The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 13)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(13)
Author: Cora Seton

“Sure thing, cowboy,” she said, her slight accent making the statement seem somehow provocative. She scooped up another chip full of salsa and fed it to Ned, who leaned closer to catch it in his mouth. “Go ahead, Fila,” Camila said, resting a hand on Ned’s bicep. “Take one. Tell me what you think.”

Fila frowned, but she took one, dipped it in the salsa and took a bite. She nodded admiringly. She seemed subdued, but then Fila was always quiet around new people. Ned figured she and Camila would soon be fast friends.

“I’ll make you some tostados tomorrow,” Camila promised Ned, leaning in closer and feeding him yet another chip.

“It’s time for lunch,” Fila said suddenly.

“What? Oh, right.” Ned helped himself to a chip. He’d be fine staying right here and consuming a whole plate of them. He noticed Camila watching him, and held the chip in front of her mouth instead of eating it himself. “Your turn. Open wide.”

She did so and he popped it in. Camila ate the chip, then licked the salt from her lips. “That is good, if I do say so myself.”

Fila stood up suddenly, bumping the table so the salsa bowl slid several inches toward their side.

“Whoa—slow down.” Ned caught it handily. “I guess we’d better get going.” Fila sure seemed anxious to leave all of a sudden.

Camila took her time getting to her feet and when she did, she stretched luxuriously. Ned couldn’t help notice she had a fine figure. Like Fila, she was short but curvy. Just the way he liked women. “I’ve been up since dawn,” she said. “I’m about ready for my siesta. I don’t imagine you do that around here, though, do you?”

“Unfortunately not.” Ned winked at Fila. “Sounds like a good idea to me. Say, we’re off to get some lunch. Want to come?”

Fila opened her mouth, then snapped it closed again. Whoops—he’d said he’d take her home, hadn’t he? Well, it wouldn’t kill her to eat out. A friend like Camila could be just the thing to draw her out of her shell.

“Sure!” Camila smiled broadly again. “Where are you planning to eat?”

“How about Linda’s Diner? It ain’t Mexican food, but it’s filling.”

“Let’s go.” Camila linked her arm with his, then turned to Fila and hooked her other arm through hers. Fila stiffened at the contact, but didn’t say anything. Good. Playful Camila would have Fila loosened up in no time. She had none of the fears Fila had, and with her obvious restaurant experience she could most likely give Fila all kinds of pointers. Maybe the proximity of the two restaurants would help, Ned thought. People liked variety. They would come to Camila’s place and see Fila’s on the way in. Maybe next time they’d go there.

“What brought you to Chance Creek?” he asked Camila once they were seated in a booth at the diner, looking over the menus Tracey Richards had handed them.

Camila made a face. “I’m being punished.” She folded her hands and sat as primly as a schoolmarm. “I’ve disgraced my family so I’ve been sent to Siberia to learn the error of my ways.”

“What was the error?”

“Being a better chef than my older brother. He’s been being groomed to take over my family’s restaurant in Houston for ages, but for the last year I ran the kitchen once a week—on Mondays, the slowest day for a restaurant.” Camila played with her fork. “Except after a few months, Mondays became our second best sales day—better than Friday nights. Customers began to ask why the food wasn’t as good on the other nights of the week. Mateo was not amused. Neither was my father.”

“He didn’t let you take over on the other days?” Fila spoke up for the first time.

“No. He found me a husband.” Camila tossed the napkin away. “Actually brought a business associate of his home to meet me. And told me when I was married I could cook for my family. I told him no way. I left the next day.”

“How did you have the money to start a restaurant?” Again, it was Fila who spoke. Ned suppressed a smile. See, friends already.

“My uncle has a slightly more forward vision of women’s capabilities. He told me he’d front me the money as long as I picked a location where my father would never want to open a restaurant. So I picked Chance Creek. Even my father can’t have a problem with that.” Her expression conveyed that no one would want to start a restaurant here. Ned tamped down a desire to stick up for the place.

“Must be tough not to be supported by your father,” he said. He could relate.

Camila shrugged. “Maybe I don’t need his support.”

“Maybe he’ll come after you when his restaurant starts losing money.” It was Fila speaking again. Ned wasn’t sure he’d ever seen her so animated in company before.

“I doubt it.” But Camila’s mood seemed to lighten after that. “What are you getting?” She touched the back of Ned’s hand where he held his laminated menu.

“A bacon burger. How about you?”

“A Cobb salad, I think. What about you, Fila?” Camila’s smile was perfectly friendly, but Fila was frowning again. What was that about?

“Fila?” Ned shifted closer. “Don’t you know what you want to eat yet?”

She glanced down and pointed at an item at random. “That one.”

Camila craned her neck to see. “Meat loaf?”

“Are you sure?” Ned said. “How about fried chicken strips? You liked them at Autumn’s house.”

She flashed him a grateful smile. “Yes. Chicken strips would be good.” Under the table, Ned twined his fingers briefly with hers and gave her a reassuring squeeze. She met his gaze, studied him a moment, and then relaxed.

“Hi, Ned, Fila. Didn’t know we’d see you here.”

Ned looked up at the sound of a familiar voice and spotted his mother’s blue wool coat. Her face above it was alight in happiness at seeing him. His father, walking behind her, took in Fila next to him and Camila across the table. As he scanned Camila’s vibrant features, a crafty look came into his eyes.

Before Ned could act, Holt approached the table, reached across it and offered Camila his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said. “Holt Matheson. I’m Ned’s father.”

“Nice to meet you.” Camila flashed him her widest smile. “I’m Camila Torres.”