The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 31)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(31)
Author: Cora Seton

“Oh, Mia.”

Mia pushed on. “It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. He got me in a tight clinch. His hands were everywhere—I hadn’t experienced that before; Mom kept me on a pretty tight leash up until that point. The worst was that I couldn’t get away—that he was stronger than me. I thought—I thought he’d…” She choked back a sob. “Finally, I bit him—hard. He was surprised and loosened his grip for a second. I got out of there. I ran to the washroom and cried and cried. One of the other girls found me and I made her go get my mom. I was so hysterical she had to take me home.”

Rose didn’t say a word, just waited for the rest of it. Mia was grateful for that. If she stopped now, she didn’t think she could go on. “She didn’t believe me. She thought I was exaggerating, or… I don’t know. She didn’t want to believe—I realize that now. She didn’t want to think she’d put me in danger. She made me go back the following day.”

“No!” Rose’s shocked exclamation made heads turn their way.

Mia lowered her voice. “She said I had to carry through with what I’d started. She said I had an obligation.”

“That’s insane.”

“No.” Mia shook her head tiredly. “That’s denial. It makes us do stupid things. I’ve forgiven my mom for it. She didn’t know what to do, so she pretended nothing happened at all. And I went back. I was shaking in my boots, but I did it. Mom walked with me to the dressing room where everyone was preparing for the pageant. When I went in you could have heard a pin drop. Then the other girls started whispering.”

Her hands were shaking as she lifted the juice to her lips again.

“Mom got me out of there, fast—I’ll give her that much. We drove home and I never entered another pageant again. We never spoke about it again, either.”

Rose was blinking back tears, but Mia found her own eyes strangely dry. She felt calm, too. Saying it out loud wasn’t as hard as she’d thought it would be.

“I’m so sorry, Mia. I know it was bad, but I’m so glad it wasn’t worse.”

“That’s the thing,” Mia said and her voice broke. “It was worse for someone else.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Warner raped one of the other girls. And he’s still on the circuit. I don’t know what to do.”

Rose’s eyes went wide. “You have to tell someone.”

Pain clogged Mia’s throat. There it was again—the need to haul herself before a crowd and expose her shame and humiliation. “I’m not sure I can.”

“I know you can,” Rose said. “Mia, you are one of the bravest women I know. You can do this.”

“Maybe.”

“If you need someone by your side, you know I’ll be there, right?”

“Yeah, I know that.” Rose had already stood by her when others hadn’t. “I’ll think about it, okay?”

“Okay.” Rose gave her hand a squeeze. “Now how about those invitations you told me about?”

“Take a look at this.” Mia pulled out her phone gratefully and showed Rose the website for a local printing company. “Here are a ton of stationary samples. If you go through and favorite some of them I’ll take a trip to the store and get real samples you can hold in your hand. I’ll drop them by later tonight.”

“Wow—that’s great service.”

“That’s the whole point of me being your wedding planner. I do the hard work. You get to relax and enjoy yourself.” She felt calmer now that they were on safer ground.

“You’re going to be a genius at this.” Rose settled down to choosing her stationary.

Mia let out a long breath. She could figure out what to do about Inez and Fred Warner another time. Right now it was her job to concentrate on Rose, and she turned to the task willingly.

“Is this seat taken?” Cab dropped onto the bench seat next to Rose without waiting for an answer.

“Are you going to help me pick out stationary?” Rose asked.

“Just here for some coffee, although I wouldn’t mind a couple shots of Jack Daniel’s while I’m at it.”

“Jack Daniel’s?” Rose checked her watch. “It’s barely eleven-thirty in the morning. Why would you want to get wasted?”

“Because I’ve been getting honked at, whistled at and laughed at everywhere I go today. And to top it off, Marge Ransom patted my ass.”

“Marge Ransom?” Rose cocked her head. “Isn’t she about eighty years old?”

“Maybe she thought it was your head,” Mia said.

Cab glared at her. “She read the sign.”

“What sign?”

“The one some jackass taped to the back of my cruiser.”

“Uh-oh,” Rose said. “What did it say?”

“Honk if you think I’m sexy. And it was duct-taped to my car. You try getting that off.”

“Honk if you think… Oh my God, was it Jamie?”

“Had to be. I’m telling you, he doesn’t take my godlike physique seriously.”

“Well, I take it seriously.” Rose pecked him on the cheek. “I take it very, very seriously.”

“You take it any way you can get it,” Cab growled, kissing her back, then seemed to remember they had company. “Sorry, Mia.”

“That’s okay. At least someone’s getting along.”

Cab focused on her. “Still on the outs with Luke? He cares for you a lot, you know.”

“So everyone tells me,” Mia said, gathering her things. “Too bad he doesn’t act like it when I’m around.”

As the days passed, Luke’s mood dipped further. He could no longer pretend he would marry Mia the first week in March. Instead of making up with him, she threw herself into preparing for the opening of Fila’s Familia, and helping Rose put together her wedding to Cab.

That stung more than anything else. Whenever he ran into the sheriff, it was clear Cab was overjoyed to be with Rose, and anyone could see Rose adored him back. The couple obviously had a healthy sex life, too, if all their kissing and caressing was anything to go by. The sheriff was no ladies’ man and here he was getting lucky every night by the looks of things while Luke was stuck home alone. He was frustrated, irritable and downright mad at the way things had turned out. How was he supposed to fix things with Mia when she would never spend any time with him?