The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 60)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(60)
Author: Cora Seton

Through all of it, Mia’s bulky form had moved more gracefully than he would have thought possible, as she solved problems, kept guests happy, made sure everyone had enough food and drink and kept the bride and groom circulating, dancing and performing every duty a bride and groom had at their wedding.

“Come on.” Jake jolted him from his reverie with an elbow to the side. “Cab and Rose are leaving in a minute.”

Luke followed the crowd to the front porch where Rose was just giving Mia a huge hug.

“Thank you. It was everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” Rose said.

“Thank you for being my first and best fan,” Mia said.

Luke felt a pang that he hadn’t been Mia’s first and best fan, and decided then and there that from now on he would be her most loyal one. He stood by her side as the crowd waved off Cab and Rose, who left in a limo for a quick drive to the airport, where they’d catch a flight to Italy and spend ten days on their honeymoon. Luke knew Rose was thrilled at the chance to see classical architecture and artwork—and that Cab was thrilled to get away with his new bride, no matter where they went. He had no doubt the couple would enjoy themselves immensely.

As the guests trailed back into the house, he sensed that more casual friends would soon leave, until only a core of those closest to the bride and groom remained. Before the music died down, he wanted one dance with Mia.

It took some persuasion, but some minutes later he was swaying to a slow song, Mia’s belly pressing into him.

“This is awkward,” Mia complained.

“It’s terrific.”

“Will you stay with me again tonight?”

“So I can read you to sleep again?”

“Yes.” She buried her face against his chest. “And so you can be there. So I don’t feel so alone.”

Luke stopped. “Do you feel alone?”

She looked up at him. “Sometimes. A lot of the time, I guess.”

“You’re not, you know. I’m always here, even if we aren’t together.”

She didn’t answer, just leaned against him as he began to sway to the music again. She didn’t have to speak, though. He understood what she was saying. She might not like to ask for help. She might not be ready to accept his offer of marriage. But she needed him.

The baby kicked against his stomach and he chuckled, sliding a hand down to rest on her belly. “You can’t get rid of me that easily, young’un.”

“She’s just saying hello.”

“Hello, baby,” Luke said back. “Can’t wait to see your beautiful face.” He heard Mia take a ragged breath. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know why you stick around when I’ve been such a—”

“Shh. I’ve been hard-headed, too,” he cut her off. “You know exactly why I stick around. I love you. I hope someday you’ll let me stick around permanently.”

She sighed. “Don’t you think we ought to date before we decide something like that?”

Luke knew he’d have to tread carefully through this conversation. “Haven’t we been dating?”

“Not really.” She pulled back. “We’ve been sleeping together.”

“I like sleeping with you.”

She smiled. “Yeah, it’s not bad. But that’s not dating.”

“So you want to be wined and dined, huh?”

“Something like that. I know one thing.” She pulled away from him and rubbed her back. “I don’t want to get engaged when I’m as big as a house.”

He bit back his disappointment. He’d take her at her word. At least she was talking about getting engaged. That was progress. He could understand why she’d want to put off big decisions until after she had her baby, although he wished they’d be married before the birth.

As much as he wanted to plead his case and push for a wedding sooner rather than later, he decided this wasn’t the time or the place. Mia was tired. She’d pulled off two major events in two days, with a third to come. He’d respect her wishes tonight, and think it over himself tomorrow.

“Well, I was wrong,” Lila said to Mia late in the day of the family reunion. “Everyone loves your tents. They’re exotic and beautiful all at once.”

As darkness fell, the fairy lights hanging around the tents made them seem like otherworldly halls. Children raced about playing tag and hide and go seek, slipping from shadow to light back to shadow again. Adults sat at tables and drank wine, laughing over shared remembrances and lingering over desserts. After sending Lila a set of questions, Mia had concocted a trivia game about the family and the questions and answers had set the whole crowd buzzing and laughing, and brought them all together.

“I’m glad you like them.” Mia patted Lila’s arm. “You have a wonderful family.”

“And so will you. Your children will be lucky to have a mom like you. I bet they’ll have birthday parties that will be the envy of all their friends.”

Mia smiled. “I like that idea.”

“I was just nervous—that’s why I gave you so much trouble, dear,” Lila confided. “But you kept me on the straight and narrow. You’re good at your job.”

“Does that mean you’ll write me a glowing recommendation?” Mia grinned.

“You bet I will. Oh—Roger’s just about to spill that juice all over Matthew.”

Mia rushed over to the two boys just in time to prevent the accident Lila had spotted, smiling ear-to-ear. If she’d impressed Lila White, she had to be good at her job.

She’d done it. Three events in three days. Surely that had to be a record.

“Another triumph.” Luke slipped up to Mia and kissed her neck.

“Hey, you’re still on the clock, you know.” Mia had gladly accepted Luke’s offer of an extra pair of hands today. Jake had taken over the chores at the Double-Bar-K, for which she was eternally grateful. Once again, Luke had proved willing to take orders and work hard during the set up process. Once the party was underway he’d been a godsend with some of the more troublesome kids. He’d invented games and races to keep them out of trouble while the parents socialized. Mia was so impressed she wished she could bring him to all her events.

“What do you think? Employee of the month?” He grinned at her.

“Damn straight, if you keep it up.” She kissed him on the cheek.

“Is that all I get? I want a plaque.”