The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 45)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(45)
Author: Cora Seton

On Monday morning she waited for Cab to leave for work before she finally finished the roof on her tree house. Then she got to work on digging the holes for Hannah and Mia’s posts. By rights they’d have come and done their own dirty work, but she didn’t mind. It gave her another reason to put off looking for a job.

She wasn’t sure why she was so reluctant to do so. Even though she wouldn’t get a reference from Emory, this was a small town; people knew who she was. But when she’d picked up the regional paper on her errands the day before she hadn’t found any ads for jobs she wanted to take.

She needed something flexible, and she needed a really cheap apartment to live in. That would leave her open to start classes for her degree.

She wanted a degree, she’d decided. Maybe it wouldn’t make her paintings more marketable, but she’d learn so much in the process she’d never learn on her own. She’d make connections with other artists, and—she thought triumphantly—it could lead to other artistic jobs. Maybe she could teach university classes someday. Those professors got good salaries, right?

The truth was, she didn’t give a damn about her salary. She did give a damn about art, though. She’d never gotten much support for it, apart from a teacher or two in elementary school who had encouraged her, and she wanted to know what that would be like. The thought that she could spend a few years among other artists filled her with longing.

Mia arrived in the afternoon and they quickly faced the same problem she had at the beginning; there was no electricity for a power saw to cut the lumber Mia brought from her family’s shed. They either had to cut it by hand, or risk going back to the Cruz ranch. After using the handsaw to cut a few boards they agreed to risk a trip to Autumn and Ethan’s place. While Mia looked over the list of board lengths and sizes Rose had drawn up for her, Rose placed the call to Autumn.

“You’re in luck,” Autumn said. “Ethan, Jamie and Rob are all going to visit another ranch tomorrow. They’ll be gone most of the day. Come over after nine in the morning and you’ll be fine. Speaking of which, I’d like to point out you have an excellent bed here going to waste. Are you coming home tonight? Or would you rather sleep in someone else’s?”

Great. Word about her and Cab had obviously spread already. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said and clicked off. She knew her friend would have plenty of questions for her then.

Hannah arrived just as Rose shoved the phone back in her pocket. Rose greeted her and followed her back to where she’d parked her car to make sure she’d hidden it well enough. Like Mia, Hannah seemed to take her rules seriously and Rose couldn’t fault the job she’d done.

“I put your posts in today. I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t wait for you.”

“I don’t mind at all. Do you mind if I get started building my corral? I brought a bunch of scrap wood along.”

“Sure,” Rose said checking her watch. “We have to wind down before Cab gets home, though, so you only have about an hour and a half. I’ll be at Autumn’s place tomorrow to cut more boards. Do you want to meet me there?”

Hannah hesitated. “I can’t take too much time off of work.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re making the houses all the same size and shape. I’ll cut the wood you’ll need and be back here after lunch. Come by any time before four, but hide your car again, okay?”

“You’re a lifesaver, Rose. Thanks.”

Rose had wondered if the project would lose some of its luster with company around, but once Hannah took off deeper into the woods, to her surprise she found herself enjoying Mia’s presence. The young woman turned out to have a sly sense of humor that blossomed here away from prying eyes. They cleaned up the site and transferred Mia’s wood from her car to Rose’s truck. Mia had ridden from town with the boards sticking out one of her rear windows. Rose hoped she hadn’t attracted too much attention.

“I just always feel so… wrong… when other people look at me these days, like they can see inside my brain and know I had an affair with a married man,” Mia confessed to Rose some time later. “Out here with just you and Hannah, I feel… safe.”

“I’m glad,” Rose told her. “That’s exactly what this place is supposed to be—a hideaway from all the people who get you down.”

“I think it’s going to work.”

Rose wanted to ask her questions about her plans for the future, but she kept her mouth shut. After all, she was hiding here because she didn’t want to have to answer to anyone. Why shouldn’t Mia get the same privacy?

A faint sound of hammering came from the woods behind them and Rose tensed, focused on a new worry. She still had plenty of reservations about keeping a horse out here, but Hannah had assured her it was only temporary; just until she could find the critter a better home. When she emerged an hour or so later, Rose and Mia were tidying up for the day.

“Are you making any progress?” Rose asked her.

Hannah nodded. “I actually got it done. It’s not a very big corral. I’m going to call it a day.”

“Me, too,” Mia said. “I’ve got a five to nine o’clock shift tonight.”

Rose nodded. “I’m supposed to have dinner with Cab. I wish I had a way to clean up first, though. One thing this place lacks is a shower. I think I stink.”

“Aren’t you staying at Autumn’s? Why don’t you go there?” Mia asked.

Because she didn’t feel like getting the third degree. She knew the minute she entered the door of the Big House, Autumn, Claire and Morgan would pounce on her and want to know everything. They’d grill her about Jason and Cab and Emory… she couldn’t take it. Not yet. She’d face Autumn tomorrow.

“Want to follow me home?” Hannah said, taking in her expression. “I’m all the way across town from Emory and your folks. You can use my shower. They’ll never know you were there.”

She was being silly hiding out like this—Emory must know by now she’d broken things off with Jason—but she didn’t want to face him and his questions and accusations, either. She’d be taking a chance going to Hannah’s, but the lure of hot water and soap swayed her. After all, what could any of them do if they actually caught her, except make a stink? Sooner or later she’d have to face the world.