The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 44)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(44)
Author: Cora Seton

Holt quivered with rage and his face in the moonlight was a mottled purple. "Don’t you dare talk to me like that. I’ll…"

"What, Dad? Whip me within an inch of my life? Or will you turn me over to Ned, so he can do it?"

"He never beat…"

"For God’s sake," Rob snarled. "Sure he did. Or can you not read faces, either? How many black eyes did I have as a kid before I learned to beat him back?"

"So you learned to fight," Holt said. "What man doesn’t? If you can’t make your point with words, sometimes you have to do it with your fists. I didn’t raise any pansies."

Rob stared at him in disbelief. "No, you didn’t raise any pansies, Pop. But you know what? I’ve just realized I don’t want you anywhere near my kids. Morgan was right. We’ll be better off in California."

"Ah, go on with you," Holt rasped. "That’s a lie and you know it. Don’t you think I can spot one of your jokes a mile away? I’ve seen enough of them."

"Well, you’ve seen the last of them, Dad. It’s no joke. Morgan’s got a job, and I’m joining her in California the minute I finish working for Carl." He’d said these exact same words before as a joke, but this time he meant them. He was done with his father, done with Chance Creek, done with everyone who’d ever worked to hold him back.

Holt fixed him with an angry stare, but Rob met his gaze and let the truth of his words speak through his eyes. His father must have realized all the jokes were truly over, because a change came over him. He stiffened, opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.

Then he fell to his knees.

"Dad?" Rob bent forward as his father clapped a hand to his arm. His face contorted and he struggled to breathe. Rob dove to catch him before he went limp. "Dad!" All Holt’s weight resting against him, he yanked the phone from his pocket and dialed 911. "Hello? Send an ambulance. My father’s had a heart attack."

* * * * *

When Morgan couldn’t ignore the vibration of her cell phone anymore, she asked Tara to pause the chick flick they were watching and picked it up.

"Oh, my God," she said as she read the frantic texts from Rob, Ethan, Autumn and Claire. "Rob’s father is in the hospital. It looks like he had a heart attack."

The concern on Tara’s face echoed her own. Morgan thought fast. "I’m going to call the airline and see if I can get a flight first thing tomorrow. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go home."

Late the following day she found Rob in the waiting room of the Chance Creek hospital. He looked haggard, his clothes so rumpled, she wondered if he’d spent the night here.

"How’s Holt doing?" she asked as she sat beside him and wrapped an arm around his back. She drank in his familiar scent and closed her eyes. They’d been apart much too long.

"He’s in stable condition. It wasn’t his heart after all; the doctors think he had some kind of panic attack. But it turns out my Dad found out about a month ago he needs open heart surgery. It’s already scheduled for next week. He’s got three blocked arteries and he never even told me."

She could see how much that hurt Rob. "I’m so sorry," she said. "Wait a minute," she thought fast. "He knew he needed open heart surgery before he offered 200 acres to the first one of you guys to get married? Do you think that’s why he did it?"

"Yeah, I do. He’s scared." She felt his muscles tighten under her hands. "He’s trying to act like he’s not, but I know him. I’ve never seen him like this before. A panic attack, for heaven’s sake."

Morgan stroked his back. "He’s going to be okay, Rob. You have to believe that."

Rob nodded, tension tightening his jaw. "Morgan, I’m sorry. I can’t go to California. Not when my dad…"

"I don’t want to go to California," Morgan said. "I want to live here, you know that. I just don’t want everyone to be mad at me."

"Jamie’s not mad at us anymore; he’s been practically begging me to stay. Claire still wants to know what your mother did with all that money, but she knows you did nothing wrong." He sat back. "I learned something about my dad and Ned, too."

"Really? What?" She snuggled in by his side, her heart melting when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She touched his thigh. She liked the feel of his muscles; the strength of him.

"Neither of them can read. Can you credit that?"

She stilled. "That’s why your Dad was so down on school and report cards?"

"A combination of fear I’d figure out what he was hiding, and that I’d show up Ned, who was hiding something, too."

"And that’s why Ned picked on you so much."

Rob sighed. "I guess I’m supposed to forgive him for all that now, but I don’t feel like it much."

"I don’t blame you." She thought for a moment. "Maybe you don’t have to forgive him so much as understand him a little better."

"Yeah." Rob grunted. "Guess I could do that."

Lisa appeared in the waiting room and her whole face brightened when she saw Morgan. "I’m so glad you came back, honey. You aren’t taking that awful job in California, are you?" She crossed the room and hugged her tight.

"We were just talking about that," Morgan said.

"Well, why don’t you both come in to see Holt and we’ll talk about it together." Lisa tugged them both to a stand and led the way back down a maze of halls to a small, private room.

Morgan lagged behind Lisa and Rob when they entered the room, afraid to see the man who seemed to hate her so much. When they moved aside, and she got a glimpse of him, however, she was saddened to see him looking so frail beneath the bedclothes.

"You’re back," he said, his gaze fixing on her.

Morgan stiffened, ready for another fight.

"Good," he said after a long pause. "California’s no place to raise kids. Come here."

She advanced slowly until she was near enough to his bed for him to reach out and take her hand.

"I’m a stubborn old man who likes to get his way, but I know when I’m beat. My son wants to make a life with you, and in the end all I want is to see him happy. You think you can make him happy?"

"Dad," Rob said, moving closer. Holt waved him away.

"I’m sure going to try," Morgan said, taking Rob’s hand with her free one.

"And you think you can grow grapes in Montana? Start this…winery business?"

"I think so. Others have done it."

"You’ll put the Matheson name on it? None of this women’s lib crap, keeping your own?"