Would he want to be involved? Or would he just move on and have children with Lacey?
Finally, when her heart hurt too much to bear it anymore, she returned to the guest room and shoved the pregnancy test into her bag. As evidence, she guessed. Evidence that she was the biggest idiot in Montana for believing this life could ever be hers.
When her bags were packed she sat on the bed and waited for Ethan to come home. As soon as she told him exactly what she thought of him, she was getting the hell out of Chance Creek for good.
Ethan opened the back door as quietly as possible, in case Autumn was already asleep. He never did find Rob, but Cab – with the help of his buddies in the sheriff’s department – finally got a lead that he’d been spotted in Billings. Cab would make sure he stayed out of trouble for the rest of the night and got home safely.
All he wanted was to curl up with his bride and sleep – unless she had other ideas, that is. Autumn could wake up his passion with a single touch – hell, even a single look – and he’d never disappoint her. The kitchen light was on, but she wasn’t in sight. Nor was she in his bedroom, which gave him pause until he saw the light on in the guest room. Why would she be in there? He moved softly to the door and pushed it open.
Autumn was awake, fully dressed and sitting upright on the made bed, her suitcases at her feet.
“Don’t say a thing,” she said as he entered the room, and her tone made his blood run cold.
“Not one thing.” Her voice rose and he held up his hands in an appeasing gesture. “I talked to Lacey tonight,” she went on. “She had a lot of interesting things to say.”
Ethan groaned. “I’ll bet she did. You know that woman’s crazier than a loon, don’t you?”
“Did you kiss her tonight?”
Ethan’s mouth dropped open, closed, then opened again. “She…I didn’t kiss her.”
Autumn closed her eyes and he wanted to rush to her and smooth away every trace of the pain that was evident in her face.
“Autumn, I swear, I didn’t kiss her. She’s the one that threw herself at me. She was drunk and upset – something must have happened between her and Carl, I don’t know what. I got out of there as quickly as I could and I came back here.”
Her eyes snapped open. “She called me over an hour ago.”
“I’ve been looking for Rob! You know that. Hell, don’t let Lacey screw this up between us – not now,” Ethan pleaded. “That woman’s been nothing but trouble since I met her. She’s long gone, Autumn. Past history – she’s got no part in our story.”
Autumn said nothing, getting to her feet. Her eyes were shining with tears and a jagged pain stabbed through Ethan’s heart knowing he was the cause of it. “That woman is on your office wall. Naked on your office wall.”
Oh, holy hell.
“I can explain.” The words sounded so lame he wanted to gouge his own eyes out.
“No, you can’t.” She sounded tired. “Ethan, please. Don’t even try – it doesn’t become either of us.”
“It was so long ago – Lacey put them there when we started fighting, before we split up, and she used some kind of glue. I don’t know how she did it. They won’t peel off – I need to find a scraper and some solvent…and there’s always too damn much to do out there,” he waved a hand toward the ranch. “At first, when she ditched me, I kept it up because I was furious. She hurt my pride, telling me I was broke and worthless and she deserved better than me. She left a month after my parents died. You don’t know how I felt. Every time I saw that picture I remembered again how she’d done me wrong. It kept me feeling angry – and feeling angry felt better than feeling alone. Then I just got busy, and I didn’t care, and I stopped seeing it there all together. It’s just part of the room – like the desk or the window. I’ll take care of it tomorrow – I’ll do it right now if you need me to.”
She shook her head. “You didn’t even make the YouTube video. You didn’t even want a wife. It’s all a joke – this is all a joke. We both know you still love Lacey.”
“Fuck and hell, if you believe that then you’re the one who’s crazy!” Autumn’s eyes went wide at the anger in his voice, but he stepped forward, needed to drive his point home. “I love you. I have loved you from the minute I saw you walk through the airport and I want you to be my wife. Do you understand that?” She blinked and a tear spilled from her eye. “I made a mistake proposing to Lacey and thank God she broke it off, because if we’d gone through with marriage we would have made each other very miserable.” He took her arm, gently but firmly. “I may not have made that video, but God must have moved Rob’s hand to do it, because it brought me an angel – you. I’ve been a lucky man. I was saved from an unhappy marriage before it was too late, and then I was led to you – the woman I love more than anything. Taking down those pictures was a chore that required just a bit too much time and effort to make it to the top of my list. I will regret that little bit of laziness forever since it hurt you.
“I’m just a man, Autumn. A flawed man. But I love you more than you will ever know.”
“She said you called her every night,” Autumn whispered. “She said you looked at her photo and…”
Ethan counted to ten. The next time he saw Lacey it would be all he could do to keep from ripping her head right off her body. “That’s a lie, and I can prove it. I’ll get my phone records tomorrow – both the house and my cell. I’ll show you I haven’t spoken to Lacey since she dumped me.”
“Why would she lie?”
He shook his head. Should he explain all he knew about Lacey? Expose her secrets? “Lacey…I don’t know. Why does any woman lie?”
“Men lie, too,” Autumn blazed back.
“Not all men.”
“My father cheated on my mother. He left her for another woman – left her with two daughters to raise. He changed all of our lives in that moment, in ways I’m sure he never even considered. My mom was never the same.” Her voice broke. “He disappeared, so I never got to tell him what he did. He made her hate men and he made her so scared for her daughters that she did everything she could to make us hate men, too. And I’ve tried,” her voice rose. “I’ve tried to care about work, heart and soul like she does. I’ve tried to be a success, and to put everything else aside. Before you, I’d never once considered marriage or having children and you know what?”