The Cowboy Wins a Bride (Page 28)

The Cowboy Wins a Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek #2)(28)
Author: Cora Seton

“Hi, Rob. Cab. Good to see you again!” Claire rode forward, probably happy to shelve her conversation with Adrienne for the time being. “Ladies, let me introduce you to more of Chance Creek’s most eligible bachelors, Rob Matheson and Cab Johnson. Rob’s family owns the spread next door to the Cruz ranch and Cab is the county sheriff. Rob, Cab, meet our very first guests. This is Maddy, Adrienne, Christine, Liz and Angel. The ladies are helping us ride fences this morning, but I’m just about to ride back to the house with Adrienne. She’s not too keen on fences.”

“I’m fine with fences, Claire,” Adrienne spoke up swiftly, her gaze running up and down Rob’s body with open appreciation. “I told you, I was feeling a little poorly for a minute there, but I’m much better now.”

Claire’s expression spoke volumes as Adrienne nudged her horse forward through the crowd to where she could shake hands with Rob and Cab.

“What’s your spread like, Rob?” Christine asked brightly. “Is it as nice as this one?”

“Much nicer,” Rob said and seemed gratified to get a chuckle from his feminine audience. “And about twice the size. We know how to run things right on the Double Bar K.”

“Is that so?” Jamie said. “Rumor has it you know how to run a video camera, anyway.”

“Keep your mouth shut, Lassiter,” Rob growled and Jamie nodded, but smiled. Rob was still trying to live down the bad reputation he’d gained as a result of Ethan’s last practical joke on him – the joke that had spurred Rob to place the video Wife Wanted ad on the internet for Ethan, and which had resulted in Autumn coming to Chance Creek and falling in love with him.

Ethan, knowing Rob was a ladies’ man, had waited until he was out at the local bar one night and sneaked into Rob’s house to set up a video camera, back drop, and lights in his bedroom, so that when he brought his date home later that evening it looked like he’d planned ahead to make a sex video. The poor young lady took one look and made a run for it, but not before spreading the gossip far and wide about what a sleaze Rob was. He’d been hard put to get a date ever since.

Jamie figured Rob thought this new crop of women were ignorant of his sordid past. No wonder he managed to show up in the east pasture out of the blue. Adrienne seemed more than willing to bite, and as far as Jamie was concerned, Rob could have her. Heck, he could have the whole damn lot of them. Although it served him right if he never got laid for the rest of his life. After all, it was Rob’s fault Claire still didn’t believe he really wanted to marry her.

It’s your own damn fault, too, for being such a flirt.

Well, he was doing everything he could to remedy that.

“We’ve got some time to kill,” Rob said. “Mind if we tag along?”

“Not at all,” Liz said.

“I’d sure like to hear what it’s like to be a sheriff,” Maddy said, taking a place next to Cab.

Jamie smiled. Cab wasn’t often the center of attention when it came to women, and he deserved his fair share. Maddy had just raised her position in his books, but then she seemed much more down to earth than her friends.

“Cab’s got lots of good stories. Just keep pressing him until he tells you one or two,” Jamie called to her, then waited for Christine and Angel to move after the others before joining Claire in the rear.

“Just in time,” she said, nodding at Cab and Rob. “Adrienne was about to flip her lid. She wanted us to reroute the whole morning’s ride somewhere to a “scenic vista” as she put it. Can you believe her?”

“Maybe we should start telling the women our plans the night before so they can opt in or out,” Jamie said.

“What if they opt out? Then Autumn will be stuck with them all morning while she’s trying to clean up.”

“I guess we’d better discuss that with Autumn and Ethan. At least we should be good for now. You all right?”

"I’m fine," Claire said and urged her horse past him.

And they were. In fact, they managed to cover more of the fencing than Jamie had even hoped for, with Rob and Cab moving the group along swiftly from post to post. Rob flirted openly with Adrienne, Liz, and even Christine. Cab regaled Maddy and Angel with stories of various Chance Creek criminals’ exploits, and everyone helped out when they found a downed post.

Afterwards, Rob and Cab rode all the way back to the Big House with them and seemed more than happy to join the crowd for lunch when Autumn asked them to.

“You have enough food?” Jamie asked her when everyone went in to wash up. “I can always feed Claire back at my place.”

“I’ve got plenty,” she assured him. “Ethan warned me they were coming. They stopped by to talk to him before riding out to find you guys.”

“Got it.”

Inside, Jamie was surprised to see Tracey Richards behind the half wall that divided the kitchen from the rest of the great room. She was dishing salad into bowls and arranging them on a tray to bring to the guests. He nodded at her and took a seat next to Claire at the Cruz’s huge dining room table. The great room was two stories high, with floor to ceiling windows that framed the most spectacular view he’d ever seen from inside a building. He hoped to reproduce the effect in his own house when it was done, but he had to hand it to Ethan and Claire’s parents – they really built a beautiful home.

As the table filled up, the roar of conversation filled the room and mouth-watering aromas wafted from Autumn’s kitchen.

“I’m starved,” he said to Claire.

“Me, too.”

“Hey, lovebirds,” Rob bellowed from the far end of the table. Everyone hushed and glanced his way. “Where are you going for your honeymoon?”

* * * * *

Claire slammed the door on her Civic, reversed, swung the car around and headed down the lane to the highway as fast as she dared. Somehow she’d clung to her temper as Rob tormented her and Jamie throughout lunch.

Now she was driving to town to confront her mother’s other daughter, the one she didn’t even want to admit existed. Morgan. What kind of a name was that?

What kind of a woman was her mother?

It didn’t matter, did it? She’d done without Aria for a long, long time – ever since she’d found her with Mack in the stable. She’d always envisioned her mother having a string of foreign lovers when she traveled to Europe on her months-long jaunts. So why was it worse to know she’d only gone back to one man, time and time again? Or at least, she’d gone back to her daughter.