The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 32)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(32)
Author: Cora Seton

“But… what do we say to them?” Luke asked.

“Hell, I don’t know.” A light went on. “Actually I do. Luke, you just tell Mia your favorite color is pink.”

Hannah was eyeing the clock and tapping her fingers on the reception counter by the time Bella finally returned from her latest house-hunting trip that afternoon. Four clients and their pets waited impatiently in the small waiting area, and she knew she’d be hard pressed to finish up at work, run to the Cruz ranch to pick up her mail and still meet Jake for dinner on time. He’d invited her to eat out at DelMonacos—said it was the least he could do to repay her for all the delicious meals she’d cooked. Bella had left the office for an hour to visit more housing possibilities, but that hour had stretched to two by the time she walked in the clinic door.

“I’m sorry,” Bella said, rushing in. “After we walked through the house, we ended up going to another one that just came on the market. Neither of them worked. Evan says that in either case we’d have to tear down the house and start from scratch.”

Hannah could see her disappointment. “Were they too old?”

“Too old, too small, the wiring wasn’t up to code… it’s bad enough we want a comfortable house, but the fact that Evan’s going to run his business out of it…”

“You’re going to run your business there, too.”

“Yes, but we already knew we’d have to build the clinic and shelter. I thought we could just buy the house.”

“We’d better get going.” Hannah shot a glance toward the waiting room. “Don’t forget I have to leave at five.”

Bella made a face when she looked at her watch and saw it was already past four. “Shoot. I forgot all about that. I’m sorry, Hannah. You’re not going to have a chance to run home and change.”

“That’s okay—I brought some clothes. I can change in the bathroom.” She handed a chart to Bella. “Annette Hill and her puppy, Lucy. Lucy needs some shots.”

“Well, that’s easy enough. Hey, if you want, you can duck into the trailer in a half-hour or so and use my shower to freshen up. Evan’s working at the coffee shop this afternoon.”

“Thanks, but with all these people here…”

“Let me get through a couple of appointments, and then I’ll hold down the fort. You’ve done it for me enough times!” Bella called Annette and ushered the gray-haired woman and her lively puppy into examining room one. Hannah glanced at the clock again and down at the canvas tote bag under her desk where she’d stashed a change of clothing this morning in case work ran late. She’d love to make use of that shower.

A half-hour later, she stood up and addressed the remaining clients. “Folks, I have to head out for a bit. I’m going to give each of you your chart. Please wait for Bella to call your name. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Feeling like she was skipping class, she handed out the folders, grabbed her bag, darted out of the clinic and across the large yard to Bella’s airstream trailer. She knocked on the door even though she knew Evan wasn’t there. Prone to claustrophobia, the man spent most his days hunting for their new home and working at a coffee shop or Linda’s diner. That was why Bella was so determined to get a new place; she knew sooner or later Evan was going to revolt over their current living conditions.

As she let herself in and approached the tiny shower, she thought over what Bella had said. They wanted a large property fairly close to town. It needed the right zoning for Bella’s veterinary clinic and shelter, and the main house needed to be executive quality so Evan could host meetings with his clients and potential investors. Hannah was a little hazy on just what Evan did. She knew he’d inherited his billions, but he bought and sold patents and funded all sorts of research, too.

Her mind kept traveling to Carl Whitfield’s mansion. Just up the road from the Cruz ranch, it sported a huge log mansion that was definitely executive quality, and acres and acres of prime Montana ranch land. Cab and Rose were keeping an eye on it over the winter, since Carl had returned to California. Too bad it wasn’t for sale.

Forty-five minutes later, she was ready for her date with Jake. She’d chosen her clothes carefully so no one could accuse her of making too much of the occasion. Tailored pants, a soft, silky blouse, and plain black flats made her feel businesslike, but pretty, too. With her hair freshly washed, it fell in gentle waves over her shoulders. She often saw Jake look at her hair and knew it was one of her better features.

She wished she didn’t care what Jake thought of her, but of course she did. They had five more days before she would fulfill her bargain with Holt and earn Gladys a permanent home. Five more days before Jake asked her to marry him again. He seemed more than happy with their current state of affairs. He complimented her on her meals nightly and smiled every time he walked into his fresh, clean house, which always rubbed Hannah the wrong way. He didn’t know Holt was forcing her to step up her cleaning routine, nor did he realize that by getting him to help out a bit she was subverting Holt’s rule. The first time she folded the laundry and put away a stack of clean clothes in his dresser, Jake had been just about over the moon. He didn’t realize all his gratitude felt like a slap in her face.

What would he do if she married him and went straight back to her normal state of affairs—frozen dinners, laundry done on the run at the last possible moment, a monthly cleaning frenzy just before friends came over? He’d probably have a heart attack and then ask for a divorce.

The thought made her frown. It was going to be hard to leave in a few days. Apart from the caveman era chore assignments, she liked being with Jake. She’d never dated such an intelligent, ambitious, not to mention sexy man. When they got to chatting about something he read in the newspaper or something she heard on the radio they were equally curious—and equally apt to run for a computer to research a follow-up question on the Internet.

She loved the way he worshipped her body, too. She’d never experienced anything like it—this easy sexuality, the multiple times they could coax each other to the edge of ecstasy. She trusted him in bed in a way she’d never trusted another man. She wished she could trust him the same way out of it.

An hour later she pulled up at the Cruz ranch and entered the Big House to fetch her mail. Ethan and Autumn’s guests would arrive in a day or two and the place was spotless and decorated beautifully for the holidays. Time for her and Jake to think about putting up some decorations, she thought, then stopped. She wouldn’t be at Jake’s house at Christmas time.