The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 4)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(4)
Author: Cora Seton

He just hadn’t tried it yet.

* * * * *

Morgan clicked through her text messages to find the one she’d received from the caterer that morning. Jillian Hodgeson was probably sick of her by now, but she was determined that the event scheduled for her vintage’s debut would go off without a hitch. Check and recheck every detail – that was her motto when she ran these affairs. So far it had paid off. Taking on this extra role at the winery was one of the things which brought her to the owner’s attention. Elliot Cassidy was a crusty old man whom she didn’t particularly like, but respected because of his position. His son, Duncan, was another matter. He was an ass.

She paused when she spotted the text Claire had sent her earlier in the day. Asking her again what she knew about the way their mother had spent her money. Morgan pressed her lips together. She knew what Claire was after. Aria had blown through large amounts of the Cruz ranch’s profits, and when she and Alex died in a car accident the preceding August, Ethan and Claire had been left with a business seriously in debt. Only by taking on Jamie as a partner and turning the spread into a guest ranch had Ethan been able to refinance it and buy out Claire’s share. Claire was rich now, but she couldn’t let the mystery go: how had Aria spent all that money? Claire seemed sure her mother had blown it on Morgan.

Morgan had already told her a hundred times that while Aria had taken her to restaurants and bought her clothes now and then when she came to visit, she had not underwritten her day-to-day upkeep – as a child or an adult.

It must be galling to her siblings that Aria had siphoned so much money from the ranch, but it hurt her that Claire still blamed her for the loss of the cash – even if her texts were worded carefully, with plenty of assurances that she was just curious.

The part where Claire asked for the dates of Aria’s visits really bothered her. She was afraid the dates she gave her wouldn’t add up. She had realized something in the weeks since she met her half-brother and sister. When Ethan and Claire talked about their mother’s yearly absences, they always talked about months.

Aria never stayed in Victoria more than a month, however.

Morgan could imagine how Ethan and Claire had felt when they learned their mother’s shopping sprees in Europe were really visits to a daughter in Canada they didn’t know she had. They must have felt betrayed – stabbed in the heart. It was a miracle they accepted her at all, let alone made friends with her, but their friendship meant more to her than she could ever express.

What if there were more secrets to find out about Aria Cruz? What if those secrets tore her new, precious family apart? Claire seemed bent on doing that herself.

What had Aria done with the rest of her time away from home? Had she actually gone to Europe and done some shopping?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

It was the maybe not that left her cold. Morgan hugged her arms across her chest. Could she possibly have another half-brother or sister out there? Could one Montana girl leave a trail of children across a continent or two?

In her darkest moments, that’s exactly what Morgan pictured. But no – that would require lengths of time away from home that Aria simply hadn’t spent. Claire said her year away during college was the only time Aria had been gone from Montana for so many months.

So no other children. Probably.

Morgan dropped a hand to her own flat stomach. No children for her, either. Claire had mentioned she and Jamie were thinking of trying for a child as soon as they got married. With Autumn already pregnant, Claire said she wanted to be sure their kids were of similar ages.

"That makes it so much more fun, don’t you think?" she’d commented the last time they talked on the phone.

Yes. She did think that would make it more fun. Too bad she was stuck a thousand miles away, with no husband in sight, let alone a child.

Maybe she should say yes the next time Duncan hinted around about marriage.

Shivering with disgust at the thought of marrying her boss’s son, she pulled her thoughts back to Chance Creek, the Cruz ranch, and Rob Matheson. Now there was someone she’d like to have a baby with. Tall, broad-shouldered, muscled in all the right places, with hands that set her skin on fire…

She stifled a laugh. As if that would ever happen. Everyone she met in Chance Creek took her aside at one time or another to tell her Rob was bad news. A lady’s man with no desire to ever settle down. She’d told them all she could handle him, and she had. They’d made out a lot, but done nothing else. Every time he tried to take things further, she stopped him cold.

No way she’d lose her heart to someone so entirely off limits.

Except she kind of already had.

She glanced back down at Claire’s text again, and resolutely clicked past it. Caterer. Party. Vintage.

She had far too much work to do to think about anyone back in Chance Creek.

* * * * *

"Buy me a drink, cowboy?"

Rob slid his gaze over to the curvy brunette who’d taken the stool next to his at the long, wooden bar in the Dancing Boot. He squinted a little. Georgette Harris, from the next town over. Where’d she work? The feed store, that was it.

"I’m outta cash," he lied. Truth was, he had a little money left in his pocket, but only enough to keep himself drunk tonight.

"I’ll buy my own drink, then. Hope you don’t mind the company." She smiled at him and leaned closer, all the better to flash him some cleavage.

Pretty impressive cleavage.

"Free country," he mumbled. He’d already consumed a hefty amount of alcohol, but the sting of the afternoon’s confrontation at the airport was still sharp. Some friends. Not one of them had defended him. No respect at all.

She laid a hand on his arm. "I’ve got the night off."

He frowned, trying to work that one out. The feed store wasn’t open past six. "Night off from what?"

"From my boyfriend, silly. From Jessie – you know Jessie Henry."

Sure. Maybe. But he couldn’t bring the man’s face to mind.

She leaned even closer, her breast brushing his arm as she whispered into his ear, "Thought I’d have a little fun while he’s out of town. You know what I mean?" She dropped a hand to his thigh.

Yeah. He knew exactly what she meant. Rob straightened a little and eyed her speculatively. "Why pick me?" he asked, surprising himself. Why even bother asking? Why not take the gift he’d been handed and show the lady a heck of a good time like he usually would?

"You won’t be no problem tomorrow," Georgette said cheerfully. "Nor tonight. Some guys get squeamish about fooling around with another man’s girl. Not you. And I know I won’t get any phone calls next week wondering where I am. You’ll be too busy chasing after some other guy’s woman."