Gone Country Page 64


“It comes from the Bennett side. Mine has been steadily climbin’ in the last five years.” Quinn swiveled his head to look at him. “I take it you haven’t said anything to Mom?”


“No reason to. It’s under control. I just wondered if that health issue might be a double whammy from both sides.”


“Dad is healthy as an ox.” Quinn snorted. “Course, when Ma went on a diet, Dad did too, whether he wanted to or not. He ended up losing weight and that improved his overall health. I ain’t gonna claim all the McKays are a hale and hearty bunch—Grandpop had a heart attack, but it wasn’t early on. And the uncles seem to be fine. Aging well, if you ask me.” He frowned. “But there is one other thing.”


“What?”


“No one in the family talks much about it.” Quinn sent him a look. “Sierra didn’t find any mention of it in the family archives?”


“No. What are you talking about?”


“A…physical thing.”


“What kind of physical thing?”


“A physical anomaly.”


“What the hell? Like a heart murmur or something?”


He shook his head.


“Do you have this anomaly?”


Quinn’s gaze dropped. “Not yet. This condition shows up at a specific age.”


“What age?”


“Forty-four.”


Now Gavin was getting spooked. “What is it?”


“I don’t know if it’s my place to say. Maybe you oughta ask Dad.”


“Ask him what?”


“If you can see it.”


“See what?”


“His third nipple.”


Gavin turned toward Quinn and repeated, “He has a third nipple.”


Quinn didn’t say anything.


“Are you serious?”


A pause, then, “Nope. Just pullin’ your leg.”


“Really fucking funny.”


“It was.” Quinn grinned. “I’da given anything to see the look on Dad’s face when you demanded to see his extra nipple.”


“Fuck off, Quinn.”


He laughed. “I almost said we McKays grew a third testicle. And since Dad is the McKay castration king, he’d just whack off your extra ball during branding.”


“Like I said. Fuck. Off.” Gavin groaned. “Jesus. I’m not that green. Am I?”


“Yep. But we’re workin’ on ya.”


Marin’s Blazer ripped up the driveway, music blasting out the windows.


Quinn muttered, “Amelia’s teen years are gonna kill me, huh?”


“If Adam’s don’t do you in first. I hear boys are worse than girls.”


“Thanks for the sympathy, bro,” he said dryly.


Sierra hopped out of the car, holding her backpack on her left side.


Marin backed up and yelled, “Bye, McKay, don’t forget to call me later!” out the car window before she sped off.


McKay? That was new. Wasn’t it?


Sierra stopped a few feet from the tailgate. “Hey, Q.”


Quinn smiled widely at her. “So, McKay, huh?”


Sierra shot Gavin a quick glance before looking at Quinn. “Yeah. That’s what the kids at school call me.”


Why hadn’t Sierra mentioned this?


Because it’d gone over so well when you found out she called Vi Grams.


“I guess that’s a better nickname than Trouble,” Quinn said. “Though to hear most folks around here talk, McKay and trouble mean the same thing.”


Sierra grinned. “I’ve heard some of the stories about the wild McKay boys.”


“All lies,” Quinn said with a straight face.


“That’s what Grandpa Charlie says too.”


“Find any proof of those wild ways as you’re doin’ your family research project?”


“A few. I found out a lot of stuff about the McKays and Wests and I can’t wait to talk about it at the branding.” She made a face. “Grandpa Charlie and Grams are making me give an oral report to the entire McKay family.”


Gavin could see Sierra’s excitement and pride, even when she tried to pass it off as a chore.


“But most of the recent McKay dirt I’ve heard has come from Kyler or Keely.”


“Speaking of Keely…” Gavin said. “Grab a snack and we’ll hit the road in about ten minutes for your physical therapy session.”


She sighed. “Do I have to? My collarbone feels completely healed.” She rotated her arm forward and back. “See? It’s fine. The sessions are a waste of my time and Keely’s time and your money.”


“Not according to Doc Monroe.”


Sierra shifted her stance, acting as if she needed to talk but wasn’t comfortable doing so in front of Quinn.


Quinn caught the vibe and slid off the tailgate. “I best be goin’.”


