The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 34)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(34)
Author: Cora Seton

“I won’t be with someone who doesn’t know the first thing about me. Who doesn’t care about what I care about.” She tried to break free from his embrace, but he moved with her, placing the box in her hand, and wrapping her fingers around it.

“I know something about you. I know you’re the most stubborn, determined, hard-headed woman I ever met.”

“That’s not good enough. You need to know something real.” She got free of him this time and headed toward the back of the restaurant where she slapped the small box down on the counter. Luke knew he had to work fast or he’d find that damn counter between them again.

“Like about the beauty pageants?”

Mia stopped in her tracks. “What about them?”

Luke thought fast. How could he put it without scaring her off again? “You spent all those years looking for approval—from older men, mostly. That left you vulnerable.” He bit back Warner’s name. He wasn’t ready to talk about that yet. Wasn’t sure she was, either. “That’s a good setup for falling for Ellis’s tricks.”

“And yours,” Mia said evenly. “You’re ten years older than me.”

“Is that why you don’t trust me?” Luke moved closer to her. “You know I’d never hurt you. Not like those other men.”

Mia stared at him. “Maybe not deliberately, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t stumble into it.” Her frank statement stopped him.

“Like I said, I just want to be with you.”

“And like I said, I want you to know me before you say that again. I want you to know what I want. What I need. What’s most important to me. Until then, I want you to go, Luke. I have a career to build.”

In an instant, the counter was between them once more. Luke knew better than to try to follow Mia to the other side. Without another word, he turned on his heel and left the restaurant.

He knew damn well what was important to Mia, but he wouldn’t tell her. He’d show her instead.

Chapter Eleven

Three events in a row. She’d booked three events in a row.

How stupid could she be? Mia sat at her desk in her rented room at the Cruz guesthouse, her newly acquired day planner laid out in front of her, the beautiful hairclips Luke had given her still in their box, and dropped her head into her hands.

Luke was right. She’d end up making short shrift of all of them, having taken on too much. But what could she do? She’d given everyone her word and she didn’t want to start off her business by disappointing a customer.

When she’d called Tracey and found out that the young woman had planned her wedding for the Friday night before Rose’s Saturday affair she hadn’t known what to say.

“You’re going to skip Rose’s wedding?” she’d asked, scrambling for her calendar.

“No, we’ll be there. We’re not taking our honeymoon until next spring. We’re spending the night at a hotel in Billings but we’ll be back by late afternoon when Rose’s wedding starts.”

“But—” Didn’t Tracey realize how rude it was to plan her wedding that Friday night when many of her guests would have already penciled in Rose’s wedding the following day? Both women were well-liked in town, and they hung out with much the same crowd. What was Tracey thinking?

Mia couldn’t think of a way to convey that without hurting Tracey’s feelings though, so she’d hung up, still booked for both weddings. She fingered the hairclips, loving that Luke had chosen them for her—that he’d obviously noticed her change of hairstyle and supported her attempt to update her image—but hating the fact that he’d been right about the three events in close succession being more than she could handle. Why, why, why did he have to be right?

She heard voices downstairs and jumped up, hoping that someone had arrived who might help. When she went downstairs she found Autumn, Claire and Morgan in the living room.

“Thank God,” Mia said. “I need some advice.”

“What is it?” As usual, Autumn carried Arianna, who yawned sweetly and snuggled against her mother’s shoulder.

“Tracey Richards scheduled her wedding for the Friday night before Rose’s. Can you believe that? I can’t figure out how to tell her to change it.”

“That is… strange.” Morgan regarded her with a smile. “She’s invited to Rose’s wedding, right?”

“Yes, and she’s coming, too. She acted like it was the most normal thing in the world.”

“I’ll go to Linda’s Diner tomorrow and see what I can figure out,” Morgan said to Mia’s relief. “I’m sure Rose will understand either way. You don’t have to worry about it.”

“It’s just I’m Tracey’s wedding planner, too,” Mia explained. “I didn’t know her date when I accepted. I figured there was no chance she’d pick the same weekend as Rose.”

“And you took the job?” Claire said. “That’s not very responsible, Mia. You’d better back out.”

Mia was used to Claire’s habit of speaking frankly, but it still rankled. “I can’t. She’ll tell people and I’ll get a reputation for unreliability.”

“If you don’t back out you’ll get a reputation for letting down your customers. What about Rose’s rehearsal? And the rehearsal dinner? Won’t those be the same night as Tracey’s wedding?”

“No. They’re on Thursday, thank goodness.”

“What about Tracey’s rehearsal and dinner?” Claire said. “Won’t they be on Thursday, too?”

“I’ll tell her she can’t do that.”

“You’ll tell the bride what she can and can’t do?” Claire’s tone was caustic. “That’s not very businesslike.”

“What am I supposed to do? She’s the one who booked her wedding on that ridiculous day,” Mia cried.

“It’s your business. You’re in charge. Get on the phone and sort it out. Apologize and tell Tracey there’s a scheduling conflict, and that she has two choices: change the date of the wedding or find another planner.”

“I’ve been friends with Tracey for a long time.”

“That does seem harsh,” Autumn put in.

“It’s practical,” Claire said, her black bob swinging with her vehemence. “Businesspeople make tough decisions all the time, Mia. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be one.”