Patience had always been one of his stellar virtues, but since meeting Paige, it, along with his self-control, had flown out the fucking window. Austin needed to find them and chain them down nice and tight…and quickly.
After exhaling a heavy sigh, he tipped back the bottle of beer in his hand and gazed at the stars from the padded recliner on the balcony off his bedroom. For the millionth time, he wondered if Paige was really all right.
He couldn’t stop worrying about her physical and emotional well-being. Austin wanted to believe that Nelson—who’d been livid after their conversation this morning outside the post office—would never raise a hand to Paige. But he didn’t know for certain, and it was eating him alive.
Yes, he’d had to placate his own pissed-off-dad when he’d returned home and confessed his sins before any rumors could reach their ranch. But Duke Carson wasn’t a crazy, unstable, gun-wielding bastard like Nelson.
Though no guns were drawn, Austin had inadvertently shot himself in his own foot by approaching Nelson. It was actually his own fault Paige had bowed out of the midnight meeting.
If he hadn’t been so hell-bent on trying to talk to the stubborn prick, Austin would have Paige in the next room, naked beneath him on his bed, driving his hard cock into her tight, virgin pussy as she screamed his name.
Well, in his fantasies anyway. His self-imposed hands-off policy didn’t exist there. Sadly, he had no one to blame for spending another night alone with his dirty dreams and his fist except himself.
Glancing at his phone, resting on the arm of the chaise, for the hundredth time, Austin blew out a deep breath.
“Why hasn’t she texted yet?” he muttered, then scoffed. “The better question is why do I allow her to do this to me? Like…what the actual fuck?”
With a low growl, he scrubbed a hand through his hair.
Austin was convinced that a shrink would have a heyday with his twisted psyche. That was why he steered clear of them. He’d rather be his own armchair psychiatrist. It was way cheaper.
He knew his attraction to Paige was as visceral as it was undeniable. But he couldn’t help but wonder if he was merely suffering some latent childhood syndrome of wanting what he couldn’t have…like ice cream for dinner.
As the thought of Paige’s hot cream began burrowing through his brain, his cell phone chimed.
“Finally. Thank fuck,” he growled, snatching it off the arm of the chair.
Payton: Is now a good time to text?
Yes. Are you all right?
Payton: Yes, I’m fine. Honest.
Hopefully she was being honest.
What happened today?
Payton: I got a lecture, no big deal, but worried Gpa might be keeping a close eye on me for a few days. Didn’t want to risk getting caught sneaking out.
It made sense, but yet it didn’t. Paige was an adult. Aside from letting the old man down, what could happen? It wasn’t like Nelson could ground her. Remembering the way she’d teased him about getting grounded Saturday night made him grin.
Payton: What did the lawyer say?
Good news is Hale can’t file suit for the state to seize our land unless any of us have committed a felony. Neither Colton nor I have, and I’m assuming Raymond hasn’t either.
Payton: No. While he’s told me some pretty wild stories of his younger days, he never got arrested…that I know of.
Arrested is fine. Prosecuted isn’t.
Payton: Ok. I think we’re good then. What else?
Typing out his reply seemed to take forever. He wished they could just talk…face-to-face. It would be so much faster and easier.
And dangerous, the voice in his head chided.
When we asked about losing the ranches via eminent domain, lawyer said that was only possible if Hale’s client was going to use the land to build something for the public, like a big-box store, an amusement park, or a shopping mall.
Payton: Why would anyone want to put any of those things near Haven? The town isn’t big enough to financially support any of those things.
Austin smiled and sighed in delight. “She’s beautiful and smart.”
Our thoughts, exactly. McGraw, Dad’s lawyer, is looking into Hale’s client list to try and determine who and what they want to use our land for. Expect to receive that info from him soon.
Payton: It can’t be soon enough.
Payton: What else did McGraw say?
Keep a log of Hale’s calls, but don’t answer. Make him leave a message and save it.
Payton: But I already deleted the one…
It’s okay. From now on, just make a note of when he calls and save the messages. We’re trying to force Hale to only deal with me.
Payton: Got it. Will let you know next time he calls.
“I wish you were here, little girl,” he murmured to the darkness.
Payton: I’m sorry I cancelled on you tonight.
It’s all right. Better safe than sorry.
Payton: I know, but… I miss you.
Austin’s heart swelled.
Ditto. Get some sleep. I’ll let you know when I hear from McGraw.
Payton: Ok. Sweet dreams.
“Oh, trust me. They won’t be sweet, little girl. They’ll be so fucking nasty they’d blow your beautiful, innocent mind.”
Austin closed his phone and scowled at his throbbing erection.