Gone Country Page 14


“Who?”


“Mitch Michaels!”


Sierra turned down the radio. “Seriously, Marin? You’re just telling me this now?”


Marin bounced in her seat and squealed, “Yes! I mean, I don’t know if it’ll come to anything, but we’re on the same sales team, selling raffle tickets for the quilt fundraiser.”


“Think he’ll be here tonight?”


“Maybe.”


Hopefully Marin wasn’t the type of friend to ditch her as soon as she hooked a guy. Sierra would never do that to a friend. Not that she’d ever had a real boyfriend. She’d kissed a few guys but none had been worth bringing home to her dad.


“What are we doing after?” Marin asked, tilting the rearview mirror so she could add a coat of lip gloss.


“Have you heard if anything is going on?”


“Dave Darling is having a party at his house. But he’s charging ten bucks a head to cover the booze and you have to pay even if you don’t drink.” Marin didn’t drink, but she didn’t preach about it.


The parking area was packed and Marin ended up parking in the pasture across the road.


Welcome to Wyoming. What would her friends in Arizona say if they saw her now?


What friends? She hadn’t heard much from anyone except a few random Facebook comments and texts.


Sierra shivered as they walked toward the stands. A huge crowd had gathered for the game. When Marin stopped to talk to her parent’s friends about someone with terminal cancer, Sierra turned away and looked around.


That’s when she saw him.


He stood beside the ambulance. Looking bored. Okay, looking awesome in his EMT uniform. But as she watched, she noticed he wasn’t alone for long. A group of girls approached him. He smiled, flashing those dimples, but the girls didn’t stick around. Then a group of cheerleaders from the rival high school sauntered up. Same routine: a quick smile, a fast chat and they were gone. When a couple of pretty, college aged women invaded his space, she expected he’d pay more attention to them, but he didn’t act any differently.


Weird. Boone West could have his pick of any girls or women he wanted. So why did he look relieved when they left?


Then Marin dragged her to the school cheering section. They squeezed in behind the band, standing with some people from her class. Immediately after the national anthem was the kickoff. Marin clapped along with a crowd cheer. “The cheerleaders are so much better this year than last year. The new coach is whipping them into shape. I’m thinking of trying out for the squad.”


“Who’s the coach?”


“Some woman who used to live here and was a super-cheerleader in high school.” Marin pointed. “That’s her. The little dark-haired one with the clipboard.”


Sierra squinted at the sidelines and saw a tall, dark-haired man beside the cheerleading coach. He seemed familiar. “Hey. I think I know him.”


“Know him? Arizona, you’re related to him. That’s Tell McKay. He’s your cousin.”


“Am I related to every freakin’ person in town?”


“Just about.” Then Marin grinned. “But if the coach is doing your cousin, you’d totally get on the team, no problem and as your bestie you’d get me on too, right?”


“Right. Except I don’t know the first thing about cheerleading.”


“Last year? Neither did they.”


Sierra laughed. But could she really see herself in a short skirt and a tight top, shaking pompoms and yelling at the crowd? Maybe. Might be fun. It’d beat sitting at home watching her dad watch football and yell at the TV.


Mitch Michaels showed up after halftime. He kept turning around to talk to Marin, so Sierra decided to leave them alone for a little while.


She ducked under the stands and cut to where the food vendors had set up. Next to the ambulance.


Don’t do it. Don’t try to talk to him. You saw how dismissive he was with all the others. He’ll be dismissive with you too.


Her feet kept shuffling forward even as her head screamed stop.


“Boone?”


His head snapped up and his eyes zoomed to her. “Hey, Sierra.”


“So you do know my name.”


“McKay fits you better.”


Okay. This was good. Just keep talking. “How’d you get stuck working?”


“I volunteered for this shift. It’s probably wrong for me to hope I get to see some action tonight.” He rubbed his hands together. “A broken bone would be cool. Even a broken nose if it’s gushing blood.”


“Eww.”


He laughed.


“So then do you get to set the bone or whatever?”


“Hell no.” He jerked his head to the uniformed guy talking to an elderly woman. “He’s the head EMT. I’m just the gopher, driver and the muscle if we have to load an injured person. The docs do all the real work. We just try to keep ’em alive on the ride to the hospital.”


