The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 49)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(49)
Author: Cora Seton

"Let me count the ways," Tracey said, cutting in. "One, she’s not dressed in some tacky miniskirt; two, she was actually polite and three; she was actually polite. Oh, and did I mention that she was actually polite?"

Everyone chuckled.

"We’d better head to the garden," Autumn said and led the way.

Ten minutes later the back door opened and Lacey stepped out onto the deck that overlooked the wide backyard and the whole garden behind it. With the fingers of pine forest running in from the hills forming a frame for the manicured space, Morgan was sure Lacey’s view was spectacular. She held her breath, hoping against hope this difficult young woman would approve of it so Rob could get paid. She didn’t know what Rob would do if after all his work, Carl was to renege.

"What do you think, sweetheart?" Carl asked her, escorting Lacey down the stairs into the garden. "I’ve taken care of everything, haven’t I? And now that you’re better there’s nothing standing in the way of the two of us getting married. What do you say? Should we set the date?"

Morgan’s breath caught when she saw Lacey’s face. Why couldn’t Carl see that Lacey was already overwhelmed by her homecoming, the enormous log home he’d built for her, and this outsized garden? Why did he have to push her for a date in so public a fashion?

In a horrible flash, she knew Lacey wasn’t going to say yes.

"I’m so sorry, Carl," Lacey said, her voice wobbling. "I thought we’d have time alone to discuss it. You see…"

"Honey, I’m the one who’s sorry," Carl broke in. "You’ve had a long day and you’re tired. We’ll discuss this another time."

"No, I think we need to talk about it now," Lacey said. "I can’t marry you, Carl. I’m sorry. When we started dating all I wanted was to be with a rich man, but now things are different. I’m different. I came home early to tell you I’m going to college in Billings. I’m going to get a degree in counseling and I’m going to help other women who’ve been through what I’ve been through. I can’t be a trophy wife, and as beautiful as it is, I can’t just take care of a garden. I want to take care of people." She smiled tremulously. "I’ve finally found my calling."

Carl sat down heavily on a marble bench. "You’re not going to stay? Lacey – I don’t mind if you go to school…I’ll pay for it…"

"No." Lacey touched his arm. "I appreciate that but I need to do this for myself. You need to find someone whole, Carl. Someone who loves you for you. I wish it was me, but it’s not. I’m sorry. Everyone – the garden you made for me is beautiful. I’m sorry your work was for nothing." With a sob, she ran for the house. A moment later, Carl went after her.

"Well," Rob said heavily. "Back to the drawing board."

"Carl will see you paid," Ethan assured him as everyone returned to their vehicles in silence. Morgan wasn’t worried about the money anymore. She knew they’d figure things out even if Carl didn’t come through.

She felt bad for the man, though. Even millionaires could have their hearts broken.

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

"Well, he paid me," Rob said to Ethan, Jamie, and Cab the next day as Carl’s fancy truck drove away down the lane. "I hated to take it from him, but I did do the work even if Lacey didn’t want a garden."

"I almost feel sorry for him," Ethan said. "Almost."

"I’m still finding it hard to picture Lacey as a counselor," Jamie said. "But I suppose stranger things have happened."

"Stranger things happen every day," Cab said. "For example, a certain friend of mine who swore he’d never get married is tying the knot."

Rob laughed as loudly as the others. "Yeah, that is kind of strange. Want to hear something stranger?"

"You’re scaring me," Ethan said. "What could be stranger than that?"

"Out of all the things I’ve ever done for money, I liked making that garden for Carl the best." When the silence stretched out, Rob stuffed his hands into his pockets. "I still plan on helping with trail rides and horse-breeding and all the rest of it," he assured his friends, "but I think I’ll be spending some time in that vineyard of Morgan’s. And seeing as I have all those acres," he added, "probably can find somewhere to squeeze in a vegetable plant or two."

He turned back toward the Big House, knowing the others would need a little time to process that information.

"Is he joking or what?" he heard Ethan ask.

"I can’t even tell anymore," Cab said.

* * * * *

"Are you ready?" Autumn asked Morgan, as she and Claire flanked her in her bedroom at the bunkhouse, smoothing her veil and fluffing the skirts of her wedding dress. Something tugged at her hem, and she glanced down in time to see a gray ball of fur disappear under her floor-length skirt.

"I think so," Morgan said, "but we better get the cats out of the room before they tear my dress." In fact, she felt a kind of serenity she’d never expected to feel minutes before she walked down the aisle. So much had happened in the previous month, this small journey felt like a piece of cake in comparison.

"I can’t believe you’re getting married in the hospital," Claire said, scooping up the kittens and putting them into the living room. "You could have waited a few more weeks and still had it at the Matheson ranch."

"In a couple of weeks snow might be falling," Morgan said, but she glanced outside at the broad sunshiny day and felt a pang of regret.

"Come on," Autumn said and led the way downstairs to where a limousine waited. Lisa, bereft of her plans for a huge ranch wedding, had insisted on this piece of ceremony at the very least. As Morgan climbed into the back seat with her two bridesmaids, her stomach began to flutter with excitement. This was really happening; she was actually marrying the man she loved.

And she was getting her vineyard and winery. They now had 450 acres to do with what they wished. Ethan had refused to return the money Rob put down on his land. Instead, they’d worked out a contract with generous terms and a 30 year mortgage they could pay as they went. Rob and Jamie were full of plans for breeding horses and holding riding classes of all kinds. Both of them would work with Ethan and Autumn on their guest ranch business. She had no doubt the three men would make the ranch prosper beyond all bounds.

Meanwhile, she’d get down to business raising grapes and preparing to build the winery, with Rob’s help of course. In fact, he talked a lot about the vineyard, and about gardening in general, these days. While her vines were growing, she’d help Autumn with her side of the guest ranch business. Claire still planned to divide her time between interior design and trail rides.