The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 2)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(2)
Author: Cora Seton

"Yes, well." Edward cleared his throat, obviously impatient to end the call. He’d managed to weasel out of another occasion, so now he’d head back to his ivory tower to work on his precious research. Studying other cultures was far more interesting than learning about your own daughter. He spent more time with his graduate students than he ever spent with her.

"Okay. See you soon," she said.

The phone clicked before she even finished the sentence.

Damn, damn, damn. Why did she always do this? Seek approval from the one man determined never to give it to her? It’d been worse in the weeks since she’d learned her mother died. Aria Cruz had always been out of reach, too, living with her husband and children in Chance Creek, Montana, but at least Morgan knew that when she did come to Victoria to visit – one month out of every year – she’d focus her complete attention on her. Aria had loved her. Not enough to risk ruining her marriage to Alex Cruz, of course. She’d only been twenty the year she’d spent in Victoria, studying anthropology at UVic. Swept away by a much older, distinguished professor, she’d gotten pregnant that fall, had the baby in the spring, and left her infant with Edward’s parents to raise when she returned in September to Montana and married Alex.

Morgan had always known the truth of her parentage. She’d always known she came last – after the legitimate children of her mother and father’s marriages. She’d learned to be a realist – to depend only on herself. But she couldn’t help hoping that one day – just once – she’d come first with her father.

With any man.

If she was smart, she thought as she tucked her cell phone back in her pocket, she’d turn her back on men all together. Stay single.

Join a nunnery, even.

But her biological clock was ticking with a vengeance these days. Now that she’d reached this milestone in her career, it suddenly became obvious how much the rest of her life was lagging behind. Maybe it was meeting her half-brother and sister in Montana for the first time last month when she went to find out why her mother missed her yearly visit.

Maybe it was her mother’s death.

She stared out the window that overlooked the Cassidy vineyards. She’d half-known that something bad had happened before she arrived in Montana. Her mother had never let her down like that before. Then her worst fears were confirmed when Aria’s daughter, Claire, told her their mother was dead. She hadn’t been prepared for the grief that had come and gone in waves ever since. Aria was far from a perfect mother – but she was Morgan’s mother, nonetheless. Now she was gone, and more than ever Morgan found herself alone in the world.

At least she’d come to know Claire and Ethan during that trip – the children Aria had never allowed her to meet during her lifetime. They’d known nothing about her, of course, or of her father, Edward. They’d been angry at first, but soon absolved her of their mother’s sins and welcomed her to the family.

Her last few days in Montana had been some of the happiest she’d known – shot through with grief over Aria’s death. Ethan and his wife, Autumn, and Claire and her intended, Jamie Lassiter, lived on the Cruz ranch and were working together to build a guest ranch business. She’d also met Cab Johnson, county sheriff, and Rose Bellingham and Tracey Richards, who helped Autumn out with the inside chores.

Most importantly, she’d met Rob Matheson, the handsomest cowboy in all Montana. The man who took her breath away. He’d grown up on the ranch next door to the Cruzes, and was fast friends with Ethan, Cab and Jamie.

She wanted to go back to Chance Creek. She wanted a life like Ethan and Autumn’s – or Claire and Jamie’s. She wanted a husband, children on the way. She wanted her own business, too – a winery she controlled from top to bottom.

Everyone else was getting exactly what they wanted.

Why couldn’t she?

* * * * *

"Rob, she’s here – she’ll be landing at the airport in a couple of minutes!" Claire Cruz called out of the window of her Honda Civic.

She’d driven the long lane up to the Matheson house so fast she’d raised a trail of dust that must be visible for miles, Rob thought, startled out of his nap in the shade of the verandah. Unlike his brothers who’d leapt up from their father’s bizarre challenge raring to get to the next block of ranch chores, he’d decided to put his feet up for a while and think things through. The nap just kind of snuck up on him.

Now he sat up straight, as alert as an eagle looking for prey. "Who’s here? What are you talking about?" Claire lived on the ranch next door and they’d grown up side-by-side like brother and sister. He’d never seen her this excited about anything. Her sleek, dark bob swung against her jaw as she leaned out the window and beckoned to him.

"Morgan! She just arrived. She came early to surprise everyone. Hop in, you can ride with me!"

Rob was off the porch in a flash. He hadn’t seen Morgan Tate in weeks, not since she’d flown back to Canada.

"Why the hell didn’t she call me?" he demanded as he climbed into Claire’s teeny-tiny car, already wishing for the leg room of his Chevy truck. You’d think now that Claire was settling down with Jamie on the Cruz ranch she’d get herself a decent set of wheels.

"Like I said, it’s supposed to be a surprise. I didn’t know how to lure you out to the airport without telling you, though. Hurry up. She’s waiting!"

Excitement and desire tightened Rob’s gut. Morgan. Here in Chance Creek. More than two whole weeks early for Claire and Jamie’s wedding.

"Last time I talked to her, she told me there was no way she could take any time off work. She said she could only come here for the weekend of the wedding," he said, gazing out the window as Claire made a tight u-turn and headed back out the lane. Luckily it was only fifteen minutes to the airport. Ten, the way Claire was driving.

"I think she was leading you on so she could surprise you better," Claire said. She seemed thrilled at the prospect of seeing her half-sister. Which made sense. After Claire got over her initial shock and anger at finding her mother had a daughter she’d never told anyone about, Claire had embraced her sister, only to have her leave again. He wondered if the happiness on her face was mirrored on his own.

"She’s going to help me with all the last minute details about the wedding," she added.

"You don’t get to hog her the whole time, though," Rob said, comfortably. Two years older than him, Claire used to boss him around as much as she did Ethan when they were kids. Once he got bigger than her, however, he’d had his revenge through multiple practical jokes over the years. He never got tired of giving her a hard time.

Still, he was happy for her and Jamie, and looked forward to their wedding, not the least because it meant that Morgan would be in town again.