The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 14)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(14)
Author: Cora Seton

“Mia? Have you chosen a location for the wedding?” Lisa asked.

Mia’s face paled even further—something Luke wouldn’t have thought was possible.

“I… I’d like to have it right here,” she said in a tiny voice. Luke’s chin came up in satisfaction. She’d gotten the message.

She was a Matheson now.

Chapter Five

Mia was beginning to think she might pass out if her head didn’t stop spinning. All around her, friends offered their congratulations as they moved in and out of the kitchen helping Lisa and Camila with the food for the wedding guests. Even after the wedding party took their seats at the head table and the rest of the guests found their spots, Mia couldn’t move. She wasn’t sure what was real anymore. Had she actually delivered a baby today?

Was she getting married to Luke?

What had made him cross that room and claim her for his bride in front of everyone? He could just as easily have walked out and left her to confess her guilt. That was what she’d expected him to do. Did he actually mean to go through with it? Or was this a ruse to get them through the day? Would he tell the truth to all and sundry tomorrow after the wedding was safely over?

She jumped when he dropped down in the chair across from her in the now quiet kitchen. Even Lisa and Camila had gone into the main room to listen to the groom toast the bride.

She raised her eyes to meet Luke’s steely gaze.

“I meant it,” he said without preamble. “We’ll get married in two weeks. We’ll pick up a ring tomorrow. You’ll be my wife.”

She couldn’t make her lips form a single word.

“And that baby will be mine. Do you understand?”

She searched his face. Did he really mean that? “People know,” she protested feebly. “You can’t keep a secret in a town like this.”

“I know that.” His tone was implacable. “I won’t deny who put that baby in your belly, but I’ll be its father. Understand?”

She wasn’t sure she did and it must have shown. Luke’s expression softened just a bit. “If I’m going to marry you, I don’t want to be on the outside looking in. That baby won’t call me Luke. He’ll call me Daddy, understood? I’ll raise him. I’ll provide for him. We’re not taking a dime from that man. Are we clear about that?”

Mia raised her chin. “I already have.” And she meant to keep that money, too.

Luke stilled. “What do you mean?”

“Ellis gave me a check. This morning. He’s clearing out of town. Never coming back. He said that’s all I’ll get from him and that he never wants to see the baby.”

“Well, good.” Luke leaned back in his chair, visibly relaxing. “Keep the check. Use it to buy something nice for the baby. But that’s the last I want to hear about Ellis Scranton. He’s not your husband. That’s my job. Agreed?”

Was that how he saw it? As a job? Was he marrying her out of pity, for heaven’s sake?

And did he mean to carry this take-charge tone into their marriage? Mia had never seen this side of him before except when he was directing chores on the ranch. And she didn’t like it aimed at her. She studied the man across the table. His short blond hair. His clear gaze and strong jaw. Luke Matheson was a force to be reckoned with—a proud man. Was that what this was all about? His need to know whether she’d allow him that pride?

“Yes.” The word was out of her mouth before she could stop it, because Luke wasn’t normally like this. She could count off a hundred instances of his kindness—times he’d been there when she needed him, times he’d gone out of his way to give her what he thought she wanted. This new stiffness had to be a result of his hurt feelings. He’d get over that, she hoped. Meanwhile, she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, regardless of the impossibility of this situation.

Her only question was, when the excitement of the day was over would Luke still want to stake his claim on her?

Or now that he finally had her, would he turn and walk away just as Ellis had?

Luke let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. She’d said yes. A smile tugged up the corner of his mouth. He hadn’t expected to become Mia’s fiancé today. He certainly hadn’t expected to become a father to another man’s child. But she’d said yes—she’d said yes—and that turned him on more than he could say. Mia was his. Forever. And that was all that mattered.

Mia stared at him. “Are you sure about this?”

“Yeah.” He touched her hand. Gathered it into his. “Hell, yeah.”

Something flashed in her eyes. Humor? Desire? “You’re going to be my husband,” she whispered.

He nearly laughed out loud with relief. The last few hours had slammed him with enough surprises to last a lifetime, but now they were over the worst. Now they had their whole lives ahead of them. Together.

“Mrs. Matheson,” he whispered back.

Mia ducked her head, her cheeks blazing pink.

He tugged her hand. “You’d better come here, Mrs. Matheson.”

She got to her feet and for the first time ever allowed him to pull her close. Let him settle her on his lap, tilt her chin up and kiss her.

It was a proper kiss, too—not like the one he’d stolen back in his kitchen in December when she’d first moved in. He took his time moving his mouth over hers, tasting her, then tucked a hand under the nape of her neck and deepened the kiss. He let all of the passion he’d been holding back flood through him and into her, hoping to set her feelings alight, too. It occurred to him that tonight when they went home they would share a bed for the first time. The idea revved him up more than he could say.

When his mother bustled back into the kitchen, they pulled apart.

“Don’t mind me,” she trilled. “I didn’t see a thing.”

Mia buried her face in Luke’s neck. “You won’t change your mind? You won’t leave me, will you?” she whispered.

Luke pulled back. Cupped her face in his hands. “Never. This is it, princess. You and me together, forever, okay?”

She searched his face. “Okay.”

Hours later they climbed the steps to their own cabin. As soon as she took off her coat and boots, Mia collapsed on the couch with a sigh of exhaustion.

“Don’t stop there,” Luke said, coming in after her.

She pushed up on her elbows. “Why not?”