Long Time Gone (Rough Riders #16.5)

by Lorelei James

Chapter One

Calvin McKay wasn’t a fan of weddings.

But since his twin brother Carson was getting hitched in two days, he had to slap on a smile and deal with all the crap that went along with it.

At least there wasn’t a bachelor party. It wasn’t Carolyn, his brother’s bride-to-be, who’d put the kibosh on that, but the groom himself. Carson claimed everything leading up to his nuptials had been one long-ass bachelor party, and Cal didn’t disagree.

From what he could tell, the ceremony would be a small, simple affair. Nothing like Cal’s buddy Joey’s wedding. Such pomp and circumstance. He’d expect something like that for the president, the queen, or the pope—not for a sheep rancher from Hulett marrying a hairdresser from Cheyenne. But the bride’s daddy owned the largest western clothing store in Wyoming and he’d spared no expense for the wedding.

But by the day’s end, Cal had pitied Joey. His wife’s family was a bunch of assholes. So he couldn’t help but wonder… Had Joey overlooked that because he loved her?

Cal had already been asked to overlook the shitty things Carolyn’s family had done to his brother. That hadn’t sat well with him, but he’d agreed not to make waves. So he’d rather be anywhere else than headed to meet another member of the West family.

Although if this sister looked anything like the beautiful Carolyn, it wouldn’t be a chore to stand across from her on the altar on Sunday afternoon. It’d be a bonus if she had those same great tits. Cal shot his brother a look and bit back a smirk. He’d have two black eyes if Carson had a clue what he’d just been thinking.

“I need some alone time with Caro to talk about some stuff,” Carson said. “So you can entertain the kid sister for us, right?”

Kid sister. Great. “Sure.”

By the time they pulled up, Carolyn was already waiting for them outside the ice cream shop. Alone. Maybe her sister had decided not to come.

Cal knew he couldn’t be so lucky. He had a strange feeling about this.

Carson bailed out of the truck so fast he’d left the keys in the ignition and the driver’s door open. Cal opted not to watch his brother stake his claim on his fiancée, right there in the damn parking lot. After he shut his brother’s door, he ambled to the front entrance and waited for them to end their reunion.

The happy couple finally unclenched their mouths and strolled toward him, arms still wrapped around each other. Seeing Carson acting so possessive with Carolyn just meant it was ten times more fun to watch him blow his top when he thought someone was horning in on his territory—even his own brother.

Carolyn said, “Hey, Cal.”

“Hey, Carolyn, You’re lookin’ good today.” He pushed off the wall and moved in closer as if he planned to hug her. He swore he heard Carson growl. “You sure you wanna marry this guy?” He jerked his thumb toward his twin. “He’s kinda bossy. I’m much more laid back.”

“I’m gonna lay you out flat if you keep tryin’ to steal my woman, jackass,” Carson snarled.

He shrugged, then offered Carson a conniving smile. “She’s fair game until you say them vows, so I just want her to be sure.”

The way Carolyn looked at Carson, her face shining with adoration, and said, “I’m sure,” gave Cal a little pang of envy.

“Your loss.”

Carson muttered something about Cal losing his teeth as he led the way into the Ice Cream Palace.

The first person Cal saw was her.

One look at the tiny blonde standing in the middle of the room and he knew he was in trouble.

Big trouble.

Life-altering trouble.

He’d never thought that bolt of lightning shit would ever happen to him, but it had. He wondered if anyone else smelled ozone.

“Sweet mother of god, I think I’m in love.”

“Oh, for Christsake,” Carson muttered beside him.

“Please tell me that’s your sister,” Cal said to Carolyn.

Cal’s focus remained so intently on the hot little number not-so-innocently licking an ice cream cone that Carolyn had to snap her fingers in front of his eyes to get his attention. “Hey, McKay, focus.”

“What?”

“Yes, that’s my younger sister. She’s sixteen. Do you hear me? Six. Teen.”

Cal managed to tear his gaze away from the curvaceous blonde, giving Carolyn an ornery grin. “Well, darlin’, she ain’t always gonna be sixteen.”

The blonde sauntered over, those big blue eyes focused entirely on him.

Sweet heaven, she packed a powerful punch.

She said, “Please tell me you’re not my future brother-in-law?”

“I’m not. But darlin’ girl, I’m damn near certain I’m your future husband.”

She peered at him from beneath lowered lashes. “Then maybe you and me better get acquainted…?”

“Calvin McKay. You can call me Cal. Better yet, call me anytime you want.”

“Jesus, Cal,” Carson complained. “Give it a rest.”

After Carolyn elbowed Carson in the ribs, he offered the woman his hand. “Kimi? Glad to meet you. Caro has told me a lot about you.”

Kimi. The name suited her. Short and cute.

“Likewise.” Kimi’s gaze left Cal’s and her eyes narrowed on Carson. “Make my sister happy or I’ll gut you like a trout.”

“Kimi!” Carolyn exclaimed.

But Kimi ignored her sister, and focused on Cal again with such intensity his dick got hard. “Let’s leave the lovebirds alone and you can tell me why such a handsome man as yourself is still single.”

“Because I was waitin’ for you.” Cal slipped his arm around Kimi’s shoulder. As he steered her toward the back booth, he said, “Your ice cream is melting, sweetheart. You’d better eat up.”

“Would you like a taste?” she said.

“Of you? Absolutely. I don’t give a damn about the ice cream.”

Kimi laughed. “You are bad.”

“Nope. I’m just testing the waters to see if you are.”

When Cal tried to scoot next to her in the booth, she shoved him back out. “Not so fast, partner. Sit on your own side.” She raised an eyebrow. “And put your hands on the table where I can see them.”

Cal grinned. So the little flirt wasn’t a pushover. “So let’s start with the basics.”