His Christmas Cowgirl(13)

By: Alissa Callen

“Isn’t it beautiful? It was Brent’s mother’s.” Kendall glanced over to where dark-haired Brent leaned against the kitchen bench. As he returned Kendall’s smile, Peta saw all the love that for four years he’d had to hide from her sister.

“Trust me.” Stewart growled as he opened the fridge to collect a bottle of milk. “I know that ring wasn’t there last night because I had to get up at some ridiculous hour this morning to give permission for my youngest daughter to trade me in.”

“Peta, don’t listen to him.” Kendall smiled and sat at the table. “Dad was already dressed when Brent came to ask for my hand in marriage. Dad, I also think your exact words to Brent were, ‘what took you so long?’”

Stewart shrugged and passed Kendall a steaming coffee. “I liked my version better.”

He set Brent’s coffee beside Kendall. The Fire Weed Ranch cowboy took his seat, entwined his fingers with Kendall’s and brushed a tender kiss across her mouth.

Peta looked away. Now wasn’t the time to remember that out of all the friends she’d soon meet at Grey’s she’d be the only person single.

“Coffee,” her father asked her, his voice unusually quiet.

She faked a bright smile. “No thanks. Rhett’s truck just pulled up. We’ll head out soon. Are you sure you don’t want to come?”

Her father scowled and shook his head. “I’ve had enough excitement for one day. Besides, I’m not going anywhere with you looking like that. I’m too old to break up a fight.”

This time her smile wasn’t forced. Her father had just paid her a compliment in a roundabout way. “There’ll be no cowboys fighting over me. And if some have more beers than common sense, I’ll sort them out myself. I’ve wrestled enough cows to handle an out-of-line cowboy.”

“I’ll second that,” Rhett said, with a grin as he and Ivy entered the kitchen. “I might have only been ten but that head lock you had me in when I threw a bucket of water over you will never be forgotten.”

Peta shuddered. “Especially by me. It was the middle of winter and the ice in the bucket almost broke my nose.” She glanced at Ivy. “I hope for your sake the next generation of Dixons don’t inherit Rhett’s sense of humor.”

“If they do,” Ivy said, with a loving smile at her soon-to-be husband, “I’m sitting down with you and Kendall to take notes so I know exactly what I’m in for.”

Laughter filled the kitchen.

Ivy spied Kendall’s ring and the conversation quickly turned to their engagement. When there was a lull in the congratulations Rhett came to Peta’s side.

She gazed into blue eyes so much like hers and Kendall’s and understood why Ivy had chosen royal blue for the bridesmaid’s dresses and groomsmen’s ties and vests.

Rhett dug in his jeans pocket for his phone. “Ivy said she invited Garrett to Grey’s tonight but he wasn’t coming. With Kendall’s and Brent’s engagement, it’s now more of a celebration than a welcome home get together, and I’d like to buy him a drink. He’s a braver man than I am for trying on a suit that wasn’t even his.”

Peta’s stomach did a strange little flip. She wasn’t sure if the thought of seeing Garrett tonight alarmed her or made her feel a twinge of excitement. Conscious that Ivy was watching her, she kept her expression casual as she rummaged in her purse for her cell.

“Okay, here’s his number.”

Rhett dialed and Peta moved away to pour herself a glass of water. She didn’t want to appear too interested in how the phone call went. The flutters in her midriff calmed as Rhett worked hard to convince Garrett to join them. When he glanced at Ivy, Peta released a quiet breath of relief. Garrett was holding firm about staying at the ranch.

Ivy came to her feet, went to Rhett’s side, and he handed her the phone with a half-smile.

“Hi Garrett, its Ivy. Have you had dinner? Not yet? Great. Then you’re coming in to eat with us.”

To Peta’s shock, Ivy’s next words were. “Wonderful. We’ll see you soon.”

Ivy handed the cell phone to Rhett whose grin widened. He slipped an arm around Ivy’s slender waist. “I don’t think it’s the next Dixon generation inheriting my sense of humor you need to worry about Peta. If our kids inherit the Bishop will-of-iron, we’re all going to be in trouble.”

Peta joined in with the laughter and weathered a fresh flurry of nerves. Ivy had done the impossible. Garrett would now be at Grey’s after all.