Her heart ached for all the years Grandpa had spent without his wife. Paige bent and kissed his cheek. Then she turned off the television and padded down the hall to the bathroom.
Standing at the sink, she blinked at her reflection in the mirror. Her lips were red and swollen from Austin’s kisses. Her hair was wild and disheveled from his strong hands, and her neck was stained with red blotches from the scrape of his whiskers. But what fascinated her most were the smoky shadows of bliss still lingering in her eyes.
Paige wore all the markings of a well-loved woman. Well, all except for the hymen she was still hauling around. Losing her virginity had never been a big deal. In fact she’d gone her whole life barely even thinking about sex…until she met Austin. Ever since the tall, dark, and handsome man charged into her backyard like a cowboy in shining armor and slayed those vicious coyotes, she’d become obsessed with giving him her V-card.
Not because he was panty-meltingly gorgeous.
Not because he’d sent her inside to take a bubble bath, to shield her from witnessing the bloody slaughter.
Because the minute she’d burst into tears—scared shitless and still reeling from the worst day of her life—he hadn’t rolled his eyes, made fun or her, or walked away. Instead, Austin had rushed straight to her and wrapped her in his warm, safe arms.
Because after learning her grandpa—his enemy—was sick in the hospital, Austin had continued to soothe and comfort her with honest sympathy.
And because in those few precious moments they’d spent together that night, Paige had felt a bond so deep, so strong, and so absolute she’d looked into this same mirror and said… “Austin Carson, somehow, someway, I’m going to marry you.”
And everything that had happened tonight, from his smoldering stare undressing her on the dance floor to drinking down her screams of ecstasy in the alcove, only served to solidify that vow.
Confidence sluiced through her veins as Paige pulled her messy hair up into an even messier bun and turned on the water. As she bent over the sink, a pang of regret slid through her. She didn’t want to wash away Austin’s kisses. She wanted to wear them to bed and relive every spine-bending second they’d spent together. Wanted to wake in the morning with his mouth and tongue still staining her flesh and carry him with her the whole day long.
Exchanging the hot water for cold, she brushed her teeth, then peeled the clothes off her still tingling skin and dropped them in the hamper. After snagging the over-sized tee from the hook on the door, she tugged it on, grabbed her cell phone, then padded across the hall and climbed into bed.
Closing her eyes, Paige mentally relived the entire night. From spinning around on the dance floor and seeing Austin standing there watching her with his hungry stare, to smiling and waving at him from the porch. Over and over, she binged on the memories as if they were the best movie ever made. So far, they were. Sending up a silent prayer there’d be a sequel soon, she hugged her pillow. Long hours later, she eventually drifted off to sleep.
Paige had only been dozing for what felt like seconds, basking in dirty dreams of Austin, when her cell phone chimed. Yanked from blissful fantasy to cold, stark reality, she blindly reached on top of the nightstand and snagged the device. Blinking the sleep fog from her brain, she looked at the screen.
A huge grin stretched her lips as she read the text.
Ashton: Good morning, little girl. Are you still thinking about last night? I know I am. Have a good day.
“I’m doing more than thinking about it, cowboy,” she murmured as a shiver rolled down her spine.
“Paige, honey? You awake?” Grandpa called as he knocked on her door. “Time to get up. It’s damn near ten. Daylight’s burning and we got work to do.”
She jumped and shoved her phone under the covers as waves of guilt crashed through her. Tamping down her angst, she swallowed tightly. “I’m up. I’m getting dressed,” she lied. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Don’t go getting dolled up. We’re just getting supplies to fix that damn chicken coop.”
“I know. I’ll hurry.”
As the sound of his boots faded down the hall, Paige retrieved her phone and reread Austin’s message…twice. Humming in happiness, she bounded out of bed and got dressed.