Mia fell back on the mattress with a thump. Sex was what got her into this mess, so she shouldn’t be daydreaming of making love to Luke—yet daydreaming about Luke’s hands on her body got her through a lot of difficult hours. It could never happen in real life. She’d slipped once and she wouldn’t slip again, but—oh, God—she wanted to. She wanted Luke on top of her. She wanted to wrap her legs around his waist. She wanted to kiss the underside of his chin, just where she knew it would drive him wild.…
A slam of the front door told her Luke had finished his earliest chores and had stopped at home to say good-morning before heading out again. She was constantly in awe of how hard the men worked on this ranch, especially Luke now that all his brothers were busy with their own concerns. The Double-Bar-K employed ranch hands that came in from town every day, but Luke still labored from before sunrise to after sunset—physical work, too. His body was hard and muscular from all that work, taut and enticing. If only she was marrying Luke today.
Mia jumped up. She had to get ready for the wedding. She had to stop thinking about him like that. She had to stop thinking about him at all. Soon she wouldn’t be able to hide the evidence of her pregnancy anymore and she had no illusions about what Luke’s reaction would be when he noticed her belly bump. Disgust pure and simple—that she’d slept with a married man, that she’d lied by omission about being pregnant, that she’d allowed him to think she was available.
Of course, she was available, but even if Luke truly cared for her, that didn’t mean he’d welcome another man’s child into his life. If he couldn’t do that, she couldn’t be with him. It was that simple.
She shoved the check into the top drawer of her dresser and examined her appearance in the mirror. Hair, eyes, cheeks, lips, clothing, posture and expression. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check. She never could see her reflection without falling back into beauty pageant mode, running through her checklist so that her exterior was perfect before she stepped outside. Some lessons you never forgot.
If only Luke knew what it cost her to keep her distance, maybe he’d have some sympathy. She smoothed her hand over her belly and turned sideways to see her profile. Her belly swelled slightly, but she was sure no one else would notice it. Not yet. If Luke only knew how much she loved the child growing within her, would he choose to love him too?
Twice in the last month she’d actually seen Luke fuss over a baby in public. Once he even consented to hold one. The sight of the little mite in Luke’s big, strong hands, its sweet face nestled against Luke’s wide shoulder almost brought Mia to her knees.
She wanted him to hold her baby. To love it.
To love her.
She wanted it so bad.
Her thoughts broke off when she heard Luke’s steps on the stairs. She wasn’t usually in her room at this time. Usually she was almost ready to head to work, but this wasn’t a normal day. He hesitated outside her closed door. She heard a clink and a quiet thump, then he moved to his own room. His door shut with a click and a minute later his en suite shower started.
As soon as the coast was clear, she opened her door and discovered a cut glass vase full of a dozen pink roses. Beside it sat a generous box of Ghirardelli chocolates and a small gift-wrapped box. She scooped the presents up, put the flowers on her dresser, sat back on her unmade bed and opened the box of chocolates. Biting into the rich, satisfying sweetness of a raspberry truffle, she heaved a sigh and unwrapped the box. The pretty bracelet that lay inside brought tears to her eyes.
She brushed them away impatiently. Luke might think he wanted her to be his Valentine, but it could never be.
She tried the bracelet on, considered it, and took it off again. If she wore it now, it would be too hard to part with when she left, and she knew she had to leave. She set the box on her dresser beside the roses. When Luke found out about her baby, he’d surely want it back.
It was definitely time for her to move on. Tomorrow she’d deposit the check in the bank and start hunting for an apartment. The minute she found one she’d confess everything to Luke.
Today she wouldn’t have time for any of that.
Today she needed to concentrate on Fila. Her friend deserved her fairy tale wedding. Mia had no doubt Fila and Ned’s marriage would go the distance because they’d been through so much together already.
As she finished her truffle and went to fetch her dress, Mia bit her lip. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, wasn’t that how the saying went?
Her shoulders slumped. It didn’t get much more accurate than that.
Luke hurried through his shower and dressed quickly. He needed to get back to his parents’ house to help set up for the wedding. At least the location was convenient—no rushing around town today. The tables, chairs, and extra place settings for the dinner would be delivered any moment.
He banged his shin on his bedpost and cursed under his breath. He needed to pull himself together if he was going to be of any use to anyone—but he couldn’t help it. He was distracted.
He still hadn’t seen Mia so far this morning, and he was starting to second-guess the gifts he’d bought her. Flowers, chocolates and jewelry weren’t very original, but he’d noticed that Mia loved flowers, and she always wore jewelry, and who didn’t like chocolate? Still, it bugged him that he didn’t know Mia better—well enough to know for sure what she’d like. Despite living with her for more than two months, he sometimes felt he hardly knew her at all. She had a way of shutting down conversations whenever he came close to teasing out what made her tick. He should have been put off. Instead, he was only attracted to her more.
Mia Start was every man’s dream. There was something about her that caught the eye and wouldn’t let go, and it wasn’t just him—he’d seen everyone from teenage boys in the hardware store to men older than his father on the street follow Mia with their gaze. Every flip of her long, straight-as-nails, thick, dark ponytail drew men like flies. She was petite, but curvy, her breasts something to behold even under the old baseball T-shirt she wore when she cleaned house. Her hips widened out from her tiny waist and her ass filled a pair of jeans to perfection, begging to be touched. Her pouty red lips were made for kissing. Every time Mia was around, his body responded to her. Hell, most times she wasn’t around he had to force himself to stop thinking about her. When she’d agreed to move into his place in December, he thought he’d had it made.