The Cowboy's Secret Bride

By: Cora Seton


“Why not?”

“I needed you to have your say.” He watched her process his words. “I’m hoping it’ll be your home, too, someday. Camila, everything I said three years ago still holds true.”

Camila’s breath caught. He’d made it clear three years ago he was looking for something serious. That’s why she’d made her ultimatum in the first place. Now that he was planning to buy a ranch, and letting her know he was still interested, he’d expect her to be ready for that serious relationship. Camila knew she was. All her doubts and worries fell away—

Almost.

She swallowed when she thought of her parents back in Houston.

“When can I see it?” she asked.

“Tomorrow. First thing. I’ve already cleared it with the realtor,” Carl said. “Meantime,” he added, “everyone’s going to be at the fireworks tonight. Go with me? Seems like a good way to celebrate. It’ll be dark,” he added with a grin. He lowered his voice. “I’ll make sure no Turners or Coopers see us.”

“It’s a date.” Camila smiled despite her worries. “I’d better get back,” she told him. “Before Fila gets overwhelmed.”

“See you in a couple of hours.” He gave her hand a squeeze and let her go, although Camila had a feeling he wanted to do more. She sure did. But they were in a public place, and there were Turners and Coopers everywhere. As much as she ached to touch him, run her hands over those delicious muscles, go up on tiptoe to meet his kiss—reluctantly, she tore herself away from him and said goodbye.

As she walked back to the food booth, her heart beating hard, Camila realized things were about to change. Fast. Carl wasn’t looking for a fling. He’d made that clear back when they’d started all this. He wanted marriage. A family.

Which meant she needed to take care of some business of her own.

It was time to give her parents a call and clear the air between them.

Tomorrow, she decided, catching sight of the food tent, relieved not to have to think about that now. She’d be far too busy the rest of the day keeping up with her customers.

Keeping them happy was her main concern these days. The restaurant she shared with Fila was everything to her. She was proud of how professional their booth looked, with Fila’s Famila emblazoned on the sign. She was proud, too, it had grown to be one of the most popular establishments in town, a real achievement after the bad start she’d made when she’d arrived here.

She’d come to Montana after fighting with her family. Back in Houston, she’d always worked in her family’s restaurant, Torres de Sabores, since she was a little girl. She’d always loved cooking, and had a flair for it, but when her father made her older brother Mateo head chef, it had been the last straw after a lifetime of taking second place. Her four other brothers and two sisters had long since moved out to take other jobs. If Mateo had taken the business as seriously as she did—if he’d lived and breathed Mexican food—she’d have gladly been his second in command.

But instead, he’d taken the position as if it was owed him, spent more time chatting with customers in the front end of the restaurant than working in the back, and tried to let her carry the load—without getting any credit for it.

When it became clear to Camila nothing would change, she’d decided to strike out on her own. Although it had torn her heart in two, she’d left her family behind and come to Montana with the backing of her uncle Gerardo, who still lived in Mexico with her aunt Ximena. She’d found a building, leased a space—

And then nearly lost everything when Gerardo backed out of the deal after her father found out he was loaning her money. Thank goodness Fila had come to the rescue. Starting her own restaurant at the same time, she’d been glad for a partner, and the two of them made a stunning debut in Chance Creek. Fila’s Familia was always crowded and busy. Camila was grateful for the success—and even more grateful for her first real friend in Chance Creek. She’d never forget the aching loneliness of her early days in the northern town.

She’d made a new home here. A home she loved.

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