The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 41)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(41)
Author: Cora Seton

When Rob released her, Morgan made a beeline for Autumn. Taking her sister-in-law into a warm hug, she said, "Don’t be sad, I’ll be back in a week. I’ve called Rose and Tracey – they’ve agreed to fill in for me." She squeezed her, hoping Autumn would somehow know their separation wouldn’t be for good. This was why she didn’t like practical jokes. Someone always got hurt.

But she hoped the end result would be worth it.

"I’m ready," she told Rob. "Let’s go."

* * * * *

Rob was glad to see Morgan relax as they drove to the airport. When Autumn had started to cry, he thought she’d confess their deception right then and there. He knew her sister-in-law’s reaction still upset her, but she was able to see the funny side of it all, too.

"Did you see the look on your mother’s face when you said we’d get married in Vegas?" Morgan said.

"I thought my dad was going to keel over when I said we planned to have kids the minute we hit California. He’s been angling for grandkids for years. Wants to bring them up on the ranch, like he did us."

"Autumn was pretty upset, though," Morgan said, sobering up again.

"I know. I wish she hadn’t taken it so hard," Rob said. "I swore I’d never play another practical joke, and here we are pulling off the whopper of our lives."

"They deserve it," Morgan said. "Well, Ethan and Autumn don’t. Neither does your Mom, but the rest of them do."

"Got that right."

"You going to be okay back there all by yourself? Think you can keep up appearances?"

"I’ll be working like a dog. I won’t have time to talk to anyone. How about you? You going to be okay out in California all by yourself?"

"Yep. I’ve never had this kind of vacation," Morgan said. "Thank God Tara Kramer still lives in the Bay Area, or this trip would cost a fortune. She said she’s got her guest room ready for me, and she’s dying to spend a day driving around Napa and tasting all the different wines. I only wish you could be there, too."

He felt a pang of loneliness even though they hadn’t reached the airport yet. "Someone’s got to build Carl’s garden." He touched her thigh. "But I’ll miss you, too."

Saying good-bye at the airport was one of the hardest things he’d ever done. Only two months ago, they’d played out this same scenario, her catching a flight to Victoria, leaving him behind. This time, though, they were engaged and he knew she’d be coming right back in seven days. It should have made it easier.

It didn’t.

"You have to stay in character," she reminded him for the hundredth time. "Even when you think you’re alone. If they know we’re joking, none of this will work."

"I won’t screw this up. I promise." He kissed her again. "Be good."

"Don’t forget to feed the kittens."

"I won’t."

"Love you."

"Love you, too." He could swear her eyes were shining with tears as she handed her tickets to the stewardess.

He couldn’t wait for this week to be over.

* * * * *

As Morgan hauled her suitcases to Tara’s spare room, she wondered again if she was doing the right thing. She looked forward to reconnecting with her old university friend, but she also longed for some time alone to think about her future. Tara planned to take the next few days off, but she would have to go in to work Wednesday through Friday. Rather than fill every minute with sight-seeing, Morgan decided she would use that time to take a long hard look at her life.

She hoped her flight would bring Claire and Jamie to their senses and bring about a reconciliation between everyone she’d left behind at the Cruz ranch. She also hoped it would force the Mathesons to realize how much they’d miss Rob if he really left. She understood Holt’s desire to keep his family together, but he had to give his son leeway to pursue his dreams, and he had to see that Rob was his own man now. She hoped he could.

Meanwhile, it was time for her to do some soul-searching of her own. If it didn’t work out for them to build a winery on either the Matheson or Cruz ranches, then perhaps it was time to let that particular dream go.

She knew all the costs of starting such a business. She had taken into consideration the number of years it would take for the vines to grow to maturity, and the additional time it would take to create a vintage worth selling. She wasn’t sure anymore if it was a dream that made sense.

What did she truly want in life?

A family. A community. A good job. Something extra to give back.

It was the day-to-day things in life – a hand held, a tear wiped away, a hug, a smile – that would fill her heart. Success at work was an additional bonus.

Wasn’t it?

For one minute she thought she could make do without a winery of her own.

For one minute.

Then her ambition surged up again and showed her the truth; she’d be miserable if she couldn’t pursue her dream. Please, she prayed to her family and her friends. Please find a way to come together again.


"You can’t leave," Claire said, pacing the living room at the bunkhouse. In her elegant work clothes, she looked out of place in the homely room. Probably on her way to or from decorating Carl’s new mansion, Rob thought. Jamie, in jeans, t-shirt and cowboy boots looked more at home as he sat on the couch.

"Why not? Isn’t that exactly what you wanted? The minute you found out we’d be living here, you lit into Morgan like a pit bull."

Claire reared back, her black bob swinging. "I was pissed, but I didn’t mean for this to happen."

"What the hell did you want?" Rob was exhausted, as usual, and Claire made a mighty fine target at the moment. He couldn’t believe how much he missed Morgan, and she’d only been gone one day. Claire and Jamie had cornered him when he ducked in for some lunch, and now he couldn’t shake them.

"I wanted…answers," she cried. "Dammit, how am I supposed to know how to be a good mother until I figure out what made Mom so bad?"

"Claire," Jamie reached for her. "You’ll be a terrific mom."

"How do you know? Maybe poor parenting skills are inherited."

"What the hell does your mom have to do with anything?" Rob said.

Claire turned on her heel and strode out of the room, obviously on the verge of tears. Jamie watched her go, then dropped his head into his hands. "This is my fault," he said. "I want to start a family. I kept pushing on our honeymoon. I kept saying we should…" he waved a hand, "you know."

"Throw away Willy’s hat?" Rob finished for him. He and Morgan had done that, and he couldn’t wait to try it again.