The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Page 21)

The Cowboy Rescues a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #7)(21)
Author: Cora Seton

“I meant what I said to you.” Holt pointed his knife at him.

“I meant what I said, too.”

“Holt, we have company.” Lisa’s tone brooked no nonsense.

“That’s never stopped him before,” Luke said.

“Don’t you cross me.” Holt raised his voice, ignoring the others.

“Don’t you cross me.” Ned leaned forward.

“Fila—don’t you think we should celebrate our grand openings together?” Camila blurted.

The table fell silent. Holt’s gaze shifted to the newcomer. “What do you mean, grand openings? I thought you were the one with the restaurant.”

Color stained Camila’s cheeks. “Shoot! I mean… I think… I—” She trailed off unhappily.

“I have a restaurant, too,” Fila said suddenly.

“You have a restaurant?” Holt turned to her. “Since when?”

Ned jumped in to rescue her. “Since just this week. Right next to Camila’s on First Street.”

“And how the hell is she paying for that?”

You could have heard a pin drop. All eyes turned to Ned. “I’m financing it.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Lisa said, beaming at him. “Two new restaurants in town. The place is shaping up.”

Holt didn’t even miss a beat. “You and me are going to have a little talk in the morning. Got it?”

“Got it.”

The rest of the meal was a mighty quiet affair.

“That went better than I expected,” Mia whispered to Fila when everyone had congregated in the front hall to leave. “What was all that about Holt liking Mexican food?”

“It was about me. He wants me to leave.” Fila tried not to let that get to her, but it did.

“He’s such a pain in the ass. Ignore him.” Mia linked her arm through hers. “Let’s wait for Ned and Luke outside. I’ve had enough of the Mathesons as a family for one night.” She pulled Fila through the throng, only pausing to hug Lisa and thank her for dinner.

Lisa patted Fila’s hand. “Under all Holt’s baloney, there’s a man who loves his family,” she said quietly. “Give him a chance and he’ll come around. When he does, he’ll be your biggest ally—you’ll see.”

Fila shrugged and thanked her for the meal, but she was relieved when they made it outside. Holt wasn’t going to come around. She was sure of that. She just wasn’t sure what that meant for her future. She trailed after Mia into the sharp chill of the January evening and they walked slowly together down the steps and toward the dirt road that led to the cabins, expecting the men to catch up with them at any time.

“What’s taking them so long?” Mia said finally, looking over her shoulder. “Oh.”

At the tone of her voice, Fila turned to look too. Ned and Camila were standing by Camila’s car, talking earnestly. They stood close enough together that their low tones didn’t carry to Fila’s ears. After a brief discussion, Camila laughed, the sound pealing out. “See you on Monday,” she said quite clearly. She leaned in and hugged Ned, then got in her car and pulled away. Ned stood watching her until her taillights disappeared before he turned and caught Fila and Mia waiting for him.

“Just making sure she remembered the way home,” he said when he caught up with them.

“What are you two doing on Monday?” Fila couldn’t believe she was asking, but she had to know. Ned and Camila had acted so familiar with each other. She couldn’t forget Camila’s hug.

“Nothing.” Ned’s answer was as sharp as Holt’s had been a half-hour ago. Fila pulled back, just as Luke pounded down the steps from the main house and loped their way.

“Sorry—Dad had some last minute orders for me.”

Ned turned on his heel and led the way toward the cabins. Neither Fila nor Mia said a word. After a moment, Luke filled in the uncomfortable silence.

“That Camila’s sure a live wire, isn’t she? Getting Dad to say he liked Mexican food? He wouldn’t have said that to anyone else. Guess he’s not immune to a pretty face, huh?”

“Shut up, Luke.” Ned picked up the pace.

“What’d I say? It’s true and you know it. Dad wouldn’t be caught dead eating that stuff. I love it, though. As far as I’m concerned, Camila can come by any time.”

Mia huffed out a breath and stalked off toward Luke’s place.

“Hey—Mia! Wait up! What’s wrong?”

“Unbelievable,” Ned said to Fila when they were gone. “He gets it wrong every time.”

You’re no better, Fila wanted to say, but she kept her mouth shut. How could she blame him for preferring Camila’s company when she was so mousy and boring? Camila looked like a movie star compared to her. She was always talking and laughing. Always so full of fun. Beside her, Fila felt about as interesting as a stone. If he had been alone with Camila, what would Ned have done when he said good-bye? Would he have kissed her?

She felt certain he would.

But if they were getting together on Monday, he didn’t have to risk it when all of his family was here to see. He and Camila would have as much time and privacy they wanted to kiss then.

Fila picked up her pace, too. She was all too ready to call it a night.

Chapter 14

“When’s the last time this happened?” Rob said as he came through the barn door, stamping the snow off of his boots.

Ned looked up from retying his own boots and saw what he meant—all three of his brothers were in the barn at the same time he was. Since Jake and Rob had split off from the family, taking on their own acreages and getting busy with their own plans, it wasn’t often that they worked all together.

“It’s the first time I can remember standing here with all of you and not wanting to take a swing at someone,” Jake said, chuckling. “I guess this new way of doing things isn’t all that bad.”

“I could still be persuaded to take a swing at someone,” Luke said, shooting Ned a look.

“That’s because Dad’s still got the two of you set against each other.” Rob shook his head. “It seems like this family won’t ever learn. You should see how we do things at the Cruz ranch—there isn’t any brawling there.”

“You choose your friends,” Luke said. “You don’t get to choose your family.”

“You can choose how you behave toward your family.” Jake turned to Ned. “How’s it going, being in charge?”