This was the longest wedding reception in the history of the world. She wished it were over—which truly was saying something, since it was her wedding reception.
Jack leaned closer and whispered, “Stop sighing.”
His warm breath sent goose bumps cascading down the right side of her body. Keely turned her head so his five o’clock shadow scraped her jaw. She closed her eyes and inhaled his familiar scent: cologne, starch on his shirt collar and the underlying hint of his heated flesh.
Jack Donohue. Her husband. She really and truly was married to this gorgeous, sexy, intense man.
Keely sighed again, not out of annoyance, but out of pure pleasure.
He smiled against her cheek. “Now that’s a sigh I recognize.”
“I have different sounding sighs?”
“Uh-huh. You make that one in bed after I—”
“Bringing up sex when we aren’t having any just makes me cranky, Jack.”
His soft chuckle tickled her ear.
“It’s not funny. Why aren’t we rolling around in bed nekkid right now?” she demanded in a fierce whisper. “We are married. Why are we still stuck at the reception? No one would care if we left.”
He eased back to gaze into her eyes. “As much as I can’t wait to roll around naked with you, if we skip out early, your dad will kill me, turning you into a widow before you’ve had a chance to be a wife.”
His voice dropped an octave and the possessive rumble vibrated through her in an electric caress. “My wife.”
“You certainly get off on saying my wife.”
“Yes, I do, Keely McKay Donohue. So go ahead and call me a Neanderthal.”
“I would if it meant you’d employ some caveman tactics and drag me off to your cave. Right now?”
she asked hopefully.
“God, I wish.”
The chinking of silverware hitting glassware crescendoed. Knowing what the crowd of family and friends wanted, Keely twined her arms around Jack’s neck and gave him a long, wet, tongue-tangling kiss that probably caused some guests to squirm in their seats. She didn’t give a damn. It was her wedding day.
If she wanted to make out with her husband, she damn well would.
When they broke apart, Jack murmured, “Two more hours and I swear we’re outta here.”
“I’m holding you to that.”
“I’d expect nothing less, buttercup.”
“So where are we going in one hour and fifty-nine minutes?”
He kissed her temple and said, “It’s a surprise,” for the millionth time. Then his brother Justin snagged his attention and he turned away.
Sneaky-ass tease. Jack hadn’t told her where they were spending their two-week island honeymoon beyond the cryptic hint that she only needed to pack beachwear—preferably a dozen skimpy bikinis.
Normally he’d spill his guts if she bribed him with unlimited, no-strings-attached sexual favors. But this time, the stubborn man wouldn’t budge.
After the Twin Pines banquet workers cleared the dinner plates, the head table was disassembled to make room for the wedding dance and members of the wedding party were relocated. Which would’ve been fine with her, if she and Jack hadn’t ended up on opposite sides of the dance floor.
A hard bump connected with her hip as AJ McKay—her best friend, matron of honor and sister-in-law—sidled up beside her. “Why the frowny face, Mrs. Donohue?”
She plastered on a fake grin. “Better?”
“No, that’s actually worse. What’s up? You seem jumpy.”
Would she sound like a horny ho-bag if she admitted all she could think about was jumping her husband? Wait. Could she even be a ho-bag if she was obsessed about having nonstop, shake-the-barn-rafters sex with the man she’d just pledged the rest of her life to?
“Granted, we’re all anxious. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” AJ said, breaking Keely’s thoughts.
“Four different family members having bouts of false labor during your bridal shower. The bachelorette party. I think Ramona is still hungover.”
Everyone had been shocked at how tame former wild child Keely McKay’s bachelorette party had played out last weekend. Not a lot of takers for a tequila shooting contest besides her cousin Ramona when the majority of Keely’s sisters-in-law and female family members were knocked up. But truthfully, not reverting to her formerly rowdy ways—even for one night—had been a huge relief.
Screeching feedback from the microphone distorted the air.
“Sorry about that,” JC Blackwell said from the stage. “The band is set up and we’re ready to kick off the weddin’ dance. So can I get Carson and Keely up here? We’ll start out with the father-daughter dance.
Hey, you know, in all the years I’ve been doin’ this, that’s the first time I’ve ever said that at a McKay wedding.”
