The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 29)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(29)
Author: Cora Seton

“Except Autumn, Claire and Morgan,” Rose said. She envied them their built-in friendships and the fact that next year they’d be overrun with babies. The Cruz ranch was a heavenly place to live and work. She determined to make the best of the fact that she was living there now, too. At least temporarily.

Hannah nodded. As they made their way through the aisles of the grocery store, Rose noticed she was quieter than usual.

“Anything wrong?” she asked.

Hannah let out a sigh. “Actually, yes. Do you ever feel the need to get away?”

Rose laughed. “All the time.”

“Really?” Hannah faced her. “It’s not just me?”

“Nope. It sucks being young. You don’t own anything that’s yours.”

“That’s it exactly.” Hannah brightened. “I need my own place. My own land. Somewhere no one will watch what I’m doing. Somewhere away from Cody.”

“There’s a lot of land out there,” Rose said noncommittally, wondering what was wrong between Hannah and her boyfriend. She knew Hannah currently lived at Cody’s house, so if things weren’t right between them Hannah wouldn’t have anywhere to retreat. When they reached the potato chips, she stopped to survey the shelves and chose several bags.

“Sure, but someone owns all of it,” Hannah said. “It isn’t fair. It’s not like people even use all their land. It just sits there. And then there’s the fencing. How do you even build it?”

“Fencing?” Rose struggled to keep up with her. “You mean like for a corral?” Did Hannah want a horse? Was that what she and Cody were fighting about? Maybe Cody didn’t like horses. “Check online,” she said, thinking about the YouTube videos she’d watched to learn how to build the tree house.

Hannah looked at her. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Anyway,” she suddenly became brisk. “I need to grab some pop. What do you think I should get?”

As Rose watched her pace up and down the row of brightly colored drinks, she wondered what scheme Hannah was considering. She obviously had a secret. Just like Mia.

Just like her.

There was much more going on in Chance Creek than met the eye.

By the time Cab drove up the long dirt lane to the Cruz place, the parking area was filled with vehicles, and when he entered the large house, conversation and laughter spilled over him. He stood for a moment unnoticed in the doorway and counted all the friends in the large open-plan interior. Ethan, Jamie and Rob stood clustered by the fireplace where flames danced and sputtered in the grate. Bella and Evan Mortimer sat side by side on one of the comfortable sofas, their knees touching. Claire sat opposite them, gesturing as she spoke. Morgan and Autumn stood behind the half-height kitchen partition, setting up the snacks. He was surprised to see that all of Rob’s brothers had joined them tonight. He remembered a time not too long ago when Rob could barely stand to be in the same place as them. Things must have sorted themselves out between them now that it was clear who ran what over at the Matheson ranch. Rob and Morgan owned their section of Matheson land outright, along with a stake in the Cruz ranch. The other three Matheson boys ran the rest of their ranch jointly, overseen by their father, Holt.

Cab’s eyes narrowed as he took in another couple; Hannah Ashton and Cody Frank. Since Hannah and Morgan became fast friends over the summer, she’d joined them a couple of times, but this was the first time she’d brought her boyfriend. Cab frowned. He didn’t care for the man. Cody was a bit of a hotshot. Full of himself. Kind of an ass, if you asked him. Hannah was sweet and he hated to see her hitch her wagon to a man like that.

The door opened again behind him and he swung around to see Rose come in. She stopped in her tracks when she saw him.

“Hi,” he said, trying to keep it casual. The last thing he’d expected this morning was her tirade in the parking lot. He still didn’t understand what she was so upset about. By his way of thinking not only was it smart for him to make sure she got safely home—he saw enough in his line of work to know how dangerous the world was—it was also romantic. It showed he cared about her.

That certainly wasn’t the way Rose saw it, however, so he would heed her request. He wouldn’t follow her home next time. At least not closely enough for her to see him.

He smiled down at her now, enjoying the sweet curves of her figure and the way she looked back up at him, interest and suspicion warring in her eyes.

“Hi,” she said and edged around him to enter the living room. “Hi, everyone,” she called out as they both moved into the large, open space.

“See? What did I tell you? They’re together,” Rob said loudly, his voice cutting through every conversation in the room.

There was a hush as all eyes turned to them. Cab stifled the urge to strangle Rob, not an unfamiliar feeling since the man never missed a chance to create mischief. A glance told him Rose had gone pale. He also caught sight of her hand, however, where a certain ring finger no longer wore a ring. Hope surged through him. Had she broken up with Jason?

“I thought she was engaged,” Jamie murmured to Ethan, but his voice carried in the sudden hush.

Cab winced. Awkward, to say the least. Rose stood rigid, her lips pursed together, but just as Cab moved to set things straight, she said loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’ve decided not to be with Jason anymore.” She glanced at Cab. “I had some trouble at my place last night with Emory and Cab helped me out. He was checking to see how I was earlier when you saw us together, Rob. Cab’s a good friend. I appreciate that.”

After another awkward moment of silence, Autumn bustled over and took Rose under her wing, tugging her toward the kitchen where the rest of the women gathered around to question her. Cab shot an angry look at Rob, who ducked his head. He went to sit by Bella and Evan and hoped the rest of the evening would pass more smoothly.

“How are those bison doing?” he asked Bella.

For a moment she seemed confused. When understanding dawned, she laughed and said, “Still haven’t managed to acquire any for my menagerie, but Hannah sure seems interested in them these days.”

“Really?” Evan asked. “Bison?”

Cab still found himself wary around the billionaire, but Evan was proving to be a regular guy. A regular guy with wide interests and the money to fund investigations into many of them. The last he’d heard, Evan and Jake Matheson were putting their heads together to research ways to lessen cattle ranching’s environmental impact.