The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Page 8)

The Sheriff Catches a Bride (Cowboys of Chance Creek #5)(8)
Author: Cora Seton

Fact was, he didn’t want to figure out all of this on his own. If he was going to buy a house, he wanted to buy it for someone. Same with an acreage. Property meant upkeep, renovations—all of which he’d be happy to do, if there was someone to do it for.

He would love to put a ring on Rose’s finger. Too bad she was the one woman he couldn’t have.

The next morning, Rose stifled a yawn and tried to focus on the young couple looking among the glass cases of the jewelry store for the perfect engagement ring. The shop itself was perfectly in order, as usual. Emory was a stickler for cleanliness and couldn’t bear for anything to be out of place, even for a moment. He was also a stickler for punctuality and impeccable customer service, great qualities in the retail industry, but really—there was a limit. Rose was at her limit with Chelsea Wight and Doug Standle, the young couple currently perusing the ring section. Chelsea—who’d just graduated from high school last spring—had bounced into the store fifteen minutes ago, her dirty-blond curls swinging, and honed in on the most expensive rings in the place. Doug—an acne-scarred redhead who still hadn’t graduated although he was nineteen—hung near the door until Chelsea went back, took his hand, and led him to the ring cases. Rose knew exactly what would happen next. Chelsea would pick out a fancy ring and try it on. Then she’d ask Rose the question she dreaded most. “What do you think? Are we meant to be together?”

Damn Rob Matheson and his big mouth.

Three years ago when she took this job, Rose had no idea she had any psychic tendencies. After she hired on with Emory, however, and some months passed by, she began to notice that whenever a couple bought an engagement ring, she got a strong feeling whether their love would last or not. Of course she had no idea whether her feelings were all that accurate; she hadn’t worked here long enough to prove them over the long haul. Still, four or five couples she’d gotten bad hunches about during her first year in the store now were divorced. The ones she’d gotten good hunches about were still married.

She made the mistake one day of mentioning the trend to Rob. At the time, he’d been single with lots of hours to kill and he often stopped by to chat while she worked at the shop. He’d been present one day when she sold a ring to a couple she doubted would make it to the altar. When he complimented her on the sale she shook her head and told him they’d probably return the ring within the month.

She’d been right and Rob had been in the shop that day, too. He was convinced of her powers, as he called them.

And he’d convinced everyone else. Of course, now he was married to Morgan, and Rose had given her approval to the match, so he wanted to believe she saw these things clearly.

Today she saw them all too clearly.

Rose fumbled under the counter for a box of tissues and placed it near to Doug and Chelsea. She could guarantee someone was going to cry when these two began to talk money, and she had the uncomfortable feeling it might be Doug.

“This one,” Chelsea said, jabbing a finger at a diamond cluster ring.

Rose shook her head. “Nope.” Customer service be damned; she wasn’t showing Chelsea that ring. It was way too expensive.

“What do you mean, no?” Chelsea straightened. Doug looked miserable. Poor fool, probably caught in a trap of his own making. Rose could just picture the scene last night on some back country road. Doug promising the moon if Chelsea gave in to his amorous advances. Chelsea agreeing, then dragging him to the jewelers at first light.

“I mean Doug can’t afford it.”

Chelsea scowled, but looked back at the case. “This one, then.”

Cab’s ring.

“Hell, no! I mean…” She looked into Chelsea’s startled eyes. “He can’t afford that one, either. Doug, what’s your budget, honey?” She flashed the kid a warm you can confide in me smile, promising herself she’d remove Cab’s ring from the display case and hide it in the back the moment these two had left the store. She couldn’t bear the thought of it on anyone else’s finger.


Oh, for heaven’s sake. “How much money do you want to spend on this ring?” Better to rip the Band-Aid off in one quick swipe. Otherwise Chelsea might be here for hours.

“Um… a hundred dollars? Next Friday, when I get paid?”

“A hundred dollars?” Chelsea’s voice rose and Rose nudged the box of tissues closer to them.

“Um… yeah.”

“I’m not wearing some stupid Cracker-Jack ring, Doug Standle!”

Doug scanned the store, wild-eyed, then broke for the front door, leaving Chelsea to stand open-mouthed as it slammed shut behind him. She blushed furiously red and turned to Rose. “I’m going to kill him!”

“If you can catch him,” Rose said.

Chelsea gaped at her, struggled to answer, gave up and stormed out the door after him. Rose tucked the tissues back under the counter. She grabbed the glass cleaner and a rag and soon wiped Doug and Chelsea’s fingerprints off the cabinet. A glance around the store told her all was perfect once again.

Perfect. As in boring. As in safe. As in, you don’t need to go to college, Rosie-girl; I’m going to take good care of you. Just give me one year—two at the most—and I’ll buy you a real ring. Why, oh why, oh why had she ever listened to Jason? Six years ago she’d been just like Chelsea—barely out of high school, itching to throw away classrooms and homework and get right to grown-up life.

And why not? Nobody expected great things from her. She was an average student, bright but not motivated. She acted in high school productions, joined a few after-school clubs, but she never led any of them. She’d done a couple of years of track and field—she was a sprinter—and she had several second place ribbons, but no firsts. What else would she do except settle down, marry her high school sweetheart and raise a family? Her parents felt like Jason did—that her dream of becoming a famous painter was just that: a dream. It was fine to take a painting course or two around town, but the thought of going into debt for art school seemed ridiculous to them.

At first she hadn’t minded so much. Grown-up life was exciting. Jason headed straight for North Dakota’s oil fields the week after they graduated, and the money he made was great. She got a job with a housekeeping service and saved up every penny she could. Her wages didn’t compare to Jason’s, and her job wasn’t glamorous, but she didn’t care. She thought pretty soon he’d move back, they’d pool their cash, and buy their own place. Time enough for art school later. When Jason came home for holidays and a couple weeks during summer vacation, they drove around in his pickup and looked at all the houses for sale. She dreamed of starting small, then gradually trading up until they owned a real piece of property.