The Cowboy Lassos a Bride(9)

By: Cora Seton



“Sleep with my son for fourteen consecutive nights. All night. That’s it. Your bison gets a pasture, food, and shelter for the rest of her life. What do you say?”

She sputtered, searching for something to say that encompassed the depth of her anger that he’d even speak to her this way. She settled on sarcasm. “Two weeks? I’ll have to check my calendar. Some other guy’s father might have extorted me to sleep with him one of those nights.”

Holt chuckled. “Just how many bison do you have stashed around the ranches in these parts?”

“I don’t need to listen to this.”

“By the way, the son in question is Jake.” He eyed her sharply and Hannah felt the heat creep up her cheeks all over again.

Jake?

An image of them together in bed—naked, disheveled—flashed into her mind and her body tingled with the idea of it. She and Jake could have a lot of fun between the sheets.

She forced the thought out of her head. “Not interested.”

“Then I guess I’ll get my pasture back sooner than I thought. And I’ll have to find some other woman to get my son’s mind on marriage.”

“Damn it, Holt—that’s not fair.”

“Which part isn’t? The part where I eat your bison or the part where another woman sleeps with my son?”

Hannah fought mightily against the urge to slug him. “Even if I did this—which I won’t,” she assured him, “how would you know? Are you going to bug his bedroom?”

“Nah,” Holt said. “You’ll report to me every morning, look me in the eye and tell me if you slept with him or not.” Her eyes widened and Holt guffawed. “No way a girl with your color hair can tell a lie. Your face gives you away every time.”

He was right, damn it. The pale, pale complexion that went with her white-blond hair meant that every flush showed like her face had been slapped. She made it a point not to lie because like Holt said, she couldn’t get away with it. If she faced this man after a night with his son she’d be scarlet.

Like she was right now.

“How would I even get him to agree to it?” she asked, even though the question was ludicrous. She was not sleeping with Jake, no matter what the reward. Not on his father’s say-so. She turned back to Gladys, mostly to get away from Holt’s sardonic grin.

“Reckon that’s your problem. You’re a clever girl, you’ll think of something.”

“What do you get out of it?” Why was she even having this conversation? Because she was as crazy as Holt? Because she was worried about Gladys?

Because she wanted to sleep with Jake?

Did she ever. How many times in the last few weeks had she dreamed of unbuttoning one of Jake’s work shirts and smoothing her hands over his hard chest? How many times had she dreamed of unbuttoning her own shirt and pressing up against him, feeling her skin on his? Ever since the wedding, Jake had been on her mind. More than she cared to admit.

“I get to remind my son he’s a man,” Holt said. “Seems like he’s forgotten that. No sense passing on control of the ranch to him if he doesn’t intend to get an heir.”

“He’s not getting an heir with me,” Hannah snapped, stepping away from him. “I don’t plan to have children anytime soon.”

“No one asked you to. You just need to prime the pump, so to speak.”

“I’m not having sex with him, either.”

“Like I said, what you get up to is your call. No man can spend two weeks in bed with a pretty woman without getting a notion or two. I suspect that’s all it’ll take to get him thinking about the benefits of settling down.”

Hannah shook her head, the wooden railing under her hand splintery and cold in the November morning. “I didn’t say I’d do it.”

Holt smiled. “You didn’t walk away, either.”

“You fix that leak yet?” Holt asked.

When his father walked into the living room, Jake set his beer down carefully on the small end table and leaned back on the comfortable couch before the fire. He generally stayed for a drink after eating dinner at the main house with his parents and his brothers, Ned and Luke. His third brother, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Morgan, had just moved back onto the ranch until they built a permanent home, but they tended to eat in their own cabin, so he didn’t see them as much. When the meal was over, in good weather he’d sit out on the front porch and let his gaze wander over the land his family owned. In the winter he found a place in front of the fire in their formal living room. His brothers had already returned to their cabins, but Jake lingered. In a short time he’d head over to Ethan and Autumn’s poker night. Meanwhile he wanted to plan his strategy to convince Hannah to marry him in the next thirty days.

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