The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 38)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(38)
Author: Cora Seton

“A private viewing?” she whispered, scandalized that Luke was propositioning her right here in line.

“It ain’t what you think. Be there, tomorrow morning at nine.”

“I work at eleven.”

“I have to work, too. It won’t take much time.”

“Hmph. That’s not much of an invitation.” She hadn’t meant to snort aloud, but she did. Cheeks burning, she darted a glance at Luke and found him grinning back at her. He put his hands on the counter and leaned forward.

“It can take as long as you want.” His voice was low and intimate. “It’s up to you.”

“Go on, get out of here.” She stuffed the teddy bear and gift bag on a shelf under the counter.

“I’ve got to order first.”

“Well, hurry up!” But it was hard to stay angry. She was flushed with the success of Fila’s Familia and the truth was she’d love to spend a good long time with him at the bunkhouse tomorrow morning. She couldn’t, though. She had to stand strong—at least until Luke proved he was taking her seriously.

By the time Mia knocked on his front door at nine-fifteen the next morning, Luke was ready to jump out of his skin. He’d begun to think she’d decided to stand him up and he didn’t know what he’d do if that was the case. He’d worked hard on the nursery and he wanted her to see it. Hell, he wanted her to fall in love with it. If she didn’t even bother to stop by, what was the use of all his work?

But she had come at last. He pulled the door open and she tumbled in on a cold breeze.

“Take off your coat. Come on in.” Luke bit back more inane sentences that sprang to his mouth. He’d lived with Mia for weeks. No need to act like she’d never been here before.

“Something smells good,” Mia said. She handed her coat to Luke, kicked her snow boots off clumsily and leaned against the wall for a minute.

“Mia? You okay?”

She instantly straightened. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

But she didn’t look fine. Not at all. “You look tired.”

“Thank you very much. Just what every girl wants to hear first thing in the morning.”

“You know what I mean.” He held his ground. “You’re always beautiful, and you’re usually full of energy, too. What happened?”

She sighed and moved into the living room. “Fila’s happened. Those customers ran me ragged last night. I didn’t get a break once. Then we were up late cleaning and prepping for today. I have no idea how I’ll get through a full shift. Especially since I’ll probably have to stay late again. Plus, there are other things going on.”

Luke bit back the words he wanted to say—that she should quit her restaurant job, that she should forget about her wedding planning business. That she should let him take care of her. “Would you like some breakfast? I made French toast.”

“That sounds good, actually.”

Mia brightened up as she ate and she confessed she’d slept until the last minute and hadn’t eaten before she left the house. Luke piled on slices of French toast, bacon and orange slices and was gratified when she cleaned her plate. He kept the conversation light, but as soon as she finished he stood up.

“Come on.” He held out his hand.

She took it and let him lead her to the stairs. “If you’re really going ahead with this private viewing you shouldn’t have let me eat so much.” She flashed him an uncertain smile that he found all too sexy.

“It’s not that kind of a private viewing, although that could be arranged any time you’d like.” He grinned, letting her know he’d be glad to do just that.

“Hmm,” was all the answer he got. He led her upstairs and paused in front of the guest room door.

“I can change things if you don’t like it.”

Mia was frowning. “Luke, I’m not going to move back in. We’re not—”

Luke pushed open the door and Mia’s words trailed off as she stepped inside the bedroom and took in the crib, changing table, and dresser, the sunny yellow walls, white trim around the windows and doors and the colorful rag rugs on the floor.

“Oh, Luke.” She bit her lip and her eyes shone with tears. “Oh, it’s beautiful.”

His heart leaped. For once he’d gotten it right. “It’s all for you. And for our baby girl. I want you to come back home. I want us to make this a home together.” He followed her around the room as she examined the furniture. “What do you think?”

“I love it. I can’t believe you did all of this.”

“You know I love you.” He drew her into an embrace. “You know I do, Mia.”

She nodded, her gaze searching his.

“Don’t you see?” He waved a hand at the room. “I can give you everything you need. Everything. You’ll never need to work another day in your life.”

Mia went rigid in his arms. “I’m not giving up on my wedding planning business.”

“Look at you, honey. You’re exhausted after one day at the restaurant. You haven’t even started event planning. How will you handle that on top of everything? And once you’re a mom you won’t want to leave the baby, will you?” He couldn’t bear to see Mia as tired as she’d been when she walked in this morning. She took too much on. She needed him to help her.

Mia backed right out of his arms. “Is staying home with the baby mandatory?”

“What do you mean?” And why was she staring at him like that, with her arms crossed over her chest? Luke stepped away, too. “Don’t you want to?”

“Sure! Of course. But I want to work, too. It doesn’t have to be either/or.”

“You can’t work two jobs and take care of a baby.” Why would she want to when he was there to pick up the slack?

She spun on her heel and marched out the bedroom door. “Watch me!”

Mia didn’t know why she was crying when she drove back to the Cruz ranch, except she was so exhausted she could hardly hold her head up. She didn’t understand it. She’d managed to make it through her first trimester without anyone even noticing she’d been pregnant. Now a couple of weeks later, she looked like something the cat dragged in and felt worse. When she reached the ranch, she managed to slip upstairs in the guest house without running into Autumn or anyone else. She sank down on her bed and had a good cry.

She’d actually thought Luke finally got it—that he realized how important it was to her to succeed in her wedding planning business. Not so much for the money, as for the proof it would give everyone that she wasn’t just a pretty face. It was sweet that he wanted to provide for her, and a year ago she would have accepted gladly. But now she didn’t want to quit, and she wanted Luke to support her in it. It hurt her feelings that no one except Rose seemed to believe she was capable of anything other than running a cash register. Was it because of all those beauty pageants? Couldn’t anyone look beyond her face? She was capable of far more—she knew it. And she wanted to show everyone else.