Laughter rang out as Keely met her father in the center of the dance floor.
He squinted at her.
“You’ve got a funny look on your face, girlie. Aw hell, you ain’t gonna cry again, are you?”
“Maybe.” She playfully tugged on the silky silver handkerchief poking out of the front pocket of his suit. “At least you’re prepared if I do begin to bawl.”
He muttered, “Don’t know why I have to wear this fancy-ass piece of crap. It’s worthless.”
The band started a cover of Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life” and her dad twirled her around and around the dance floor like he had when she was five years old. She looked at him suspiciously.
“Have you been drinkin’?”
“Yep. Ain’t every day a man gives away his daughter. His only daughter.”
Damn him. She was trying so hard not to cry. “Daddy—”
“We dancin’?” he asked gruffly. “Or talkin’?”
“Dancing. Definitely.” And she let him twirl her all he wanted.
When the dance ended and he hugged her in such a public display of affection, she knew he’d been hitting the bottle. When he released her and motioned for JC to bring the microphone to him, Keely thought her father might actually be hammered. Her dad. Making a speech. In front of over two hundred people.
He held her hand and cleared his throat. “The McKay Ranch had been in existence for over a hundred years when this little gal made an appearance. My brothers and me never considered what havoc this little spitfire would cause in all our lives and our future.”
Keely’s stomach clenched. She desperately wanted Jack by her side as support in case her father’s impromptu speech somehow embarrassed her.
“Our beautiful Keely was the only girl for a long time. But with the arrival of more darlin’ little girls into the McKay family the last few years,” he winked and waved at his granddaughters, Liesl, Oxsana and Sasha, “me’n my brothers know that times are changin’ and these girls deserve to have an equal part in the McKay Ranch if they choose to.
“So we’ve restructured the way we’re doin’ things and… Hell, it’ll be easier to show you. Hang on a second.” He released Keely’s hand and rooted in the inside pocket of his suit coat. He held out a folded piece of paper.
Keely gave him a blank look.
“Go on, girlie. Open it up.”
With shaking hands, Keely unfolded the legal document and she scanned the words. She reread it twice before she met her father’s bright eyes. “Daddy, are you serious?”
The McKay Ranch had deeded Keely and Jack Donohue two hundred acres. Beyond shocked, beyond touched, she couldn't utter a single word.
Carson whirled around, searching the crowd. “Donohue? Where are you?”
Jack stepped forward and wrapped his arm around Keely’s waist before he peered at the document.
He looked at Keely and then Carson. “Wow. That’s very generous. Thank you, sir.”
“My pleasure. Though, I don’t envy the headaches you’re gonna have building my girl her dream house on that spot she’s always had her eye on. Do you know how many dollhouses she had growin’ up? I can’t count all the hours she spent redecorating them.”
Her father, the comedian. Just when she was afraid he’d keep going, Carson handed the microphone back to JC. He walked straight into the arms of Keely’s mother, who stood on the edge of the dance floor, with damp cheeks and wet eyes.
JC said, “Let’s give our bride and groom their first dance as husband and wife.”
Jack tucked the paper inside his tux pocket and brought Keely against his body as the band began to play “So Good in Love” by George Strait.
Keely clutched him, burying her face in his neck to hide her tears.
Jack didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. He just knew what she needed and gave it to her without question.
God she loved this man.
The song ended and another slow one began. She’d specifically requested all slow songs be played first, figuring it’d be the only time she’d get to slow dance with her husband.
Sure enough, her oldest brother, Cord, tapped Jack on the shoulder during the second song. “Mind if I cut in?”
“Hell yes, I mind. Go dance with your own wife, McKay.”
Okay. That was…atypical Jack behavior.
Her next oldest brother, Colby, tried to cut in, and once again, Jack refused.
Same response when her brother Colt approached them.
Same response when her brother Cam approached them.
Same response when her brother Carter approached them.
Then Jack systematically shot down all eight of her McKay cousins and all eight of her West cousins.
Puzzled by his hard stance, she whispered, “Jack. What is wrong with you?”
“I don’t trust any of your redneck relatives not to hijack you for that stupid ‘steal the bride’ tradition.