Austin nodded and opened the door for her. As Paige stepped out into the night, he whispered, “G’night, little girl.”
She paused and sent him a smile. “G’night.”
His stare seared her back as Paige made her way toward the road. When she reached the end of the driveway, she glanced over her shoulder. With a halo of light glowing behind his silhouette, Austin stood at the front of the barn. She sent him a smile and a little wave, then turned and headed home.
Each step taking her farther from away from Austin sent an uncomfortable void wending through her. It wasn’t the familiar isolation she’d grown up with. No, this was a deeper sense of separation that made her heart hurt.
Paige was disappointed Houston had interrupted what surely would have been the shredding of her V-card, but she’d hated the way it had affected Austin even more.
Paige was shocked to discover that he was torn between his desire for her—which, based on his toe-curling kisses and the massive erection always straining in his jeans, wasn’t a lie—and obligations he couldn’t control. Obligations like dealing with Hale on Duke’s and Colton’s behalf and negotiating a cease fire with her grandpa to end the ridiculous war still raging between their families.
“It’s the twenty-first century, boys…let it go for shit’s sake,” she huffed as her grandpa’s old farmhouse came into view.
Heaving out a heavy sigh, she shoved her dangerously complicated attraction to Austin aside and tried to come up with a way to break through her grandpa’s stubborn walls. After tiptoeing into the house and locking the front door, she turned to find the old man himself standing at the edge of the hallway.
Paige jolted and gasped. “Dammit, Grandpa, you scared me half to death. What are you doing up at this hour?”
“What are you doing coming home at this hour? Did you decide to go visit Gina after all?”
The urge to say yes burned the tip of her tongue. But Paige couldn’t chance that lie coming back to bite her in the ass.
“No. I just couldn’t fall asleep, so I went for a walk around the yard.”
The old man lifted his chin and studied her with narrow eyes. “What’s troubling you, Paige? Is it your momma? Did she call and say something to upset you, like always?”
“No.” She forced a soft smile. “I had a bad dream and decided to walk it off.”
“All right. But before you go traipsing through the yard again, use some bug spray. You got another mosquito bite on your neck.”
Instead of stroking her fingers over the whisker burn Austin had left behind, she nodded and quickly changed the subject. “So, why are you awake?”
“I had to hit the head…again. I suppose a shrinking bladder is just a part of getting old, but how are old folks supposed to get any sleep if they have to get up a dozen times a night to pee?” He waved his hand and shook his head. “I know. I know. I should lay off the decaf after dinner, but…”
“But you love your after-dinner coffee.”
“I do. But we can’t always have what we want, sweetheart. Life isn’t always fair.”
No, it’s not.