The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 68)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(68)
Author: Cora Seton

“In her eyes, yes.”

“Luke.” Ned stopped and Luke stopped, too, although he didn’t want to. “She isn’t marrying Ellis Scranton. She’s marrying you—because you’re the kind of man who sticks with a woman, who offers her his home. His heart. Ellis is the kind of man who fools around with a woman, throws money at her and heads for the hills.”

Luke shook his head. Those were just words. Money was money.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Ned went on. “You’re part of this ranch and it’s worth a lot. It might not be cash in the bank, but it’s still something. Mia knows that.”

“That’s not all of it.” Luke adjusted his hat, looking at the mountains in the distance, the cattle in the pastures—anywhere but at his brother. “I’m still in debt, even though I sold my truck.”

Ned nodded slowly. “I think we all were until we started to get paid some. How bad is it?”

Luke named a sum.

Ned made a face. “That’s not too bad. You can pay that off in a couple of months if you put your mind to it.”

“I’m marrying Mia next month. I want to take her on a honeymoon. I want to help build her an office for a business.”

“You don’t need to build her an office anymore, do you?” Ned was practical. “Put off the honeymoon until you can afford it. And tell her exactly what you just told me.”

“About the debt? Hell, no!”

Ned leaned closer. “About everything, if you’re smart. Starting with the debt.”

By the time Luke got back to his cabin, Mia had already eaten her lunch and was packing up the remains.

“There you are. Is everything okay?” she asked when he walked in.

“Yeah, it is.” He fiddled with the doorknob, noticed what he was doing and moved farther into the house. “Actually, it isn’t. But it will be.”

“Is this about money?”

Luke stopped. “How’d you know?”

“Because we were talking about it when you hightailed it out of here.” She sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t like it that Ellis gave me all that cash.”

“This isn’t about Ellis. It’s about me.”

“I love you. You know that.”

She looked so worried, Luke moved to her and pressed a kiss on her mouth. “I do know that. Just give me a few minutes to say what I have to say.”

“All right.” Mia sat at the table. “Go ahead.”

He sat down across from her. “You know Dad kept us all on a short leash for a long, long time. We all pitched in and worked the ranch, but he didn’t pay us a lot for that. Since we’d been doing chores here all our lives, we didn’t think much about it until recently.”

“Until Rob decided to marry Morgan?”

“That’s about the size of it. It’s easy to be single with a little cash when your house and food are paid for. But when you take on a wife and start a family, things change. Now we all take a salary based on the amount of work we do. The thing is, I still have some debts from those days. Credit cards. That kind of thing.”

Mia expelled a breath. Was that relief he wasn’t mad at her? Luke wasn’t sure. He went on before she could say anything, wanting to get it all out at once.

“I want to give you things. I want to take you on a honeymoon, and help you buy Thayer’s, if that’s what you want. I want to support you, Mia. I’ve always wanted that. I need time, though.” He braced himself. He knew what would happen next. Mia would offer to pay his debts with Ellis’s money. He didn’t think he could stomach hearing that offer.

Mia surprised him, though. “I can give you time. We’ll go when you’re ready. Between us, Rose and I have enough to buy Thayer’s and get a start. Since the jewelry business is already established, we’ll have enough income to pay our mortgage. We’re working out the details.”

“I wish I could just buy it for you.”

“I know that, but here’s the thing.” She gathered her thoughts. “I like business. I like thinking about it, planning for it, figuring out how to make it grow. I like talking about it, too—that’s why I kept meeting with Carl. I’m not afraid of money anymore. And you and I—we’re a partnership. You don’t have to buy me things. You don’t have to do everything all on your own. Look what you’ve already given me.” She gestured to the cabin. “More importantly, you’ve given me your heart. That’s what I want from you. The rest we’ll do together.”

Luke didn’t bother with words. He pulled her close and showed his appreciation in other ways. Ways that soon had them naked and tangled together on the living room couch.

“You sure Pam’s sleeping?” Luke said when things got to a critical juncture.

“Positive. Just keep the noise level down.”

“You’re the one who makes all the noise. You keep it down.” He gathered her close.

“I can’t help it if you make me scream.” Mia arched back as Luke entered her. “Oh, that feels good,” she gasped.

“I can’t help what your body makes my body do.”

The time for words was over, though. Luke kissed Mia whenever her cries rose in volume and Mia kissed him back when his release came hard and fast and had him calling out, too.

Afterward, they snuggled together as best they could on the couch.

“I can’t wait to marry you,” Mia said.

“No, I can’t wait to marry you.”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Mia had dreamed about her wedding day ever since she was a little girl, and now she was about to walk down the aisle on her father’s arm to meet the man she loved at the altar and join her life to his forever.

Her mother held Pamela, dressed in a soft yellow daisy dress for the occasion, in the front row of the Chance Creek Reformed Church. Reverend Halpern stood waiting to perform the ceremony. Once Mia’s mother had held her granddaughter for the first time, all her need to control the wedding seemed to disappear like so much dust before the wind. Mia felt closer to her than she had in years, which healed a part of her heart she hadn’t realized was so broken.

When the music swelled, Mia took her father’s arm and began a slow, stately walk down the aisle.

“I’m proud of you, honey. You’ve really made something of your life,” he said.

“Thanks, Daddy.” She was proud of herself, too. For having the strength to see her pregnancy through. For having the guts to start her own business. And for her wisdom in choosing a man like Luke to spend her life with.