The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 51)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(51)
Author: Cora Seton

Pretty well, he supposed, if he was ready to get rid of his ranch. Would Bella and Evan take the bait? Would they allow Hannah and him to keep renting this part of the mansion? He sure hoped they would. He also hoped that sooner or later he and Hannah could buy into the ranch on a partnership basis, but that was down the road.

When they met up a half-hour later in Carl’s enormous living room, he could tell the deal had already been struck.

“We’re taking it,” Bella confirmed. “It’s perfect. There’s plenty of room for us to live and Evan to run his business. We’ll build a clinic twice the size of the one I have in town and a bigger animal shelter, too. When you’re a veterinarian you can join my practice.” She beamed at Hannah. “And…” She looked to Evan.

“And we hope the two of you will consider this your home, too. I know it’s not the same as having your own place, but while you’re away at school we can keep an eye on the place, and when you’re home maybe sometimes we can take off on a vacation or two.” Evan squeezed Bella. “With the rest of my family and business headquartered back in California, I should travel there frequently. Having someone else on site, even part of the time, would be a huge relief.”

Jake felt a smile spread across his face. Exactly what he’d hoped for. “It’s a deal.” He shook hands with Evan. Bella squealed and hugged Hannah. “We’ll be like sisters! I’ve never had a sister!”

“Neither have I.” To Jake’s relief, Hannah smiled.

He’d lost one family tonight but it looked like he’d gained another one. It didn’t matter if they weren’t related by blood. Friendship would have to do.

He had a feeling it would do just fine.

Chapter Twenty-Three

“I guess we can change our wedding date now,” Hannah said when Bella, Evan and Cab went home. Since they hadn’t managed to eat at his parents’ place, they planned to drive into town and hit the Burger Shack. Hannah thought of Lisa’s enormous dinner sadly. She hoped someone managed to enjoy it.

She hoped Lisa was all right, as well. It must be tough to be the matriarch of a family that was comprised of five strong-willed men. She knew that Lisa must want them all to get along, but surely she knew by now that wouldn’t always happen.

Hannah assumed that one day she and Jake would patch things up with his folks. For a while things would be uncomfortable but time would pass and hurt feelings would smooth over.

She wasn’t sure about the wedding, though. Without Jake’s family there it would be a sad affair.

“I don’t want to change our wedding date. Do you?” Jake led the way out to his truck and opened the door for her.

“I don’t want to, but I also don’t want a lot of empty seats at the ceremony. Besides, it’s supposed to be at your parents’ house.”

“We can do it at the Cruz ranch.” But his voice told her he wasn’t happy with that, either.

“Maybe we should put it off until spring. By then they’ll come around, don’t you think?”

He waited until they’d both climbed in to answer. “I don’t want them just to come around. I want them to accept me how I am and to accept you, too. I don’t want to play these games. I do want to get married from home, but the Double-Bar-K isn’t my home anymore. You think Evan and Bella would mind if we used the mansion?”

“We could always ask. You’ll still invite your family though, won’t you?”

Jake frowned. “I’ll invite them.”

“Even Ned?”

He laughed humorlessly. “Especially Ned.”

She turned to him in surprise. “Why especially?”

“For all I’ve been a prisoner of Dad’s games, it’s been worse for Ned. Always second in line. Always hoping for a chance at first. Now that I’m out of there and have something else to look forward to—something even better,” he reached over and squeezed her hand, “I say let him have his chance. He deserves it.”

“Really?”

“Really.” He glanced her way. “I should have gotten out of there a lot sooner. None of this would have happened. My Dad wouldn’t have had the chance to hurt you.”

“And you and I might never have gotten together. No, as much as I despise his methods, I can’t complain about the results of your father’s evil plan.”

Jake laughed. “Glad to hear it. My home is with you now, you know. They can’t touch us anymore.”

“No. They definitely can’t touch us now. I know we’ll make a good life together.”

“I know that, too.”

Jake remembered his bold words when they ran into Ned at the Burger Shack fifteen minutes later.

“How’d you track me down?” Ned said when he caught sight of them in line behind him.

“I was about to ask you the same thing.” Jake sensed Hannah’s discomfort. “Why don’t you grab us a table, honey,” he told her. “I’ll grab the grub.”

“Okay.” She left quickly enough that he knew his instincts were right.

“I won’t change my mind,” Ned said. “It’s only fair I get a chance to manage the ranch.”

“I agree. I’m not coming back.”

Ned searched his face, suspicious. “Where will you go?”

“Carl’s place. The Mortimers are buying it. We’ll rent from them for now. Evan and I have plans.”

“Huh.” Ned shoved his hands in his pockets. He didn’t look like a man who was celebrating a victory. Was Ned disappointed?

“The Double-Bar-K is all yours.”

“Yeah. Well, good,” Ned said grudgingly.

“Want to join us?” Jake gestured to the table across the room where Hannah sat gazing back at them worriedly.

“Nah. I’ll head back home.” Ned hesitated before turning back to the counter where his turn had come to order. “Thanks. For backing off.”

“No problem.”

Ned hurried away as soon as he got his order and Jake brought his tray of food to the table Hannah had secured.

“That looked like it went okay,” she said.

“Better than I expected. I told him the Double-Bar-K was his. He said thank you.”

“Almost civilized.”

“Almost,” Jake agreed. “You think my Dad will leave it at that?”

“Are you kidding? He’s got two more sons to marry off. Batten down the hatches and hide your women.”