The Cowboy's E-Mail Order Bride (Page 40)

The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride(40)
Author: Cora Seton

She dropped Autumn’s laptop with a clatter on top of Ethan’s dinner plate, opened it and pressed the power button.

“So sorry to spoil your meal,” she said. “But I had to come and show you just exactly how your lying bitch of a fiancée is playing you for a fool!”

“Lacey – get out of here. This is low even for you.” Ethan stood up and grabbed her forearm, trying to muscle her away from the table. She pushed past him again and jabbed at the keyboard.

“Recognize this? It’s your fiancee’s.” She straightened to stare him down. “When you popped up with her at DelMonaco’s that night I thought you were pulling my leg – that you’d just picked up some passing tourist at a bar and brought her to dinner to get my goat. When I heard you two got really drunk and nearly got it on in Rob’s truck, I thought maybe you hired a hooker to play the part. Then I heard you were living together and I didn’t know what to think anymore. I finally weaseled the truth out of Rob about the YouTube video.”

Autumn turned to look at Rob, along with everyone else at the table. Becka and her family were pale with shock. Cab was fighting to get around the crowded table to Lacey. Rob crossed his arms defensively, meeting the combined gazes of the group, but Autumn thought he looked guilty. “Hell, I was drunk. I didn’t mean to spill the beans.”

So that’s how Lacey knew about the video, Autumn thought.

“I tried to scare her off for you, Ethan, but she didn’t scare,” Lacey said. Did she really think that pouting, baby-doll look was going to lure Ethan away less than 24 hours before his wedding day? This went beyond jealousy, Autumn thought. Maybe Lacey was mentally ill.

“You told her we were having an affair,” Ethan said. “That’s messed up.”

She thinned her lips in a tight smile. “I did what I thought was best and you’re going to thank me for it when you see what I found on her computer. She’s been lying to you all along, Ethan! Haven’t you ever wondered why a woman like her would answer a damn YouTube video? Look at her – the minute I saw Autumn I knew she was hiding something. She’s a knockout – a city girl. And she’s not stupid – anyone can see that. So why would she respond to a video made a by a drunk-ass cowboy? Why get engaged to someone sight-unseen? I figured right from the start either she was crazy, in trouble, or running some scam of her own. And I was right.” She swung the laptop to face him. “Did you guys not do any kind of research on her?”

Ethan gaped at her and Autumn’s heart sunk. Lacey must have found the notes she’d written for the story the first few nights she was in town. She jumped to her feet and lunged for the computer, but Lacey snatched it out of her grasp.

“See? She doesn’t want you to see, because she knows exactly what I’m going to show you. She’s a total faker, Ethan. How could you not even do a search on her name?”

“I hate computers – you know that!”

Autumn didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She saw her wedding slipping away – her life with Ethan slipping away. She felt like she was trapped in a nightmare and she didn’t know how to wake up before she lost everything she held dear.

“Autumn’s a writer, Ethan. For CityPretty – one of the hottest, sleaziest women’s magazines out there.

“Who cares? She quit when she came out here,” Ethan sputtered, and looked to her. “Right, Autumn? You quit before you met me?”

Autumn stared back, tears filling her eyes. She’d always deflected questions about her former life. They talked about him – the ranch, the money problems, his family, the garden, their future plans. He’d assumed she’d tied up any loose ends from her past life and she’d let him think that.

“No, Ethan. She didn’t quit. She writes feature pieces for them. If you read them, you’d know she’s not the sweet little thing she’s pretending to be. She’s a total bitch. Want to know what she’s working on right now?”

He kept staring at Autumn and nausea grew within her until she pressed a hand to her throat. She would never live through this, let alone salvage her relationship with Ethan. She was going to die right now. “What?” he asked, his voice thin.

“How I Became an E-Mail Order Bride. I don’t think it’s catchy enough – you’d better work on that, Autumn.” Lacey shot her a look both malicious and triumphant. “She’s got lots of notes. Tons of photographs to go with the article – I bet she gets paid double for supplying the images, too. Pretty savvy girl you got there. You look mighty hot, cowboy.”

Autumn swallowed hard as Ethan finally tore his gaze from hers and reached for the laptop.

This was it.

She’d lost him for good.


Ethan tried to shake off the creeping darkness that fringed his vision as he scrolled through the pages of Autumn’s notes. “Shit.” His chest felt tight and it was hard to breathe. It was all a lie? Autumn had been lying to him?

In her notes, she wrote about making her video – all the tricks she and Becka – Becka? He glanced up at the girl, who wouldn’t meet his gaze – had used to make her supremely attractive to the cowboy who’d put up the wife-wanted video. She described the plane ride to Montana, her first glimpse of him and his friends at the airport – the swirl of raw testosterone in the air that caused her heart to pound.

Yeah, right.

The notes went on and on. The dinner at DelMonaco’s – after his lame attempt to get take out food instead. Getting it on in Rob’s truck and then finishing at the bunkhouse. Taking a picnic lunch to him on the range at the suggestion of his creepy neighbor, Rob – the one who liked to lure women home to make porno flicks.


Lacey was right – incisive, snarky. Autumn hit every nerve a guy could have until he felt like he’d been flayed alive. And she was going to publish this?

“Ethan – it’s not what it looks like.”

He glanced up and met Autumn’s beseeching gaze. Her eyes were shining with tears, a trick she used all too often, he realized now.

“Looks pretty clear cut to me,” he ground out, hardly recognizing his own voice.

“I don’t understand, Autumn. Who is this? What’s happening?” Teresa waved at Lacey who still hung over Ethan’s shoulder.

“What’s happening is your daughter faked this whole thing,” Lacey said, her face alight with a vicious triumph. “Your daughter needed a subject for an article. She answered a want ad for a wife, came out here and fooled Ethan into thinking she’d really marry him and instead she planned to take off just before the wedding and write an expose about the whole thing. She was going to roast him in front of the whole nation – a big, fat joke – a stupid cowboy who wanted a wife and got duped instead. Of course, she didn’t realize she was the stupid one – the whole ad was a fake.”