The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Page 9)

The Cowboy Earns a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #8)(9)
Author: Cora Seton

You didn’t bend over your sink and bear down five minutes after your contractions began.


“When did they start? When did your contractions start?”

“I don’t know.” Autumn was panting again. “A couple of hours—aaaaah!” She ground down into another push.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Mia shrieked.

“I thought they were Braxton Hicks,” Autumn said when she could breathe again. “The manuals all said I would have them for days, or weeks, or aaaaaannnnggh!”

The noise she made became truly guttural, and Mia stared at her in horror as she realized what happened next was up to her. Either Autumn would have her baby standing up, fully clothed, or Mia was going to have to take charge.

“Luke. LUKE!” Mia screamed.

His footsteps pounded closer and he appeared in the doorway, phone still in his hand.

“You have to carry Autumn to the bedroom. Right now. She’s having the baby.”

“What? She can’t!”

“She can and she’s going to. Shut up and carry her!”

Luke dropped the phone, picked Autumn up as easily as if she was a sparrow and hauled her into the bedroom, depositing her on the queen-sized bed.

“I need towels—lots of them. Boil some water.”


“I don’t know!” Mia was close to losing control. Her hands shook as she tried to figure out what to do next. Autumn had flipped herself over and was crouched on all fours on the bed. Shouldn’t she be lying down?

Luke left to find towels, probably terrified to find himself with a birthing mother and a screaming idiot.

“Autumn, honey? Don’t you want to lie down?” Mia touched her back and Autumn reared up.

“Don’t touch me! Aaaaannnngh!” She fell back on all fours and bore down again, this time for so long that Mia thought she’d never stop. One thing was for certain—she had to get those pants off of her. But how?

She waited until Autumn stopped pushing. “Sweetie, you have to take off your pants. I’m just going to help and then I won’t touch you anymore. I promise.”

“Oh…kay,” Autumn panted, but when Mia took hold of her waistband she writhed like a wild thing. Mia hurried to strip her before the next contraction hit. When the pants were puddled around Autumn’s ankles, a knock on the door told her Luke was back.

“Hang in there, honey. It’s all right.” Mia hurried to the door. She blocked Luke’s view as best she could in an attempt to preserve Autumn’s modesty but she had a feeling her friend was beyond caring. As Autumn’s voice rose again in a wordless bellow of pain, Mia met Luke’s gaze.

“I called the ambulance,” he said, his calm voice welcome in all the chaos. “It might be a few minutes, though. There’s been an accident south of town.”

“How many minutes?”

“I don’t know.”

Overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for Autumn, Mia hesitated, wishing more than anything Luke would join her in the bedroom. She remembered all the times in the past two months he’d stuck close when he thought she might need help, the way he touched her lightly when he passed by, to let her know he was there. She wanted him beside her, wanted to lean on him, but this was the holiest of holy times for a woman, and Autumn needed privacy.

“I’ll be right here,” Luke said as if he’d read her mind, then bent down and kissed her softly on the forehead. “Right outside this door. I’m not going anywhere. Call me when you need me.”

Mia nodded, blinking back tears. Right. She could do this. Autumn was depending on her.

She took the towels he handed her and layered some on the bed around and underneath Autumn. She kept the rest in a stack close by. She didn’t know what else to do besides wait.

Luke had seen many a cow give birth to a calf and many a mare give birth to a foal. Barring unforeseen complications, he figured he’d only have to stand in this hallway for ten minutes at most before Autumn’s baby arrived. It unnerved him that a birthing mother made a sound as earthy and animal as any of the critters outside in his barns, but when he thought it through it made sense. What were people but a complicated type of animal?

He’d never thought much about the birthing process in women, though. When it came to cows and horses, he viewed it in as practical terms as any rancher. Even so, he wasn’t too practical to have noticed that even in a barn every birth was attended by a hush—a holy quiet amidst the clamor of the mother’s groans and the other sounds of the world around it. The hush was almost more tangible than audible—a sacredness of space around the entry of a newborn into this old, old world. It touched him like little else did, as did the sight of a newborn animal’s first moments, and afterward he always found himself stepping more quietly, becoming more observant—more aware of the beauty and mystery of life itself. At least for a little while.

He hadn’t expected to find that same hush here in Autumn and Ethan’s bunkhouse, but he did. And to his surprise, standing outside Autumn’s door, guarding that sacred space for the women inside made him feel more like a man than just about anything he’d ever done before. To lend his strength, his watchfulness—his protection to the miracle happening inside made him part of something far bigger than himself—something that linked him to countless generations of other men watching over other women. For an instant, his daily life fell away and he wondered what it would feel like to be a father himself—to know the baby coming was his.

He shifted his stance, a little uncomfortable with the depth of his thoughts, and moved on to more practical matters. How soon would the ambulance arrive? Before or after the birth?

What was the sex of the baby Autumn was bringing into the world? Boy or girl?

How would Ethan feel when he knew—

Luke slapped his hand to his head. In all the commotion, he hadn’t thought to call Ethan—and Ethan was just up the road.

Luke scrambled for the phone he’d dropped and found it in the bathroom. He dialed Ethan’s number, but no one answered and it went to voice mail.

“Ethan, it’s Luke. Call me! Autumn’s—”

He broke off when Mia shrieked, “Luke!”

“Autumn’s having your baby. The ambulance is on its way.” He dropped the phone and ran into the bedroom where Autumn was on her hands and knees straining and groaning, and Mia was crouched behind her. All thought of guarding the miracle forgotten, he scanned the room.