The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Page 7)

The Cowboy Lassos a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #6)(7)
Author: Cora Seton

He was right, damn it. The pale, pale complexion that went with her white-blond hair meant that every flush showed like her face had been slapped. She made it a point not to lie because like Holt said, she couldn’t get away with it. If she faced this man after a night with his son she’d be scarlet.

Like she was right now.

“How would I even get him to agree to it?” she asked, even though the question was ludicrous. She was not sleeping with Jake, no matter what the reward. Not on his father’s say-so. She turned back to Gladys, mostly to get away from Holt’s sardonic grin.

“Reckon that’s your problem. You’re a clever girl, you’ll think of something.”

“What do you get out of it?” Why was she even having this conversation? Because she was as crazy as Holt? Because she was worried about Gladys?

Because she wanted to sleep with Jake?

Did she ever. How many times in the last few weeks had she dreamed of unbuttoning one of Jake’s work shirts and smoothing her hands over his hard chest? How many times had she dreamed of unbuttoning her own shirt and pressing up against him, feeling her skin on his? Ever since the wedding, Jake had been on her mind. More than she cared to admit.

“I get to remind my son he’s a man,” Holt said. “Seems like he’s forgotten that. No sense passing on control of the ranch to him if he doesn’t intend to get an heir.”

“He’s not getting an heir with me,” Hannah snapped, stepping away from him. “I don’t plan to have children anytime soon.”

“No one asked you to. You just need to prime the pump, so to speak.”

“I’m not having sex with him, either.”

“Like I said, what you get up to is your call. No man can spend two weeks in bed with a pretty woman without getting a notion or two. I suspect that’s all it’ll take to get him thinking about the benefits of settling down.”

Hannah shook her head, the wooden railing under her hand splintery and cold in the November morning. “I didn’t say I’d do it.”

Holt smiled. “You didn’t walk away, either.”

“You fix that leak yet?” Holt asked.

When his father walked into the living room, Jake set his beer down carefully on the small end table and leaned back on the comfortable couch before the fire. He generally stayed for a drink after eating dinner at the main house with his parents and his brothers, Ned and Luke. His third brother, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Morgan, had just moved back onto the ranch until they built a permanent home, but they tended to eat in their own cabin, so he didn’t see them as much. When the meal was over, in good weather he’d sit out on the front porch and let his gaze wander over the land his family owned. In the winter he found a place in front of the fire in their formal living room. His brothers had already returned to their cabins, but Jake lingered. In a short time he’d head over to Ethan and Autumn’s poker night. Meanwhile he wanted to plan his strategy to convince Hannah to marry him in the next thirty days.


“You sure you got it at the source? The water will find another way in if…”

“Dad, I got it,” Jake cut him off.

Holt eased himself onto the other end of the couch. “Don’t you forget who made this ranch what it is today.”

Jake knew exactly who had made this ranch what it was. His father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, stretching back up the line of Mathesons for over a hundred and fifty years. That made him prouder than he could say about taking his place on the ranch. But along with being excellent cattlemen, Mathesons were also known for being hardheaded. Holt certainly was. “I’m supposed to be managing the herd. That’s my responsibility. I’ve got to be able to do things my way.”

“I’ve got a sight more experience with cattle than you do.”

“Dad, I can’t second-guess myself out there. You must know what it’s like—you took over from Grandpa.”

Holt snorted. “Your grandpa called the shots until he was in his grave. And then some. The day after we buried him I found a schedule he’d written out for the next two months. I followed it, too. I was afraid if I didn’t he’d claw himself back out of the ground and give me a whupping!”

Jake chuckled despite himself. “You didn’t mind that he kept bossing you around?”

“Of course I minded. My father was a stubborn son-of-a-bitch. It’s different for you.”

“Different how?”

“I’m as sweet as maple syrup compared to him.”

“Sure thing, Dad. Sweet enough to kick me off the ranch if I don’t marry in thirty days.”

Holt shot him a look. “I’m helping you get something you actually want. You just don’t know it yet. Now what about that bison? You found somewhere for it to go?”

Jake heaved a sigh and decided to ignore the first part of that statement. He took a swig of his beer and gazed out through the windows. “I want to start a herd.”

“Start a herd of what?” Holt leaned forward and held out his hands toward the fire.

“A herd of bison.”

Holt straightened up. “Now that’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

Figured. Holt wasn’t one to jump on new ideas, which was one reason Jake was feeling so fed up these days. “Dumb how?”

“The Double-Bar-K trades in cattle, not bison. Always has, always will.”

Jake sighed as a familiar restlessness overtook him. Would he ever be able to introduce a single innovation on the ranch while his father was alive? Some days he wondered if he was stupid for staying here. But he couldn’t leave. He just couldn’t. The very dirt of this place made the framework of his soul. None of those Mathesons before him had taken off when times got tough. He didn’t mean to be the first. “We can do both. Bison meat is becoming popular. It’s good for you. You can charge twice as much for it, too.”

“That’s because it’s twice as much work.” Holt eyed him. “What’s really behind this? A pretty girl with white-blond hair?”

“No. You’re dead wrong there,” Jake lied. He fixed his father with a hard look. “And just for the record, they’re half as much work, not twice as much. They don’t need all the extra tending in winter our herd does.”

“Stick to what you know, boy.” Holt stared into the fire. “If you’re smart you’ll shoot that bison yourself, eat it and be done with it.”