The Cowboy Wins a Bride (Page 49)

The Cowboy Wins a Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek #2)(49)
Author: Cora Seton

She had promised to come back on Labor Day to be in their wedding. Claire asked her to stand up with her and Morgan had accepted with a shout of happiness that had them all covering their ears.

"Who’s your best man going to be?" Rob had asked him.

"Maybe it should be Ethan, since he asked me to be his," Jamie said, grinning at Rob’s reaction.

"Ethan? Come on, what about me? We’ve always been friends."

"Or maybe Cab. He’s someone I can depend on."

"To hell with Cab! You know I’m the one who always bails you out."

It was too much fun tormenting Rob to let him know he’d already decided to ask him to be his best man. Let him sweat a few more days, at least.

"You should have asked her to stay," Rob said to Claire.

"On the ranch?"

"Why not?"

"You heard her – she has a job. Her life’s in Victoria."

"Some life. Working for other people. Living alone. She belongs here." Rob shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced at Jamie. "Don’t see what you’re smiling about."

"Someone owes me some money," he said. His grin widened when Rob’s shoulders slumped.

"I’ll get it to you as soon as I can." He wandered off toward the window overlooking the tarmac.

Claire took Jamie’s hand. "What was that all about?"

"Just getting a little revenge."

* * * * *

Several weeks later, Claire held Jamie’s hand again while they watched the sun set in a blaze of reds and pinks. They stood on the front steps of Jamie’s log house, sharing a bottle of beer. Most of the interior work was finished, but they hadn’t moved the furniture in yet. They’d carried an air mattress and sleeping bags over from the cabin and planned to camp out here tonight, to get the feel for the space, as she’d put it to him earlier.

"I’m glad you’ll be able to get your money back for most of that extra stuff you bought," Jamie said.

"Yeah. Most of it. The rest I’ll save for future projects. We’ll use it or sell it one way or another." She’d already packed up most of her belongings and moved them to Jamie’s cabin until the log house was finished. Carrie and her boyfriend planned to take over the lease on her condo.

They both turned around as a truck pulled up the dirt driveway to the house.

"Who the hell is that?" Jamie said, getting to his feet.

This was a strange time for visitors, Claire agreed. Then she recognized the top-of-the-line luxury truck. "It’s Carl."

Jamie sighed and moved forward to meet him. Carl climbed down from the cab, looking awkward in his cowboy boots. Claire felt a pang of sympathy for the man. He really was a fish out of water in these parts, no matter how hard he tried to fit in.

"Claire – I’ve been looking for you everywhere," he said as he met them in the drive. "Took a devil of a lot of asking to get Autumn to tell me where you’d gotten to."

"Where’s the fire?" Jamie asked.

"Just got back in town and I want to hire you for my decorating project before your schedule gets full up," Carl said. "That Daniel Ledstrom turned out to be some piece of work. Did you know he’s an addict?"

"Yeah," Claire said. "We had an idea."

"Can’t have a criminal decorating my house. That’s not good enough for Lacey."

"Are you saying I am?" Claire asked him, holding his gaze.

His cheeks reddened. "I might have been a little caustic with you before and I apologize for that. Business is like that. You’ve got to push to get the best out of people sometimes."

"Things are different around here," Jamie said. "Here we get to know one another. We take character into account. Reward good work and loyalty."

"I’m learning that," Carl said. He turned back to Claire. "I looked over your original designs again and they’re good. You made solid choices and you worked to keep the bottom line under control. I appreciate that. I might want some upgrades – I’ve got money to spend – but I think you can handle the job just fine. Will you take it?"

She glanced at Jamie. "I don’t think so. I’m going into a whole new line of work."

Carl’s face fell, and she felt a pinch of disappointment herself. A project as large as Carl’s didn’t come along every day.

Jamie squeezed her hand. "You don’t have to give up your passions for me," he said.

"I want to work with you. I like being around the horses."

"Why not do both?"

A thrill of excitement coursed through her. "You think I could?"

"I don’t see why not. When you feel like decorating a mansion, decorate a mansion. When the horses call you, come on a ride. Just carve out a night for me now and then, okay?"

Pure happiness warmed her from within. "Every night."

Carl cleared his throat. "I’ll leave you two to your romantic evening. Come by tomorrow and we’ll set up a contract, Claire."

"Sure will," she said.

When he was gone, she leaned into Jamie. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For seeing all of me, and…"

"Loving you?" He pulled her into an embrace. "I do love you, Claire. I always will."

"I’ve been thinking about our bet," she added, snuggling closer to him, "and I realized you lost, after all. You touched me before I agreed to marry you."

"Are you kidding? I won, definitely." The contentment in his voice made her smile.

"Actually," she said, feeling pretty content herself. "I think we both did."