“Is it a rush, racing around, dealing with life or death situations?”


“It’s a serious fuckin’ rush.”


“Is that why you do it?”


“Partially.” Boone picked up his book and scooted over. “Sit down. Chill out for a bit. Unless you wanna get back to the game?”


She about lost the ability to breathe when he pinned her with that hooded brown-eyed gaze. “No.” Then she was sitting thigh to thigh, arm to arm and shoulder to shoulder with Boone West.


Be cool. “What are you reading?”


Boone flipped the book over and showed her the cover.


She read, “Mental Preparedness: Pushing Past Your Limits. Not what I’d expected.”


“Oh yeah? What did you think I’d be reading?”


His tone had gotten sharp. “I honestly had no idea since I don’t know you. It could’ve been a carpentry or medical book. Maybe a manual on how to keep the family peace on a school bus.”


Evidently that was the right answer because he smiled. “I forget you haven’t been around forever to pass judgment on me.”


“Who passes judgment on you?”


“Everyone. A few years back, I got into some trouble.”


“Is that why Kyler made the crack about you being in the principal’s office?”


“Probably. My dad pulled me up by the short hairs before the stupid shit I was doing became dangerous stupid shit. He said he wouldn’t let his only kid go down that path and waste a promising life. He sent me to forestry camp for the entire summer. Straightened me out.”


“Did you hate it?”


“No, I liked it. Part of the program was taking an aptitude test. I scored high on strategy. So I’m working my way down the reading list my counselor suggested.” He paused and swigged from a bottle of water. “What about you?”


“What do I read? Nothing outside of assigned homework and even then only enough to pass my classes. Reading isn’t really my thing.”


“But I’ll bet you read cookbooks,” he pointed out. “Man. I still think about that sandwich.”


So in a way he had been thinking about her. Cool. “Do you read only during slow times on your shift? Or do you read at home?”


“Most nights after I work I’m wiped out and I just go to bed. But my dad is home this weekend and he mentioned hanging out.”


Didn’t it just figure? There went her hope they’d run into each other at a party tonight after the football game.


“My dad never says, stick around son, we’re gonna drink beer and fix that piece of shit Mustang we’ve been working on for four years. But last night he made a specific point of telling me to make myself available.”


“What do you think that means?”


Boone shrugged. “Maybe old Dax wants to break it to me that he found himself a girlfriend.”


“How old is your dad?”


“Really old. He just turned thirty-eight.”


“Can you imagine having a kid right now like your dad did at your age?”


“Way to ruin my happy buzz.” He raked his hand through his hair. “That’d be a freakin’ nightmare.”


“Tell me about it. There was this girl in my class last year who got pregnant and kept the baby. Rielle got pregnant at sixteen and kept her daughter. Then there’s my Grams who gave my dad up for adoption. Seems like you’re screwed no matter which option you choose.”


“Sometimes I wonder if I’da been better off if my mom had done that. No doubt Dax would’ve been happy to be off the parenting hook. Maybe I would’ve ended up with rich adoptive parents like your dad did.”


Took a second for that to sink in. Then she stood in front of him and glared. “That was a shitty thing to say. How would you like it if you’d been given up and found out years later that your biological parents ended up married anyway? Oh, then they had more kids together? But after my dad found out years later, he’s come to this family to try and sort it out, where he’s so obviously a McKay as you like to point out with me, but yet he isn’t. He chose to face her choice every day instead of ignoring it and going about his…rich man business—which is just another thing you assume and that pisses me off because my dad earned what he has by working his ass off. So I know this situation has to bother him because it bothers me.” With her angry eyes locked to his the cold seemed to hit her all at once and she began to shake.


“Hey.” Boone’s strong fingers circled her wrists, staying her retreat. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking and I just said the first stupid thing that popped into my head.”


Her gaze dropped to his mouth. Lips that full should look girly, but didn’t on him. Yet she couldn’t help but think, pretty mouth; not so pretty words spilling from it.


“Sierra?”


“What?” she snapped.


“Don’t be pissed off at me.”


“Don’t expect me to forgive you for that total dick comment.”

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