The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 19)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(19)
Author: Cora Seton

So what would she do?

And why had Jake run away and stolen the evidence?

She turned off the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. Back in her bedroom, she searched her suitcases for a suitable work outfit and hurriedly got dressed. As she clattered down the stairs to the main floor, however, another thought struck her and stopped her cold. One hand on the banister, the other gripping her purse, she teetered on a step.

Had Jake sabotaged the condom deliberately? Was he trying to make her pregnant so she had no choice but to stay?

She scanned the area below her, focusing on the dirty dishes still in the sink in the kitchen and the haphazard way Jake’s belongings filled the living room. She recalled the messy bathrooms and the disaster of Jake’s bedroom. Maybe Jake wasn’t the man she thought he was. Maybe Jake cut corners whatever he did.

Fury filled her as she stormed down the rest of the stairs. She was going to find Jake right now and tell him exactly what she thought of him, and then she’d pack her bags and get the hell out.

Her anger propelled her all the way to Gladys’s pasture where she guiltily realized she’d forgotten all about the beast. She’d forgotten to pick up more corn on the cob, the bison’s favorite food, too. As she neared the fence she spotted Gladys right next to the spot where Hannah normally stood each morning to talk to her and leave her a treat.

Hannah’s heart squeezed as she realized Gladys must look forward to those morning treats. Usually the bison stayed away from the fence, not coming to retrieve the corn until Hannah left for work. Now she was close enough to touch. Not that Hannah would do something so foolish. When she got close, Gladys raised her head a fraction and huffed out a breath. Was that a greeting?

“I’m sorry. I forgot your corn.” Hannah wondered if she could get some on her lunch break. Gladys huffed again and moved an inch closer. Hannah held her breath. Did the creature want to be touched? Had she made a connection with this giant animal?

As she bent down to look Gladys in the eye, the bison suddenly snorted and wheeled away. Surprised, Hannah nearly fell back, but an iron grip on her bicep prevented her from doing so.

“Came to talk to my lunch, did you?” Holt said.

“She’s nobody’s lunch.” Hannah regained her footing and yanked free of him.

“Oh, someone will be happy to eat her, I’m sure. Just as soon as I sell her to the local butcher.”

“You promised…”

“Did you sleep with my son last night?”

Hannah flushed hot and only just resisted clapping her hands to her cheeks to hide their color.

Holt looked amused. “I guess you did after all. I thought Jake was telling tales.” He bent forward to peer at her. “I’d say more than sleeping went on, too.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Hannah turned to leave.

“Not so fast. Your bison’s won another day on the ranch, but you’ve got thirteen more nights to go. Jake’s no slouch at one night stands. What I’m trying to teach him is the benefit of a sure thing for a lifetime. The wife and I are getting older. I thought our grandkids would have learned to ride by now.”

For one split second Hannah saw a trace of sorrow flit over the older man’s face. She blinked and it was gone, but it shifted her perception of the situation. A little.

“Grandkids?” she repeated.

“I thought the ranch would be crawling with them, given I have four sons myself.” Holt surveyed the pasture in front of them.

“Do you have brothers and sisters?” She wasn’t sure why she was prolonging the conversation. This was the first time she’d seen a softer side to the old man, though. She was curious to know more.

“No, ma’am,” Holt said. “I was the only youngster on the place when I grew up.”

Hannah bit her lip. There was no way the rancher standing beside her would admit to any weakness, but he’d exposed one nonetheless. Holt wasn’t known for his wide circle of friends. Maybe he didn’t know how to get close to people and make those friends, so he thought he’d build a circle for himself through his family. He wouldn’t be the first person to do that. Now his boys were dragging their feet on creating the next generation. All except Rob, anyway.

And maybe Jake.

Her hand went unconsciously to her stomach and she wondered again if the torn condom could possibly lead to a pregnancy. She glanced up to find Holt staring down at her. His eyebrows lifted but before he could speak she shook her head.

“Don’t look at me. I already told you I’m not having children any time soon.”

Holt put his hands up in a placating gesture. “I know, I know. But you also told me you wouldn’t sleep with my son.”

“That’s…”

“The truth,” Holt said. “And I’ll tell you another truth. You’re a slob.”

Hannah stiffened at this new attack. “I am not!”

“I just stopped by Jake’s cabin looking for you and I beg to differ.”

Outrage straightened her spine. “That’s your son’s mess, not mine.”

“As of right now, my son’s mess is your mess.” Holt leaned in to make his point. “And it’s her mess, too.” He waved at Gladys. “And I don’t like messy critters on my farm.”

“What the hell are you saying?” Hannah couldn’t believe this. A second ago Holt had almost seemed human. She’d been mistaken, obviously.

“I’m saying clean it up by the time my wife and I come to dinner tonight or the next meal I eat will be bison burgers.” He turned to go, but Hannah dashed around and stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“You said if I slept with Jake for fourteen days Gladys would be safe. You promised!”

“Well, now I’m saying that cabin better be clean for fourteen days, too, and you’d better have one hell of a dinner on the table each night for my son. And for me and my wife tonight at six o’clock. I have a full day of chores ahead of me and I’m bound to be hungry.” He pushed past her toward the barn. “By the way, Lisa has a sweet tooth, so serve something good for dessert. She prefers a formal table setting, too.”

Hannah gaped at him as he strode stiffly across the frozen ground away from her. Dinner? Clean the cabin? She worked until five-thirty. How on earth could she pull that off?

And did she even want to? What kind of sick, twisted game was Holt was playing? What new demand would he make tomorrow if she went along with these ones today? She looked at her wrist. She was already late for work. Bella depended on her. So did their clients.