The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 23)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(23)
Author: Cora Seton

“You cleaned my bedroom,” Jake whispered in her ear when they met again in the kitchen ten minutes later. He’d poured his mother a glass of wine and handed Holt a beer. All three of their guests were seated in the living room. Jake’s breath tickled her neck.

“It’s no big deal,” she said shortly.

“It is to me. No one’s ever done something like that before. Except Mom.”

That’s because you’re a grown man, she wanted to say, but she didn’t want to start a fight right now. Not with an audience. She pulled away and went to stir the gravy.

Jake followed her. “I think it’s the sexiest thing any woman’s ever done for me.” He slid an arm around her waist and hugged her from behind.

Hannah’s body welcomed his touch, but her mind rebelled against his words. “That’s got to be the most sexist thing any man’s ever said to me,” she retorted, and slipped away from him again.

“Hey.” He put a hand on her arm to stop her. “Are you mad? I’m just trying to say thank you. It would be sexist if I expected it. It’s sexy because I didn’t. Not from you.”

She squinted at him. “I don’t know whether that makes it better or worse.”

Jake sighed. “All I’m trying to say is that I appreciate what you did. All of this.” He waved a hand to encompass the meal and the table setting. “My work is never done. It’s hard to go, go, go all day, then come home and do some more, you know?”

She did know. She knew exactly what he meant, because she went to work at the clinic, skipped her lunch half the time because of the overload of patients, and then had to come home and deal with her own mess. Didn’t he know that? She opened her mouth to spell it out for him, caught sight of Mia through the glass panel of the front door and sighed instead.

“Thank you, for everything,” Jake said and dropped a kiss on her forehead. Hannah forced a smile to her mouth and went to open the door.

Jake couldn’t believe how much effort Hannah had put into dinner, when all he’d intended was to heat up a couple of pizzas and chat over the meal with Ned and Mia. He wasn’t exactly sure what made her extend the invitation to his parents or why Ned decided to bring Luke, but none of that mattered. In fact, it made his plan easier to execute. Ned didn’t know that Mia planned to move into his place, and as hard as he’d thought about it Jake hadn’t come up with a way to force his hand. Now it would be easy. How could Ned refuse her in front of this crowd?

Once Luke showed up, his hair still damp from a quick shower, they settled down to the meal. Hannah played hostess, serving her guests and making sure everyone had what they needed. Conversation quickly turned to ranch work and the herd, and the menfolk synced up their schedules for the following day.

“It’s good to see you,” Hannah said to Mia when there was a lull in the conversation. “I already miss hanging out with the gang around Autumn’s dinner table.”

“Well, I think you’ll see a lot more of me, if Ned’s agreeable.” Mia bent forward to smile down the table at him. “Did you bring the rental paperwork?”

Ned stared back at her, having just taken a bite of mashed potatoes. Luke was staring at her, too. In fact he’d been staring at her throughout the meal so far. Jake hurried to fill the sudden silence.

“I told Mia how you said you were looking for someone to move in with you, just like Hannah has moved in with me,” he announced to Ned. “You know—to rent your spare room? Mia says three hundred dollars a month suits her just fine. She’d like to move in as soon as possible.”

Ned swallowed hard and took a swig of his beer before he answered. “I… uh…” He met Mia’s wide-eyed gaze and choked back the harsh words Jake figured he meant to say. “I guess… that would work,” he ended lamely.

“Are you sure?” Mia wrinkled her brow. “You sound a little hesitant.”

“No. It’s just…” Ned scanned the faces of his family, obviously looking for help. Jake just smiled at him. His parents watched curiously.

Luke leaned forward. “If he says no, I’ll…”

“I didn’t say no,” Ned snapped. “That would work fine for me. We don’t need any paperwork, though. We’ll just shake on it. I’ll make sure the room is empty and ready for you by noon tomorrow.”

Mia smiled and her whole face lit up. She wasn’t Jake’s type, but he could see she could easily be Ned’s. Or Luke’s. “That would be terrific! Maybe I can cook for you the way Hannah does for Jake. I don’t mind—it would be fun!”

Ned sat back. “Well, now. If you’ll do the cooking, I’ll do the eating.” He gave her a considering look and then flicked his gaze to Luke, whose face looked like thunder. Jake realized he might have made a misstep. Did Luke have a thing for Mia? And did Ned, too? Or did he simply relish the prospect of sticking a knife into Luke’s heart and twisting the blade?

“You shouldn’t take advantage of her good nature,” Luke said.

“You’re just jealous no one’s trying to move into your cabin,” Ned said.

“That’s enough,” their mother said mildly. “Hannah, you’ve done a real fine job with this meal. A fancy table cloth and everything! Is this a special occasion?”

“Not really,” Jake hastened to say when Hannah didn’t answer. Hannah had been quiet most of the meal and he sensed she was angry. He still hadn’t had a chance to talk to her about the torn condom. He had a feeling he was going to pay for that, but he couldn’t understand why she’d worked so hard to clean and prepare this fancy meal if she was mad at him.

“Now, that’s not what I heard.” Ned helped himself to another dollop of mashed potatoes and then placing an even bigger dollop on Luke’s plate. Jake knew for sure Luke hated mashed potatoes. Ned seemed intent on stirring up trouble tonight.

“Ned.” He wasn’t sure what his brother meant to say, but he was positive it wouldn’t be good.

“I heard,” Ned cut right across him, “that this is a very happy occasion indeed!”

Hannah stared at him. Jake was at a loss. His parents waited expectantly. Mia had a smile already forming on her lips.

“What occasion?” Lisa prompted.

“Didn’t you know?” Ned threw an arm around Hannah’s shoulders and gave her a vigorous squeeze. “Hannah’s pregnant!”