The Cowboy's E-Mail Order Bride (Page 32)

The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride(32)
Author: Cora Seton

He shrugged at Jamie and turned back to Matt. During the next hour they negotiated the terms of Jamie’s purchase and Claire’s sale and it was with a huge sense of relief that he exited the building, Jamie and Claire in tow.

“How about we celebrate tonight at the Dancing Boot?” Jamie asked. “I know I’m sure in the mood for a few drinks and maybe a little dancing!”

“I’m in – I’m sure Autumn will be, too,” Ethan said.

“What about you, Claire?” Jamie asked. “Come on – you haven’t been out with us in ages!”

“When have I ever been out with you, Jamie?” she retorted. “I’m not going to drink and then drive all the way back to Billings. Besides I’ve got houses to decorate.”

Jamie rolled his eyes. “Go do your work, baby girl, then come on back and have dinner with me. We’ll meet everyone else at the bar and take it from there. If you’re too chicken to sleep on my couch I’m sure you can sleep on Ethan’s.”

“I’m way too old to sleep on anyone’s couch,” Claire said. “I’ll see you guys around.” She headed for her car, but Jamie took her arm and pulled her to a halt.

“Claire. Have dinner with me – I’m celebrating tonight and so is Ethan. This is a big deal to us.”

Ethan waited for her answer, curious to see how this would play out. There was no way she would agree, but then again, it was Jamie talking and he did have a way with the women.

She tapped her toe on the sidewalk, then sighed. “All right, I’ll meet you for dinner. I’m not staying out late, though. And I’m not sleeping on anyone’s couch!”

“I’ll walk you to your car,” Jamie said and winked at Ethan over Claire’s shoulder. Ethan supposed he should feel worried about his sister’s honor, but Claire could definitely take care of herself – even with Jamie.

He headed for his own truck, eager to tell Autumn his good news.

* * * * *

“Hey – anybody home?”

Autumn jumped when a man’s voice boomed through the bunkhouse. She was in the spare bedroom getting dressed for their night out on the town, and from the sound of things Ethan was still in the shower. He’d come home from the accountant’s office, swept her into his arms and kissed her before explaining about Jamie becoming a partner in the ranch and being able to buy Claire out.

She quickly zipped her jeans, pulled the shirt she’d laid out over her head, smoothed it down and poked her head out of the bedroom door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s Rob – is Ethan here?”

She walked into the kitchen. “He’s in the shower. Can I help you?” She kept the length of the kitchen between them, still mindful of the gossip Rose had told her when she picked out her ring, about how he’d tried to film himself having sex with Rose’s friend’s cousin.

“Just came to see if you all wanted to join me for dinner before hitting the bar. I’m starved – man’s gotta fortify himself for the night to come and all that.”

“Uh …” Autumn tried to hide her disappointment. She was all set to take the pregnancy test just as soon as Ethan got out of the shower. She had pictured them waiting for the results together, hand in hand, and then celebrating afterward with a romantic dinner for two, but it turned out Ethan already invited Claire and Jamie along. Now Rob was joining them, too?

“Rob! Good to see you! You coming to dinner with us?” Ethan appeared, towel wrapped around his waist.

“I heard there was celebrating to be done – and I’m always up for a celebration! I heard you’re buying Claire out of her share of the ranch.”

“You heard right,” Ethan said.

“And Jamie’s going to be your new partner?”

“Yep.”

“Well, that beats everything. Who knew that little cheapskate was piling up his money in order to pull this off. You oughta be grateful you needed to sell now – a couple more years and he’d have bought the whole damn thing out from under you.”

“I’m hoping he sets his smarts to the business and makes me rich,” Ethan said.

“He just might.” Rob cocked his head. “And I hear the two of you are making a serious go at this getting married thing. Buying wedding gowns, making guest lists…”

“It’s only a week away,” Autumn said, taking Ethan’s arm. He gave her a squeeze and she tried smile, but she was still disappointed her dinner with Ethan was turning into such a crowd affair.

Rob scratched his head. “Who would’ve thought running a want ad on Youtube would end up with you finding the woman of your dreams?”

Ethan stiffened beside her and when he answered there was an edge to his voice. “Yeah, who would’ve thought? Let’s get going, I thought you were starving.”

“I am, buddy – I am.”

Autumn frowned. She had a feeling there was more to that interchange than she was comprehending. She turned to Ethan with an eyebrow raised. He evaded her gaze and headed back toward the bedroom.

“I just need a minute. You almost ready, Autumn?”

“Uh…I guess.”

“Let’s start at DelMonaco’s. I need a steak,” Rob proclaimed.

“Sounds good.”

“I need a minute, too.” Autumn followed Ethan back to the bedroom and shut the door behind her. The sight of him shucking off his towel and reaching for a fresh pair of jeans distracted her, but only for a moment. “Hey, I thought…I kind of hoped it’d be just the two of us at dinner tonight. Now we’re at five.”

Ethan turned toward her, and her stomach did another flip-flop at his muscular chest and flat belly, not to mention…

“Honey, I don’t think it’ll even be just the five of us for very long. When word gets out that I’m keeping the ranch and that Jamie’s my new business partner – our new business partner – we’ll have half the town celebrating with us.” He moved closer, jeans still dangling from one hand. “But we’ll have lots of time alone together later tonight. I promise.”

Autumn’s disappointment over not being able to take the pregnancy test soon melted away beneath his kisses. A few more hours wouldn’t make much of a difference. They’d come home, she’d take the test and then they’d go straight to bed. It could be worse. In an instant, she was in his arms, pressed up close against him, and they probably wouldn’t have made it out the door to dinner anytime soon if Rob hadn’t hollered from the kitchen, “Hurry up in there or I’m coming in after you! I’m starving!”