The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 20)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(20)
Author: Cora Seton

She still hadn’t found Jake to give him a piece of her mind and figure out what to do about the ripped condom. Should she call into work and go see a doctor instead? Get a pill to take so she could stop worrying?

She should, but she wouldn’t. As much as it made sense to do so, she just wasn’t wired that way. Whatever happened next, she’d deal with it, even if it overturned all her carefully made plans.

She placed her hands on her abdomen trying to channel information out of it. Was she pregnant? Could she possibly be?

Wouldn’t she know?

“Did my brother knock you up already?”

She spun around with a gasp to find Ned watching her, his head cocked to one side. “Why the hell would you say that?”

He mimicked her, leaning back and cupping his abdomen with his hands as if he were pregnant. “Doesn’t take a genius to decipher that gesture. So was it Jake who knocked you up, or Cody?”

Her mouth dropped open. “It sure as hell wasn’t Cody!” Too late she realized how that sounded. “It wasn’t your brother, either. I’m not pregnant.”

“If you say so.”

“Ned! I mean it—I’m not. Don’t you dare say anything—to anyone!”

“Why not? You’re going to marry Jake, aren’t you? Did you have a little condom trouble? Or just forget to use one altogether?”

Was he for real? “Who said anything about marriage?” Her voice slipped into a higher register.

“Jake did. Said we should expect a wedding by Christmas—just as soon as he talked you out of your crazy career plans. He prefers his women where he can keep an eye on them. It’s kind of a Matheson thing.” He turned to leave. “Ginger tea is supposed to help with morning sickness, by the way. You look a little pale.”

“Damn it! I don’t have morning sickness.”

“Yet.” He strode away.

“I am not pregnant!” But he was gone.

Giving up, she turned on her heel and stalked off to her truck to head into town. She’d call every ranch around these parts during slow times this morning to find a home for Gladys. And if that didn’t work, she’d take the afternoon off. She wouldn’t let Holt boss her around anymore and she wouldn’t give Jake another chance to trap her in a marriage she wasn’t ready for. Career nonsense? Had Jake really said that? She’d had enough of the Mathesons.

Especially Ned.

Just as Jake had hoped, Mia Start was working the till at Dundy’s Hardware store. He rounded up a couple of items, brought them to her register and smiled when she began to ring them up.

“Hi, Jake. How’s it going?” As usual, Mia had pulled her long, dark hair up into a ponytail near the top of her head. It made her look younger than her twenty-one years. It made Jake feel old.

“I’m good. Ran into Fila earlier, though. She wasn’t looking so hot.” Now that he was here executing his plan, he wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. He’d told himself that with a houseful of guests descending on Ethan and Autumn, Mia might like to move out just like Hannah had. He figured Autumn was stashing the two women somewhere on the ranch, but that couldn’t be as comfortable for Mia as having her own room. He was just doing her a favor. Now that he was faced with her, he had to admit that the only person he was helping was himself.

Mia’s hands stilled. “Fila? What’s wrong with her?”

In for a penny, in for a pound. He braced himself to tell the lie as convincingly as he could. “She seemed upset. Something about moving somewhere temporary? Not having a place for herself? She was crying too hard for me to understand her.”

“Crying?” Mia’s eyes widened. “I knew she wasn’t really comfortable with the idea, but…”

“Sounds like she had a real hard time back in Afghanistan.” Jake cringed. Normally he prided himself on being honest. It was true Fila had a lot to get over from the time she’d spent as a captive abroad, but he had no idea if she was upset about her upcoming move out of the Big House.

“She did seem down this morning. I thought it was because Hannah left the ranch. How’s that going by the way? The two of you living together?”

“It’s going great. The cabins my brothers and I have each have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. They’re perfect for sharing.” He didn’t think it wise to mention that he and Hannah had only used one bedroom the night before.

“I wish I could afford something like that. I feel like I’ve sponged off of Autumn and Ethan long enough.” Mia slowly began to ring up the rest of his things.

“Ned’s looking for a subletter,” Jake said quickly, seeing his chance. “He’d be happy to have you take his guest bedroom. He’d like some extra cash to save up to buy a new truck.”

“Really?” She brightened, then quickly frowned. “But Ned… he’s kind of got a temper.”

“That’s all for show. He never acts like that at home.” God would surely strike him dead for that whopper.

“I don’t know…”

“He’s hardly ever in the house, anyway,” Jake blustered when it looked like Mia would decide against it. “He works all day and most nights he’s tinkering in the shop he’s got out in one of the barns. Have you ever seen the stuff he builds?”

She shook her head.

“He can do anything mechanical. Fix anything.” It was the first time Jake could ever remember bragging about his younger brother, but it was true; Ned was a whiz with gadgets and gears. He kept all the equipment on the ranch running. Jake didn’t know what they’d do without him—it would cost a fortune to hire a mechanic every time something broke down. “What kind of rent are you paying at Ethan’s place?”

“Five hundred dollars a month.”

Jake made a sympathetic face. “Heck, Ned would take three hundred.”

“The five hundred includes food, too.”

“Ned will provide the food. And sometimes you can eat with Hannah and me. It’ll be fun. In fact, why don’t you come by tonight for dinner? I’ll make sure Ned’s there, too. Afterward, he can take you to his place so you can look it over and make up your mind. Six o’clock okay?”

“Okay.” Mia nodded, beginning to smile. “Yeah. That sounds great!”

Chapter Eight

Hannah admitted defeat at lunchtime. She’d combed through the ranches in southern Montana once before and this time she had no better luck finding a place to board Gladys. Bison ranches had gained in popularity but there were none close by, and the rest of the ranches weren’t interested in introducing a whole new kind of critter to their herds. A few places far to the west might take her, but the cost of the proposition was outlandish. Keeping her at the Double-Bar-K was her best bet. Hannah closed the browser on her computer and glanced at the calendar on the wall. She could take thirteen days of Holt’s abuse, she decided, and the thirteen nights of Jake’s company would be… bearable. As long as he didn’t discuss marriage and his outdated ideas about wives.