The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 5)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(5)
Author: Cora Seton

Wow. That was harsh. Suddenly he felt all too sober.

"Guys like you are handy," she said, as if sharing a confidence. "A girl can yank your chain, have her way with you, and kick you back into the closet when she’s done. You’re like a pair of high heels. Great now and then when you want a party, but useless for the day-to-day."

Rob blinked.

She must have caught his expression, because she rushed to add, "But pretty. You’re real pretty, ain’t you, Rob?"

"Fuck off." He stood up, slapped some cash on the bar and stalked toward the door, weaving a little before he got his bearings. Guess he was a little drunk after all.

Cab cut him off before he made it halfway across the room. He hadn’t even seen the man enter the Boot.

"Tell me you’re not driving," Cab said.

Rob pushed past him, into the still-warm Montana evening. Cab followed him outdoors. Aside from the music spilling out of the Boot with them, Chance Creek was already quiet. Most folks were tucked in for the night. Past nine o’clock this town shut down.

"Can’t let you do that, buddy. Give me the keys."

Hell.

With a sigh, Rob handed them over, but instead of heading toward his Chevy, he struck out on foot.

"Where you going?" Cab called after him.

"Nowhere."

Nowhere at all.

CHAPTER TWO

Morgan hopped on one foot as she threaded a leg into the tailored pants she planned to wear to work this morning. She tried to keep her cell phone between her shoulder and her cheek, but the thing was too darn small to balance there.

"So first Mom spends twenty-four years telling me never to have children, and now she tells me I better get pregnant again right after this one’s born," Autumn said in her ear. They talked most days – Autumn filling her in on all of the ranch gossip and venting her frustrations about guests and family. It was barely getting light out, but Morgan knew ranch life started early. Ethan would already be out doing his chores, and Autumn would be prepping breakfast for her guests. Often she and Autumn squeezed in a call before the day got busy.

"Why is she rushing you?" Morgan asked. "You’ve got tons of time." As usual when she talked to Autumn she felt a jealousy she tried to squash. Autumn had all the things she wanted – a business of her own, a husband she adored.

And a baby on the way.

Morgan couldn’t believe she was still single at this age. Maybe getting married earlier and having a family would have screwed with her career. Fine – she didn’t need to rewrite the past. It was the future that scared her. What did all her successes mean if there was no one to share them with?

"You’re forgetting who Mom’s patients are; women who can’t conceive on their own. When you spend all day telling forty-something-year-old women that they’re not fertile anymore and are going to have to spend thousands of dollars on invasive procedures, you tend to get a skewed view of things."

"Don’t you mean fifty-something-year-old women?" Morgan asked, trying to shrug into her blouse.

"No, I mean forty-something. Even thirty-something. Don’t tell me you’re one of those women who thinks they have all the time in the world to start a family. There’s no guarantee it’ll work, no matter what your age. Even women in their twenties can have trouble conceiving. If you want kids, you need to get a move on."

Suddenly Autumn had her full attention. Morgan stood stock still, the blouse still gaping open. "What?"

"Oh, I…shoot." Morgan could picture her in the Cruz ranch Big House kitchen, whipping up breakfast. She’d be standing by the counter that separated it from the huge living room with its floor-to-ceiling windows and their incredible view of the Montana landscape. "I’m sorry, that came out all wrong. You know what my mom’s like; I think I was channeling her for a minute there. Forget everything I just said. You do have plenty of time."

But Autumn’s tone told her she didn’t entirely believe that. "You really think I might not be able to have kids?"

"No! I don’t mean that at all. Boy, I really stuck my foot in my mouth, didn’t I?" Autumn paused. "Here’s what Mom would say. Even if you got married next month and got pregnant right away, you wouldn’t give birth until you were 33. Let’s say two years later you try again. You’re 36 or 37 when your second child is born. Now you’re looking at forty around the corner. Two kids is plenty for most people, but no one tells women that if they want a big family, they need to start early. And let’s face it – you’re not getting married next month, are you?"

"N…no." Feeling like she’d been sucker punched, Morgan hastened to do up her buttons with fingers that suddenly didn’t work right. Sure she was looking forward to getting married, but she had felt like she still had plenty of time to start her family. Lots of time to have two, three, even four children. She’d always wanted a houseful, and now she was too old?

"But…what if I don’t get married for a couple of years?" she said.

"Then you might need the help of someone like my mom." Autumn’s voice changed. "But no one’s saying you even have to have kids. You have a great career, right? Oh, darn – I gotta go. Ethan just came in."

She clicked off, leaving Morgan speechless. Yes, she had a fantastic career. Sort of.

Okay, actually it sucked. Elliot Cassidy was a tyrant and Duncan was all hands and innuendos. She’d been desperate to leave for months, but was afraid if she did so, she’d have to leave Victoria, as well. The wine industry on the island was small and tight-knit. If the Cassidys heard she was looking for work elsewhere, she had no doubt they’d do their best to undermine her job search.

Besides, she wanted more than a job. She wanted to own her own winery someday, and she wanted to create vintages that would bear her name, not the Cassidys’.

She wanted a family, too. A big one.

She was sick to death of being alone.

* * * * *

Rob pulled his hat off as he paced wearily down the center aisle of the Chance Creek Lutheran Church. He slid into a pew about halfway down and leaned back against the wooden seat, thankful to take a load off.

He didn’t know how long he’d walked during the night, striding along the highway as if he meant to leave Chance Creek behind him for good. When he sobered up and realized it was himself he was trying to leave behind, not the town or the people in it, he turned around and walked back again.

His feet were sore, he stank of alcohol and sweat, and he was sure if Georgette saw him now she’d run the other way screaming, but he wasn’t ready to head home yet. Not until he’d thought a few more things through. This seemed as good a place as any to do that, with its wooden floors and clean, spare lines.