The Cowboy's E-Mail Order Bride (Page 39)

The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride(39)
Author: Cora Seton

“Photographer?” Becka blurted suddenly when they were making a light dinner. It was the first time Autumn had cooked in the Big House and she couldn’t tear her eyes from the view out the huge windows. Becka and her family had taken over several of the bedrooms upstairs, so it made sense for them all to eat here rather than crowd around the small table in the bunkhouse.

“Rose’s friend Alice is doing it in exchange for being able to use some of the photos in her portfolio.”

“Rings?”

“Yep.”

“Bouquet – wait, Rose has that covered.”

“That’s right.”

Becka tapped her finger on the granite countertop. “Party favors?”

Autumn frowned. “Do we really need those?”

“Yes, you do, and don’t worry – I’ll take care of it tomorrow. They can be really simple and I want to contribute something.”

A wave of nervousness swept over Autumn and she dropped the knife she was holding and gripped the edge of the countertop. “I can’t do this.”

Becka laughed. “Yes, you can.”

“What if it’s all wrong? What if he hates me the next day or the guest ranch flops or he hates the baby?”

“Ethan’s not going to hate the baby,” Becka laughed. “For heaven’s sake, Autumn – you’re fine. It’s all going to be fine! Ethan worships the ground you walk on and that baby is going to wrap him around its little finger, whether it’s a girl or a boy. Now shush or your mom will hear us. Seriously, honey – you’re just having wedding jitters.”

She smiled, but Autumn knew this went beyond wedding jitters. She still hadn’t told Ethan why she’d really come to Chance Creek. She’d already called her editor and told her she wasn’t coming back to CityPretty. Margaret had been furious, of course, but had calmed down when she said she didn’t expect to be paid for any of her time since she’d left New York. She’d given notice on her apartment, as well. She had to fly back for a couple of days and pack up her things, but otherwise her life in New York was over. Should she tell Ethan the truth or just let it slip away, too? Why rock the boat now when everything was going so well?

Because Ethan deserves the truth.

She pushed away that thought. The truth would only hurt him. “Okay, you’re right. I’m sure it will be fine.”

But she wasn’t sure. The last time she’d been so happy was just before her father walked out on her mother. How could she be sure fate wouldn’t yank the carpet out from under her again?

* * * * *

Finally, he was alone with Autumn. Ethan buttoned his shirt and tucked it in hurriedly, then crossed the room to his bride and pulled her into his arms. She came willingly, and wrapped her arms around his neck, meeting his kiss with a fervor that matched his.

“When are you going to send those people away?” he growled into her neck.

“If by ‘those people’ you mean my best friend, my mother and my sister, I was thinking of inviting them along for the honeymoon,” she said and then shrieked when he swatted her bottom. “They’ll go home Sunday morning, but we’ll be long gone by then.”

Ethan’s friends had pitched in and offered to take on Ethan’s chores for a few days so they could have a small honeymoon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It wasn’t much to offer his new bride, but they’d be alone – away from the workaday cares of running a large spread and planning a new business. When they returned they’d get right to work on opening the Big House for guests.

“I can’t wait. I’ve got a lot of ideas of how we can spend the time away, and very few of them have to do with sightseeing.”

“That’s okay by me.” Autumn snuggled into his embrace. “I’m so happy, I just can’t believe it. I keep thinking something’s going to happen to spoil it.”

Was that genuine worry in her voice? “Nothing will spoil this. I promise. We’re going to be this happy for the rest of our lives.” He bent down and kissed her again, until the only thing he could think of was getting her back out of these clothes and into bed, but Autumn finally pushed him away.

“We’ve got to go – everyone will be waiting for us.”

Tonight was the rehearsal dinner. One more hurdle to clear before he could be alone with his bride on their honeymoon. In twenty-four hours they would be husband and wife. By the look in Autumn’s eyes, she was thinking along the same lines.

“I can’t wait to be married to you,” she said.

“Neither can I.”

* * * * *

Sage was the fanciest restaurant in town, but Autumn would much rather be at DelMonaco’s. In fact, Becka, her mother and sister were the only ones who looked at home in the fine dining establishment. Teresa was the one who insisted they eat there. The rest of the party were picking at their food – especially Cab, who looked at the bite sized filet mignon on his plate with something akin to desperation.

Conversation was a little stilted as well. Becka did her best to fill in the gaps, asking the men many questions about their jobs, and Autumn learned that Rob – still sullen that he wasn’t the best man, but in slightly better spirits since Ethan brought him a bottle of whiskey to smooth things over – loved ranching but loved the rodeo more, Cab won all kinds of pistol competitions but had never shot a man in the line of duty, and Jamie was considered something of a horse-whisperer in this part of the world. Cab questioned her mother and sister about their lines of work, but doctoring – especially gynecology – doesn’t make good mealtime conversation, and the talk soon died down again.

The waitress, a young blonde with her hair pulled back in a severe bun wearing an all black uniform, had just begun to clear the plates when a commotion toward the entrance of the restaurant caught everyone’s attention.

Lacey swept into the room and Autumn’s heart plummeted. This was what she’d been dreading – another scene with the woman who seemed determined to ruin her happiness.

What was that under her arm?

Oh my god – it couldn’t be.

It was.

“Lacey, get out of here,” Cab said, standing up and trying to intercept her. Lacey ducked around him and high-tailed it to Ethan. Her high heels clicked on the hardwood floor and she was dressed elegantly enough to fit right in here at the restaurant – far better than half the guests at the table, Autumn thought a trifle hysterically.