The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 27)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(27)
Author: Cora Seton

He was driving past Dundy’s Hardware when he spotted Rose’s banged up old truck. And there was the woman herself.

What a sight for sore eyes.

She was petite but everything about her exuded energy, from the pace of her stride to the bounce of the mass of brown curls spilling down her back. She wore jeans that hugged her curves like they were painted on, hiking boots, and a forest green fleece. She carried a plastic shopping bag and looked like she was in a hurry. Her face belied her energetic bearing, however. She looked tired, and her eyes were rimmed with red like she’d been crying. No wonder. She’d had a tough day yesterday. He was surprised she was out and about at all.

The thought of Emory piling her paintings on the bonfire made him itch to knock the man into next week. As far as he was concerned, Emory had long ago used up any sympathy he deserved for the loss of his wife, his son moving away, and his… condition. Cab knew all too well that people’s demons could push them to do horrible things, but why wasn’t Emory getting help to control his obsession with order? Was it his obsession that pushed him to destroy Rose’s things, or was it a straight up desire to hurt her?

Cab didn’t know. Without thinking, he pulled into the lot and parked the car behind her truck, effectively hemming her in. She stopped with her hand on the door handle as he got out of the cruiser.

“Hey, Rose.” He nodded toward the bag she was carrying. “Find everything you need?”

“What, you work for the hardware store now?”

Ouch. She wasn’t just tired, she was cranky, too. “Just making conversation.”

She hesitated. Made a face. “Sorry. It’s really hitting me today what a mess my life is.”

“You’re not working?” He folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against his patrol car. He’d prefer to pull her close and give her a kiss, but he had a feeling that wasn’t on the menu right now. Probably should have tried it last night, Jason be damned. He’d been pretty sure she wanted to then.

“No, I’m done with the jewelry store.”

He nodded. That made sense. “You want to set a time for Saturday?”

She looked away. “I’m not sure about Saturday.”

His good mood sunk even further. He understood why she’d be upset right now, but he’d hoped she’d see their shooting date as something to look forward to. “Why not?”

“Look, Cab…”

Oh God, here it came. “Wait. Rose… I know it’s too soon for us to be anything other than friends. I know you’re still attached to Jason…”

“It’s not that.”

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t like what you did last night.” She opened the door to her truck, placed the shopping bag inside and closed it again. She folded her own arms over her chest and faced him.

“You mean, holding you?” he forced himself to ask. Shit, had he blown it by moving too fast when they watched the movie? It was a bonehead move, putting his arm around her like that. But she’d accepted it happily enough at the time.

“No.” She shook her head, obviously irritated. “Not because you held me. Because of the other thing.”

What other thing? Cab wracked his brain to try to remember what else he’d done. He hadn’t kissed her. He sure wanted to, but he’d restrained himself. With difficulty. That left… nothing.

“You insisted on following me home to the carriage house like I’m some kind of child!” Rose exploded. “What the hell was that about?”

Cab blinked. “I wanted to make sure you were safe. It turned out to be a good thing, too. You and Emory nearly came to blows.”

“I can take Emory any day. And I’m perfectly capable of driving from Carl’s house to town by myself.”

“Calm down. Look, that’s a backcountry highway. If you broke down you’d be all alone out there.”

“Hello! Autumn, Morgan and Claire live just down the road from Carl’s house. Are you telling me that Rob and Ethan and Jamie don’t let them drive after dark?”

“I just… wanted you to be safe. That’s all.” Why couldn’t she understand the worry he felt toward her—toward all the women of Chance Creek if it came to that? She hadn’t seen what Grady did to his victims. He hoped she’d never see anything like it. If it came to a choice of seeming overbearing or losing her to a monster…

“It’s not your responsibility!”

“I want it to be.” He didn’t remember moving closer but they stood eye to eye, or they would have if the disparity between their heights weren’t so large. Rose glared up at him, her hands on her hips now.

“Get this straight. I don’t care if we’re friends, or dating or even sleeping together. You don’t get to tell me what to do. Ever!”

Sleeping together? A corner of Cab’s mouth lifted of its own accord.

Rose growled in frustration. “Are you listening to me?”

“Yes, I am,” he said. “And I like where you’re going with all of that.”

“I’m serious. Stop ordering me around!”

The back of Cab’s neck prickled and he realized he’d stopped paying attention to their surroundings. A quick scan of the parking lot told him there were several witnesses to this altercation.

And one of them was Rob Matheson.

“Yeah, Sheriff, stop ordering her around or you’ll have to arrest yourself for conduct unbecoming an officer,” he drawled. He shut the door to his truck and came to join them. “Hi, Rose. This man bothering you?”

She rolled her eyes. “No. He’s just treating me like I’m twelve.”

Rob nudged Cab. “She’s not twelve, buddy. Lucky for you.”

“I know she’s not twelve,” Cab said.

Rob chuckled. “Figured as much. You two coming to Ethan’s place tonight?”

Ethan’s place? He’d forgotten about that. It was Thursday night again. Poker and pool at the Cruz ranch. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Me, too,” Rose said after a moment’s pause.

“See you there.” Rob strode off whistling.

Cab exchanged a look of dismay with Rose.

“You realize he’s going to tell everyone about what he saw and heard just now,” Rose said, making her way around to the driver’s side of her truck. “With his own embellishments.”