The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 53)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(53)
Author: Cora Seton

“But…” Hannah thought a moment. “Last year we had several weddings in town that happened pretty fast. Like Ethan and Autumn’s wedding. And Jamie and Claire’s. Those both happened outside. Didn’t they have tents?”

Mia thought back. “I can’t remember tents. Maybe they just didn’t use them.”

“I bet if you ask Autumn tonight, she’ll have some ideas.”

“Thanks. I will.” Mia felt hopeful again.

Later that afternoon that hope drained right out of her when Camila took her break and Mia was forced to interact with a stony silent Fila each time she collected an order to give to a customer. After ten minutes, Mia couldn’t stand it anymore.

“You know I wouldn’t allow Luke to do anything mean to Ned,” she hissed when she picked up an order of burritos. A few minutes later when she was back for some curry chicken she added, “Did you know Ned filled Luke’s nursery room with dolls?”

Fila looked at her finally. “Dolls? Why would he do that?”

“Think about it.” Anger filled Mia. “He knows Luke wants to marry me. He knows Luke fixed up that room as a nursery for me—for my baby. And he knows I’ve refused to move back in and marry him. He’s rubbing it in Luke’s face. And that’s mean!” She whirled around and delivered the nachos, and for the rest of her shift kept the words she exchanged with Fila to a bare minimum.

Camila confronted her at the end of the evening. “Fila’s really upset. What’s going on between you two?”

“Ask Fila. Her husband’s the one taunting Luke.”

“Taunting him about what?”

“About—me.” A wave of exhaustion overwhelmed Mia and tears pricked her eyelids at the thought Ned had used her to cause Luke pain. “I have to finish up and go home. I can’t talk about this now.”

“Neither can Fila.” Camila’s frustration was clear. “Go home. I’ll finish up here. Just come back tomorrow in a better mood.”

“I can’t promise that. But thank you.” She gave Camila a quick hug. “I really need some sleep.”

Camila pulled back. “You do. You look a little green around the gills. Has your morning sickness come back?”

“What morning sickness?” Mia laughed. “No—I just feel… tired.” Bad was what she meant to say. She felt bad. She ached all over and she’d lost her appetite these last few weeks. In fact… Mia hesitated. When was the last time she’d eaten?

Camila must have read her mind. “Hold on.” She reappeared with a take-out container. “Go home, eat this and go to bed, okay?”

“Okay.” Mia softened. “I will come back in a better mood tomorrow. I’m sorry you’ve been caught in the middle of all of this.”

“I just wish I understood what all of this is.”

“What are all those people doing here?” Luke asked his mother when he popped in to update the ranch’s accounts the next morning. He was referring to the unfamiliar trucks outside and the workmen milling around.

“They’re here for that project of your father’s. He’s building something. Won’t tell me what, though. He said for us to keep clear.” Her tone held a warning. “They’re working out near the highway.”

“It looked like they were putting in a new water line out there when I drove by. Is Dad building a new house?”

His mother raised an eyebrow. “Think he’s finally had enough of me?”

Luke gave her a quick hug. “Never. That man would be lost without you. See you later.”

He drove to Amanda Stone’s next, where he found the old woman rocking contentedly on her front porch. There was something different about her these days. She seemed more at ease.

“Mrs. Stone, do you have a boyfriend?” he asked. The question had been on his mind for some time.

Amanda laughed long and hard. “At my age? I should think not. No, no boyfriend. Just a good friend coming through for me. I’m glad I don’t have to burden you anymore with taking care of me.”

“It’s no trouble,” he assured her.

“You’re a good boy, Luke,” she said. “But it’s time for you to marry that girlfriend of yours and take care of her. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’ll be okay.”

“Who’s helping you, then? Family?”

“No, not family. It’s a secret.” Her eyes twinkled. “It’s a good secret, though. Be happy for me and rest easy.”

He didn’t know what to say to that. “Well, anytime you need me, just call. I’ll come running.”

He met up with Ned in the barn later that afternoon. They both drew up short when they saw each other. Ned turned away.

“Hey,” Luke called after him. “That was you who filled my nursery with dolls, right?”

“What if it was?” He kept going.

“Look, I didn’t send you that book.” He swallowed hard and pressed on. “But I am sorry I spoke out of turn about your dyslexia. I was joking around and it popped out, but that doesn’t excuse it. I’m proud of you for what you’re doing. I know it ain’t easy.”

Ned slowed to a halt, his shoulders relaxed and he turned around. “Who do you figure sent the book, then?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. And I don’t care that it was you who put the dolls there, either. I don’t even blame you. Let’s just… put an end to it. Let’s be a real family for once.”

After a long moment, Ned nodded. “Need any help cleaning them up?”

“No. I got it.” But even with the nursery fixed up, he wondered how he could he lure Mia to come home.

Chapter Eighteen

“How about this one?” Ellie frowned as she compared the bridesmaid’s dress in her hands to the party dress in the photograph Tracey’s sister had sent for them to match.

Mia shook her head. “It’s close, but not quite and I don’t think you could alter it correctly. There isn’t enough extra material.”

“That’s because no one wears a bridesmaid dress that looks like this.” Ellie shook the photograph.

Mia agreed with her. The dress was as slinky as something you’d wear to a Hollywood nightclub, just skimming the tops of the thighs and leaving one shoulder bare. The fabric was gathered in a sunburst pattern near one hip and covered in sequins.