Mia was all too eager to move to a more comfortable topic of conversation, too. “That’s a great idea. I could go the day after tomorrow. I only have two weeks until my wedding, so I have to get right on it. You’re lucky, Rose, to have more time to plan.”
“Not much more. I don’t know how I’ll get it all done.”
“I can help! We can plan together.” The idea raised Mia’s spirits and she made a decision that even if her engagement ring was far flashier than the one she would have chosen for herself, she’d adore it because Luke chose it for her. It was a symbol of his regard. So what if he overcompensated a little for his insecurities by spending too much money on a fancy ring? If that was the worst of her problems, she lived a charmed life.
And the thought of planning her wedding in tandem with Rose’s sounded like a lot of fun. She loved to plan celebrations, though she hadn’t had many in her life so far.
“I’ll meet you at Ellie’s Bridals the day after tomorrow then,” Rose said. “I want to visit Autumn and baby Arianna in the morning, so say two o’clock?”
“I’ll be there,” Mia said, deciding she would visit Autumn soon as well.
“I’ll be there, too. We’d better get going, Rose,” Morgan said. “Congratulations on your engagement, Mia! Should we celebrate it tonight at the Double-Bar-K?”
“Sure,” Mia said, a trifle hesitantly. Lisa had already voiced her approval of the match, but she had no idea how Holt felt about it. She guessed she’d find out soon enough.
Several hours later, Luke hopped out of his brand-new Ford F-250 and strode to the front door of his parents’ house, disappointed no one was around to see his purchase. When he’d driven Mia to the jewelry store earlier, he’d suddenly become all too conscious of what a rattletrap his old vehicle was. His brothers were right, Mia couldn’t be happy about riding in it, so he’d taken the first opportunity to fix the situation. Just as he’d thought, the Matheson name carried all kinds of weight at the dealership in town and he’d managed to finance his new truck without too much money down.
He’d have to do something soon about Amanda Stone, however. He wasn’t going to be able to make the payments on this truck and Mia’s ring, and keep paying her bills, too. He’d sit down and explain the situation and help her find a place she’d be comfortable living in. Maybe Reverend Halpern could help. Surely he’d had people in his congregation with similar issues.
Luke went into the office and sat at the computer to update the books. The cramped room was situated on the first floor of their parents’ house, since Lisa used to do this job before she handed it over to Luke.
He pushed his hand through his hair as he waited for his accounting program to load. Lately he’d taken over more and more of the business side of the family’s cattle operation, in addition to supervising the health of the herd, running the breeding program, making repairs on their outbuildings and managing the rotation of the herd through their pastures.
He was happy his mom was spending more time on her own pursuits and with her friends in town these days, and he understood why his father wasn’t more help with the accounts. Holt’s dyslexia was so severe he was almost illiterate. But happy or not, sometimes Luke felt like he couldn’t shoulder one more thing—
A spreadsheet opened, cutting those thoughts short. He got to work.
Fifteen minutes later, the door slammed open and Jake strode in. “Nice truck, man. But first things first, you sneaky bastard. How long have you known you were going to be a father?”
Luke swore, made a correction, then looked up. “Not long.”
“I can’t believe you managed to keep it to yourself.”
“I would’ve liked to keep the secret a bit longer. Didn’t mean to hijack Ned and Fila’s day.”
“They’ll be all right. Nothing could make those two unhappy right now. I’ve got to ask though—are you sure that kid’s your own? Rumor has it Mia was seeing Ellis Scranton earlier last fall.”
Luke’s jaw tightened with anger, but before he could form an answer, his youngest brother Rob crowded into the office too. “Is that your new Ford outside?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I thought you said you and Mia weren’t together. You said she wouldn’t touch you. What was all the whining about?”
If Ned weren’t on his honeymoon, Luke figured he’d be in here smothering him, as well. He stood up, squeezed past his brothers and kicked the door shut, not wanting their mother to overhear them and knowing he had to get this right or the whole family would end up in an uproar. On the one hand, he wasn’t prone to lying. On the other, he didn’t want Mia’s fling with Ellis to overshadow their marriage for the rest of their lives.
“I’ll say this one time only and after that as far as I’m concerned, the subject is closed. Mia slept with Ellis. She got pregnant. They broke up.” He charged on before either of his brothers could speak. “Ellis is gone—out of the picture for good. So I’m the father of Mia’s child. Got it?”
“You sure Ellis ain’t coming back? Seems like something he’d do.” Jake folded his hands over his chest and leaned against the windowsill.
“If he comes back I’ll convince him to leave again mighty quick. And I won’t have any of you treating Mia differently because of the circumstances, you hear? She’s my fiancée. In two weeks she’ll be my wife.”
“Fine with me,” Rob said with a shrug. “Morgan’s already excited about being sisters-in-law with Mia, and about having their kids so close together. Did you know they’re going dress shopping?”
Luke relaxed. “Yeah, I was there when they made the plan.” He was glad Morgan was helping Mia pick a dress. That meant she accepted the wedding.
“What did Dad say?” Jake put in.
“Nothing at all.” It had surprised Luke that Holt hadn’t said a word so far, but on the other hand, why would he if he wasn’t privy to the rest of the gossip? As far as Holt knew he was getting exactly what he wanted. Luke would be married in a couple of weeks, and there was another baby Matheson on the way. And as long as Holt kept his mouth shut, he’d win his bet with Lisa, too, and wouldn’t have to fly to Paris.
What would he do when he discovered Mia’s baby wasn’t blood-related though? Luke thought Holt would have plenty to say then.