The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 43)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(43)
Author: Cora Seton

“What?” Rose turned on her.

“You’re squatting.”

“Huh?”

“You’re squatting on someone’s land. Or is it state land?” Mia looked at her, admiration plain on her face.

“Mia…”

“Rose, I won’t tell anyone. Heck, if anyone knows how to keep a secret, it’s me,” she said, resting a hand on her belly.

She had a point. “All right. I’m squatting. In the woods outside town.”

Mia nodded. “I knew it. And that lumber you bought last week? You’re building a cabin? You’ve got balls.”

“I built a tree house, actually. I’m beginning to think I might need to expand it.” Rose clamped her mouth shut before any other words could spill out.

“A tree house.” The longing was clear in Mia’s voice. “I always wanted a tree house.”

“Me, too,” Rose realized. It had never even occurred to her to build her hideaway on the ground.

“Rose,” Mia began. She stopped in the middle of the aisle and put a hand on Rose’s shoulder to stop her, as well. “I could use a place like that. Somewhere to escape. No, hold on,” she held up a hand to prevent Rose from speaking. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but with the baby coming things are going to get pretty hard on me. My parents… they’re pretty religious. It’s going to kill them when I begin to show. A few years back this other couple from church—friends of theirs—had a son who got some girl pregnant and refused to marry her. Every one acted sweet and charitable to their faces, but whenever they weren’t around people gossiped like crazy. They stopped getting invitations anywhere. They weren’t picked for church committees. All their so-called friends dropped them like hotcakes, even Mom and Dad. I know it killed my mother, but she knew if she didn’t go along with it, everyone she knew would drop her. She couldn’t bear that.” Mia shrugged miserably. “Now it’s going to happen to her, anyway.”

“Oh, Mia, I’m so sorry. That sounds awful.” Rose only attended services sporadically, but she couldn’t imagine such things going on at the simple church Reverend Joe Halpern oversaw. “Which congregation is that?”

Mia mentioned the name of one of the churches on the outskirts of town, a more conservative denomination. Rose shook her head. The behavior Mia had described didn’t belong in any house of worship.

A tear leaked out of Mia’s eye. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Please, can I build a tree house, too? Just to get away sometimes and be by myself? A place where I can still dream it’s all going to be okay?”

Rose knew she needed to get Mia out of the store before she broke down completely. “Okay,” she said, almost cursing the day she’d ever befriended the girl. Now there would be three of them going in and out of Carl’s woods. What were the chances Cab wouldn’t discover them?

And how was Mia going to afford the supplies, anyway?

As if she’d read her mind, Mia wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt. “I won’t even have to buy the wood. We’ve got a whole shed out back at home filled with it. If you’ll tell me what I need, I’ll load it up and bring it out tomorrow. Where’s your tree house again?”

“In Carl Whitfield’s woods,” Rose said, her heart sinking. This wasn’t going to end well. It couldn’t.

“Carl’s woods.” Mia looked thoughtful. “I bet you can pull right into the trees and hide your truck. I’ve got this huge old tarp, too. My dad used to use it as a makeshift garage before he built a real one. I’ll bring it when I come out. Once I pull in behind some trees and cover my car, no one will know it’s there.”

Her foresight relieved Rose a little. Maybe they’d pull this off, after all.

Twenty-four hours had gone by since Rose walked out of his house—well, out of Carl’s house—and Cab hadn’t heard a word from her. How long was he supposed to wait before he made his next move?

When she’d left his bed the previous afternoon, he’d still been in a daze from their unexpected and mind-blowing encounter, but when evening slipped into night and the minutes ticked on without her calling or even texting, he realized she wasn’t coming back any time soon.

He’d tossed and turned all night, and even got out of bed now and then to check out his window. He’d had the unsettling feeling that something was out there, but he couldn’t see anything. All he had to go by was a hunch that something wasn’t right.

Rose wasn’t sleeping with him; that’s what wasn’t right. Why hadn’t she come back? Was she too busy finding herself to give him a call? Why couldn’t they just jump over all this relationship gobbledygook and get right into the good stuff? She could move in with him, they’d divide the chores. At night they’d cuddle up, take in a show or two, and then hit the hay.

After a few hours of fooling around, of course.

Sounded like heaven to Cab. Only Rose apparently didn’t agree.

By Sunday afternoon, Cab had enough of Rose’s silence. It galled him to think she could sleep with him and then walk away while he couldn’t think about anything else. It galled him he didn’t even know where she was staying—she wasn’t at the Cruz ranch. What was up with that?

He decided to find out. He dialed her number and was relieved when she answered promptly.

“Hey, Rose,” he said and realized he hadn’t planned any further than that.

“Cab? Is that you?”

“Yeah. Where are you?”

“Um… at a friend’s,” she said, after waiting a beat too long. He figured if he could see her she’d be biting that bottom lip of hers. What was she hiding now?

“Want to get together tonight?”

“Um… tomorrow night is better. Does that work for you?”

He guessed it had to. “Sure,” he said, although he wanted to ask what was wrong with today.

“What time?”

“Five o’clock?”

Another pause. “How about six?”

“Fine. Where can I pick you up?”

“I’ll meet you. How about The Robin’s Nest in Silver Falls?”

“Silver Falls? That’s a bit of a drive.” Practically all the way to Bozeman.

“I don’t want to run into Emory in town.”

“It’ll save some gas if I pick you up,” Cab tried again. Why was she being so cagey about her location?