The Cowboy's E-Mail Order Bride (Page 38)

The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride(38)
Author: Cora Seton

“What?” He was afraid to say anything else.

“It’s lonely. I go home every night from my job and open the door to my empty apartment, where I can’t even keep a cat if I want to, and I work some more or watch t.v., or maybe go out with a friend, but even if there are men there I keep my distance because I. can’t. trust. a. man. I can’t! Because my mother raised me never to do so. And then I come here – here! – to your ranch,” she waved an arm, her eyes brimming with the tears she was struggling not to shed, “and here you were, and here was this place, and here was the life I wanted, and I thought maybe I could trust a man…and…I was so happy…and then Lacey called…”

Ethan spun away before she saw the fury in his eyes. Lacey was going to pay – he’d make sure of that. “You’re not the only one here who’s been hurt. Hell, everyone gets hurt, don’t they?” He turned back around. “All we can do is try. And if you love me half as much as I love you, I think we have a good shot at making it.”

Autumn hesitated, her eyes huge and her cheeks stained with tears. “I want us to make it.”

“I want that, too.” In an instant he had her in his arms, and tipping her head back he kissed her long and hard. At first she resisted and he knew she was thinking of Lacey’s picture in the office. Hell, he’d burn the whole house down if that’s what it took to put that in their past. Then she softened and he took the kiss deeper, until his body woke up enough to think they should get on to even more pleasurable activities.

“Ethan,” she said, when he reached for the buttons at her throat. “Wait.”

He stilled, afraid she would push him away again.

“Do you really love me?”

“I love you more than life itself.”

A tiny smile appeared on her face. He thought it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“Are you sure you want to spend your life with me?”

“So sure, honey. Nothing could make me happier.”

She waited another beat. “I’m pregnant.”

He went cold and then hot and then tears pricked his eyes – tears – when he hadn’t cried in nearly twenty years, not even when his parents died. “Are you sure?”

She nodded vehemently and he pulled her into a hug and spun her around the room. Collapsing with her onto the bed he kissed her thoroughly on the mouth, and then all over her body, stopping with reverence at her still-flat stomach. “Hey, baby,” he called, cupping his hands over her belly. “I love you. I can’t wait to see you.”

When he looked up, Autumn was in tears, too.

“I love you, Ethan,” she said.

“I love you. Six more days until the wedding, and then I’m never letting you go – ever again.”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

By Wednesday, Lacey’s pictures were long gone, replaced by a bare, scrubbed space on the wall that Ethan dubbed the Idiot Reminder.

“From now on any time I put off a chore I’m going to see that mark and get right to it,” he said.

Autumn laughed and was overjoyed that she could laugh about it. Once she got over the shock of the incident and heard the whole story, she had to admit it was kind of funny. Not very funny, mind you, but mildly so.

“I’d rather you just forget all about it,” she said to Ethan.

“I’ve already forgotten everything but you.”

That afternoon they drove to the airport to pick up Becka. She was excited to see her best friend – it seemed so long since she’d left New York – and show her all around the ranch. Inside, the terminal was crowded and it felt like they waited forever before passengers from Becka’s plane finally came down the corridor. Autumn bounced when she spotted her friend’s fire-red hair, and pushed through the crowd to meet her.

“Becka, you made it! Thank goodness you’re here – I need you!”

“Before you get too excited, I’ve got a surprise for you,” Becka said and pulled away. She turned and gestured behind her, and only then did Autumn see her mother and sister waiting there.

“Mom!” Autumn rushed to her mother, then stopped, unsure.

“Come here,” Teresa said and pulled her into a stiff hug. “You honestly didn’t think I’d skip my daughter’s wedding, did you? Even if it did come out of the blue and is happening much too fast?”

“I wasn’t sure,” Autumn said into the fabric of her mother’s shirt. She felt the tension in her mother’s stance and knew it would take time to smooth this over. “I hoped you’d come.” She pulled back.

“Of course I came.” Teresa looked at Ethan. “And you are the cowboy I’ve heard about. Swept my daughter right off her feet with your fancy hat and shiny spurs?”

“Mom!” Autumn flushed to the roots of her hair but Ethan laughed.

“That’s me. Don’t worry, Mrs. Leeds – your daughter is in good hands.”

“Hmph. That’s Teresa to you. Don’t you dare call me Mom.”

“I can’t believe you’re getting married!” Lily said and gave her a big hug. “You’re not even thirty!” She whispered into Autumn’s ear, “Good for you.”

Autumn hugged her tight. “Come on – I can’t wait for you to see the ranch.”

If she thought she was busy before, now that her family had arrived she felt like she’d been swept up in a whirlpool of activity. She spent Thursday picking out bridesmaid gowns with Becka and her sister, elegant pale mint sheaths that contrasted well both with Becka’s red hair and her sister’s darker locks. Her mother surprised her by offering to pay for the dresses and even to reimburse Autumn for the cost of her gown. Although Autumn declined at first, she was secretly relieved since her dress, although cheap by New York City standards, had taken up a large chunk of the available balance on her credit card. Rose had ended up being a huge help with other aspects of the ceremony. She arranged for several women in town to pitch in to provide floral arrangements from their gardens, and organized a pot luck reception, aside from the barbecued steaks that would come from the ranch’s own beef. Ethan hired a local band for the reception and while Ethan told her Rob swore he’d hired a chapel ahead of time for the wedding, that turned out to be another joke. Both wedding and reception would occur at the ranch, on the wide front lawn with a backdrop of the mountains.