The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 65)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(65)
Author: Cora Seton

“Actually, I think I do—whenever he’s done with that building project. But I also think he’s right—I think we’ve waited too long to get engaged.”

“I think so, too,” Mia said softly. “I wish I’d said yes a long time ago.”

He turned to face her. “Really?”

She nodded.

“So if I proposed to you right now, you’d say yes?”

“Only if you had a ring with you.” She chuckled.

He dropped down onto one knee. “I do happen to have a ring with me.” He fished in his pocket and pulled out a small velvet case. “And you’d make me the happiest man in the world if you’d do me the honor of becoming my wife, Mia Start.” He opened the case to show her the delicate ring she’d first chosen from Thayer’s.

“Luke! You were carrying that around?” Love for him welled up within her. This was the man she’d fallen in love with. This was the man she wanted to spend her life with.

“Answer the question.”

“Yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.” She blinked back tears as Luke stood up, slid the ring on her finger and pulled her in for a kiss. She’d never forget where she stood the moment she became engaged to the man she loved above all others, halfway between the main house and Luke’s cabin, on a soft May evening with a canopy of stars shining overhead. “I love you,” she whispered into his neck.

He tilted her head back and kissed her soundly. “I love you, too.”

“All I’m saying is, you were right. I could use some more help around the place, Pops—even when Ned’s leg is healed. It used to take all four of us plus you to run the show. Now with Jake and Rob busy with their own businesses, we’re shorthanded.” Luke sat in the passenger seat in his father’s truck the next day, still buzzing with the knowledge that Mia had consented to be his wife. They hadn’t been able to celebrate with quite the rambunctious round of lovemaking that he’d have liked, but they’d come together in a gentle, sensuous way that was just as good. He’d lain awake long after Mia dropped off, planning for the future. He was determined to make a good life for his wife and child and that meant having the time to spend with them.

“Last year it was all the lot of you could do to shove me aside so you could run the show.” Holt turned the vehicle onto the highway. He’d told Luke he had something to show him. Luke figured it was the new house he’d built. Maybe he’d finally learn the mystery of who would live there.

“I’m not asking you to take charge.”

“So you want to give me orders?”

“How about we work together—you, me and Ned, with Jake and Rob lending a hand when they can. That oughta work.”

“I suppose. Since you can’t handle things on your own.”

Luke knew that was as close to gratitude as Holt came.

His father pulled up in front of the brand-new house that bordered the highway. It had a little yard of its own, and pansies planted along the walkway. A front porch sported a rocking chair. The whole thing was as spotless as anything. In fact, it reminded him of…

“Luke! Hello!” Amanda Stone walked out onto the porch and waved as they got out. “Isn’t this a wonderful surprise?”

“You built this house for Amanda Stone?” Luke turned to his father in surprise.

“She called me up a while back. Let me know what my son had been doing for her all these years—what I should have been doing for the widow of one of my hired hands all along.” He lowered his voice. “I’m proud of you.” He squeezed Luke’s shoulder and moved past him to greet Amanda.

Luke rocked on his feet, so stunned he couldn’t move. His father was proud of him?

“Come on, don’t keep the lady waiting,” Holt called.

Luke snapped back to life and took the steps two at a time.

“We’ll be able to keep an eye on things for you now, Amanda,” his father said, accepting the glass of lemonade she handed him.

“And now that the house is built you can start helping me out with the ranch chores,” Luke said to him, accepting a glass as well.

“Of course you’ll have to make do while your mother and I are off gallivanting around Europe.”

“We can hold it together for a week or two.”

Holt snorted. “You’ll have to do more than that. We’ll be gone nearly two months.”

Luke cocked his hat back, the better to see Holt’s face. “You joking again?”

“No joke about it. They pack a lot of countries into that one little continent. No wonder those Europeans are all so scrawny.”

Luke narrowed his eyes. “A lot of countries, huh? Just how long have you been planning this trip, Dad?”

“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Sit down and drink your lemonade.”

“You got it, old man.” Luke lowered himself into one of the wicker chairs.

“And show some respect.”

“Sure thing, Pops.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

“I can’t get comfortable,” Mia complained as she helped Autumn wash up the lunch dishes. It was the first week in July and she hadn’t worked for a week now. She thought she’d enjoy the rest, but the truth was she didn’t know what to do with herself. At least her ordeal with Warner was over. She, Inez and Luke had gone to meet the police who were working on the case, and given their statements. They had met another young woman there who had also come up against Warner. She was seventeen, and she was the one who had reported him to the police. Mia was in awe of the bravery it had taken for her to speak up and told her so.

The detective she and Inez spoke to said that it was unlikely they’d have to testify, after all, since there were several girls willing to do so whose assaults had happened so much more recently. Warner wasn’t behind bars yet, but Mia was confident he would never judge another pageant again.

“You did a good thing here,” Luke had said on their way home. “A brave thing.”

“Inez is the one who was brave,” Mia responded. “I’m glad she gave me the chance to speak up.”

Now that she didn’t have Warner to worry about, and she didn’t have any work to do either, she found herself trailing Autumn and Arianna around the guesthouse as Autumn prepped for her next set of clients.

“Is it your back?”

“Yes. Down here.” She patted the base of her spine awkwardly. “It aches all the time.”