The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 18)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(18)
Author: Cora Seton

By getting pregnant?

She yanked open the cupboard door under the sink but saw no sign of a condom in the small wicker trash can. Racing back upstairs she saw only two doors leading off from the balcony—her own bedroom and presumably Jake’s. His door was closed. She knocked hesitantly and when she received no answer, turned the handle and barged in.

A masculine room lay before her. The bed unmade. Clothes tossed here and there. A desk piled with paperwork. Like in her room there was a generous closet, but a second door lay beyond it.

Bingo. A small en suite bathroom with a shower. She pushed inside it, ignored the mess and looked in the cupboard under the sink.

This bathroom, too, had a tan wicker trash can.

It was empty.

Jake let Chester put his muzzle down and drink from Chance Creek. The small river formed the border between the Matheson and Cruz ranches. As kids he and his brothers swam the creek often and forded it when they wanted to visit the other ranch rather than going the long way by road.

What a night. The last twenty-four hours had blindsided him. Not only had he slept with Hannah—twice—he may have accidentally gotten her pregnant. If she was excited about marrying him and settling down with him here, he wouldn’t have minded the torn condom one bit. Given the current circumstances, though, he was beginning to feel mighty guilty.

Did she know what had happened? He’d better assume so, which meant she’d be hopping mad the next time she saw him. What would she say? It was no accident he was as far from his cabin as his chores could take him. He’d gotten up this morning prepared to bring her breakfast in bed with an apology and explanation, but no sooner had he walked downstairs than Ned knocked on his door with an emergency with one of the horses. He might have raced back when they were done and caught her before she left for work, but he decided not to give her the chance to throw his proposal back in his face and storm away. Maybe if she had some time to cool off they’d be able to discuss it rationally tonight.

He sure hoped so.

In the back of his mind was the truth of the matter—that he hoped if she took a few hours to consider the ramifications of a pregnancy, she’d want to stay with him and have the baby. If there was a baby. Not telling her straightaway was the most ass-backward thing he’d ever done, but here he was doing it, nonetheless.

He hoped he hadn’t messed up everything.

The sound of hoofbeats caught his attention. Ned and his father.

“Taking the rest of the morning off?” Ned said laconically. Holt chuckled.

Jake shrugged. “Just doing some thinking.”

“I saw your company drive in last night,” Holt said.

“Yeah? So?”

“Did you propose?” Ned drawled.

Jake didn’t like the satisfied look in Ned’s eye. His brother had been jealous of him all their lives. He couldn’t wait to steal Jake’s position out from under him. Time to let Ned know he didn’t plan to surrender any time soon. “Yes, I did.” He was rewarded when Ned’s grin disappeared.

“But let me guess,” Holt said. “She declined.”

“You don’t know that.”

“The hell I don’t. If you and Hannah were engaged we’d all be toasting you around my dining room table. You wouldn’t be out here in the middle of nowhere hiding from your chores.”

Jake swallowed the angry words he wanted to say. His father was right. What was the use in arguing? “She just needs some convincing. She wants a career. She’s afraid marrying me will tie her down too much, but you wait. She’ll say yes before long.”

He hoped.

“What do you want with a career woman?”

“I like a woman with a brain.”

“Brains are fine, but there’s too much work around here for your wife to be fluttering off to town every day.”

“That’s my problem.”

Holt shook his head. “It’s everyone’s problem if you’re too busy keeping house and raising kids to do your chores. Ned, you better get ready to run this place. This one wants his wife to wear the pants.”

“For God’s sake,” Jake began, but Ned spoke over him.

“I am ready. I’ve been ready.”

“Whether or not my wife works, the agreement still stands,” Jake said to his father. “If I’m married by the twenty-first, I stay in charge.”

“Fine,” Holt agreed. “We’ll change her mind about that career nonsense soon enough.” He wheeled his horse around. “So quit your moping and get back to work.” He cantered away, followed quickly by Ned. Jake watched them go, a sinking feeling in his gut. Ned couldn’t wait to replace him and if he didn’t look out, he’d find some way to scare Hannah off. If his father didn’t scare her off first. He couldn’t do much about Holt, but he should be able to stop Ned from making trouble. He thought fast, scanning the horizon without seeing it. He needed to distract Ned, but how? A thought occurred to him and he smiled. How else? A woman.

He checked his watch. Hannah wouldn’t get home from work until dinner time. He might as well distract himself until he could talk with her and sort this mess out. He turned Chester around and headed back to the barn.

Time for a trip to town.

Hannah showered slowly, trying to warm up but failing miserably. She couldn’t stop trembling no matter how hot she made the water. She didn’t have the torn condom as evidence, but she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something had happened.

What if she was pregnant? What about all her dreams?

Sadness rippled through her. She wanted children and maybe she even wanted them with Jake. But not now—not right as she was headed out into the next stage of her life. How could she possibly do nearly five years of college in a field as challenging as veterinary medicine and raise a child at the same time, especially with a husband consumed with ranch work?

She could read between the lines of what Jake had said last night. While she hadn’t grown up on a ranch, she knew all about what it took to run them. Rancher’s wives did ranch chores, too. Plus they kept a large house, ran interference for the hired hands, who tended to get into trouble in their spare time, raised their families, and participated fully in community activities as well. She simply didn’t have time for all that.

She wasn’t going to give up her dream for Jake’s, either. She was one hundred percent sure of that. There was no way this could work, but… if she was pregnant, she wouldn’t give up the child.