The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 43)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(43)
Author: Cora Seton

“I don’t know. Lean. Brown hair. In his thirties. That’s what Marcy said.”

Luke fought the urge to throw the currycomb. This was all he needed—some other guy putting the moves on Mia. “Does he know she’s pregnant?”

“I don’t know. No one recorded their conversation. Come on, don’t take it like that. I just wanted you to know so you can step up your game.”

“Step it up how? I made her a nursery. That didn’t work.” He hadn’t managed to talk to her about the pageants, either. He stood there, currycomb in hand, too frustrated to smooth it over Bullet’s coat.

“Yeah, about that.” Jake took the currycomb from Luke and got to work on the horse. Bullet looked back at him, snorted, then returned to chewing from his feed bucket. “How did you manage to screw that up?”

“Damned if I know. I told her she didn’t have to work. I told her I’d do it all—take care of her and her baby. She got mad and stormed out.”

Jake stopped what he was doing and rested his head against Bullet’s flank. “Oh God. Not you, too.”

“What?”

Bullet shifted and Jake straightened up. “That’s pretty much the same mistake I made with Hannah. She says Mia wants to start her own business.”

“Yeah. She’s got this crazy idea she can be a wedding planner and work for Fila. And have a baby. I mean, she was white as a sheet the other morning when she came over here, and that was after only a half day at Fila’s. She needs her rest.”

“Here’s the thing. Careers are like babies to women. Hell, they’re like cubs to momma bears. You don’t get between a woman and the job she wants to do—not if you want to keep your head on your shoulders. Believe me—I know.”

Luke nodded. He knew Jake and Hannah had scrapped over whether she should go to school or have children. In the end they’d decided to move forward with both. “This is different. I’m telling you, Mia didn’t look good at all. She shouldn’t be at work. In fact, I’ve debated whether I should call Fila and tell her that myself.”

“It’s one thing if you’re concerned for her health. It’s another thing all together if you’re trying to control her.”

Luke grabbed the currycomb away from his brother. “I’m not trying to control anyone. I’m trying to help.”

“Yeah, well you’re helping yourself all the way to losing that girl. Smarten up.”

“You got another letter,” Autumn said when Mia got home from work that night.

Mia sighed. Her feet ached again, and she hadn’t managed to eat any dinner. She knew she should find something to eat now, but the truth was she didn’t have an appetite. “What are you doing here so late?” Usually Autumn was home in the bunkhouse by now.

“Some guests are coming to stay next week and I’m planning a menu. Don’t worry—we’ll still have plenty of room for you.”

Mia accepted the letter Autumn held out for her and sat down heavily on the couch. “I’ll be out of your hair soon, I promise. I’ve been looking at real estate.”

“Real estate is expensive.” Autumn got up and returned a minute later with a cup of tea. “Here, I had just made a pot. Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine.” Mia accepted the cup gratefully. “Just a little tired.” She would have said more about her house search, but she remembered Carl’s words—that she should surround herself with cheerleaders. She’d always thought of Autumn as a terrific friend, but Autumn hadn’t been too encouraging about her business plan, and now she didn’t sound enthusiastic about the idea of her buying a house, either.

“Have you talked to a bank about a loan?”

“Not yet.” She decided to turn the conversation. “I bet you can’t wait to start gardening again.”

Autumn smiled. “You’re right. I’m starting some seeds at the bunkhouse. I think this year I’ll get Ethan to build me a greenhouse. If we have enough money,” she added with a sigh.

“You’ll have enough money,” Mia said. “I bet this year you’ll get a ton of guests. Your website looks great.” She dug her finger under the flap of the envelope and began to open it.

“That’s what I love about you, Mia. You always make me feel good about the guest ranch. You’re such a great friend.”

I like being a cheerleader, Mia thought. Now if only more people would encourage her about her wedding planner idea. She opened the envelope and pulled out a small slip of paper.

Don’t cheet.

“Huh.” Mia shoulders fell. She knew exactly what it referenced: her meeting with Carl in Linda’s Diner. She bet all the gossips talked about it afterward.

“What does it say?”

She handed the note to Autumn.

“Cheat? Who would you cheat with?”

“No one.” Mia grabbed it back, crumpled it up and stood. “I’m going to bed. I have an early morning.” And she still had to finish the letter for Inez. She wasn’t looking forward to that.

“Mia,” Autumn called after her as she walked toward the stairs. “Take it easy, okay? Don’t tire yourself out too much.”

“I won’t.”

She didn’t think she could get any more tired than she already was.

Be persistint.

Luke scanned the two words on the page again. He was no English professor, but he was pretty sure that wasn’t spelled right.

Besides, he had been persistent. He’d spent every waking hour—at work, while eating, even when he was supposed to be asleep—trying to figure out how to get Mia back. He was insane with worry over it. His body ached more from pent up frustration than from overwork. His chores were suffering and his accounts were a mess because he couldn’t concentrate. He knew he was the right man for Mia. He knew she was the right woman for him. It should have been simple, but instead she was slipping away.

Persistent. He’d told her how he felt. He’d gone to her doctor’s appointment. He’d transformed his spare room into a nursery. How else could he prove that he would be a good husband and provider?

Should he try the ring thing again? He could go back and get the one she’d first chosen. Luke thought about that, decided he would purchase the ring Mia had wanted, but he wouldn’t propose to her again yet. Not until they’d worked things out. The day they were supposed to get married was already long gone. March had arrived and with it a warm, wet breeze that was melting just enough of the snow to turn every stock yard and driveway into a muddy mess.