The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 16)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(16)
Author: Cora Seton

“I… I… Jake, we just…”

They’d been with each other less than an hour. The enormity of what he’d done crashed down on him like a bucket of ice water. “Oh, man,” he groaned, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against her chin. “Oh, hell, I just blew it, didn’t I?”

“No, but… we’ve only…” She still wasn’t able to say a complete sentence and Jake couldn’t blame her. Talk about rushing things.

“Okay, hold up.” His mind raced. “You know how I feel now, and I know,” he kissed her nose, “that at the very least you’re attracted to me. That’s something. We’ll just pretend I didn’t propose to you and give it a little time before I try it again. Okay?” He disengaged himself from her and rolled to his side to give her space.

“It’s just… I have plans.” Hannah scrambled up to a seated position. She scooted back against the headboard and pulled a sheet up to cover herself. Jake instantly missed the view. Still, he figured he’d better take a moment to dispose of the condom and set himself to rights.

“Wait a second, would you?” His trip to the en suite bathroom in his bedroom down the hall took less than a minute. When he returned, he took her hand. “Tell me about your plans.” He rubbed circles against her palm then traced up her wrist with his finger. Her skin was soft and smooth and he longed to kiss it, but he wanted to hear her more.

“I’m going back to school.”

He stilled. “Really? I thought you already had a degree.”

“I do. I need to upgrade a few classes and then I’ll go to veterinary school.”

He dropped her hand. “Veterinary school. You want to become a vet?”

She nodded her head vigorously. “I’ve wanted to for years.”

Jake quickly tried to revise his vision. He’d work on the ranch. She’d work in town. She’d be gone from morning to night. Disquiet filled him at the idea. That wasn’t exactly what he’d hoped for. He’d wanted an ally at the ranch, someone to be just as involved as he was. He’d pictured them doing chores together and poring over books and computers at night figuring out what to try next. If she was a vet she’d have a different life outside of his—a separate life. She’d have her own issues and plans to work on. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Would she change her mind if she got to know the ranch—and him—better? Could her interest in animals be funneled into the cattle and other critters they decided to raise?

Maybe. It was worth a shot.

“How about this. We give it two weeks to see if your plans and mine go together. Then I’ll ask you again.”

This was all going way too fast. She’d come here planning to share a bed but nothing more. Now they’d made love once and he wanted to marry her?

“That’s not very long.”

“It’s long enough,” he assured her. “We’ll either know we’re compatible or we’ll know we aren’t. Trust me.”

He was so sexy sitting among the tousled covers, his muscular chest right there for the touching and the rest of him beckoning to her, too. Could she marry this man? She instantly pushed the idea away as ridiculous. What about school? What about her new career? She wouldn’t derail that because they’d had sex.

The best sex of her entire life.

On the other hand, the thought of climbing out of this bed and leaving Jake’s house forever left her cold with dread. She liked Jake a lot. She might be able to love him. She doubted she’d figure that out in the next fourteen days, however.

She’d heard his hesitation when she told him her career plans. He’d dropped her hand like a hot coal. For all his insistence afterward that their plans might go together, she figured his first reaction told the truth—they didn’t fit at all.

And she refused to sacrifice her plans for his. She’d have to leave him when the two weeks were up, and if she was smart she’d leave him right now.

But there was Gladys to think of.

And herself. If she couldn’t spend a lifetime with Jake, at least she could spend thirteen more nights with him.

“Okay,” she said. “We spend two weeks together and we don’t mention marriage until the time is up.”

“Then I get to ask you again?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Her answer would still be no.

Jake shifted to join Hannah where she leaned against the headboard and drew the covers up around them. He hadn’t gotten the answer he wanted, but then he hadn’t meant to propose quite so soon. Waiting two weeks was a hell of a chance; he wouldn’t have time to find another woman to marry. But he wouldn’t find another woman he wanted to marry no matter how much time elapsed. It was Hannah or no one. In fact, he couldn’t think too deeply about what would happen if he didn’t eventually convince her to marry him. It was one thing if they missed the deadline and he got kicked off the ranch. It was another thing altogether if she refused to ever become his wife. There wasn’t another woman in Chance Creek he wanted the way he wanted Hannah.

She leaned against him and he relaxed a little. Hannah liked him, that was obvious. Making love to her was better than anything he’d ever experienced before and he already wanted more, but a silence stretched between them and he figured he’d better fill it.

“I’ve been making some plans of my own.”

“Really? What kind of plans?”

“Changes to make around the ranch.”

She was so beautiful he wished he could pull her into his arms and go back to making love to her, but he figured if he tried she’d get mad and leave. Women liked to talk at the strangest times and this was one of them. He couldn’t put a ring on her finger, but she was still in his bed, still naked, still interested in what he had to say.

“I want to add a bison herd, for one thing. I’ve done some reading about them. Did you know they’re far more hardy than our cattle? They’re built for our winters; you barely have to help them through. Their meat is better for us. Since it’s a specialty meat you can charge more for it. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have a herd.”

“Gladys would like that.” She turned to him with a smile and her breast grazed his arm, sending heat straight through him.

Jake couldn’t help himself. He tilted her chin up and kissed her softly on the mouth. “We could set up relationships with restaurants and distributors.” Her hand slid up his arm to his shoulder and she kissed him back. Jake lost his train of thought. “I want to talk to you, slow things down a bit, but the truth is…”