The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 48)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(48)
Author: Cora Seton

“Simple.” He kissed her again. “You ask for help.”

Chapter Twenty-One

When Jake drove Hannah home early the next morning, flakes of snow were drifting down. This far into December it was high time for a real snowstorm. It suited his mood, too. Quiet. Cold. Drifting. He bundled Hannah into the house and back into bed although she protested that it was far from necessary. Since Ned and Luke were already covering his morning chores, he cleaned up the previous night’s clutter and made both himself and Hannah a large breakfast which they ate in bed. Afterward, they leaned against the headboard with their laptops and alternately talked and researched all the choices ahead of them.

After lunch Hannah insisted on getting up, taking a shower and getting dressed in preparation for their dinner meeting with Evan and Bella. Once in a while he saw a sad look cross her face and he knew she was thinking of the baby they wouldn’t have just now, but she was bouncing back already, buoyed up by their impending wedding and the idea of partnering with Bella and Evan. They prepped the house and meal together, moving easily around the kitchen as if they were an old married couple. Jake was nervous about Evan and Bella’s reaction to his proposal, but he decided that even if they said no, he and Hannah had other options. The important thing was that they were together.

Evan and Bella arrived at six, rosy-cheeked from the cold. Jake had worried the meeting would be awkward but he forgot all about that within a few minutes. Bella and Hannah moved into the kitchen as Bella updated her about the state of the clinic and Evan joined him in the living room after Jake fetched him a cold beer.

“I hope you brought me here to take me up on that joint venture,” Evan said right away.

“Actually, that’s exactly why we invited you,” Jake said. “I think I’ll be able to clear the way for a herd on the ranch in a month or so.”

Evan nodded. “That’s great. I’d hoped we’d have our own place by now. I planned to offer some of our land for the project if you’d help oversee the herd in exchange, but we still haven’t found a place that has everything we need.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll happily provide the land if you’ll foot the bill for the herd.” Here was where it got sticky. “I wish I had the cash, but…”

“That’s just fine. That’s what my trust is for—investing in new ideas. Ranching bison definitely qualifies. Just let me know when you’re ready to get started.”

“Right after the wedding.” Jake reached out to take Hannah’s hand as she and Bella joined them. “Two short weeks.”

“Where will you go on your honeymoon?” Bella asked Hannah.

“We’re not taking one. Instead, both of us are starting classes in February.”

“No kidding!” Evan said. “What are you studying, Jake?”

“Natural resources and rangeland ecology.”

Evan whistled. “Between your ideas and mine we’ll keep ourselves busy for years with trials and projects.”

“I look forward to it.”

While dinner with Bella and Evan had gone far better than Hannah could imagine, the upcoming meal with Jake’s parents and brothers to discuss wedding plans left her weak with dread. She was relieved that Lisa was hosting the meal, but as Hannah prepared to walk the short distance to the main house with Jake, her stomach was in knots. Things never went smoothly in the presence of Jake’s family. Holt probably would try to dictate the style of her wedding dress or come up with some new set of rules she had to adhere to. She’d spent the day at the Cruz ranch going over details with all her friends. They’d brainstormed a guest list and made lists of all the necessary preparations, too. They’d divided these tasks among all of them. With so many helpers it no longer seemed impossible to pull the ceremony and reception off in such a short period of time. The activity had helped keep her mind off the baby that never was. As Jake had said, they’d have other chances. For now they’d concentrate on the wedding and preparing for school.

Autumn put in a call to Ellie’s Bridals and cajoled Ellie to stay open late Monday night so they could all go together to help her pick out a dress after work that day. Morgan had fiddled with her hair, coming up with possible style ideas while Claire tallied the number of tables and chairs they’d need for the dinner. She’d had a great time with her friends, but now that she was alone with Jake she began to worry again. Even though Autumn had offered the Cruz Big House for a backup wedding location, Hannah knew that it was crucial for Jake to be married at the Double-Bar-K. She prayed Holt wouldn’t throw a monkey wrench in the works just for spite.

When they arrived, Ned and Luke were already seated at the dining room table, along with Fila and Mia. Rob and Morgan were there, too. Lisa took the pan of brownies they’d brought and shooed them in to take their places. Hannah greeted the other women happily. She hadn’t expected Mia and Fila to come. Although Mia greeted her warmly, she sat primly next to Luke without once looking his way. Luke looked at her plenty and his desperation was almost palpable. Jake had filled her in on his faux pas about the baby and she knew better than Jake why Luke deserved Mia’s cold shoulder. She suspected from Luke’s continued interest Mia hadn’t told him about her own pregnancy yet. What would happen when she did?

Where would Mia go?

Mia was probably asking herself that same question. Most likely she would get through the rest of December here with Luke and then skedaddle back to the Cruz ranch the moment their guests left. Hannah needed to speak to her and urge her to tell Autumn that she was pregnant. She knew Autumn—there would be a room for Mia at the ranch as long as she needed one. As broke as she was with a baby coming, she would need one for a long time to come.

Fila remained as silent and pale as she always was. Ned directed a word at her once in a while and she answered him, but Hannah could tell she was still having a hard time. She berated herself for how absorbed she’d been in her own problems. Neither Mia nor Fila should have left the Cruz ranch. She could only hope the time would pass quickly for them until they could return to it.

Morgan, by contrast to the other two, was blooming with good health and the early stages of her pregnancy. For all the time she’d spent at the Double-Bar-K, it amused Hannah to think she still saw Morgan more often at the Cruz ranch than she did here. They’d have to work to change that.

When Holt came into the room and took his seat, all conversation around the table fell away. He didn’t seem to notice this. Instead he waited impatiently until Lisa began to bring in the meal.