The Throw-Away Bride(2)

By: Ann Major


“Easy girl,” she whispered, her tone gentle even as the stench of straw and urine and horse in such close quarters caused nausea to roil in her stomach.

She hoped against hope that Leo had relented and was returning her call like a reasonable individual. Maybe he’d even agree to stop by her ranch house tonight to talk. Much as she would dread seeing him, it would be so nice if she could avoid the drive to San Antonio and the humiliation of fighting her way into his office after he’d made it clear he never wanted to see her again.

Not that she could blame him for that. Her heart knocked as she remembered accusing him of not being able to take no for an answer and of stalking her. He’d hissed in a breath. But she’d seen the acute pain in his black eyes right before he’d whirled, pitched the roses he’d brought her into the trash and quietly walked back to his truck. Later he’d called her and had delivered his ultimatum, which, for some weird reason, she’d replayed at least a dozen times in her mind. Did she enjoy suffering or what?

Instead of Leo’s name, the number of In the Pink!, Abigail’s own company located on a side street just off Congress Avenue in downtown Austin lit up the blue LED of her mobile phone.

Kel, her executive secretary, best friend, unpaid therapist…and of late, her number-one shoulder to cry on, was calling.

Damn.

Abigail sagged against the wall of the barn. A tear rolled down her cheek as she caught her breath. Then she swallowed and squeaked out a hello that she’d meant to sound chirpy.

“Hey, Abby, do you have a cold or something?”

“Or something.” Abigail felt frozen. “This thing has me all messed up.”

“I know. Hormones.”

Or the terror of Leo Storm, of what he would say and do to her this morning at her news, especially after the way she’d treated him.

“Other than feeling like I’m about to have a nervous breakdown, I’m fine. Never better.” Somehow she managed a hollow laugh. “As fine as someone with morning sickness can be, mucking out a stall…before they face a firing squad.”

“You need to hire somebody for that yucky-mucky stuff now.”

A city girl through and through, Kel didn’t get horses.

“I know. You’re right. I will.”

“So, anything I need to know before I start scheduling your day?”

“Yes. I-I’m going to tell him…today.”

“Oh? When exactly?”

“This morning! First thing!”

“Wow. Well, finally!”

“Putting it off is driving me crazy. The only problem is it looks like I’m going to have to track him down. He won’t return my calls.”

“You should have listened to your smart secretary. Didn’t I tell you, you should call him and apologize—”

“Smart-assed secretary!”

“Big-assed, too.” Kel laughed. “And getting bigger. Jan brought in two dozen donuts this morning coated with yummy strawberry goo. I’m inhaling my second.”

“Okay. Well, I didn’t call him back or apologize. And ever since, he’s avoided the ranch and me. Now he won’t even take my calls or call me back.”

“Why are we surprised?”

“I said it was urgent. I’ve left several messages with his secretary, too. Yesterday, she actually got snappy and said he had no intention of returning my calls. I can’t tell you how humiliating that was. I’m not about to tell a witch like her to tell him I’m pregnant with his child, so I guess I have to drive over there.”

“Right. You think you’ll get back here this afternoon?”

“After lunch. I’ll probably be a basket case after seeing him.”

“Do you want me to cancel your afternoon?”

“No!”

“Is there anything I can do?” Kel’s voice was soft with concern.

“Just be your smart-assed self and put out any and all home fires.”

“Don’t worry about us,” Kel said. “Just take care of you.”

They hung up.

Abigail’s hands began to shake again as she slid her phone in her back pocket. Compulsively, she began marching back and forth in the barn, straightening tack that didn’t need to be straightened, lining up bottles and brushes on shelves, trying to feel she controlled something. She got a broom and began to sweep the feed that Coco had shaken out of the feed sack when she’d grabbed it by her teeth earlier.

Coco walked up and lowered her head almost apologetically. It was her way of begging for her favorite treat, a mixture of oats and molasses.

“Not today, big girl. Not after this big mess you made!”

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