The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 33)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(33)
Author: Cora Seton

"That fence alone will cost twenty thousand dollars."

"Fine. Make a list of the materials and costs, add on twenty thousand for your labor and show it to me tomorrow," Carl said. "We’ll go from there."

What the hell had he gotten himself into? He’d never get this done in a single month. Should he confess that to Carl and negotiate a new time-table?

No, he needed that money before the wedding. Somehow, he’d have to perform a miracle.

"Will do."

* * * * *

Morgan couldn’t believe she was actually driving voluntarily onto enemy territory. She inched along the long lane that led to the main buildings on the Double-Bar-K, following the directions Autumn had given her. She drove Ethan’s Ford F-150, and desperately missed the Honda Civic she’d placed in storage with her furniture back in Victoria before she’d left for Montana. Lisa Matheson had called her mid-morning to remind her about their date to go dress shopping, and asked if she could swing by and get her since her own vehicle was acting up.

The last place on earth she wanted to be after her fight with Ned was pulling up in front of the Matheson house. An impressive two-story home with a wrap-around porch, it had a slightly more old-money feel to it than the Cruz ranch did. She didn’t need to be told this ranch had been in Matheson hands for a long, long time.

The front door opened and Lisa peered out. "I’ll be ready in a minute – come on in!"

Sighing, Morgan gathered her purse. She’d hoped she could pull up, load Lisa into the truck, and leave before anyone else saw them. She guessed that would be expecting a miracle. She exited the Ford, climbed the steps to the porch and hesitated in the doorway.

"Come on in," Lisa sang out again from somewhere farther into the house. "I need to find my purse."

Morgan walked into a wide entryway. A formal living room lay through a door to her left. The dining room was to her right. A staircase in front of her swept up to a second floor balcony with halls extending from either end of it that must lead to a number of bedrooms. Somewhere farther back on the first floor must lie a kitchen and perhaps a family room. It was an elegant home and Lisa had every right to be proud of it.

"Found it!" Lisa called, and came bustling back up the central hall, as the door opened behind Morgan and a masculine voice said, "What are you doing here?"

Morgan spun around. It was Rob’s oldest brother, Jake, and behind him, Rob’s father was entering the house.

"Jake, behave yourself," Lisa said. "Morgan and I are going dress shopping. Lunch is all set in the kitchen. I’ll be back in time for dinner."

"Dress shopping? With her?" Holt said. He glared at Morgan and she wished she could sink into the floorboards. Why, oh why hadn’t she put Lisa off on this fool’s errand?

"You behave yourself, too, Holt Matheson," Lisa said. "You go ahead and grumble all you like when it’s family, but when there’s a guest in our house, you mind your manners."

Morgan looked at Lisa in surprise. Holt frowned. "This woman is stealing our son. I guess I’ll growl at her if I want to."

"She’s marrying our son, not stealing him," Lisa said.

"What’s the difference? She’s taking him away, ain’t she? Buying Cruz land, for God’s sake. What’s wrong with our spread, I’d like to know that."

"He’s buying Cruz land because you didn’t want him to build a vineyard for me here," Morgan said. "He loves me and wants me to be happy. Did it ever occur to any of you that he could use your support?"

"Did it ever occur to you we need his help here with this ranch?" Holt snapped back.

"No," she stated firmly. "That hasn’t occurred to me, because according to Rob, none of you have ever needed him to do anything except your own dirty work. You miss having your slave to order around, because that’s all he’s ever been to you."

"I’ve never treated him like a slave," Holt said.

She simply stared him down. Eventually, he glanced away.

"Rob knows what I want," he said gruffly. "My four boys working this ranch together. That’s always been my dream."

"Have you ever asked Rob what his dreams are? Or have you been too busy telling him what to do to ever ask?"

"Who the hell do you think you are coming to my house and speaking to me that way?" Holt drew himself up to his full height and Morgan could see where his sons got their stature and self-confidence.

"I’m the woman who loves your son. And pretty soon I’ll be his wife and the mother of your grandkids, so you better get used to me. I’m not going anywhere." She turned to Lisa. "I’m sorry, but I think we’d better shop another day." She’d already said too much, and she knew if she stood for a minute longer in the entryway of the Matheson house, she’d say something they’d all regret. She pushed past Holt and opened the door, hurrying down the steps back to Ethan’s truck.

She managed to hold back her tears until she’d reached the end of the long dirt lane, but then they began to fall. As she moved to turn back toward the Cruz ranch, she hesitated. If she drove back there, someone would ask questions and she knew she couldn’t talk about what had happened without losing her composure all together. Making up her mind, she turned left instead of right, and drove into town.

Ten minutes later she entered the Chance Creek Pet Clinic, her eyes dry but rimmed with red. She hoped Bella would be there, but instead a young blond woman whose nametag read Hannah sat at the front desk.

"Can I help you?" she asked cheerfully. Several people sat in the waiting room, dogs on leashes and cats in carriers.

"I…don’t have an appointment," Morgan said. "I was wondering…if I could hang out with the shelter animals?" She trailed off, feeling foolish. Bella probably wouldn’t want people to drop in unannounced. This was a veterinary office, not just a pound.

"Sure thing!" Hannah smiled broadly. "We love it when people come and give the pets some attention. The animals love it, too. Are you a dog person or a cat person?"

"I guess I could be either."

Hannah considered her, and Morgan had a feeling she could see the traces of tears on her face. "Let’s start with cats today," she said kindly. She led the way through to the shelter and once again Morgan found herself in the feline area of the big building. "Our animals have the best chance for adoption if they’re good with being handled and unafraid of humans. If you take the cats out of their cages, one at a time, and just pet and hold them for a little while, that’s really great."

"What if they don’t want to be held?"