The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 54)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(54)
Author: Cora Seton

“We’ll have to make one from scratch.” Ellie hung up the dress she held.

“Can you do that?”

“It’ll cost her.”

“You were so good to give her a refund on the one she returned.”

“The one I make will be triple the price. Will Tracey want to pay it?”

“Will she want to stand next to the result?” Mia asked, gazing doubtfully at the photograph in Ellie’s hand.

“I’ll make sure she’ll want to stand next to it, but I can’t work for free.”

“Of course not. I’ll talk to Tracey. Can you give me a ballpark figure?”

Ellie named a sum and Mia whistled. “Give me twenty-four hours. I’ll see what Tracey wants to do.”

Mia drove home to the Cruz ranch next and found Autumn surrounded by cookbooks at the large dinner table in the guesthouse.

“Thank goodness you’re here. You weren’t up yet when I ran out to Ellie’s this morning.”

“Arianna let us sleep in.” Autumn smiled at the baby who lay near her on the floor on a thick mat with play toys dangling overhead.

“I’ve got a problem I hope you can help me with. What company did you rent your tents for your wedding from?”

“What tents?” Autumn said. “Looking back I see how naïve we were. We just planned our wedding outside and figured it wouldn’t rain. I don’t know what we would have done if it did.”

“What about Claire and Jamie?”

“Ditto. I take it you’re looking for tents?”

“Desperately. I didn’t realize you have to book them so far in advance.”

“The big ones you do.”

“I need big ones! Lila White has seventy-five guests coming to her family reunion!”

Autumn thought a moment. “But you could use smaller ones and treat them like a number of rooms—one flowing into the next.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Let’s look and see. Bring me my laptop.” She motioned toward the kitchen counter and Mia fetched the computer. A few minutes later Autumn turned the screen toward her. “Look at these. See? You could line them up next to each other. Or lay them out in a pattern, even.”

“Do you think that would work?”

Autumn nodded. “I think so. There isn’t going to be dancing at the reunion, is there?”

“No. Just a lot of eating and games—volleyball, badminton, lawn darts. That kind of thing.”

“Then it’ll work fine. Here.” She handed Mia her phone. “Call them. See if they have enough of the small tents.”

Mia did and bounced on her toes when the answer was yes. She reserved what they had, hung up and dialed the next closest rental company where she was able to secure enough more to get the job done.

Autumn, meanwhile, sketched out a plan for the tents’ layout, and sketched fairy lights to decorate them.

“Can I take that with me to show Lila?” Mia asked. “I’d better get going so I can stop by her house before I get to work.”

“Of course.” Autumn tore the page off her pad of paper and handed it over. She cocked her head and looked at Mia. “Have you lost weight?”

Mia pulled back. “Of course not. Look how big my belly is.” She ran a hand over her baby bump.

“I don’t think it’s big enough. When’s your next appointment?”

“Shoot! I think it was yesterday.” Mia scrambled for her phone and clicked to her appointment page. “Darn it—I missed it.”

“Call them right now and reschedule.” Autumn waited for her to do so.

Mia glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to go.”

“Call. Right now.”

Mia sighed but did what she was told. She quickly scheduled an appointment for the following week, thanked Autumn again and hurried out the door.

More than eight hours later, she stumbled back into the guesthouse and picked up her mail on the way to the room. In among two bills and a circular was another envelope with a poorly written address.

“Now what?” Mia asked aloud. She peeled it open as she climbed the stairs to her room.

Yu luk awfull.

“Well, that’s nice.” She tossed the note onto her desk. As she moved to discard her clothing and climb into bed, Mia caught sight of herself mirror and stopped short.

She did look awful.

Now she saw why Autumn had asked if she was losing weight. Her cheeks were gaunt. Her maternity clothes hung on her. Her hair, normally so thick and lustrous, fell in lanky threads. She crossed to the bed and sat down slowly, the ache that constantly nagged at her back making her movements tentative. She thought over the past few days and realized she really hadn’t been eating enough for a pregnant woman in her second trimester. She would have to do better, and she would have to sit down more during the day. She’d ask Fila and Mia if she could buy a stool to keep behind the counter so that whenever the restaurant slowed down a little she could take a load off. And she’d ask them again to hire more help, since they hadn’t managed to do so yet. If she could cut back her hours even a little, it would be much easier to take care of herself.

And to take care of her event planning clients. She wasn’t giving any of them the kind of thought and attention she’d meant to. So far she’d managed to put out all the fires, but she had the feeling the worst was yet to come. Why, oh why had she agreed to do three events in one weekend?

And how were Fila and Camila going to cater all three events and still handle the normal weekend rush? They hadn’t even talked about it yet.

Tomorrow she’d sit down with both of them and figure out a plan.

She checked her e-mail and found a message from Inez.

I heard from Montana Pageants today. There have been other allegations against Warner recently, and the police are involved. We’ll need to make statements to the police and we could be called to testify in the case against him.

A statement to the police? Testify?

Mia didn’t like the sound of that.

Her phone buzzed and she picked it up listlessly. Luke was calling.


“Hey, Mia.” He hesitated. “I know it’s late. Were you sleeping?”

“Just going to bed.” She missed the days when he’d sneak into the guesthouse and join her, back before she came upon him kicking the dolls around.

“I think we should talk. What you saw the other day. It really wasn’t what you think.”