He reached for one to reheat in the microwave, then spotted a fresh six-pack and grabbed a can instead. Maybe he’d just drink his dinner. At least that way he’d sleep tonight.
He was such a fool. He’d been a lousy fiancé. He’d undercut her the first time she’d shared her dreams with him—bullied her about what she should do with her life.
No wonder she left him high and dry.
Eight hours later, pounding on his door woke him up. Stiff and sore after a night on the couch, he sat up slowly, groaning when he took in the crumpled cans on the sofa, coffee table and floor. His head ached and his tongue was thick in his mouth. Another rough day of work. Another night without Mia. What was the point of going on? A glance out his window told him the predicted snow had fallen and he groaned. He’d have to clear Amanda’s walkway again.
The pounding started up again. “Luke? You in there?”
Jake. For God’s sake, couldn’t his family leave him alone for two minutes? He lurched across the floor, the polished wood smooth and cold beneath his bare feet.
“What?” He opened the door a crack. Jake pushed his way in.
“Jesus, it stinks like a bar in here. What the hell, Luke?”
“Leave me alone.” He turned away, ready to collapse back on the couch.
“It’s five-thirty. You’re late. Dad called me to roust you out of bed.”
Double hell. Late for chores wasn’t a good choice to make on the Double-Bar-K. “Why’d he call you? Why not do it himself?”
“He said he couldn’t talk to you.”
That sobered Luke up in a hurry. Holt unable to talk? That was a first. “You think he’s still mad?”
“I’d say that’s an understatement. Get your shit together and get to the barn. I’m supposed to be helping Evan today. And I’ve got class in a few hours, too.”
“Give me five minutes.” Luke rubbed a hand over his face. Felt the stubble on his jaw. He needed a shower and a shave, but that would have to wait. The critters came first.
Ten minutes later the cold February air cleared the last of the cobwebs from his brain as he hurried through the snow to the barn. Mia hadn’t come home. And she’d given back the engagement ring. Those were drastic steps for her to take. She was serious in her determination to leave him.
And what had he done? Sat on the couch? Gotten drunk? Hell of a way to get her back.
Jake met him halfway. “It’s all yours, buddy. I’m off.”
“What the hell do I do?” He hated the desperation that rang in his voice.
“Feed the damn cows, what do you think…oh, you mean about Mia?” Jake shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. “Find out what she wants and give it to her. That’s the easiest way, I’ve found.” He shook his head. “We might be bigger and stronger than them, but we don’t seem to win many arguments. Good luck with that, and by the way—Dad’s taking this not talking thing pretty seriously. Guess he really doesn’t want to go to Paris.”
Luke nodded. “Guess so.” No wonder Holt had bolted yesterday. No wonder he hadn’t stopped by last night to chew him out.
Luke headed back to his cabin several hours later, hoping to find Mia there, but he could tell from fifty feet away she still hadn’t returned. No lights were on inside and the driveway in front was empty of any vehicles except his own. His trip out to Amanda’s place had been for nothing. Her walkway had been clean as a whistle when he reached her house. She’d stepped out to tell him a friend had stopped by and done the work.
Now he stopped in front of the stairs leading up to the cabin, unwilling to encounter the silence inside. The beep of a car’s horn made him jump and he turned to see a Chevy Malibu pull up beside him. He was surprised to find Camila Torres behind the wheel. She rolled down the passenger side window. “I saw you walking and thought I’d come say hi before I stopped by your parents’ house. Is your dad around?”
“Should be,” Luke said. “What do you want him for?”
“Oh, I just thought I’d drop off a couple of enchiladas for your parents’ lunch. You know Holt loves enchiladas.”
Luke scowled. Holt had acquired a taste for Mexican food in recent weeks, an unusual turn of events for a meat and potatoes kind of man. He still wouldn’t admit that any fare at Fila’s Familia was fit to eat, but Luke had seen him consume both Fila’s Afghan food and Camila’s Mexican dishes at the restaurant’s test run with the same relish with which he demolished a steak.
“You drove all the way out here to drop off lunch?”
She smiled sweetly. “Anything to make a potential customer happy. See you around, Luke. Oh, by the way… Mia will be in at the restaurant later today. Our opening is coming right up.”
“I appreciate the information.” He straightened up and watched Camila turn the car around and drive back toward the main house. He’d find a reason to head into town and pop in at the restaurant. He and Mia had some talking to do.
“Don’t you dare!” Rose called out as she burst into Marjorie’s Manes and dashed across the beauty parlor to yank the scissors from Marjorie Douglas’s hand.
Marjorie shrieked and tugged Mia’s thick ponytail hard, wrenching Mia’s head back against the plastic-covered seat.
“Ouch! Rose, what are you doing?” Mia cried.
“I saw you through the window. You can’t cut your hair! Are you crazy? Most women would kill to have this.” She batted Marjorie’s hands away again and fluffed Mia’s thick, straight locks.
Mia shrugged her off. “I want a change. All this hair makes me look about ten years old.” It was also one of the features that drew men’s attention her way, and Mia had decided after thinking long and hard that drawing men’s attention was what had gotten her in trouble every time. A short, short haircut would change all that.
Rose eased between Marjorie and Mia, keeping the hairdresser at bay. “Your hair makes you look utterly beautiful, Mia.”
“Being beautiful hasn’t done me much good, has it?” She failed to keep the pain out of her voice.
Rose softened. “Being beautiful is part of who you are, though. You don’t have to cover that up if it’s respect you’re after. And you don’t have to cut it if you want a more sophisticated style, either; you just need to change it up. Marjorie, show her some updos, would you?”