“Thanks for bringing the horses over today.”


“Not a problem. Just holler anytime you wanna ride.” Quinn tugged on Sierra’s hair. “You can ride any time you want after you get the doctor’s official all clear on your physical therapy.”


“You’re gonna be so surprised when I just show up, demanding riding lessons, Q.”


“I look forward to it.” Quinn drove off.


Sierra dropped her backpack on the ground and moved in to hug him. “Hey Dad.”


He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head, enjoying this sweet spontaneous hug. She held onto him for the longest time. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him. “You okay?”


“I just had a bad day. Nothing specific happened, I’m just feeling kind of sad. I miss my mom.”


“I know you do, sweetheart.”


“I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever. I’m low on Dad hugs and need some Dad time.”


Gavin held her a little tighter. “So we should do something after your physical therapy appointment.”


“Just you and me?”


“Sure. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”


She nodded against his chest and sighed.


Moments like these were worth suffering through every slamming door and petty fight. “I’ll run in, grab my wallet and leave a note for Rielle.”


“I hope it won’t hurt her feelings that we’re doing something without her.”


That Sierra even mentioned it was a sign she’d accepted Rielle as a permanent part of their life—he refused to look at it any other way.


May…


“You know, I think it’s sucky that Boone isn’t taking you to prom this weekend.”


Me too. “Prom is so not his type of thing.”


“How would he know if he’s never been to one?”


“You do have a point.” She couldn’t tell Marin that Boone couldn’t afford to take anyone to prom. What girl would ride on the back of his bike in a fancy dress?


You would. In a freakin’ heartbeat.


Marin sighed heavily. “I just don’t get you, McKay.”


“What did I do now?”


“You turned down Paxton Green’s invite to prom, which is just stupid because hello, he’s hot, sweet and…did I mention hot?”


“Several times.”


“So you should’ve said yes. We should be in Rapid right now trying on slutty prom dresses.”


Sierra laughed. “You really think my dad would let me wear a slutty prom dress out of the house?”


“Hell no.” Marin grinned. “I didn’t say we were gonna buy them, just try them on.”


“I suppose I’d be wearing fuck me heels too, with this imaginary slutty prom gown?”


“Naturally. And carrying a sparkly rhinestone purse big enough to fit a flask, condoms and a small handgun.”


“You are so crazy-wrong.”


“What is crazy-wrong is that you’re not goin’ to prom with pretty Paxton the bulldoggin’ stud, because you’re mooning over boring Boone.”


“Mooning. As if. We’re friends. That’s it. Besides, prom wouldn’t be any fun if you weren’t there, Marin, so that’s really why I’m not going.”


“Bull. But next year we’re double dating no matter what.” A few minutes passed and Marin complained, “Why are we sitting out here? I can feel my white skin frying like bacon and more freckles popping up on my face.”


Sierra knocked her foot into Marin’s. “It’s a gorgeous day. Warm air, blue skies. No snow. One thing I miss about Arizona is soaking up the sun. So suck it up, cupcake, and sit here with me until Rielle picks me up. I do all sorts of stuff with you that I don’t want to.”


“Like what?” Marin challenged.


“Like listening to country music.”


She snorted. “I’ll admit that there are worse things we could be doin’ than watching the guys on the track team running around in shorts and tank tops.”


“Have you ever thought about going out for track?”


“Not until right this minute…omigod.” Marin peered over the tops of her sunglasses. “Who is that guy in the black shorts and white wife beater running sprints by the fence?”


Sierra didn’t even hesitate to say, “Boone,” with a sigh.


“Really? I didn’t recognize him without his thug hat and coat on. Is that why you made me come here? So we could drool over him from afar?”


Yes. “No. I’m waiting for a ride, remember?”


“Sierra—”


“Fine. I want to talk to him, okay? I’ve texted him a couple times and I haven’t heard back. And I don’t wanna come across as”—desperate—“a pest, so I hoped I’d see him.”


“What do you want to talk to him about?”


“Whether he’s coming to the branding. I’m supposed to share my McKay family history report—the stuff that didn’t make it in the actual school report—and since he helped me so much, I hope he wants to be there.”

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