The Cowboy's Virgin Baby Momma - Page 66

“I’d rather enjoy you.”

“Keep going.”

“All right,” he groaned. “I spent the next two years going to her house twice a week. She’d spend a little bit of time tutoring me in history and a whole lot of time teaching me how to please a woman.”

“I don’t know what you scored on your history exams, but I can vouch that you’re a straight-A student in bed.”

“How do you know? I was your first.”

“Because I’m a hundred-percent sure you’ve ruined me for all other men.”

“Well, I didn’t ruin her. I just made a fool of myself.” Austin scowled. The memories were cutting into him like a dull blade.

“What happened?” Paige whispered somberly.

“Somewhere along the way, I decided I was in love with her. I vowed that when I turned eighteen we were going to run off and get married and live happily ever after. I even went out and bought a fucking wedding ring,” he drawled disparagingly, then looked around the room. “As you can see, that stupid childish fantasy didn’t happen.”

Tears swelled in Paige’s eyes as she scooted closer to him and hugged him tightly.

“The day I’d been planning my entire future on had arrived. I finally turned eighteen. Though it wasn’t one of our regular tutoring days, I jumped in my truck and drove to her house. Ginny answered the door in the same silky robe she’d wear after we made lo—after we fucked. That was red flag number one. But I dismissed it when she scowled and asked me what I was doing there. I told her I needed to ask her a very important question. She asked if it could wait till the next day when I was supposed to be there. I told her no. I needed to ask her then. She looked behind her…red flag number two, which I ignored like number one, then nodded and told me I could come in just for a minute. When I stepped inside, I smelled a cigar.”

Austin’s lips curled in a bitter smile.

“Yep, you guessed it…red flag number three. Instead of doing something smart, like turning around and walking away, I pulled the ring from my pocket, knelt down on my knee—on the same tile I’d stripped my muddy clothes off two years earlier—and poured my gullible, immature heart out. I told her how much I loved her and how happy I would make her if given the chance. I even told her about my plan for us to run away and live happily ever after…then, I lifted the ring and asked her to marry me.”

“Oh, Austin.” Paige’s tone, dripping in pity, seared his flesh with shame.

He didn’t want her comfort or sympathy because he’d done nothing to deserve it.

Shouldering her off him, Austin stood and started pacing, trying to outrun his guilt. He should have warned Paige, long before she’d started stealing pieces of his heart, that he was a fool when it came to love. Austin prayed he hadn’t stolen any pieces of hers yet, because once he finished his story, Paige would know he wasn’t capable of giving her any more pieces. She’d know he was incapable of loving her the way she needed, the way she deserved to be loved.

“Austin, I know this is hard for you,” she said, climbing off the bed. “It was hard for me to tell you about how my mom always pushed me away. I was scared to tell you. Scared you’d think I wasn’t worth your attention, your affection…but I was wrong. You didn’t push me away. You embraced me. No matter what you tell me, I won’t push you away either.”

“Oh, but you will, little girl.”

Paige simply shook her head defiantly. “No. I won’t. Keep going. Get it out of your system.”

Austin bit back a curse. Why wasn’t he naked in bed with her, chasing pleasure and hearing her scream his name, instead of standing her slicing open his scars and letting them bleed out all over again? All over himself and the foolish eighteen year old he was resurrecting. All over Paige, the only pure and real thing that had ever happened in his life.

He wanted to throw back his head and roar to the heavens, bellow at the price of stupidity he would forever pay.

“Please…tell me,” Paige murmured.

Austin turned and strolled to the French doors, then stared out at the fireflies dancing and pulsing in the fields before dragging in a ragged breath.

“Ginny looked down at me and burst out laughing. But it wasn’t a happy laugh or a nervous one. It was a mocking, insulting cackle meant to humiliate, belittle, and trivialize my heart. The one I’d just placed at her feet. She sneered at me and told me I was stupid if I didn’t know the difference between sex and love.”

From the glass of the French doors, Austin watched tears spill down Paige’s face as she eased in behind him. She didn’t reach out to him. Didn’t try to hold him. She simply stood locking eyes with his reflection while the raw pain and paralyzing humiliation of that horrific day sliced through him, shredding his dignity, his pride, and his confidence all over again.

“I glared at Ginny and called her a whore, then stormed out the door. I climbed back into my truck and drove…drove for hours. And like a masochist, I replayed every kiss, touch, and every fucking minute I’d spent with her, trying to figure out how she’d strung me along all those years. Why she’d used me for so long. And how I’d never seen the ugly, demeaning bitch hiding inside her.” He paused and scrubbed a hand through his hair. “As an adult, I know why. I was young and stupid and believed in happily ever afters. I naïvely thought I could find someone and enjoy the kind of love my parents shared. It took a lot of years for me to realize that shit doesn’t exist except for rare occasions, and fucking fairy tales. It sure as hell isn’t ever going to happen for me.”

Paige raced up and stood in front of him before cupping his cheeks in her hands and pinning him with an angry glare. “You don’t know that, Austin. None of us knows what the future holds. I still believe in happily ever afters, and you’re a fool if you don’t believe in them, too.”

“I know you still believe in them because you’re young and—”

“What? Young and naïve like you were? Maybe I am. But I know that my grandpa and gramma lived that fairy tale, because grandpa still curls up with the afghan she made him when she was alive.” Paige’s voice cracked as more tears poured down her cheeks. He held out his arms, but she shook her head and backed away. “Open your eyes and heart, Austin. Don’t ever stop searching for the love your parents shared. Don’t push away any woman who makes your heart flutter and your soul soar. You may not think you’re worthy of love, but you are. You, me, everyone in the world is worthy of finding their happy ever after. They just have to be brave enough to keep looking.”

Something broke inside him. Before Austin could stop them, tears crested over his lashes and seared down his cheeks. Paige clutched her arms around his chest, hugging him so tightly he could barely breathe, and sobbed.

Austin had no clue how one so young and innocent knew so much about life and love, but he was done asking questions that had no answers and simply wrapped his arms around Paige and silently wept.

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