The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 4)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(4)
Author: Cora Seton


Luke jumped when his mother, Lisa, slapped a glossy brochure down on the dining room table in front of his father, Holt. Everyone stopped eating and stared at her. Luke didn’t blame them. This early in the morning the extent of the conversation at the Matheson table was generally limited to a few grunts and an order or two, although usually there wasn’t such a crowd.

Luke slathered his pancakes in butter, then drenched them in syrup, but took a moment to study his family before his first bite. Lots had changed recently. Only last September all his brothers had been single. After today he’d be the only one who could claim that status.

To his right sat Jake, his oldest brother, and Jake’s wife, Hannah. Married just before Christmas, Luke hardly saw them these days because they were both so busy with classes they’d just started at Montana State and their regular work—Hannah with Bella Mortimer, the local pet veterinarian, and Jake with Bella’s husband, Evan Mortimer, a wealthy man with an interest in sustainable ranching.

Holt pushed the brochure out of his way. “Nnnh?” he growled.

“Paris, France,” Lisa said, pushing it closer to Holt again. “That’s what I want for our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary this fall. A trip to the City of Love.” She sat down beside her husband and helped herself to some bacon and eggs.

“Paris sounds lovely,” Morgan said from her seat next to Hannah.

Morgan had married Luke’s youngest brother, Rob, back in September. Rob had partnered with Ethan Cruz from the ranch next door, and was also helping Morgan start a vineyard. Luke bet Morgan and Rob would love to travel to France to check out the wineries.

“Why the hell would you want to go to Paris?” Holt said.

Luke saw Ned and Fila exchange a look. They sat on his side of the table, Luke closest to Holt and Fila beside him. Ned was only a year older than Luke and he and Luke had argued a lot as kids—well, as adults too, until this year. Now they found themselves agreeing about more things. He was glad Ned had found a woman like Fila to love. She’d made him a better man. She was a beauty, too, with her coffee and cream skin and waist-length hair. She was funny, too, with a dry sense of humor she expressed more and more as she gained confidence. In Luke’s opinion, the couple deserved a memorable wedding day. Fila had been to hell and back when she’d spent ten years as a prisoner of the Taliban, and Ned had barely survived a recent disastrous trip to the family’s hunting cabin last month that left him still healing from a broken leg.

“Come on, Holt, you old goat. You’ll love Paris,” Camila Torres said, helping herself to orange slices. Luke marveled that his old man put up with her sass. Somehow she’d gotten into his good graces. Maybe it was her amazing Mexican cooking—so fantastic, even Holt liked it. Or perhaps it was because she was co-owner of Fila’s new restaurant and now that Fila had saved one of Holt’s son’s lives, any friend of hers was a friend of his.

“Who wants more bacon?” Lisa asked, passing the platter around. Luke was amazed his mother had pulled off this kind of breakfast today. He’d seen the kitchen. Every spare inch was filled with items for the wedding feast.

“All there is in Paris is foreigners.” Holt took the rest of the bacon and used his elbow to push the brochure farther away.

Luke ignored the back and forth. At twenty-nine he knew better than to interfere when his parents bickered. You’d think they could call a truce for Valentine’s Day—for Ned’s wedding—but his parents’ marriage seemed to run on friction, and today evidently would be business as usual.

There were no roses at his mother’s seat. No box of candy, either, but if he wasn’t mistaken, those were new diamond earrings in her ears.

“There’s delicious food and beautiful architecture—and the Louvre, too,” Lisa said.

“A bunch of stuck-up pansies.”

“And shopping and art galleries and monuments.”

“I’d go to Paris in a minute if it meant I could stop dealing with that damn architect. He’s sent over so many alternate plans it’s making my head spin,” Jake said. Luke knew what he meant. Holt had given Jake two hundred acres to do with as he pleased, and he and Hannah meant to build a house this summer.

Lisa smiled sympathetically at her oldest son. “Building is always such a bother, but you’ll be happy this fall when you move into your new home.”

“I told Evan if I was rich I’d buy his place—let him go build.”

Hannah laughed. “Yeah, but he shot that idea down pretty quickly. Apparently he and Bella are having just as much trouble getting her clinic and pet shelter built as we’re having with our house.”

“It’ll all be done by the time Holt and I fly off to Paris,” Lisa assured her.

“I ain’t going, and neither are you.” Holt made eye contact across the length of the table with his wife for emphasis, then caught Luke’s expression and fixed him with a scowl. “What’re you snickering about over there?”

Luke straightened. “Nothing, Pops.”

“I have a bone to pick with you.”

Uh-oh. Classic Holt technique. When an argument with his wife got too hot, he’d pick a new one with a son. Luke braced himself.

“See all this folderol?” He waved at the wedding preparations. “Time for your share. I’ve gotten the rest of your brothers hitched, now it’s your turn.”

“You’ve gotten them hitched?” Lisa got up again and disappeared into the kitchen for a moment. She came back with a plate stacked high with toast. “More like they got hitched in spite of your interference.”

“He can interfere away, Mom. I’m all for marriage.”

Lisa sat back down in her seat. “Then what’s the deal with you and Mia?”

“Yeah,” Ned said. “What is the deal with you and Mia?”

Luke glanced at the empty chair beside him. “She’s getting ready for the wedding. She should be here any minute.” He hoped his family would leave things at that, but of course they didn’t.

“You’re living with her. Your intentions better be pure,” Lisa said.

“My intentions are far from pure, but our living arrangements sure are. That’s the problem.” Shit. He shouldn’t have said that out loud. Jake guffawed and Hannah elbowed him.

“Hush, Jake.” Lisa turned to Luke. “Then Mia’s smarter than I gave her credit for. It doesn’t do to give away the milk for free—”