The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 2)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(2)
Author: Cora Seton

Definitely not his scene.

“Do whatever you need to do and let’s get out of here,” he growled. He wasn’t in the mood to see Rose, either. He didn’t want the reminder that she was engaged to Jason, whose father owned this store. Rose had worked here for a couple of years now. She’d been engaged to Jason for nearly six. What was the man waiting for?

Sometimes Cab wished Jason would get a move on and marry Rose already. That would put the final nail in Cab’s coffin and he could get his grieving over and done with. Rose would become Jason’s responsibility and maybe he could stop worrying about her. Other times, he hoped Rose and Jason’s engagement would stretch out until it finally snapped and she gave him back his ring. It was wrong to wish unhappiness on another man, but Cab did. Often.

“Over here,” Ethan called, gesturing for them to join him at one of the cases. Cab figured the sooner they finished this charade the sooner they could leave. He moved carefully to join the others as they bent over a display of engagement rings. Rose, who’d been near the cash register when they came in, crossed to join them, a smile on her pretty face. She was petite with glossy dark brown hair and startling blue eyes that often contained a spark of humor. Cab loved the way she was always smiling, even if sometimes that smile was wry. She was cheerful, sharp, imaginative and lively. Jason was a fool to leave her alone so long.

Cab kept his expression carefully friendly, as always, all too aware of the engagement ring that had been on Rose’s finger for as long as he could remember. He knew Jason had slipped the thin silver band on after he took her to their senior prom. Cab hadn’t noticed Rose much back then. He was a young buck in those days just establishing himself as a sheriff’s deputy. Directly after graduation, Jason moved to North Dakota. Rose stayed in Chance Creek and found herself a job. Cab had noticed her more and more over the years but had kept his distance until Rose became friends with Autumn and started to help out from time to time at the Cruz guest ranch. Thrown together more at social occasions, Cab had gotten to know her better, and as much as he told himself she was off limits—entirely off limits—he couldn’t help wishing she wasn’t.

“That one,” Jamie said, pointing to the most ostentatious ring in the bunch. Cab would hate to know the woman who wanted that monstrosity on her finger.

“Nah, too flashy,” Ethan said. “I think that one.” He pointed to a wisp of a gold band.

“That’s not an engagement ring; that’s hardly a ring at all,” Rob said. “This one.” He jabbed a finger at a circlet of yellowish diamonds that made Cab wince.

It was amazing any of them had wives, he thought, leaning over and examining the case for himself. His eyes immediately lit on a vintage art deco ring with flowing lines and several sparkling diamonds. It reminded him of Rose somehow; artistic, womanly, unique.

“Rose,” Jamie said. “Pull out that one, would you?” He pointed to the ring Cab was staring at.

Rose reached in and pulled out the tray. She angled it toward Cab and he picked up the ring, curious to see it without the intervening glass case. Just as he thought, it was a work of art.

“You can’t see it that way,” Rob said, grabbing it from his fingers. He snatched up Rose’s hand, drew her own ring off her finger and jammed the one Cab picked out in its place.

“Rob!” Rose snatched her hand away and held it up, shock on her face. She stared first at the ring, then at Cab, then back at the ring again. When her free hand grabbed for the counter, and her knees buckled, Cab reached over the case to steady her.

“Rose? You okay?” She looked like she was about to faint.

“Told you,” Rob said, grinning at Ethan.

“Son of a gun,” Ethan said, “You were right.”

“What are you talking about?” Cab was annoyed. “Get her some water, for crying out loud. Rose, do you need to sit down for a minute?” In a horrible flash he wondered if she was pregnant. She’d been Jason’s fiancée a long time. Maybe they hadn’t always been careful.

Rose stared at him wide-eyed. Growing worried, Cab tightened his grip on her arm and came around to her side of the case. “I think you need to sit,” he said again.

She shook her head and seemed to come back to herself. “I’m… fine.”

“Really?” Jamie said. “Because you look like you’ve seen your hus—”

Ethan whacked him on the arm.

Rose blushed furiously, peeled the ring off and thrust it back into the tray. Understanding dawned on Cab and he felt heat creep up his own neck at the trick his friends had played. They’d gotten him to choose a ring. They’d put that ring on Rose’s finger.

They’d waited for her reaction.

Everyone knew about Rose’s hunches—the ones she got when a couple chose their engagement ring. Somehow she could predict their future—if their marriage would be successful or not. If they were meant to be together. She’d given her approval to Ethan, Jamie and Rob when they’d bought their rings during the past few months, and since all of them remained happily married they believed her hunches were real.

So what did they think they were proving now?

He wanted to let go of Rose’s arm. Wanted to apologize for his friends and get the hell out of there, but he couldn’t seem to turn away.

“I didn’t feel anything,” she said angrily, breaking the uncomfortable silence. She yanked her arm away from Cab’s grip and set the tray of rings back in the case with shaking hands.

“You looked like you felt something,” Rob said with a grin. Rob made a business of teasing women, and he and Rose had been friends for some time. Usually Rose gave back as good as she got, but this time she didn’t come up with a stinging reply.

She glanced at Cab again instead, and Cab’s stomach tightened when he met her gaze. He saw something there—awareness, interest—fear?—that sent a shiver of recognition up his own spine.

Rob was right; she’d felt something when he put the ring on her finger. The ring Cab had picked out. The ring he wished he could give her.

Were he and Rose meant for each other? Did she feel the same kind of interest in him he felt in her?

Rose turned away abruptly, grabbed her engagement ring off the counter and shoved the thin circle back onto her finger. Cab’s stomach sank.

Of course she didn’t feel anything for him. She had made her choice and it wasn’t him.