And so she wouldn’t love him. It was a simple decision, really, to close off one’s heart. She’d done it once before. She could do it again.
“Proposed? What do you mean Jackson proposed?” Luke shot to his feet as his words reverberated throughout his grandfather’s office.
Samantha cringed but stood her ground in front of the gargantuan desk, the sapphire on her finger sparkling far too brightly.
“I said the two of you could go horseback riding...with a chaperone.” He blew out a breath, long and hard. Control, he needed to find a bit of it, before he launched himself over the desk and went on a warpath to find a certain accountant and wrap his hands around the miscreant’s throat. “I never said anything about agreeing to an engagement. The scoundrel didn’t even ask me if he could marry you.”
“He’s waiting outside the door to do so now, if you’d stop shouting.”
“I’m...not...shouting.” It was more like hollering, really. “What’s the point of him asking after he’s put a ring on your finger?”
“There’s no point of him asking you at all. You’re not my father, and Jackson wrote to Pa nearly a week ago.” Sam’s face had turned a ghostly shade of white, and her words came quietly, without hint of defiance or menace.
Luke scratched the back of his neck and paced behind the desk. He should have strangled the boy nearly a week ago. Right around the time he found the scamp kissing his sister’s face off.
“Besides, Grandpa was good friends with the Wellses and would have given his approval in a heartbeat. Asking Pa is just formality. He has no reason to refuse.”
“Grandpa and Pa didn’t speak. If anything, Pa’s likely to say no to Jackson simply because Grandpa liked him.” Luke planted his hands on the desk and leaned forward. “And do you really think Pa’s not going to ask my thoughts, just give you blind permission to marry some man he’s never met?”
She gasped and took a step back from the desk, moisture shimmering in her eyes. “You wouldn’t deny me the man I love out of spite.”
He sighed. “Not out of spite, Sam. Out of concern. I don’t trust him.” And not only that, but getting Sam back home was going to be a heap harder now that she had a ring on her finger.
“How can you say such a thing? Jackson’s wonderful.” She blinked back the moisture in her eyes, but it did little good as a tear crested anyway. “You’d see that for yourself, if only you’d give him a chance.”
“Don’t cry.” Here he was calling Jackson a scoundrel, but wasn’t he the bigger scoundrel of the two of them? Seemed he made his sister cry every time they talked. He walked around the desk and offered his kerchief, then wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “You need to go home for a bit, Sam. Not stay here and marry. We can try to work something out with Jackson, and I’ll meet with him. But that still doesn’t change your needing to go home.”
And it still didn’t change his thoughts about not trusting the younger man.
Why didn’t he trust Jackson? Because of the ten thousand dollars Sam would inherit upon marrying? If she didn’t have an inheritance, would he feel differently about Jackson? Maybe he was being unfair. They’d begun courting before Grandpa had fallen ill—before Sam had become an heiress. And even if the man’s parents were in financial trouble, that didn’t mean Jackson was. The boy made a good salary at the accounting office, after all.
“I’ve told you before.” Sam buried her face against his shirt as the tears fell. “I don’t want to go home, not now, when I’ve so many things to do out here.”
A hard knock sounded at the door.
“Come in,” Sam sniffled.
The door swung open, and Jackson slid in. His eyes slanted immediately toward Sam, and he moved to her with the speed and agility of a wolf chasing its prey. “Samantha, love, what’s wrong?”
Luke scowled but pulled his arm from his sister, who immediately threw herself against Jackson.
“Come now, our engagement is cause for celebration, not tears.” Jackson spoke against her temple.
Luke took a step back from the entwined couple. Was he a monster? Some terrible ogre for not simply agreeing to the wedding his sister clearly wanted? Yet he could hardly agree when Sam needed to return home to Ma—and he wondered if the marriage would hurt Sam eventually.
“Two days,” Luke croaked. “Give me two days to think about the proposal. And, Jackson, I need to speak with you when you’re done attending Sam.”