The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 12)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(12)
Author: Cora Seton

Luke tried to get a hold of himself, but by the look on his brother’s face he hadn’t succeeded.

“What did she do?” Ned asked.

“Who?”

His brother chuckled. “Any time a man looks like that, a woman’s involved.”

“I’ll tell you another time.”

Ned cocked his head. “Sounds serious. I’m leaving for my honeymoon tonight. Sure you don’t want to tell me now?”

“Nope.” Luke shoved his hands in his pockets and with an effort changed the subject. “Guess I’ll get changed. What about you? You ready for this?”

“For marriage? Hell, yeah.” A smile lifted the corner of Ned’s mouth. “You’d better watch out—like Dad said this morning, he’s got his sights on you now. You’re the only one he hasn’t helped marry off.”

“He can’t help me.”

Ned misunderstood his meaning. “Don’t underestimate the ability of Holt Matheson to bring about matrimony in the strangest of ways.” He looked at his watch. “Guess I’d better get dressed.” He headed for the door.

Luke just shrugged. If only their father could help him sort out this mess.

“Fact is, I thought you’d be halfway to marrying Mia by now.” Ned’s tone turned serious as he hesitated with one hand on the doorknob.

“Yeah, so did I.”

“You love her, right?”

Luke blinked. He and Ned had never discussed love before. “Yeah.”

“Then get on with it. Don’t let anything get in your way.”

Get on with it. Ned was right. He should get on with it. Nothing had really changed—except now he knew why Mia was holding back. She liked him all right, maybe even loved him, but was afraid he wouldn’t want her in her current condition.

Well, he did want her, and he’d have her, too—after he paid Ellis a visit and made it damn clear the man had better stay out of their lives.

The door burst open again, slamming into Ned hard enough to knock him off balance. Luke jerked forward to steady him with a hand to his bicep before he fell to the ground. Wouldn’t want the groom to break his leg for a second time—on his wedding day.

“Hey!”

“Sorry.” Jake came in and shut the door behind him. His shirt was untucked and his hair stuck up every which way. “Shoes. Where the hell are my shoes?”

“They’re on your feet.” Ned regained his balance and pointed to Jake’s beat-up cowboy boots testily.

“Not these. My dress boots. Mom would kill me if I wore these in the wedding.”

“Aren’t they in the hall outside your room? Mom polished them all last night.”

“I saw them there earlier. Now they’re just—gone!”

“Luke, help the idiot find his boots. I’m going to get dressed. Fila will clobber me if I’m late to our wedding. Or Camila will do it for her.”

He left, chuckling. Jake didn’t share his amusement. “Someone took them.”

“Why the hell would anyone want your boots?”

“I don’t know! Are they in here?” He commenced searching through the closet and under the bed. Luke helped him, promising himself he’d confront Ellis right after the wedding. When they turned up empty they split up and searched the other rooms on the second floor. Forty-five minutes later Luke was still looking when he heard a ruckus from down the hall.

“What the hell, man?”

Luke traced the sound to find Jake and Rob squared off in Rob’s old room. Jake shook a pair of cowboy boots at Rob. Rob ducked.

“I didn’t take them.”

“They were under your bed.” Jake swung at him.

Rob backed up, hands raised. “I didn’t put them there. Besides, I haven’t slept in that bed in a dozen years.”

“Man up and admit it. You always loved to play a joke.”

“I’m over that.”

“You’re late!” The new voice was decidedly feminine, with a trace of a Mexican accent that made it easy to place. Luke turned to find Camila behind him. She wore a beautiful red dress and her dark hair flowed around her shoulders like a shawl. Large gold hoop earrings swung as she talked. “You all need to get downstairs, now. You’re keeping the bride waiting.”

The men sprang into action. Jake slipped on his boots and tucked in his shirt. “I’ll get you back for this,” he said to Rob on his way out of the room.

“I didn’t do a damn thing.”

Camila shushed them both. “It’s like dealing with a pack of children,” she said to Luke as they walked down the stairs. Evan Mortimer stood at the bottom.

“Everything all right?” he asked. “Sounded like a barroom brawl up there.”

Luke shook his head and sighed. “Just life as usual in the Matheson household.”

Mia could hardly breathe as she stood up beside Hannah in front of the gathered guests and watched Fila move up the aisle created between the lines of folding chairs in the large back room and solarium of the Matheson house. Fila was radiant in a silvery white sheath with a lacy train. Ned looked proud enough to burst out of his skin as he watched his bride come down the aisle on his father’s arm. Fila’s parents had been killed in Afghanistan, and she had no relatives present, but everyone had come to know her during her time in Chance Creek, and she was surrounded by friends. As for Ned, since he’d grown up right here on one of the preeminent ranches in Chance Creek, he might as well be local royalty.

As the couple stood in front of Joe Halpern, the preacher, Mia willed herself not to cry. It wasn’t just her sorrow that made it hard to catch her breath, nor was it the grim expression on Luke’s face as he stood next to Ned. Her dress—a plain cobalt-blue sheath that echoed Fila’s—had fit just a week ago when she visited Ellie’s Bridals a final time. Now it stretched tight across her abdomen, making her want to fold her hands protectively in front of it.

She forced herself to keep them by her sides, and tried to keep her mind on the ceremony. This was one of the most important days of Fila’s life. It made no difference that Mia had ruined her chances of ever marrying the man she loved. Fila, unlike her, deserved happiness, and Mia would do nothing to mar it.

When the ceremony was over and the chairs were being shifted to circle the tables that the men helped to set out, she slipped into a bathroom and took a few minutes to calm herself.

Where would she go tonight when the wedding was over? Normally, she’d run to Autumn’s place if there was trouble, but not today—not when Autumn’s baby had just been born. She couldn’t stay here on the Double-Bar-K, either. She wasn’t sure if Luke would even let her back into his cabin. Perhaps she could impose on Bella and Evan? Surely there was an out-of-the-way room in their mansion she could inhabit just for a day or two—until she found her own place. Or maybe she should rent a motel room for the night?