The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 34)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(34)
Author: Cora Seton

Before she could change her mind she pulled out her phone and called his number.

“Hello?” Jason’s deep, smooth voice caught her unprepared and for a moment she thought this was all a big mistake. Jason used to be her best friend—her rock—but that was so long ago. Things were different now, she reminded herself. They’d been different for months.

“Hi, it’s me,” she said.


Why had he hesitated so long before saying her name? Was he expecting someone else to call? His other girlfriend? Probably. Jason Thayer was far too handsome to be lonely for long. She was naïve if she thought he’d really stayed celibate all this time.

“Yeah. Listen, I think we should talk.”

“About what?” He was instantly on guard and Rose realized he’d been like that a lot during their calls lately. When they actually spoke.

“About us,” she said softly. “This isn’t working.”

It hurt to say the words, despite her certainty it was the right thing to do. While she didn’t love Jason the way she used to love him, she still cared for him deeply. They’d been through so much together.


“Of course us.”

“Rose…” He hesitated. Gone was the hard tone he used so often these days. In its place was uncertainty. “I know it’s taking longer than I said…”

“It’s not that. It’s the distance between us. It’s not the same anymore. We’re not the same.” Now that she had started, the words spilled out of her. “You used to call every day, Jason. You texted me all the time. You told me everything that was happening to you and you wanted to know everything about me, too.”

“I still want…”

“Listen to me,” she said, cutting across his words. “I can’t wait anymore. I can’t put my life on hold like this and I don’t think we want the same things anyhow.”

Jason was quiet for a long moment. “Is there someone else?”

She waited a beat too long. “No… of course not.” But there was, and now he knew it, too.


She tried to picture him in his apartment in North Dakota, but she couldn’t. She’d never been there. She’d gone to see him once or twice in the early days, but he’d moved several times since then. She’d always had the feeling he liked to keep her separate from his North Dakota life. Why was that?

“It’s been months since you’ve come to see me. I figured you’d be happy if I broke things off,” she said, putting all those feelings into words.

“Really? That’s what you thought?”

“Yeah,” she said, matching his anger. “What else was I supposed to think?”

“I hear about you from Dad, you know. So even if we don’t talk, I know what’s going on.”

What did he mean by that? Had Emory told him about Cab? “Did you know your father burnt up half my paintings?” She didn’t mean to lash out at him, but on the other hand she did, too. She was the one who stayed behind and worked day in, day out in his father’s store and put up with all of Emory’s craziness. Jason got to run around North Dakota answering to no one.

“He what?” The anger dropped from his voice, replaced by shock.

“Burned them. On a bonfire. After going through every last thing of mine. I moved out, by the way. I’m staying with the Cruzes now. I quit, too.”

Another long pause. “When did all of this happen?”

“A couple of days ago.”

“I told you not to move in with him, didn’t I? Now you see what I mean.”

She looked at the phone. Seriously? That was his response? Well, why not—it was about as helpful as anything else he’d said or done this past year.

“You know what, Jason? I don’t need to talk about this anymore. We’re done. Through. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I’ll return your ring and we can pretend this never happened, okay?”

She ended the call before he could answer and turned her phone off, then stuffed it in the glove compartment for good measure. She turned the truck’s engine on and revved it. Backed out of her parking spot and spun the wheel until she was headed back the way she’d come.

No sense driving to North Dakota now. She and Jason were done. Instead she stopped at a sporting goods store, picked up some supplies and drove carefully out to Carl’s woods. Everyone thought she’d be gone for several days. If she went back to the Cruz ranch, Autumn and Ethan would be solicitous but they’d have questions, too, and she couldn’t bear to answer questions. Worse, Cab might stop by and she wasn’t ready to see him. For one night she wanted to be free of all entanglements. Her tree house was her best bet for that.

It didn’t take long to pinpoint several flaws in its design and her plan to spend the night there.

First, at only six feet square, it was hardly big enough to stretch out fully on its floor. Thank goodness she hadn’t had time to build the bench seat and desk yet, or she wouldn’t have fit at all.

Second, she hadn’t insulated the walls. Or the floor. Or nailed on a real roof for that matter.

Third, she hadn’t installed a furnace, wall-to-wall carpeting, or most importantly, indoor plumbing.

Cramped, freezing, and desperately in need of a bathroom, Rose sat up around midnight and contemplated her surroundings. The windows let in a faint light from the stars above. Every chink and crack in the place let in ice-cold drafts that set her teeth chattering. Outside the night was very still, except for the muffled whoosh now and then of a car passing on the winding country road a quarter mile away.

She got out of her sleeping bag reluctantly and grabbed the flashlight she’d stashed near the door. She searched the small room until she found the roll of toilet paper, tucked it under her arm, kicked the sleeping bag aside, and opened the door.

She’d propped her ladder against the tree house until such time as she could build a better set of stairs and she struggled down it, the flashlight jammed in her pocket. On the ground, she pulled it out again, but took care to keep the light pointed straight down. She didn’t want to risk alerting Cab, sleeping in Carl’s house, of her presence.

As she picked her way through the frozen darkness, she couldn’t help imagine Cab asleep in a nice, warm bed. Obviously her plan to stay here was idiotic; she should have simply slept in a motel. It was too late for that now. She couldn’t risk starting up the truck and waking Cab.