The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 16)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(16)
Author: Cora Seton

At Fila’s questioning look, Mia went on. “Look, I don’t make a lot of money at Dundy’s. I’m kind of stuck. I can afford to live with Luke because the rent is so cheap, but if I have to leave I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“You and Luke aren’t getting along?”

Mia sighed. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think we’d make a great couple. Other times—he’s such a man!”

“He likes you.”

“I know.” But Mia didn’t look happy. “I have to be sure of him before I make up my mind. I can’t make any mistakes.”

Fila wasn’t sure she understood. American women seemed to have no trouble dating a few men before settling down with one. Why would Mia be any different?

“Anyway, my love life doesn’t matter.” Mia pushed her ponytail over her shoulder and hunched over the laptop again. “Should we work on your menu or on the business plan?”

Chapter 10

Ned couldn’t remember the last time he’d sidled into his mother’s kitchen with so much trepidation. Probably not since the time he’d been busted at sixteen for stealing the high school principal’s car and doing donuts in the Wright’s hayfield with it. He’d settled down a lot since those days, and he figured this errand would please his mother, but he hated the thought of the fuss she’d make just as much as he’d dreaded her reaction back then.

“Ned. What are you doing here this time of day? Everything all right?” His mother was bent over one of the cookbooks his grandmother had passed down to her. She pushed it aside and gestured to another chair at the kitchen table.

“Everything’s fine. Just had a question.”

“Want some tea? I was just about to pour myself some.” She got to her feet and bustled about the kitchen in her usual fashion.

“Juice is good.” Ned didn’t bother to try to get it himself. She’d just wave him back into his seat. His mother had always liked to take care of her family and he got the feeling sometimes she still saw him and his brothers as the little boys they once were. She’d be in heaven once she had some grandkids.

“What’s the question?”

He waited until she was sitting down again. “If I wanted to—” Now that it was time to ask, he didn’t know what words to use. His mother waited patiently. “If I wanted to try it again. Reading. What would I do?”

“Ah.” Lisa sat back and nodded, her hands cupped around her steaming mug of tea. She didn’t seem surprised by his sudden question. Had she anticipated it now that he’d taken over managing the herd? “Given you’re past school age, I think you’d need to find a literacy tutor.”

“Where would I get one of those?”

Lisa thought a moment. “I think I might know. Mind if I make a phone call?”

“Have at it.” Now that it was out in the open, he just wanted things sorted as fast as possible. Lisa stepped away and made a call after looking up a number. He heard her describing what she wanted—someone to meet with him one on one to work on his reading skills—and after a few moments jotted something down on a piece of paper. Five minutes later she was back in her seat pushing the paper across the table at him. “Go to 5454 Third Street. Second floor. Room eight. Monday at two o’clock.”

“What is it?”

“A volunteer bureau. They’ll assign a literacy tutor to you. The program is free, so you won’t see a specialist, exactly—just someone trained to work with people with dyslexia. I imagine you’ll go once a week and they’ll give you homework in between.” She must have seen his expression. “Ned, you and your father like to act like you’re the only ones with this problem, but you’re not. It’s so common you can’t throw a stone in a crowded room without hitting someone with dyslexia. I know they can help. I’m glad you’re going to give it a try.”

“Don’t tell Dad.” He stood up and shoved the scrap of paper into his pocket.

“I won’t tell him. But if he does find out somehow, you don’t listen to what he says. You can do this. It kills me I let him talk me out of getting you help years ago.” She shook her head. “Sometimes I think I must be the worst mother in the world.”

Ned snorted. “You’re the best and you know it. You’re just fishing for compliments.”

She gave him a wry smile. “Not in this case. In this case I think I did you a disservice. I hope you can forgive me.”

He nodded. “Of course. I know why you didn’t push.”

“That doesn’t make what I did right.”

He dropped a kiss on her head. “You get to be human, too, Mom. What’s done is done.”

“Get yourself to that appointment and undo it, you hear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

When Fila entered the Cruz Big House with Ned later that night, most of the pool and poker players had already arrived. As usual, her stomach filled with butterflies as she geared up to walk into the crowded living room, but shedding her coat and entering the fray wasn’t nearly as difficult as it normally was. She carried a basket of bichak—a kind of pastry with a cheese filling—for everyone to try. She was considering them as an appetizer on her menu, but wasn’t sure if they’d be popular. She figured she would simply set them down on the counter between the living room and kitchen. If they were gone by the time they went home, she’d add them to the menu.

In the end, they were gone before anyone even sat down to play cards, and Fila had to endure a throng of enthusiastic eaters thanking her for bringing them along and pressing her for more. She bore up under the friendly assault, however. With Ned standing quietly at her back, she found she could handle the attention. When it began to overwhelm her, Ned said loudly, “When are we going to get started? I plan to take home some cash tonight!”

That diverted everyone’s attention and the players soon settled down at several tables Autumn and Ethan had set up for just this purpose. As people were knocked out of the Hold’em game, they generally wandered over to the pool table to try their hand at that.

Usually Fila sat on the outskirts or busied herself in the kitchen during the games, but today Ned caught her hand and tugged her to the table. “I’m going to teach you how it’s played tonight.” He wouldn’t listen to her protests and soon she found herself seated between him and Morgan.