The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Page 7)

The Cowboy Imports a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #3)(7)
Author: Cora Seton

Rob shrugged. "What’s the point? Ranching doesn’t require a degree." A new soreness pained his heart. He could have won any of those scholarships they handed out in his high school. Could’ve been the valedictorian, probably. But Mathesons didn’t get straight A’s. He’d learned that soon enough.

"So you want to be a rancher?"

"What else is there?"

This time Joe did turn his head. "Everything. There’s a whole world out there."

A whole world. If that was true, why did he feel so hemmed in? His entire life took place on one ranch, in the confines of his family, trussed up in their opinions of right and wrong. Suddenly he longed to be out on the highway again, striding away. "I’ve got no idea what I’d be if I wasn’t a rancher."

Joe stood up. "You, of all the people in this congregation, can be whatever you want to be. My own father used to say that children are the only ones who show their true colors." He shrugged. "Try being the man you wanted to be when you were five. You might find it suits you best. I’ll leave you to your thoughts. The Man Upstairs might have a few things he’d like to add to my lecture."

The preacher made his way forward, past the pulpit and into the small room behind it. Probably getting things set for Sunday, Rob thought as he shifted on the hard seat.

The man he wanted to be at five?

Who was that?

* * * * *

"Are you bringing a guest on Saturday?" Duncan’s grating voice cut through Morgan’s thoughts. She was in the distillery room, checking the huge vats of aging wine, her first job every morning when she came to work.

"Yes." No. She hadn’t found a date yet.

"I’m taking Anne Goodman." He pretended to read the gauges on the nearest vat, but she caught him slide a look her way. Anne was considered a fine catch. Rich and beautiful.

"That’s nice." She moved away, but not before she saw a triumphant smile cross Duncan’s face. He must have guessed she didn’t have a date. Since she’d rebuffed his advances several times, he’d taken every opportunity to show her what a mistake she’d made.

He’d also taken every opportunity to block her at work, interfering with every task, bossing her around, and generally being a pain in her ass. She knew what he was trying to say – if she wanted to get any further ahead at Cassidy’s, she’d better sleep with him.

No way. She wasn’t going to sleep with anyone again until she was married. She’d be damned if she repeated her mother’s mistakes. She’d had a close call once a few years back that opened her eyes to how easy it would be to find herself pregnant and unmarried – like her mother had been with her. She would never subject a child to the life she’d led while she was growing up, not even if it meant staying celibate for years. Sure, this was the twenty-first century, and most of the stigma about being born to an unwed mother was gone, but when that mother went on and had a new family and left you behind – you didn’t need stigma to feel as worthy as a piece of yesterday’s trash.

"I would rather have gone with you," he said, sidling up to her and touching her arm. "You know I’d like to spend a lot more time with you."

"I don’t think that’s a good idea," she said. She couldn’t believe they were going to do this again. When would Duncan understand she wasn’t going to fall for him, no matter what?

"We’d make a great pair, you and I," he went on, sliding his arm around her waist, oblivious to her disgust. "We could get married, run this winery together some day."


There’d been a time when she would have considered going out with him, before she knew his true nature. When she’d started, all she’d seen was a young man who shared her passion for viticulture. On the outside, Duncan looked like a catch, with his flashy smile and slick good looks. On the inside he was all vinegar and no wine. Duncan Cassidy would expect to control his wife’s every move the way he controlled the personnel who worked for the winery. He’d expect her to bow to his every whim.

"Come on, Morgan. What’s holding you back? We could have a lot of fun." His hand slipped down to her ass and he gave a hard squeeze.

Morgan yelped and pushed him away. He folded his hands across his chest, blocking her path, and eyed her with all the confidence of a rich man who thinks he’s holding all the cards.

Well, he was, wasn’t he? What could she do, report him to Human Resources? This was a family business and Duncan was family. That meant he could do pretty much anything he damn well pleased.

"I don’t think so." She wheeled around, wanting nothing more than to be away from him.

"Dinner tonight," he called at her retreating back.


"I’m not asking you – I’m telling you. Dad wants to take you out and celebrate. At the Rotunda." He named a brand new restaurant that was getting great reviews. Morgan’s shoulders slumped. She couldn’t turn down Elliot Cassidy, even if Duncan was a lecherous twit.

"What time?" she said finally.

"Eight o’clock. We’ll pick you up."

"No – I’ll take my own…" but when she turned around, Duncan was gone.

Damn it, a night with Elliot and Duncan after working with them all day? This was a nightmare.

Nope. Not a nightmare.

Just her life.

* * * * *

When Rob trudged the long dirt track up to the ranch house he felt like he’d been gone for a year rather than a night. Every muscle in his body ached and he couldn’t wait for a long shower.

"Where’ve you been?" His mother knelt in her garden beside the house he’d grown up in, a wide, two-story, clapboard affair with a verandah encircling it. "On second thought, don’t tell me. I doubt I want to know."

What would she say if he told her he’d been in church? Probably that it was about time. He watched her pop a cauliflower seedling out of a flat and place it in the hole she’d dug in the rich soil of a garden bed.

Without conscious thought, he paced over to join her and knelt down, too. She handed him a trowel and he prepared the next hole while she eased another plant out of its container. "Needed to do some thinking," he said.

"Some drinking, too, by the smell of it." Lisa wrinkled her nose, but patted him on the arm to let him know she was teasing.

"Thinking it’s maybe time for a change," he said.

"You have something in mind?"

He dug another hole as she set the seedling into the first one and filled dirt in around its sides.

"Not really. But I can’t keep on the way I’ve been."

A wistful smile played on her lips as she worked beside him. "We haven’t done this in years. Do you remember when you used to help me in the garden?"