the impression she’s looking for people to connect with outside her job as bank president.” She shrugged on her coat. “Sounds like she’s under a lot of stress. She’ll be busy in the next six months trying to bring new business into National West.”


So Ainsley hadn’t lost her job? A weird, wonderful kind of hope began to overtake his feeling of defeat. If Ainsley was living in Sundance, he had a chance with her. Until he remembered why he didn’t have a chance with her.


His mother clucked her tongue. “The poor girl sounded so lonely.”


That tore at him. “How the hell can she be lonely?” Ben demanded. “When up until last week, she was with me most nights for the past four weeks?”


“Why are you asking me? Maybe you should trot yourself to town and ask her. Because God knows, I would never hear the end of it if I poked my nose into your personal business.”

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