The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 21)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(21)
Author: Cora Seton

She had to stay on top of her emotions, though. Jake was the best lover she’d ever had, but she didn’t know if the torn condom was a fluke or if he’d done something on purpose. She couldn’t be with a man who would try to force her hand like that. And even if it was an accident—which she suspected it was—it pointed out all the reasons she shouldn’t get caught up with Jake. She didn’t intend to stay with him. Not when they were at such different places in their lives.

Her phone buzzed with an incoming message. A text from Jake.

Speak of the devil, she thought, reading it. “Plan on two extras for dinner.” A jolt of anger spiked through her at the reminder that Holt was forcing her to cook dinner for him and Lisa, and that Jake probably thought it was a fine idea. Two extras—duh. She rolled her eyes, but figured it was a good thing Holt had let Jake know he and Lisa were coming to eat with them tonight. Now he’d get home on time and maybe he could help her with the last-minute details.

And afterward they’d have a serious talk. About the condom, about the next two weeks, and about how they’d handle a pregnancy if there was one.

Hannah fought the urge to cry. How had she gotten into this mess? Twenty-four hours ago the prospect of living with Jake had sounded fun. Now she was so confused she didn’t know where to turn.

It was all Holt’s fault.

And now she was supposed to clean up Jake’s cabin and cook for the man?

Plus the man’s wife. Hannah wondered if Lisa knew about any of Holt’s schemes. She had always wondered why such a smart, lovely woman would marry such a pain-in-the-ass. What would Lisa say tonight at dinner? Would anyone tell her what was really going on?

Hannah decided she’d make the upcoming ordeal palatable to herself by pretending she had voluntarily invited Lisa to dinner. Forget Jake and forget Holt. Lisa had always been sweet when they’d met up. She had no problem cooking a meal for a woman like that. The rest of the Mathesons could go hang themselves, though.

Bella ushered a client out of the examining room—Patty Akins and her schnauzer, Prince. Once Patty had paid her bill and said her good-byes, Hannah asked Bella to stay and talk a moment. “I hate to even ask, but is there any way I can take the afternoon off?” She gave her boss and friend a sanitized version of the events of the past day. “I told Holt I’d have him and Lisa to dinner since they’ve been so great about letting Gladys stay.” She nearly choked on the lie, but it was better than admitting the truth. Bella would think she was an idiot to allow Holt to blackmail her.

“You really like Jake, don’t you?” Bella asked.

Hannah figured she was referring to the blush she could feel heating her cheeks. She hesitated. “Yes,” she conceded, “but it’s not as easy as that.”

“Somehow love never is, but you’ll figure it out.”

“I hope so.” She hoped she’d figure out how to last through dinner.

“Why don’t you head out right now? Just leave me the rest of the files for this afternoon.”

“Thanks! I’ll come in early tomorrow to get back on top of it all. I promise.”

“Oh, please. You’ve been working like mad, we both have!” Bella said. “I, for one, am looking forward to Christmas vacation.” She disappeared into the back and Hannah began to gather her things.

By Christmas vacation she’d know whether or not she was having a baby. If Jake had his way, she’d be married, too. Reeling under those thoughts, she headed out the door.

An hour later she set three bags of groceries on the kitchen table in Jake’s cabin and went out for her next load. She’d picked up everything she needed for a roast chicken dinner. With chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits and a salad, she figured she’d please the pickiest rancher, and all of those dishes were easy as pie to make, as long as she got to it right away.

Thank goodness she’d thought to stop at Autumn’s house and borrow some pots and pans, she thought half an hour later. Jake’s house was stocked with the barest of cooking essentials and she’d have been up a creek without a paddle otherwise. With the chicken in the oven, she turned her attention to cleaning house. She’d start with the most visible areas—the kitchen, living room and downstairs bathroom—and work her way up, leaving Jake’s room for last. The thought of cleaning up his personal things made her cringe. She wasn’t some sort of maid, after all. She didn’t want him to get used to this treatment.

As anger grew within her once more, however, Hannah took a couple of deep breaths. Why was she letting Holt and Jake stir her up like this? Right now she was reacting to Holt’s machinations. She was being his victim. That wasn’t the kind of woman she wanted to be. She had taken the afternoon off to throw a dinner party, and she was going to revel in it. No more moping or simmering with anger. She wasn’t doing this for Jake or Holt. She was doing this for Lisa—and herself. She deserved a beautiful, clean home to live in for the next thirteen days and she deserved a wonderful home-cooked meal to eat tonight. Her mood somewhat restored, she got to work.

Along with the groceries, she’d bought a number of different cleaning supplies, a bucket, mop and scrubbing sponges. She set her iPod to her most upbeat playlist, snapped on a pair of gloves and got to work. Just as she’d suspected, Jake already owned a broom and vacuum cleaner. She piled everything that didn’t belong on the first floor on the stairs and cleaned like a madwoman, telling herself the faster she went, the better workout she’d get. The mindless tasks weren’t as bad as she expected. Some places needed a better scrubbing than she had time for—such as the refrigerator, the bathroom tiles and inside the oven—but when the rooms sparkled, she picked up the load of Jake’s belongings and hauled them up to his room.

Back downstairs, she whipped up a pan of brownies, prepped the biscuit dough, made the salad, and peeled the potatoes. With her busy schedule she never took time to make a fancy supper—certainly not since she’d been staying at the Cruz ranch where Autumn seemed to cook from morning to night. It was kind of fun as a change of pace. As the afternoon progressed, she realized that Holt could try to boss her around and Jake could try to force her hand, but in the end she was the one who decided whether or not to let them. She’d made a choice to secure a place for Gladys and she could stand two weeks of Holt’s craziness. She’d made a choice to sleep with Jake and she’d accept the consequences of that action. If she was pregnant, she’d add a baby to the mix and go to school anyway. Why not? Other women did and survived.