The Cowboy's Virgin Baby Momma - Page 100

“I’ve accepted a job with a pharmaceutical company.”

“You don’t sound enthused about it. Is that really what you want?”

“No. But I have to grow up, start making adult decisions, and get my life in order now. I’m going to have a baby depending on me. I’m not about to let him or her down. I’m going to be the kind of mother I wanted and needed growing up.”

“You can do all that here, Paige. Honey, I don’t want you to leave. Especially if it’s not something your heart—”

A loud knock at the front door cut him off.

“You expecting anyone?” she asked. When the old man shook his head, she stood. “Sit and relax. I’ll go see who it is.”

When she opened the door and saw Austin standing on the porch wearing a panicked expression, Paige’s heart leapt to her throat. The sight of his dad, Duke, standing behind him, made her stomach twist. But when her grandpa eased in behind her, Paige forgot how to breathe.

“Duke. Austin,” her grandpa soberly greeted as he reached past Paige and pushed the screen door open. “Please, come inside. I think it’s past time we…talk.”

Stunned stupid, she watched in disbelief as the two men, wearing equally gob-smacked expressions, stepped inside.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered.

As a mixture of confusion and agitation wended through her system, Austin simply stood and drank her in like the wind after a summer storm.

“Trying to fix us, little girl,” he murmured.

Beside him, Duke softly smiled as Austin threaded his fingers through hers. Paige snatched her hand away, then followed Grandpa into the family room.

“Can I get either of you anything to drink?” Raymond asked as she and the two Carson men settled in on the couch.

“No, thank you, sir,” Austin replied while Duke studied her grandpa with a suspicious stare. “I came to ask permission to speak to Paige…alone.”

Grandpa sent her a pointed stare and arched his brows.

Throat dry and heart still pounding, she nodded.

“You may. I’d like a few minutes of Duke’s time as well. There’s some things I need to say to him.”

Austin darted a worried glance at his dad, who simply nodded.

“Can we go out on the front porch for a few minutes?” Austin asked her.

“I suppose.”

Nibbling her lip, Paige followed him outside and tried to prepare herself for whatever he wanted to tell her. After last night, there wasn’t much left to say, but she couldn’t not hear him out.

They each sat down on the big, wooden rocking chairs—the same ones she and Johnny had claimed the day he came to work for her grandpa. Paige shoved the nauseating memory from her brain.

“I fucked up…fucked up bad, little girl. I found out this morning. Houston…”

Ahh, that’s why you’re here. Your little brother spilled his guts, didn’t he?

A part of her wanted to be mad, but a bigger part was happy she could finally tell Austin the truth and gain some closure before moving on.

Yes, she was still planning to relocate to San Antonio, only because she didn’t have another choice.

When Grandpa had said he didn’t want her to leave, Paige was all but turning cartwheels. But as the thought of staying on the ranch, with Austin’s child growing in her belly, crowded her brain, her jolly gymnastics had quickly ended.

She couldn’t imagine running into him at one of Haven’s many street parties. Seeing him would make her heart disintegrate all over again.

Couldn’t imagine bringing their child into the world, alone, and not share the blissful news with his or her father.

Couldn’t imagine the shock on his face when he eventually ran into her and their child and possibly saw pieces of himself on their innocent face.

Couldn’t imagine spending day after day and night after night aching and starving for the life-altering love he’d once given her.

Tears welled in her eyes. When she turned to face him, Paige was shocked to see Austin’s were filled as well.

“I’m sorry, Paige,” he said in a ragged, raspy whisper. “I’m sorry that I didn’t see you last night. I only saw the image of you I’d foolishly and jealously painted in my mind.”

Word by word, he was slicing her open, exposing the most vulnerable and damaged pieces of her soul.

“I didn’t hear you, either. I only heard the anger and pain I’d foolishly and jealously inflicted on myself.”

As a tear slid down her cheek, Austin leaned forward and caught it on his thumb, then placed the drop on his tongue.

“I don’t expect you to ever forgive me. All I ask… No, all I’m begging for, is a second chance to see and hear you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever. I promise I won’t shut you out or push you away ever again.”

Paige wanted to believe him.

Oh, god, how she wanted to believe him.

Believe he’d never shatter her heart again.

Believe he’d never make her feel unloved and unwanted again.

“You crushed me, Austin,” she confessed. “Tore my heart out and—”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll spend the rest of my life telling you and proving to you how sorry I am, Paige. And I swear to God, I will never crush you or your heart again.”

She didn’t question the pain etching his face or the desperation in his voice. Paige knew they both were real.

“How do I know you’ll never do it again?” That was the question she needed answered the most. “How do I know you won’t hear some flutter of gossip, won’t see me talking or laughing with someone in town who doesn’t have a vagina without Ginny dragging your psyche back to the point you rip my heart out again and slam it against a wall?”

Austin’s shoulders slumped. His mouth pressed to a grim, flat line as he shook his head. “You don’t. Because I crushed your trust in me right along with your heart.”

“Yes. You did.”

“I give you my word, Ginny isn’t ever dragging me back again.”

“You can’t say that. You can’t be sure.”

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