The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 1)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)
Author: Cora Seton



She was alone at a wedding. Again.

Hannah Ashton lifted a hand to her hair to make sure her elaborate updo hadn’t come tumbling down. Her white-blond waves had a tendency to defy hairpins, but as Bella Chatham’s maid of honor, she had corralled it mercilessly into a sophisticated style. Her empire-waisted, China-blue gown was flattering, at least. Some of the dresses she and Morgan Matheson—Bella’s other bridesmaid—had tried on at Ellie’s Bridals had sent them into fits of laughter.

Bella, her boss and one of her best friends, looked pretty as a picture standing next to her dream man—Evan Mortimer, billionaire investor and all around great guy. Hannah had engineered the circumstances under which Bella and Evan met on the set of Can You Beat a Billionaire, after Bella’s tender heart had nearly bankrupted the Chance Creek Pet Clinic and Shelter where Hannah worked. Bella didn’t need to worry about money anymore, and practical Evan would balance out her tendency to want to save any and every animal around. They made a great couple.

Hannah wished she had a man like that. He didn’t have to be a billionaire. He just needed to care about her the way Evan obviously cared about Bella. As the two exchanged their vows in the small chapel presided over by the minister, Ed Halpern, they couldn’t look away from each other. They were so much in love.

Hannah wanted to be in love.

She wasn’t. Not anymore. Today’s desertion by Cody was the final nail in the coffin of their relationship—a relationship she now had to admit had been over for some time. He was never there when she needed him. He liked her well enough when she was at home cooking him dinner or listening to another of his endless diatribes against his employees or customers or family, but when she asked him to take on a chore, he refused. When it was her turn to talk, he became suddenly busy. When there were parties or picnics or weddings to attend, he couldn’t be found. He disliked her friends, disliked her job, and certainly couldn’t be bothered to attend the nuptials of her boss. So here she was by herself, for everyone to see. She’d have an empty seat beside her during dinner at the bridal table since she’d responded to her invitation saying the two of them would come. She’d have no one to dance with once the music started, except for pity invitations from her friends’ husbands. And by the time she got home, Cody would be stretched out on the couch in his boxers, too wrapped up in some late night Hollywood western to even care that she was there.

Once she’d fancied herself in love with the man, but that was a long time ago, before he’d let her down in a hundred and one ways. Before she realized they had little in common except for a desire to be with someone. She’d been all set to dump him when Bella and Evan’s wedding invitation arrived in the mail. In a moment of weakness, she’d asked Cody to accompany her, placing the fate of their relationship in his answer. If he said yes, she’d give it one more shot. If he said no, she’d leave right away. He must have intuited her intentions—he’d said yes, and she’d stuck with him for several more weeks.

She shouldn’t have wasted her time. She’d gone to get her nails done this morning and when she returned home, Cody was gone, his cryptic note stating he’d been called in to work. Since he was self-employed, the excuse bordered on insulting. She had her answer. Their relationship was over.

Hannah sighed. She was sick of being alone. She wanted to find her life partner like Bella had done. She wanted a wedding and a happily ever after. She wanted to be swept off her feet. She was thrilled that things had gone so well for Bella, but she couldn’t help feeling a little resentful, too. Just a little. If she hadn’t coerced her boss to go on the hit reality television show, Bella would still be broke and lonely. Just like her. Instead, her friend was the happiest woman for miles around. She had everything—a handsome, funny, loving husband, a career she adored, all the money she could ever want…

And Hannah had nothing. She blinked back sudden tears of self-pity, aware that she was on display up here for all her friends to see. Hopefully they’d think she was overcome with happiness for Bella. Which she was. Hannah dug her nails into the palms of her hands to get control of her emotions. She had promised herself all this wallowing in self-pity was over. Bella was her friend. Nothing would change that. And she’d find a man sooner or later.

It just wasn’t Cody.

Taking a deep breath, she made a vow right then and there. She would split up with Cody, and she would manage to do it without having a fight. It was hunting season right now—a perfect time to end the relationship. If she was smart, she’d wait until just before he left on one of his hunting trips to let him know, and then she could remove all her things from his house while he was gone. A cowardly trick, but one that would make things easier for both of them.

She knew the perfect time, too. In a couple of weeks, bison season opened up. Cody had been blathering for days about a bison on some big game ranch out in the western part of the state he intended to go shoot. It sounded silly to her, but it would keep him busy, at least overnight. That was all the time she needed.

With the decision made and her course set, she felt somewhat better, as if she’d gone through a long winter and just seen the first signs of spring. It would be a relief to end this relationship that was heading nowhere. She would have done it sooner if living together hadn’t made things so complicated. But she wasn’t going to let that stop her now. She would un-complicate things, leave Cody, and then she would be free in a few short weeks. Hannah straightened her shoulders and focused on the ceremony again.

Two hours later, she fiddled with her glass of champagne and watched the couples on the dance floor, her resentment creeping back to depress her mood again. It killed her not to feel joyful when this was Bella’s wedding, but the fact that her best friend was leaving her behind kept tears pricking at her eyelids. She hadn’t expected the wedding to be so emotional in this way and she refused to let Bella know how she felt. Once again she pasted a bright smile on her face and surveyed the room. The night hadn’t been all bad. Ethan Cruz had danced with her once as a gesture of friendship. Married to her friend, Autumn, the tall cowboy had always been kind and considerate like that. Several other married men in her group of friends had taken her for a turn around the dance floor, too. That was nice of them, but she didn’t want pity-dances. She wanted something else—something more.

It was probably for the best there wasn’t anything more to have, she thought, since she hadn’t broken up officially with Cody yet. Still, in her mind it was over—and had been for a long time. She and Cody hadn’t acted like a couple in ages. She was lonely. She wanted a man’s arms around her. She wanted to be kissed.