The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 32)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(32)
Author: Cora Seton

"Rob knows that your father is hell-bent on controlling every last thing he does. Your father’s a bully."

Ned scowled. "At least my mother’s not a whore. Dad told Rob to stay away from the likes of you – now he’s probably getting the idea why. You’ll drain all his money and energy, and then move on to the next man, right? Just like your mother." He spit on the porch.

Morgan lost her cool. She barged through the screen door, which slammed into Ned, knocking him off balance.

"Hell!"

Whipping the door closed behind her, she lowered her shoulder and charged him before he could recover. Catching him in the sternum, she rammed him over the edge of the porch. He grabbed for the post as he went down, caught it for an instant, lost his grip, and crashed in a heap in the garden bed below. It wasn’t much of a fall and she knew he’d be on his feet in an instant; she needed to make the most of this momentary advantage.

She grabbed a nearby watering can and chucked it at him.

He batted it out of the air. "Dammit. What’re you doing?"

"Giving you the beating your Momma should have a long time ago. You arrogant son-of-a-bitch, get out of here!" She picked up the next thing to hand – a garden clog – and threw it with all her might.

"Stop that!" Ned tried to jerk out of its path, but failed and it clipped him on the arm. "God dammit!" This time he made it to his feet. For an instant, he hesitated and she knew he was weighing his options – come after her again, or beat a retreat.

"What the hell is going on out here?" Ethan appeared in the kitchen door in a pair of pajama pants and nothing else. Morgan froze, a flower pot in hand. She’d forgotten about him.

"She’s crazy! That’s what’s going on here," Ned said.

"Morgan?"

She tightened her grip on the pot. "I took exception to something he said. I thought he needed to learn some manners."

"You’re the one who needs to learn some manners," Ned began but Ethan strode down the steps, collared him and marched him around the side of the house. In the sudden quiet, Morgan realized she was shaking, and she sat down on the steps before her legs gave way. A few moments later, Ethan returned.

"You okay?" he said, sitting down beside her.

"Not really. Rob’s family hates me."

"Nah."

"Yeah." She turned to him. "They’re furious Rob’s not going to ranch with them. Ned called Mom a whore. He said I was breaking up their family."

"Huh." She watched him process this bit of information. "I’ll sort him out about Mom later."

"I told him Rob’s buying the land from you and we’ll be living here. I thought it would settle him down since he didn’t want us to till up his ranchland for the vineyard. But he went berserk. What’s with him?"

"The Mathesons are a pretty tight-knit clan. Family is everything to them. Holt probably sent him over to try to persuade Rob to change his mind, but he’s wasting his time. You can’t keep someone on a ranch who doesn’t want to be there."

"But if it weren’t for me, Rob wouldn’t have left in the first place."

"Maybe, but if he’d stayed, he’d be miserable. Sooner or later something would happen to make him leave. I’m glad he found a good reason to do so."

"Everyone thinks the winery is crazy," she said, remembering Ned’s words.

"I don’t," Ethan said. He put an arm around her shoulders and she leaned against him. "I know you two will make it a success. I think no one knows what Rob’s capable of yet. Not even him."

She hoped he was right. But even after Rob got home and shared his good news about building a garden for Carl, it was a long time before she fell asleep.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

The following evening, after a day spent helping Ethan escort his guests on a long trail ride around the ranch, complete with picnic lunch, Rob prepared to head over to Carl’s spread to get started on Lacey’s garden.

"So let me get this straight," Ethan said when they met by Rob’s truck. "You’re going to build a massive garden for my ex-fiancée? Whose side are you on?"

"Don’t pretend you give a crap about Lacey anymore, now that you’re married to Autumn. That’s like worrying about losing track of a skunk when you’ve been given a thoroughbred race horse."

"I think I understand what you mean," Ethan said wryly, "though I’ve never exactly heard it put that way before."

"Anyway, I need the cash and Carl’s being real generous on this deal."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah."

"All right, then. Have at it," Ethan said.

When Rob arrived at Carl’s, he found the man had staked out the plot he had in mind in back of the enormous log house he was building. Unfortunately, he could barely see the tops of the stakes over the shoulder-high brush that grew all over this part of the property.

"You got some tools with you?" Carl said, when he came to meet him.

"Yep," Rob said. He figured he’d hack down the big stuff and then subcontract out to one of the locals who owned an industrial-strength tiller to come plow the whole acre. "You got any plans for the layout of the garden?"

"Not really." Carl scratched his head.

"How about a photo from a magazine or something – to give me a basic idea."

"Okay. Lacey’s always looking through things like that. I’ve probably got something in the house," Carl said. "I’ll go on inside and look around. You get busy."

Forty-five minutes later, Rob was ready to give up. The brush was so thick and high it was about impossible to cut through by hand. He was wasting precious time and energy doing it like this. He needed to hire someone with a tractor and rotary mower to power through all of it. Then a tiller could come through.

It was too late to call around, so he headed back for his truck. Carl met him in the driveway.

"I got it," he said. He waved a piece of paper at him. When he got closer, Rob saw that it was a page torn from a magazine. In the failing light he couldn’t make out much of it, so he turned on the cab light in his Chevy and examined it there.

"This is what you’re after?" he asked after a moment.

"Yep – that’s it exactly."

"You do realize it’s September." The page showed an old-fashioned English garden with formal raised beds bursting with perennials in full bloom. There were perfectly clipped hedges, flagstone walkways, a fountain, statuary and a fence around the entire perimeter.

"I don’t care what month it is. I’m paying you plenty – make it happen," Carl said.