The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 34)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(34)
Author: Cora Seton

She couldn’t meet his eyes. “You know I won’t be able to do that when I go to school, right?”

He set his menu down. “You’re still planning to go to school?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Even if you’re pregnant?” He lowered his voice, although the din in the restaurant would cover anything they said.

“Especially if I’m pregnant,” she said. “Look. I know you want a traditional wife, but you’re not getting one in me. Not by a long shot. You either have to give up that notion or you have to give me up.”

Sarah-Jane Lafferty, a casual acquaintance of Hannah’s, approached the table, notepad in hand. “You two ready to order?” she asked cheerfully. She looked from one to the other of them with frank interest and Hannah decided to move things along before she started asking any embarrassing questions. It was bad enough the Matheson clan seemed to think it their right to discuss her relationship with Jake. She didn’t need Sarah-Jane gossiping about it to other patrons of the restaurant.

“Sure thing. I’ll have the chicken parmesan, Jake wants the manicotti and we both want the side salad with house dressing.” Jake’s eyebrows shot up, but he didn’t contradict her.

“How about to drink?”

“A beer for Jake, just water for me.”

“Perfect. I’ll bring you some garlic bread in a minute.” Sarah-Jane headed back for the kitchen.

Jake’s eyebrows were still raised. “I guess you’re right; you’re not going to be traditional.” He took her hand and tugged on it gently. “You do know the man is supposed to order the meal, don’t you?”

“Whatever.”

“Look, it’s all right with me if you want to be a vet. I’ve thought about this a lot. I would like it if you joined me in my work on the ranch, but it’s not necessary. More than anything I want you to be happy. If being a vet is what makes you happy, then so be it. The only thing I want is for you to commit to me—to commit to us. Let’s make a plan for our lives together—a plan we’re both happy with.”

She sat back, surprised by his change of heart, and for one moment she wanted to leap across the table and hug him. But then she took in all of his words and began to shake her head slowly. She appreciated what he was saying, but it didn’t go far enough. “You don’t get it. I already have a plan and there isn’t anything I can change about it. First I’ll go to Montana State, then I’ll go to Colorado, and then I’ll come back and join Bella’s practice.”

“Wait. Hold up there. Colorado? Why the hell would you go there?”

She almost pitied the handsome cowboy. This was exactly what she’d feared—he could make adjustments to his life-view, but only small ones. “Jake,” she said, her voice softening. “You realize I can’t do a veterinary degree at Montana State, right? I’m just doing my preliminary classes there. The nearest veterinary program is in Colorado. I’ll be there for four years.”

“Four years?” Jake couldn’t breathe, his chest had gone so tight. He leaned across the table. “You can’t go away for four years.”

“That’s what it takes to be a vet.”

He sat back, stunned. All his dreams went up in smoke. Hannah wasn’t going to yoke up with him—two partners working side by side toward the same vision. She was so committed to her own dreams she’d leave him high and dry for four entire years. And what about their child?

“You can’t leave if you’re pregnant.”

“Watch me.”

“Are you serious?” He stared at her in disbelief. How could she sit there so calmly and tear his heart out of his chest? “That’s my kid, too.”

“If there is one.” She looked exasperated. “I didn’t ask to be pregnant—not right now. I’ve told you the truth since day one. I have plans. I know what I want from life.”

“Guess it’s not me.” He fished in his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. Thumped it on the table. “I asked you here to give you this. I wanted to make our engagement official.” He opened it and held it out to her. The classic diamond ring inside it glittered in the low light of the restaurant.

Sarah-Jane, who’d just approached to place a basket of rolls on the table, veered quickly away.

“Put that back in your pocket,” Hannah hissed at him. “You’re such a hypocrite. Two minutes ago you said you supported my desire to be a veterinarian, but the second you find out it will take some personal sacrifice you change your mind. At the same time you want me to commit to you and your life plan? I don’t think so.”

“I didn’t know being a vet would mean you had to move away for four years. That’s a pretty big deal,” Jake protested.

“Exactly my point. We can’t be together, Jake. We’re totally incompatible.”

“That’s bullshit. We’re compatible every night.”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “Sex isn’t everything.”

“It’s a hell of a lot, though.” He took her hand again. “Every night you can’t get enough of me and every day you’re so angry you look like you want to spit. Why does it have to be like that?”

“Why?” Tears of frustration pricked her eyelids. Why did it have to be like that? Because of Holt. Because of the Mathesons’ archaic beliefs. “Because none of this is real!”

“What?” Jake scowled. “What are you talking about?”

“This… situation.” Hannah waved a hand. “You and me together. We didn’t meet and date the normal way—your father forced us together!”

The color drained out of Jake’s face. “What do you mean by that?”

Damn—if she blew her cover, she’d lose everything she’d worked for. Gladys would lose her home. But she couldn’t stop now that she’d started. She was too angry with Holt. Too angry with herself.

“For one thing, I’m talking about the way your father has been forcing me to cook and clean like some household slave—that’s not normal, Jake!”

“Wait… what?”

“He threatened to kill Gladys if I didn’t do it. You think I like doing all the housework for you after a full day at the clinic? I have news for you. I hate cleaning. I hate shopping, and I hate, hate, hate laundry.”