The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 67)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(67)
Author: Cora Seton

He’d seen births. He’d seen dozens of births. Just like when Autumn was in labor, he recalled his experiences with the farm animals he’d tended all his life.

This was different though. This was the woman he loved. This was her baby—their baby—being born. This was a true miracle.

And he’d gotten to be there for it. According to Autumn, he was the one Mia called for. He was the one she wanted.

And he wanted her—more now than ever before. He remembered how calm he’d been standing outside Autumn’s door four months ago, guarding her birth. He hadn’t been calm at all with Mia. He’d been overcome with emotion. Overcome with love. Overcome with fear—just for a moment—that something might go wrong. But it all was so evidently right he couldn’t stay scared, and he’d been back to love and awe in just an instant.

“You okay, Dad?” Autumn asked, appearing by his side with a glass of juice. He took it, uncomprehending, until she gestured to it. “Drink up. I think you’re in shock.”

He did so. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

“It’s a hell of a thing, isn’t it?” She waved a hand at Mia.

“Yeah. A hell of a thing.” He focused on Autumn. “You must have wanted Ethan there with you when you had Arianna—not me.”

“You were a good substitute, but yes—I hope next time Ethan’s there.” In answer to his unspoken question, she said, “No, there isn’t a next time on the horizon yet, but I hope there will be in a few months. I’ve always wanted a house full of kids.”

“I guess that’s what I want, too.”

And for the first time, he had a feeling he would get to have them.

“So what’s it like to plan your own wedding?” Rose asked a month later. Mia was sitting with her at the dining room table of Luke’s cabin—their cabin, now—studying bridal magazines.

“It’s fun. Especially now I’ve had some practice.” She grinned at Rose, snuggling baby Pamela, who she cradled in her arms.

“If it’s even half the wedding you threw for Rose, it will be fabulous,” Hannah put in.

“Exactly,” Rose said.

“I’ll say one thing. Luke is going to have to build me an addition to hold all my wedding planning stuff. I don’t have anywhere to put it.”

Rose looked around the small kitchen at the stacks of magazines, clipboards, fabric swatches and more. “I see what you mean. You need an office. Somewhere clients can come to meet with you.”

“You’re right. Linda’s Diner doesn’t exactly cut it. Even if the coffee is good.”

“And I need a gallery space,” Rose said. “I feel like I could sell some of my paintings—especially to tourists—if people could see them. Waiting for one of the local venues to show my work is really frustrating.”

“Do you think you’d earn enough from sales to make a dedicated gallery worthwhile?” Mia asked, then smiled privately. Carl’s business sense was definitely rubbing off.

“I’ve been thinking I need a sideline, too. Something that always sells, that draws people in to see my art.”

“Like jewelry?” Hannah said. “I still think you should buy Thayer’s. You’d be a natural.”

Rose made a face. “That’s a going concern. I wouldn’t have time to paint.”

“Sure you would,” Mia said. “You’d hire help, just like Emory always did.”

Hannah looked from one to the other. “You two don’t even see the possibilities, do you? Mia, you could pair up with Rose and open your event planning business there, too. Thayer’s has a lot of odds and ends that I don’t think sell very well. Distill the jewelry part of the business down to the important things, use the walls for Rose’s art, and enclose a corner for your office, Mia. People will come in to buy a ring and end up booking a wedding!”

Mia stared at Rose. “That’s not a bad idea at all. What do you think, Rose?”

“I think I don’t have the money to buy Thayer’s.”

“I do.”

“You’re going to buy Thayer’s? How?” Luke stared across the kitchen table at Mia, who was nursing Pamela. He didn’t want to raise his voice and scare the baby, but Mia wasn’t making any sense.

“Remember how I said Ellis gave me some money before he walked out?”

Luke still hated the man’s name on Mia’s lips. “What about it?”

“You jumped to the conclusion it was a few hundred dollars and I didn’t correct you. At the time I didn’t feel like it was your business.”

“Now you do?”

“Now I do. It was a few hundred thousand dollars. Two hundred thousand, to be exact. I’ve barely spent any of it yet. I’d like to use it as a down payment on Thayer’s.”

Two hundred thousand dollars? Luke sat back, stunned. His bank account never contained more than a couple of thousand at most. Ellis had given Mia a present that he could never hope to match.

“I gotta go.” He stumbled to his feet. “I forgot…something.”

As he strode to the door, Mia called after him, “Luke? What is it? I thought we were going to have lunch.”

“Be back… soon.”

Outside he kept walking, his long strides eating up the ground until he’d passed the main house and all the outbuildings and was heading toward the far pastures.

“Luke? You forgot your horse!” Ten minutes later, Ned caught up to him easily on Silver and reined her in to walk beside Luke. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did something happen? Is Mia all right?”

“She’s fine. She’s more than fine. She’s rich.”

Ned swung out of the saddle to the ground and began to lead Silver at a walk beside Luke. “Mia’s rich? Did someone die?”

“I wish.” Luke got himself under control. “Ellis bought her off with two hundred grand. Now she wants to buy Thayer’s with Rose and run her wedding planning business out of it.”

“That’s an interesting idea. Rose would go back to selling rings?”

“And her paintings, I guess.”

“Seems like that could work.”

“That’s not the point. The point is Ellis gave Mia two hundred grand.”

Ned shot him a look. “Let me guess. You think that makes him the better man?”