“When it’s our money, we’ll both need to agree on what we spend it on. And I don’t agree you can blow it on a wedding planning business.”
“Well, I don’t agree you can spend our money on that outrageous ring! Or that stupid truck!”
Her words hit him like a slap to the face. He’d bought the ring and the truck for her. “I need that stupid truck for my work here on the ranch. And that outrageous ring is going to stop people from talking about you!”
“You mean you hope it makes people stop talking about you! I’m starting that business. And I notice that Jake and Ned and Rob do just fine with their old trucks.”
He’d done just fine with his old truck, too. Luke leaned toward her, the ache in the back of his neck blooming into a full-blown migraine. Couldn’t she see he was trying to make her happy? Couldn’t she see he wanted the best for them—the best for the baby? “We’ve got two weeks to pull our wedding together. And a couple of months to get ready for that child. Do you know anything about being a mother? Because you sure as hell don’t know anything about starting a business!”
She gaped at him. “That’s not fair!”
“Nothing about this is fair. It’s not my fault you slept with Ellis, but everyone’s acting like I drove you to it. Next thing they’ll say I can’t support you, let alone keep you out of another man’s bed.”
Mia dropped her spoon and her eyes filled with tears. Remorse flooded Luke. He was taking out his anger on the last person who deserved it. “Mia—”
She didn’t stop to listen to him. She didn’t stop at all. She grabbed her purse, her jacket, her keys and stuffed her feet into her boots. A minute later she slammed the front door behind her.
“Fuck.” Luke slammed his fist down on the counter. He didn’t need his father to drive Mia away.
He’d done a fine job of that himself.
“It’s over. I won’t go back. Luke’s just as bad as Ellis,” Mia told Autumn, who sat curled up on her sofa looking like the Madonna cradling her newborn baby. Mia sat nearby. “I’m sorry. You’re the last person I should vent to. You need peace and quiet to enjoy Arianna.”
“That’s all right. You can tell me about it. I might not be much help, though.” Autumn traced a finger over Arianna’s softly rounded cheeks and Mia melted a little. In a few more months she’d have a baby to hold, too. Autumn looked up, caught Mia watching and smiled. “I know Luke loves you, Mia. That’s obvious.”
“He loves my looks, you mean. That’s all he’s ever noticed about me. He thinks I’m too stupid to start a business.” As hard as she tried to hold it back, a tear slid down her cheek. She’d thought Luke saw past all that to what was inside her, but of course he hadn’t. No man did.
“Did he say that?”
“He said if I work people will say he can’t support me. Then he made a crack about me visiting other men’s beds.” She blinked rapidly as more tears threatened. “It’s so unfair. It’s not like I had a parade of boyfriends, and I thought Ellis loved me.” It was like the pageant all over again—everyone believing the worst about her. No one taking her side.
“Luke said that?” Now she had Autumn’s complete attention. “That doesn’t sound like him.”
“He was mad. Holt’s gone off the deep end, of course.”
“What did he do?”
“I don’t know,” Mia wailed. “We didn’t get that far. Luke was too busy being an ass!”
“Sounds like emotions were running high.”
Mia huffed out a breath. That was one way to put it. Another way would be to say the Matheson men were out of their minds. “Anyway, I’m done. I knew it would never work with Luke. I should have saved myself the heartache. I rang Thayer’s Jewelers and told them we didn’t need the ring after all, and I called Ellie’s Bridals and told her I didn’t want the dress.” Mia’s voice wavered and she wiped her eyes with the back of her arm. Got herself under control again. “Do you think Luke will let his mom know she doesn’t have to plan a wedding supper? Or should I call her, too?”
“Why don’t you wait a day or two? See what happens. I’m sure Luke will apologize.” Arianna yawned and Autumn’s face went soft. “Oh, you’re just the sweetest thing!” She planted a kiss on Arianna’s head.
“She really is,” Mia said, calming down a little. “It doesn’t matter whether Luke apologizes or not. He doesn’t respect me, and I won’t marry a man who doesn’t. Plus he seems to think he’ll get to control my money the minute we’re married.”
“What money?” Autumn looked up quickly. “I’m sorry—that wasn’t nice. I just didn’t know you made much at the hardware store.”
“I don’t.” Mia hesitated. She didn’t think it was wise to tell anyone about the two hundred grand now sitting in her bank account. “But if and when I have some, it’ll be for me to manage—not my husband.”
“Maybe you should tell Luke how you want to handle things and see if you can come up with a compromise.”
Mia shook her head. “Forget it. From now on I’ll stay single. I don’t need a man.”
“Well, when Arianna’s ready to get married you can plan her wedding.” Autumn’s attention drifted again. Mia didn’t blame her. The precious little girl in her arms was worthy of her mother’s undivided attention.
“I hate to ask, but can I have my old room back for a while? I promise I’ll help out with the baby,” Mia said. “And I’ll pay rent, of course.”
“Sure thing. We won’t have any guests for the next month. We blacked out the dates specifically to give us time to get used to being parents. It’ll be great to have another pair of hands around for a few weeks. By then you and Luke will be back together.”
Mia sighed. Was no one prepared to take her seriously? She shook her head. They never had, had they? So why should they start now?
As Autumn cooed to Arianna, Mia came to another important decision. It was no use speaking up about the past—what had happened with Fred Warner. No one would listen to her. Nothing would change. She’d just expose herself to more ridicule and gossip.
And she’d had enough of that.