The Cowboy's Virgin Baby Momma - Page 50

She wasn’t. But hearing him say the unspoken threat out loud, the one that had haunted her since she was a child, turned Paige’s blood cold. The realization that she would no longer be welcome under his roof, that he’d push her away like everyone else, made her heart sink and the pedestal she’d placed him on crumble to dust. Tears of disappointment stung her eyes, but Paige bravely blinked them back.

“Promise me you’ll steer clear of Austin Carson.”

I can’t.

Realistically, she could, but her heart didn’t want to be realistic at that moment. Neither did her mind and body.

“You don’t know him.”

He cocked his head and held her with a penetrating stare. “And you do…after just one dance.”

“I know he’s smart, kind, and funny. He’s also respectful and generous. He’s doing everything in his power to help save his ranch, Colton’s ranch, and yours.”

“That must have been an awfully long song.”

Paige pinched her lips together mulishly.

Sadness lined his face as he eased onto the couch beside her, gathered her in his arms, and pressed a tender kiss to the top of her head. “Don’t lose your heart to someone like him, baby girl. Lose it to someone like Johnny…someone I can respect.”

Swallowing down the sob rising inside, Paige closed her eyes. She’d already lost it to Austin. Guilt pressed in all around her, she nodded her head and made him a promise she knew she couldn’t keep.

“That’s my girl. You just made this old man’s last days happy ones.”

Fear slammed through her. Heart in her throat, Paige pulled back and peered up at him. “Last days? W-what do you mean?”

“Like I said before, I ain’t gonna live forever.”

“I know, but what aren’t you telling me? And dammit, what did the doctors say at the hospital?”

“Nothing you need to worry your pretty little head over, sweetheart. I ain’t dying today.”

“Telling me not to worry is pointless. I am worried. I haven’t stopped worrying since Cody and Zander hauled you away in that ambulance.”

“Then you need to quit that right now. Nothing’s wrong that can’t be cured with a little piss and vinegar.” He smiled. “And since I’m all piss and vinegar, I’m gonna be just fine.”

No, he wasn’t. The angst in his eyes confirmed her suspicions. He was too scared to give voice to his diagnosis. Fear spiking, Paige quickly tamed it down. She loved him enough to stop prying and let him conquer his fears and trusted him enough to share his diagnosis with her when he was ready.

“I was thinking you might be willing to make a special dinner in honor of Johnny’s first night on the ranch with us… You know, welcome him into the fold, proper.”

Oh, yeah, I’m just dying to sweat over a hot stove to make a good impression on a man who means absolutely nothing to me. Why not?

“I’m guessing you want something more elaborate than soup and grilled cheese.”

“Maybe a little.” He smirked. “I sure got a hankering for your mouthwatering chicken fried steak.”

“Because a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?”

“Of course not.” He chuckled, lying through his teeth. “But it never hurts.”

“Grandpa, please don’t get your hopes up.”

The man does nothing for me.

“I won’t. You think you might be able to whip up—”

“I’ll start making it now.” She forced a smile and stood.

As she headed to the kitchen, Paige was angry with herself for not putting a stop to his ridiculous matchmaking. In essence he was trying to force her to choose between happiness and freedom. If he’d take his blinders off and throw his hate away, he’d be thrilled that she could have what she truly wanted…both.

We can’t always have what we want, sweetheart. Life isn’t always fair.

As her grandpa’s words rolled through her brain like a horrifying premonition, a tear slid down her cheek.

Paige angrily brushed it away and pulled the cell phone from the pocket of her jeans. She might not be able to keep the promise she gave Grandpa, but she had to at least try.

Her fingers trembled as they hovered over the screen. Paige dragged in a deep breath, then tapped out a message to Austin.

Need to cancel tonight. Not a good time to try and sneak out.

Long seconds later, the device chimed sending a mixture of excitement and regret sliding through her.

Ashton: I figured the shit would hit the fan when Raymond got back from town. Are you okay? He didn’t…punish you or anything, right?

Though she was only reading his words, Austin’s face beamed in her brain while his deep, rich voice echoed in her ears.

No. Not at all, he’s just…disappointed in me. Can we chat here, via text later on?

Ashton: Of course. If you anything changes and you need help, call me.

I will. Thanks.

Ashton: Ping me when it’s safe for you to text.

Tags: Jenna Jacob Romance
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