At least she wouldn’t have to face them right away. Ethan and Autumn had volunteered to pick them up at the airport.
Once they made it past security they stopped and scanned the small crowd gathered to welcome the passengers.
"I don’t see them," she said, looking from face to face again.
"Must be running late."
Before she could reply, a man she didn’t recognize hurried up to them, waving a slip of paper. "Rob Matheson?"
"Yeah," Rob said, eyeing him curiously.
"Phone message from Ethan Cruz." He stuck the piece of paper into Rob’s hand and hurried away, toward the ticket counters.
"What the hell?" Rob opened it up and showed her the writing.
Sorry, buddy – can’t make it. You’ll have to take a taxi.
"He can’t even pick me up from the damned airport?" Rob had his phone out in a second, and punched in a number furiously.
Morgan’s stomach sank. Ethan must really not approve of their engagement if he’d leave them stranded this way. Maybe he and Claire didn’t want her here, after all.
"Ethan? Get your ass out here…"
Morgan jumped as people leapt out from behind kiosks and baggage carousels. Autumn, Ethan, Claire, Jamie, Rob’s brothers, Rose Bellingham and Tracey Richards, an older couple she had to assume were Mr. and Mrs. Matheson.
"Did you really think I’d make you take a taxi?" Ethan said, pulling Rob into a man-hug.
"You have before," Rob said, looking half-pissed, half-relieved.
"For a practical joker, you’re pretty damn gullible."
"Rob! Morgan!" Mrs. Matheson – Lisa – approached with open arms. Morgan found herself squished between her and Rob, being rocked back and forth in a stifling hug. "Let me look at you two. My bride and groom! Rob, you caught yourself a pretty one! Let me see the ring." She tugged Morgan’s hand upward and exclaimed over the diamond and its beautiful setting. "We’re going to have so much fun planning your wedding! We’ll go to Ellie’s Bridals tomorrow."
"Mom, give her a break; we just got here," Rob said.
"Son," Holt said. Morgan noticed he wasn’t smiling. He shook Rob’s hand as formally as if they’d never met before. "Congratulations. I look forward to your wedding day."
Was Morgan imagining things, or was there a veiled hint of a threat in that growled statement? Remembering the way Rob’s conversation with him had gone when he had announced their engagement, she had a feeling Holt didn’t expect them to last that long. Well, they’d last all right.
They would last a lifetime.
* * * * *
"Rob, put your luggage in your father’s truck," Autumn said. "Then you’ll ride with us to our ranch for the wedding rehearsal. Dinner’s at DelMonaco’s tonight, then I’m stealing Morgan for a pre-wedding sleepover to keep Claire company before the big day!"
Rob acquiesced, although he didn’t like the idea of sleeping apart from Morgan. Still, this was Jamie and Claire’s wedding weekend and they got to call the shots. He’d spend tonight with his buddies, and give Jamie a proper send-off. After his father’s greeting, he didn’t feel like spending much time with family right now.
Still, it was good to be home, among the people he knew best. The wedding rehearsal and dinner afterwards was full of good-natured teasing and banter. After dinner, the men and women split up. Claire, Autumn, Morgan, Tracey and Rose all returned to the Cruz ranch. The men retired to the Dancing Boot for a final night of drunken carousing.
Or so Rob expected, before Jamie announced he had no intention of spending his wedding day with a violent hangover.
"Plenty of time to toss my cookies in front of my bride later," was how he put it. Instead, they decided to create the ultimate pool tournament, and Luthor Redgrave, the owner of the Boot, even chipped in an old bowling trophy to use as a prize.
They hogged the sole table for the entire evening, and while they didn’t drink overly much alcohol, they still made the most noise of anyone in the bar. Rob rode home with Cab later in a satisfied frame of mine.
"You really going to marry Morgan?" Cab asked as they drove out of town toward the Matheson place.
"That’s too bad." Cab peered through the darkness of the country road.
"Too bad? What do you mean?" Rob was taken aback by his friend’s quiet pronouncement.
Cab tapped his thick fingers on the steering wheel, then seemed to come to a conclusion. He slowed down and pulled off of the road onto the dirt shoulder. This far out of town there were no streetlights, and the quiet of a Montana night settled over them as the engine died. Cab hesitated again. He always was deliberate about his actions. Rob grew impatient, but before he could open his mouth to hurry Cab along, the man began to speak.
"I did a little checking into Morgan. It seemed strange when she appeared out of the blue last month, and then when I heard you two were getting married…something didn’t add up." His shrug was barely visible in the darkness. "Sometimes I get a hunch, you know?"
Rob did know. "What’d you find out?" he asked reluctantly, his good mood evaporating. Once again he realized how much he was counting on this marriage – both for the prize of the land, and to be with Morgan.
"I don’t know exactly how to say this, so I’m going to just say it, okay?"
Rob steeled himself. That didn’t sound good. Although what Cab could possibly have found out about Morgan he couldn’t guess. From everything he’d seen she was hardworking, quiet and kept to herself. What kind of trouble could she possibly have gotten into?
"She’s implicated in an international diamond smuggling operation. I figure she’s using this marriage to make it even easier for her to travel between the United States and Canada. A married woman can pretty much fly under any radar, know what I mean? She’ll have a husband in the US, and family back in Victoria. Who would think to question her movements?"
His statement blindsided Rob. Diamond smuggling? That was so far from anything he’d guessed, he couldn’t even form words into a sentence. "I…how…she what?" he finally managed to choke out.
Cab’s laughter roared through the small interior of the truck. "Got you!" he gasped, wiping tears from his eyes. "I had you going good. You should have seen your face! Diamond smuggling? Morgan? Come on, man – how could you believe that for a minute?"
"She did appear from nowhere last month," Rob sputtered, trying to defend himself. "You have to admit it was pretty weird to find out Ethan and Claire had a sister we’d never heard about." Shit, he’d been had, twice in one day. His reputation was going to take a beating over this.