The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 10)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(10)
Author: Cora Seton

“It always is. The clinic is overrun. Chance Creek needs another veterinarian.” That wasn’t why she felt so drained tonight, though. The thought of losing Gladys weighed heavy on her mind. So did Holt’s words. As if she could just climb into bed with Jake for fourteen nights and then climb out again. What if she propositioned him and he refused? She’d never be able to face him again.

On the other hand, if she slept with Jake for fourteen nights she’d be hard pressed to give up the habit. How could she possibly handle work and school and a new boyfriend?

As tempting as the idea was.

Mia nodded. She looked tired, too. Hannah knew the reason for that, although she wasn’t sure if anybody else did. Mia was pregnant. Hannah didn’t know who the father was. From the little Mia had told her, she knew he was married and not pleased about the child. Mia refused to go after him for support, and she knew her parents would be devastated when they found out about her pregnancy, so she’d made arrangements to move out of their home and into the Cruz ranch for the winter. Hannah assumed she’d tell Autumn and everyone else about her pregnancy soon, but she understood Mia’s reluctance to broadcast the news. She earned minimum wage at the hardware store. People would have things to say about her ability to raise a child alone. They wouldn’t be supportive in the same way they were of Autumn, for example. Autumn’s rounded belly brought coos and congratulations wherever she went. Hannah had to admit that sometimes when she caught sight of Autumn she felt a tug of desire to start a family herself, but she quickly brushed that feeling aside. She had plans, and settling down played no part in them.

But maybe a fling with Jake could. She allowed herself to picture what that might be like—two consecutive weeks tangled up in the covers with a sexy cowboy. Fourteen nights of unbridled lust and pleasure.

She could use some unbridled lust and pleasure. In fact, she could use it a lot.

A smile twitched her lips as she descended the stairs with Fila and Mila, her stomach growling as the aroma of another of Autumn’s amazing dinners caught her nose. She was a big girl—she could have a fling with a sexy cowboy whenever she wanted.

Holt’s preposterous deal simply gave her a good excuse to do the very thing she’d dreamed about: tumble into bed with Jake long enough to get him out of her system before she settled down to classes.

When Jake arrived at the Cruz Big House, a fire danced in the hearth, tables were set up for cards, and an enormous Christmas tree stood near the large floor-to-ceiling windows. Just like at his parents’ house, the entire space was decorated with figurines, fir boughs and glittering lights. Autumn, setting appetizers out on the counter that separated the kitchen area from the rest of the great room, looked in her element. Ethan was one lucky man to have found her.

Jake frowned and his shoulders tightened at the thought of his earlier conversation with his father. Marry within the month—as if it was that simple. It was ludicrous.

It was just like Holt.

Sometimes he wished he could escape the ranch—to get a taste of the wider world and the knowledge it had to offer. He knew he would have done well at college and if he had gone he would have liked to study modern ranching techniques in a wider context along with land management and environmental studies. The world was changing fast. People were far more aware of how their food reached the table and the impact ranching and farming could have on the state of their environment. His father dismissed all of that as liberal nonsense, but Jake felt otherwise. He felt like a steward of the ranch. Everything from the soil to the cattle to the people who lived on his family’s land was affected by the decisions he made. Shouldn’t he know everything there was to know about it?

It galled him his father and brothers didn’t support his interests. What kind of family went out of its way to clip the intellectual wings of its own members?

The Matheson kind, apparently.

When he spotted Hannah across the room deep in conversation with Ethan and Jamie, looking up at the two tall cowboys and laughing at something Jamie said, Jake’s heart rate increased. Her white-blond hair lay in angelic waves about her shoulders. Dressed casually in jeans and a soft sweater, she looked feminine and sweet, and his fingers suddenly itched to touch her. Maybe do a whole lot more than that.

He wouldn’t lie—Hannah was gorgeous, which is why he’d taken her to that break room at Bella and Evan’s wedding. But she was smart as a whip in addition to being beautiful. She was curious, too—the sexiest trait there ever was in a woman, to his way of thinking. She’d caught his attention at Ethan and Autumn’s poker nights, first because of her angelic looks, but afterward because of her ability to converse with him. Unlike most people, she enjoyed talking about the future of ranching, and about a hundred other topics, as well. So far they’d only chatted for a few minutes here and there, mostly when she came to see Gladys. Still, they could leap from bison to the history of Montana to the strangest thing they’d each ever eaten, to whether or not there was other intelligent life in the Universe in the course of only a short conversation. He looked forward to each meeting, knowing her insatiable thirst for knowledge would have led her to find some new and interesting fact she could share with him. He’d never had anyone in his life quite like Hannah. He was blessed with good friends and a solid family—he couldn’t complain. But he’d lacked this meeting of the minds.

He’d been ready to ask her out this morning until his father appeared to ruin the moment. He’d been pretty sure she would say yes, too, judging by the fact she didn’t move her hand away when he touched it. That touch had fired him up more than he wanted to admit. For the first time, he’d wanted to take things slowly with a woman, because Hannah was so special. If he blew things with her, he wouldn’t just lose a pretty companion—he’d lose a true friend. He didn’t think he could stand that.

Now his father was forcing his hand, and he hoped that wouldn’t ruin everything. With only thirty days to marry her, he barely had time for wooing. How could he speed things up when they hadn’t even gone on a date?

While he wanted to go straight to Hannah, he made his way to the kitchen first, grabbed a couple of Autumn’s appetizers and found a beer in the fridge. There he met Rob, whose shoulder was still bandaged from the gunshot wound he’d taken a few weeks back. That had been one hell of a night—a real shootout with would-be terrorists in the woods down the road from here. Luckily Rob’s wound was the worst of them. Jamie’s hip had already healed, as had Fila’s arm. The bad guys had been rounded up and taken away by the Feds. Peace had been restored to Chance Creek, for which he was grateful.