“I doubt he set out to be like he is, though.” Rob cocked his hat back. “Seems to me it must have just snuck up on him, all that orneriness.”
“Then watch out for it. Anyway, Morgan won’t let you turn into Dad.”
“That’s just the thing that bothers me. Why’d Mom let him get that way? She’s no shrinking violet. You’d think she’d pound some sense into him. I’m telling you; I’m worried.”
Luke understood why. His brother’s words were making him mighty uneasy, too. “It can’t happen to us. None of us are mean like that.” But as he said it out loud he remembered a time when he’d been all too mean to Rob. “Not anymore, anyway. Well, maybe Ned.”
“Naw, I think Ned might be in the best shape of any of us now.” They stood a moment and mulled over that surprising fact. “Anyway, we’ve all got tempers. We just didn’t used to have wives and kids to take them out on. Now we do—or we will soon.”
It was an uncomfortable thought.
“None of us are like Dad,” Luke stated with far more certainty than he truly felt.
He’d regained his confidence by the time Mia walked into the cabin just before dinnertime. He’d motored through the rest of his never-ending chores and had even sat down to make the list of wedding guests Mia had requested from him. They needed to get a jump on things if this wedding was going to come off right. He knew some folks took an entire year to plan such an event, but with the spate of weddings among his family and friends lately, he figured his circle were old hands at it.
“Whose truck is that outside?” she said, taking off her coat and boots.
“Ours. What do you think?”
“Ours?” She stopped in her tracks. “You bought it?”
“Yep. Nothing but the best for my princess.”
“Luke, I wish you’d stop calling me that.”
“Why?” He moved toward her. Dipped his head down for a kiss. She kissed him back willingly enough that he took things a little further.
Mia retreated. “Because it makes me uncomfortable.”
“All right, sweetheart. I can call you sweetheart, can’t I?”
A smile tugged at her lips. “I guess so. That’s a pretty fancy truck. Are you sure you can afford it?”
It was his turn to pull back. “What did I tell you earlier? Stop worrying about the money. I’ve got it covered.”
“Shh.” He kissed her again. “Don’t you worry your head about anything. Come on and sit down.”
As he led her to the couch, Luke realized Mia seemed awfully tired. He knew she was beginning to feel the pinch of helping prepare Fila and Camila’s restaurant for its grand opening in a few weeks, but he was surprised by how pale and drawn she looked when she dropped onto the cushion beside him. He reached out to gather her into his arms.
“Something wrong?” He lifted her chin with his finger, the better to gaze into her eyes.
“My mother.” Her tone was sour.
He tightened his hold on her. “What did she do now?”
“She booked her church for the wedding. And she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I don’t want to get married there.”
“Well, hang on a moment.” That wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. Luke thought it through. He knew Mia’s parents were far more religious than anyone in his family. Their church had a large, close-knit congregation. He could see how holding the wedding there might be important to Enid. “It might make a lot of sense, now that I think about it.”
For one thing, the Anglican church was the grandest one in town. Its large structure boasted a vaulted ceiling and fine stain-glassed windows—a far cry from the simplicity of the church his parents attended.
A fitting venue for a fairy tale wedding for his bride.
“How does it make sense?” Mia stared at him.
“A wedding should take place at the bride’s church, don’t you think? Besides, it obviously means a lot to your mother, and we want her to be happy, too. We want our families to get along together.”
“What about my happiness?”
“Why wouldn’t you be happy?” He could imagine the two of them standing in front of the minister. Him in his suit. Mia in white gown with a flowing train. Picture perfect. Every girl’s dream, right? “I made my guest list, by the way.”
Mia had been about to answer, but the sheaf of papers he handed her seemed to make her forget what she wanted to say. She riffled through the pages.
“This must be everyone in town.”
“Just the important people.”
“We can’t fit all of these people in your parents’ house.”
“Then we’ll find a bigger venue—maybe Bella and Evan’s place.”
“The Mortimers? What about your mother? She’s already making plans.” Mia flipped through the list again and Luke felt a pang. She was right—his mother wasn’t going to be particularly pleased, but she’d understand when she learned the number of guests they planned to invite. “Luke, this is crazy. These people don’t mean anything to us.”
“They’re our neighbors, aren’t they?” He meant for this to be a grand event—one that would silence wagging tongues forever. He wanted no one to have a doubt that he was proud of his wife and coming family.
“If you count the entire county as our neighbors, sure.” She set the list on the table. “What is this all about?”
A muscle in his jaw pulsed. “It’s about me showing the world I care about you. It’s about putting to rest any misunderstandings about who your husband is.”
She didn’t look satisfied. “No one else but us cares.”
“I care. Let’s put an end to all the rumors once and for all. Let’s have a big church wedding and a big reception.”
“It bothers you, doesn’t it?”
“That people are talking about us?”
He pulled her into the circle of his arms again, ignoring the protest of muscles that ached from his day’s work. Those aches and pains were his constant companions now that he was running the bulk of the ranch himself. “Look, princess. Pretty soon there’ll be nothing to talk about except us Mathesons. You, me and our baby.” And he kissed away the rest of her words.
“You’re so tiny,” Rose sighed. “Like a fairy princess, even at four months pregnant.”