Home > How To Rope A Rough Cowboy

How To Rope A Rough Cowboy
Author: Anya Summers





Bugger it.

Bianca contemplated for the hundredth time tonight whether she had finally lost her mind as she boarded the overnight flight from Heathrow to Dulles, and took her seat in first class. Fleeing seemed to be her only option. She could practically hear her mum saying she was being overly dramatic and needed to fall in line. That Peabodys never backed down from their responsibilities to uphold family traditions.

Regardless of whether Bianca thought they were archaic and should have been buried a hundred years ago.

She snapped her seatbelt into place, trying not to fidget in her beige khaki trousers and ivory blouse while the rest of the passengers boarded, battling back fear that somehow, she would be prevented from escaping. That her mother would discover the hastily scrawled note she had left on the dining table in her flat before the plane left the airport, use her multitude of high-ranking connections, and have a member of the defense ministry keep the flight from departing, whereupon Bianca would then be escorted off to face condemnation, and a life sentence.

But she had to get away for some dearly needed space, and hopefully achieve a smattering of clarity. She was exhausted from trying to please everyone, from pretending to be someone she was not, and trying to live as her mother expected her to instead of doing what she wanted with her life.

Those expectations extended to the places she went, where she lived, the people she interacted with and called her friends, and even whom she was supposed to marry. Out of them all, it was that last bit that was the hardest to swallow.

“Good evening folks, this is Captain Barrow. I’m here with my co-pilot, Watts. If everyone could please take their seats, that way, we can depart on time. We’ll be backing away from the gate in just a few moments. We have one stop in Dublin, then we’ll be continuing our flight on to Washington D.C. Travel time for this flight is thirteen hours and fifty-six minutes. Weather over the Atlantic should be smooth sailing. Sit back, relax, and welcome aboard. Cabin crew, prepare the cabin for take-off, please.”

Time slowed to a crawl. When the flight attendant sealed the plane door shut, Bianca gripped the armrests of her seat, mainly to keep herself from flinging off the seatbelt and rushing the door like a mad woman to exit the plane.

What stopped her cold and kept her in her seat?

The knowledge that, if she left the plane, she would die.

Not in the physical sense, perhaps, but on a soul deep level. Today, as she had stood in her white gown with her mother and friends all excitedly chatting, the walls had started caving in, strangling her as all the air was sucked from the room. It took every ounce of strength inside her not to hyperventilate and pass out.

She didn’t love Peter.

Not as anything more than a lifelong friend. They had never dated each other, not in the traditional sense of the word. They had never had sex. The most intimate the two of them had ever been had been to give each other brief kisses. And the only sensation that bubbled to the surface when they kissed: it was as if Bianca was kissing her brother—if she had one, and Peter was the closest thing to it. They had grown up together. They cared for one another. There was no doubt in her mind about that. They enjoyed each other’s company.

But there was absolutely no passion or desire. She wasn’t in love with him. Nor was he in love with her. They had family obligation and tradition hanging over their heads like the Grim Reaper’s scythe.

And then, of course, they had the same boorish, social climbing, entitled peer circle, combined with family expectations to marry well.

Bianca had allowed her parents—her mother, mostly—to browbeat her into the formal engagement. Her concession had solidified the arrangement their parents had agreed upon when she was thirteen and Peter sixteen.

At twenty-eight, Bianca had known the impending marriage was on the horizon, barreling toward her like an avalanche. Their parents had never hidden the deal they had made for them.

Which was why, six months ago when her mum had compelled her to make it official, like a bleeding coward, Bianca hadn’t fought her. Her mother always ended up bullying Bianca until she caved and got her way in everything, anyway. There was no point in kicking up a stink.

Most days, Bianca questioned whose life it really was to begin with—hers, or her mother’s. After conceding to her mother’s pressure, she had handed over all the control to her mum, allowing her to make the arrangements for everything for the wedding ceremony, from her dress, to who her bridesmaids would be, to the decorations, the catering… and on and on. Because Bianca didn’t care about the wedding. She didn’t want it. She never had.

She didn’t have the energy necessary to invest in it herself.

But then a strange thing had happened today as she stood decked out in the wedding gown for one of the final dress fittings, with six weeks to go until the nuptials. The walls had closed in around her and she had been seized with mind-numbing panic. It had taken all Bianca’s strength not to run out of the dressmaker’s shop, with her only thought being escaping the coming doom.

Her entire existence was rubbish. A hell she had no hope of vacating.

While her mother and bridesmaids had all chatted excitedly, Bianca had stood stock still, a fake smile frozen in place, fighting increasing alarm, only to have a plan form, an escape hatch so that she could finally breathe again.

Not long after the dressmaker finished with her, she exited the festivities, claiming she felt unwell. The panic had made her hands and forehead clammy, which convinced her mother she needed a lie down.

The moment she got back into her flat, Bianca had booked the last-minute flight to the United States, and contacted her broker to have funds transferred into an account she had set up a few years back that her mother had no idea existed. And then, like a mad woman, she had packed her bags in a flurry of activity. She penned a letter to her parents and Peter, saying that she needed time away before the big day, and would return a few days before the ceremony, and left the letter on the dining room table where her mother would find it.

When Bianca didn’t answer her calls, her mum would barge in with her key to discover what could possibly be keeping her from answering the phone. She gave herself a day—maybe two—before her mother stopped by.

Which was why, as soon as her things were packed, Bianca had called for a cab and had it ferry her to Heathrow. If she had stayed in her flat and waited, she would have wimped out. Once her bags were checked and she was past security, she was stuck. It was far too ingrained in her not to make anything resembling a fuss, and leaving the gate to request her luggage back was a commotion that would cause waves. She had dinner—what little she could eat given the jumbled mess of her nervous stomach—and watched planes take off as she waited for her flight.

The time away would provide her the opportunity to get still without her mother’s constant bullying, and decide if she could really go through with the marriage. Because when she envisioned the arc of her life, if she continued down this path with the way things stood, there were parts of her that would die.

And her greatest fear would be realized. Deep down, Bianca knew marrying Peter would turn her into her mother: bitter, and obsessed with her status in society.

It was why she had rebelled at various intervals throughout her life, even though it had been years since she had drummed up the courage to deviate from her mother’s plans for her.

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