The Cowboy Wins a Bride (Page 33)

The Cowboy Wins a Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek #2)(33)
Author: Cora Seton

She pushed the salad bowl away with a scowl. "Why the hell am I even here? I should be working on the design for Jamie’s house – Carl will be back soon." After another sleepless night, the last thing she felt like doing was spending the day in the company of a bunch of catty women. Still, she said she’d do it, and she wasn’t one to go back on her word. She got up early and showered, taking care not to look at the bruises Daniel’s hand had left on her arm. Although the day was warm, she wore a long-sleeved shirt to cover them. As she walked the few hundred yards to the Big House, she found herself looking over her shoulder. She would never admit to anyone else that Daniel had her spooked, but he hadn’t been playing around in the parking lot. She’d scuffled with enough boys in fun when she was a kid to know what that felt like. Daniel had been angry. Truly angry. He’d wanted to hurt her.

He must need more money – why else would he and Edie come back to boring old Montana after a year abroad? They must have really lived the high life if he’d blown his own savings, the business’ earnings, plus the money he took from her.

What would he do to her when he realized she was going after Carl with everything she had?

What would he have done yesterday if Morgan hadn’t come after him with her baseball bat?

He would have hurt you, that’s what. She shivered, grateful that she hadn’t married him.

"How’s the design coming?" Rose asked. "I heard about you doing the interior of Jamie’s house. Have you been by there lately? The exterior is pretty much done! They’ll be ready for you in no time."

Claire bit her lip. She had so many materials and so much furniture on order now that her head was spinning with it all. She kept changing her mind. Just when she thought she’d come up with a fresh and innovative design, Carl’s words rang through her head again: small and predictable. And each time she went back to the drawing board.

Trouble was, sometimes she’d already placed an order, and lots of things had already arrived. Since she was staying at the bunkhouse these days, and she wanted to look over the materials before showing them to Jamie, she’d decided to have them shipped to her condo in Billings. It had only taken her a day to find a young acquaintance willing to stay for free in her condo for a few weeks and let the delivery men in. She just hoped Carrie didn’t have too many parties and piss off her neighbors. The plan had the additional benefit of hiding all her purchases from Jamie. She was afraid he’d freak out when he saw everything that was coming in. As soon as their guests left and she had a chance to look at it all, she’d send back what she didn’t need. Hopefully, most of the money would get refunded.

She’d stopped showing the invoices to Jamie long ago, once she began to order two or three or four different sets of materials for each element. He wouldn’t understand how hard it had become for her to make up her mind. It wasn’t like her – she’d always been decisive when it came to her designs. Her clients loved that about her. When they couldn’t make up their own minds she steered them in the right direction – and it always was the right direction.

Until now.

Now she doubted her every move. She needed to place her last few orders, STAT, or Jamie’s house wouldn’t be done in time to impress Carl when he came home. She had a schedule made for the entire process and it depended on getting started the day after the guests left the ranch.

If she was late, all of it would be for nothing. She hadn’t checked her bank account in over a week. It wasn’t like she was going to run through six hundred thousand dollars any time soon, but the bills for the materials were adding up fast. She really needed to balance her checkbook.

Soon.

"Claire?" Rose poked her gently. "You still in there? I asked you how the design for Jamie’s house is coming."

"Oh. It’s fine."

"Don’t you love the ring he bought you? Congratulations, by the way. I didn’t get a chance to say that at Ethan and Autumn’s wedding."

That’s right – why hadn’t she realized Jamie would have bought the ring from the store Rose worked at? It was the only jewelry store in town. She hesitated just a moment too long. "Thanks."

Rose looked at her. "Is everything all right?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Well, let me see how it looks." She crossed the kitchen and took Claire’s hand. "I love it – it’s perfect for you." She gave it a tug. "A little tight, maybe, but we can fix that." She studied Claire’s face. "Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?"

Claire pulled her hand away. "Why? Your sixth sense telling you my marriage is doomed to fail? You’re supposed to be able to tell, right? Not that I believe in that mumbo-jumbo crap."

Rose turned away and got back to work at the other counter. Claire could tell from the set of her shoulders that she’d hurt her feelings, but it was true – she didn’t believe in any kind of clairvoyance. Rose had a reputation of getting hunches about whether couples would make it or not. Seeing as how her day job was selling wedding rings, Claire thought it was a good racket.

Still.

"Sorry," she said finally. "I didn’t mean to be so blunt about it."

"I don’t like it, you know," Rose said. "Everybody assumes it’s a game and I get to feel special or something. No one ever thinks what it feels like to me when I sell a ring to a couple and don’t get a good feeling about them. I should never have told Rob about it in the first place – I talked about it in confidence once and he’s blabbed it all over town. People come right up and ask me now, Claire. It sucks!"

"So you actually get a hunch?" Claire found herself asking.

"Only about couples who really belong together. I’m sure there are plenty of people whose marriages will last that I don’t get the hunch about because they’re still learning to love each other. Maybe there’s something in their past that’s holding them back, or maybe there’s still some obstacle to overcome. I don’t know. It’s just some people have this feeling when you see them together. They’ve found their life partner, you know? Their energy is connected."

Rose was almost pleading with her to understand, and Claire nodded her head. That didn’t seem so outlandish. Maybe Rose was good at reading people’s intentions. Some couples took their marriage vows so seriously they would simply make their marriage work – come what may. All Rose had to be was a good judge of character.

"So what about me and Jamie?" The words slipped out before she thought them through. "I mean, he’s a total player, so we’re bound to fail, right?" She forced a laugh. Hell, they weren’t even getting married, so who cared what Rose said?