Luke was right—it was lousy timing to start her business now, but if she worked hard she could have things established before the baby was born. Then she could buy one of those baby slings that were all the rage, wrap up the baby and keep on working.
It wasn’t only the work wearing her out, anyway. Last night she’d tried to write the letter Inez wanted, and it had dredged up so many painful memories she’d hardly been able to sleep. It was so tempting to give up and let Luke have his way. She could lie in bed and let him take care of everything. If she told him about Warner, he’d probably take care of that, too.
Mia frowned. He might take care of it in all the wrong ways. She had to admit, there’d be a certain satisfaction in knowing Warner had gotten what he had coming, but she didn’t want Luke to get into trouble and she wasn’t a woman who approved of violence.
No, she had to do things the right way. She had to finish the letter and do whatever else it took to get Warner banned from the pageants for life.
That decision made, she rolled over onto her side, plumped a pillow under her head and daydreamed about what it would be like to hold her baby.
A girl. She was having a girl. Would the baby look like her at all?
She hoped so.
A tiny Mia. No—the baby needed her own name, just like she’d have her own personality. A tiny…Jasmine, or Lucy, or Pamela.
She needed to make a list.
She allowed her daydream to expand and saw a two-year-old with long dark hair racing around a playground. She saw herself chasing the little girl, playing tag with her, going down a slide.
She saw Luke pick her up and put her on his shoulders, the three of them walking back to their car.
No. Darn it—no! Luke wasn’t in this picture. It was just her and Lucy. Or Pamela. Just the two of them. Going home to their…apartment.
Mia sat up. Apartment? That might be okay while Pamela was small, but not when she grew older. Mia wanted a yard for her child. Room to roam.
She thought of Ellis’s two hundred thousand dollars sitting in her bank account. Maybe she could buy a house. A small one.
She lifted her chin. She’d go look at real estate her next day off.
“I’m going to go out of my mind if this leg doesn’t heal soon,” Ned said a few days later as he, Luke, Ethan and Jamie leaned against a corral on the Double-Bar-K.
Jamie had stopped by to take a look at Silver, a mare that had grown increasingly skittish the last few days. She’d taken to bucking and rearing when anyone tried to handle her—odd behavior in the normally placid animal. In a way, the mare reminded Luke of Mia, who also seemed to have changed from a sweet young thing into a woman determined to have her way. Ned, Ethan and Jamie had managed to get the horse from the stable to the corral without incident, but only just. Luke hoped Jamie would have some insight into the matter, since he was known around these parts as something of a horse whisperer.
“And I’m going to go out of my mind if I keep having to do all your work,” Luke said to Ned, watching Silver dance around in the corral. After a few moments she calmed down, walked a few steps, then suddenly shied to the left in a big leap before circling the corral again in nervous, tentative steps. He didn’t have time for this new problem. It was calving season, he still needed to check the rest of the fences, and he had plenty of other chores to do, too.
“You must have loads of time on your hands if you’re redecorating your cabin.” Ned resettled his hat on his head and leaned on the top rail of the corral.
“How’d that go?” Jamie asked. “Did Mia like it?”
Ethan turned an interested look his way.
Luke couldn’t believe Jamie didn’t know the answer to that already. He bet Ethan did, from his expression. “She liked the room just fine, but she didn’t like what I had to say.”
“Sorry to hear it.” Jamie’s attention was back on the horse. After a few moments of concentration, he slipped his phone out of his pocket and clicked away at it.
“Calling for backup?” Ned shifted again and Luke could tell his leg was bothering him. It was out of its cast, but he’d need physical therapy before it was truly right again.
“Of a kind.”
“Autumn says Mia was pretty upset when she got home the other day.” Ethan moved closer.
“She was pretty upset when she was here.”
“I don’t think you’re seeing the forest for the trees. You need to—”
“Speaking of trees, I think that’s your problem,” Jamie said. “Hold up a second.” He listened to the person on the other end of the phone. “Yeah—could you hold up your phone so I can hear?” He kept the phone to his ear and held out his left hand for silence. They all watched the mare step nervously around the corral. Suddenly Jamie pointed at the horse just as she bucked and bolted again. “Yep. That’s it!” He turned to the others. “They’re logging over at Hardy’s place. The chain saws are spooking her.”
“I can’t hear any chainsaws,” Ned said.
“Nope. But she can. I had Nancy Hardy step out of her kitchen and hold up her phone. Every time the chain saws start up, your horse jumps.”
“Now how the hell did you think of that?” Ethan cocked his hat back.
“I’ve seen it happen before, and I overheard Bill Hardy talking with his buddies about the logging last week at DelMonaco’s. It was just a hunch.”
“One hell of a hunch,” Ethan said.
“Don’t you ever get hunches?” Jamie slipped his phone back into his pocket.
“I’ve got a hunch you spend way too much time with horses. And listening to other people’s conversations at restaurants.”
“I’ve got a hunch you haven’t gotten laid in a long time,” Jamie rejoined. “You’re mighty testy these days.”
“Dude—the man just had a baby,” Ned said, then grinned. “Probably has hemorrhoids on top of everything else.” Ethan gave him a good-natured shove, which nearly unbalanced Ned, but he managed to grab the fence rail and hold on. “Jamie’s right. You are testy.”
“Wait ’til you have kids. I haven’t slept a full night in weeks.”
“Yeah, but it’s worth it, right?” Jamie leaned against the corral and watched the mare kick up her heels again.
“Yeah, that’s for sure. Think you and Fila will have kids?” he asked Ned.