The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 31)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(31)
Author: Cora Seton

But here he was.

And of all the folks in the room, Carl was the one with money to spend. Rob tipped his hat to the men he knew as he walked by and made his way over to him.

"Can I join you?"

The man brightened. "Sure thing. What’re you drinking?" He lifted a hand and signaled the waitress.

"Hi Rob," Trisha Bentley said, making her way over from the bar. "What’ll you have?"

"Budweiser is fine," Rob said.

"Join me in a whiskey?" Carl offered.

"Not tonight – another time."

"Suit yourself. I’ll have another one, honey."

"Coming right up," Trisha said and walked away.

"I haven’t seen you here before," Carl said after a moment of awkward silence.

"Nah, I’m usually over at the Boot."

"I’ve decided to keep my distance from that establishment," Carl said. "I don’t want Lacey to think I was out looking for women while she was away."

"Sounds wise," Rob said and draped an arm over the back of his chair. "I’m looking for work," he said, coming straight to the point. "Need some cash, so I’m trying to scare up some extra jobs I can do around my work for Ethan."

"You’re working for Ethan? Figured you’d be helping your Dad on the Double-Bar-K," Carl said, playing with his glass.

"Not anymore. We’ve had a parting of ways. You know of anyone looking for extra helping hands?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I’ve got a job I could use a hand with myself. I figure Lacey’s going to need something to do when she gets back. Something to keep her busy. I don’t imagine she’ll want to get a job…"

Not likely, Rob agreed.

"So I figure I’ll set up a garden for her. A nice big one. Flowers. Vegetables. You know what I mean."

Rob couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows. A garden? Carl thought Lacey was going to garden?

"Where you plan to put it?"

"Close to the house is best, I think. I figure an acre ought to do it."

Rob nearly spit out the mouthful of beer he’d just sipped. "An acre?" Did Carl have any idea how much work an acre garden would be to maintain? He’d be lucky if Lacey even deigned to walk in it. He opened his mouth to tell this to Carl, then shut it again. The man probably wanted the land cleared and tilled, flower and vegetable garden beds built, and then seeing how it was already fall, he’d probably want bulbs planted for next year and some annuals to pretty it up for now.

That was a lot of work.

"I’ll do it," Rob said.

"Well, now, let’s negotiate a price first," Carl said. "There’s a deadline, too. October first."

Rob calculated fast. Carl was a wealthy man, but he probably didn’t get that way by being a fool. How much could he get away with charging? Hell, only one way to find out.

"That’s a rush job. I’ll need twenty thousand dollars – that’s only the labor, not the cost of supplies," he said and held his breath. Any other rancher would laugh his ass right out of the bar. Then probably hunt him down later and use him for target practice, for good measure.

"Well, that seems fair," Carl said.


It was dark out when Morgan gave up on waiting for Rob to return and went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of water before heading to bed. The kittens were curled up in a furry lump in one corner of the couch. Autumn and Ethan had turned in for the night long ago. The back door was open, letting a breeze waft into the kitchen. As she went to close it for the night, she heard footsteps crunch on the gravel outside, and a man-sized shadow appeared on the other side of the screen door. Morgan stifled a scream.

"Didn’t mean to startle you," the man said. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him at first. "You’re Morgan, right?" The porch light behind him shadowed his face, and she fought the urge to turn and run.

"Yes, and you’re…"

"Ned. Rob’s brother."

She relaxed a little. "Is he okay?"

"Far as I know. I haven’t seen him today."

She wondered what Ned could want at this time of night. "He’s out right now."

"That’s okay. I didn’t come to see him. I came to see you. Why don’t you come on out and have a seat." He indicated the swing.

She had a bad feeling about this, although she couldn’t say why, exactly. Ned hadn’t been along for the ride when Rob, Jake, Jamie and Ethan came to her rescue the night she and Claire went after Claire’s stolen things, but she had no reason to think he wasn’t as nice as the other Matheson boys. This situation, though, didn’t feel nice and she’d learned to trust her instincts.

"I don’t think I want to," she said, not moving.

"Fine. Have it your way – we’ll do this standing up," Ned said, folding his arms across his chest. Claire glanced at the old-fashioned metal hook and eyelet that were the only way to lock the screen door, and wished they weren’t hanging uselessly undone, but she had a feeling such a flimsy mechanism wouldn’t stop this man if he was really determined to get inside, anyway. Ned leaned forward. "You’re destroying my family, you know that?"

"In what way?"

"Rob’s supposed to work our ranch with the rest of us. When Dad passes on, the four of us are supposed to work together to keep it all going. It’s been the plan all along, until you came around and ruined it."

"You’ll need to talk to Rob about that," she said, stepping back.

"You’ve got him too wrapped up around your little finger to listen. This whole plan of yours? Making him build a winery for your spoiled little ass? It’s crazy – don’t you realize that? Any money and time Rob invests in it will be pissing in the wind. Meanwhile, we’ve got work that isn’t done. Not to mention that there’s no way in hell we’re letting you tear up good rangeland for a bunch of stupid grapes."

"Okay, for one thing – I’m not spoiled," Morgan said, anger overcoming her fear. "Not by a long shot. For another, we’re not going to tear up any of your rangeland, so you can butt out of it. We don’t need your stupid 200 acres. We’ve got our own."

That shut him up. He looked at her through the screen door for a long moment. "You’d better explain that."

"Rob’s buying 150 acres from Ethan, so don’t worry; you’re precious ranch will stay in one piece and you don’t have to worry about my spoiled little ass anymore, because I’m never setting foot on the Double-Bar-K again."

Ned didn’t look pleased. "If you keep my brother away from his family, you’ll be sorry. My father’s been beside himself since Rob left last night. He’s not young anymore. Rob knows that."