“Sorry, cowboy, you don’t get to play judge, jury, and executioner without hearing any evidence,” she growled under her breath as she turned into his driveway and parked by his back porch.
Jumping from the cab, Paige marched up to the door and knocked. When Austin didn’t answer, she knocked again and again…until she was pounding on the wooden barrier.
“I know you’re in there, Austin. I watched you walk inside. Open the door so we can talk.”
“Go away,” he barked back.
“I’m not leaving until you open this door and talk to me.”
“Then you can keep pounding until your fists bleed. I got nothing to say to you. Not. A. Single. Fucking. Word.”
Instead of being hurt and hiding away to lick her wounds, Paige got mad. No, she got blistering mad. Madder than she’d ever been in her entire life. She leaned close to the door so he could hear her loud and clear, then dragged in a deep breath.
“Well, I got one word for you, cowboy,” she yelled. “Asshole! That’s right, you’re an asshole! And A-number-one stinkin’ puckered sphincter! Instead of adding you in my phone as Ashton, I should have typed asshole!”
Paige kicked his door, then turned and stormed to her truck. Gunning the engine, she left troughs of bare dirt as her tires kicked up huge clumps of grass flying through the air.
“I wish I was farming your face instead of your yard, you stubborn asshole,” she bit out as she pulled onto the blacktop.
It took half a carafe of peppermint tea and four warm-ups of hot water to her bubble bath before the rage began bleeding from her system.
“And I thought Grandpa was the stubbornest man on the planet,” Paige groused, drawing the mug to her lips. “That old man doesn’t hold a candle to you, Austin, because you’re a mule. A big, dumb, infuriating jackass!”
Two days passed without a single word from Austin. Paige stopped hoping he’d call or text. She drove to Denton to finally bring her grandpa home.
It wasn’t the happy homecoming she’d expected, not with the tension so thick between them she could cut it with a knife. She fixed his meals and administered his meds, but she was too emotionally exhausted to spend the day walking on eggshells.
Hiding away in her room, Paige booted up her laptop and searched for an apartment she could afford. Her choices were slim, but she could handle living in a tiny studio apartment if it wasn’t forever. And it wouldn’t be. The salary she would be making at Sunburst was obscene. So much so, it wouldn’t be long before she’d be able to buy a house for her and the baby.
“Paige, honey. Could you come here?” Grandpa called from the family room.
After closing the lid on her laptop, she padded down the hall and around the corner to find him sitting in his recliner with the television off.
“Is something wrong?”
“Yes. Come in and sit down. We need to talk.”
Great. Does he want me to pack my bags and leave tonight? Where the hell am I going to go? San Antonio early, I suppose. Shit.
Inhaling a deep breath, she sat on the couch and waited for him to tell her to go.
“I’ve thought a lot about what you said the other day at the hospital. You were right. I have no proof the judge was bought off. To answer your question, no, my pride isn’t worth all this anger. I want to try and end this foolish festering feud with the Carsons. The only trouble is, I don’t know how to apologize for being such a cantankerous old goat for all these years. Will you help me find a way to mend this fence?”
Paige blinked. “You want m-me to help you?”
“If you don’t mind, yes.”
“No. I don’t mind, but Austin isn’t exactly talking to me right now.”
“Because he still thinks Johnny’s the father of…” She glanced down at her stomach.
“You need to call him or textify…or whatever it’s called, and tell him.”
“I’ve tried. He won’t respond.”
“Then go up there and knock on his door.”
“I have. He won’t answer.”
“Then take my shotgun and blow that sucker wide open. That’ll get his attention, I tell you what.” Paige smirked at the image dancing in her brain. “I don’t understand why people have to be so damn stubborn all the time.”
Paige snorted. “Umm, hello… Pot meet kettle.”
A cagey smile tugged his lips. “Next time you go up there, I’ll go with you. I’ll drag that hardheaded boy out by his ear if I have to.”
Oh, yeah. That would be World War III in the making.
“I’ll try again soon.”
“Whatever you do, don’t give up on him, Paige. He’s mad and jealous thinking Johnny planted that seed. He’ll get over it…eventually.
He’d better get over it soon. I won’t be here much longer.
A fact that overwhelmed her with the same anticipation and angst she’d felt before leaving for college. But the stakes were much higher now. Paige was responsible to provide, not only for herself but also a new innocent life soon.
Paige spent her last two days on the ranch making sure she was leaving Grandpa in better shape than when she’d arrived last March. She discreetly stocked the fridge and pantry with food, filled the linen closet with toilet paper and Kleenex, and washed the clothes, towels, and sheets before hanging them on the line to dry, while his raspy voice crowded and hummed in her brain, Whatever you do, don’t give up on him, Paige.
After tucking the familiar afghan over his sleeping body, Paige padded to her room and went to bed. She wanted to be well rested for the drive to San Antonio tomorrow. But try as she might, she couldn’t sleep, couldn’t turn her grandfather’s voice off in her head. Punching her pillow, she rolled over for the millionth time and squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to force his advice from her brain.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on him, Paige.
It didn’t work.
“All right. I won’t,” she snapped, tossing off the covers.
After rolling out of bed, she tugged on her clothes.
This is it. If I can’t convince him to listen to me now, I never will. But hey, at least I can say I gave it my best shot.