He opened his eyes, focusing on how close Alexa’s face was to his. There wasn’t pity in her dark gaze, but understanding staring back at him. He didn’t want to know what had occurred in her life that she could comprehend this level of hell.
“So doors and thunder.” She shifted her weight off him, but put her hands on his cheeks. “What else do I need to look out for while I’m here? I don’t want to trigger anything.”
She wanted to cure him—those motherly instincts obviously kicking in. He didn’t want to be mothered. He lived in the real world where he was permanently broken.
Sex was fine. But she was easing her way into his mind with expert grace.
Damn it. She was getting to him. The way she’d spoken about her son with obvious love had him admiring her even more than before, but that wasn’t a mental green light to act on his attraction. Loyalty and family were so engrained in his life, how could he not appreciate a mother’s love for her young son?
But she was here. Right here, touching him. Damn it. Resisting her was damn near impossible, no matter what common sense kept telling him.
Hayes’s hands slid down her sides to rest on her flared hips. Silence settled heavily between them, but she continued to stare, waiting on him to reply. He could think of so much more to do than get into this discussion.
“Tell me,” she urged, smoothing his hair away from his forehead before sitting up. She sat next to him on the bathroom floor as if this were the most normal way to converse. Reaching for her phone, she clutched it like a lifeline…which it actually was. “I’m not judging, Hayes. I’m not mocking you or anything else. I care.”
He snorted and came to his feet. “You just met me. You don’t care.”
Carly had cared. His CO had cared. Look where that had gotten him.
“You think because we just met today that I can’t care?” She jumped up and blocked his path out of the room. Those dark eyes searched his face. “I make a living caring, wondering how I can make people’s lives easier. I don’t have to know you to question how I can help. It’s human decency.”
Needing to get away from her expressive eyes and delicate touch, Hayes eased around her, not at all surprised when she sidestepped to block him once again. This woman could drive him absolutely mad in so many different ways.
“Nothing you can do.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she gave a curt nod. “Fine. Then I’ll just go out on the porch and watch the storm. I always loved a good storm anyway. It’s relaxing.”
When she spun around with that chin tipped up and those shoulders back, Hayes reached for her arm. Alexa stilled, but didn’t look back.
“Civilian life is still an adjustment,” he admitted. “Believe me, if I thought you had some magical way to help, I’d let you. But in reality, you’re just here because you’re stranded and probably in a few hours, you’ll be back next door at my sister-in-law’s B and B. Our paths won’t cross again.”
Alexa glanced back, her now dry hair shielded half her face. “I may not be magical, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help. You shut me down before giving me a chance.”
Sliding loose from his hold, she left him standing alone in the bathroom. That woman was something. No, she was more. She was intriguing, sexy, compassionate…a mother. That last trait was something he had to keep reminding himself about. It made her even more off-limits. Hadn’t he just seen at least ten pictures of her posing with her son? She had a normal life to get back to and he was just a blip on her radar.
There was so much that made up this intriguing woman. He found each layer appealing, even her being a mother. Because being a single mother could be difficult. She had to be strong and courageous.
Damn it all. He didn’t want to discover any more layers to Alexa. He needed to stick with sexy and curvaceous. Physical traits were all he should focus on. There was room for nothing else. If she thought she could help him, she’d try again before she left. He had no idea what she did for a living, but from the way she touched him, the way she’d looked into his eyes just now, and the hurt in her tone before she left, Alexa truly believed she could do something for him. His brothers thought so, too. But they were living their own lives with their own families.
Raking a hand down his face, Hayes decided to see if Alexa’s clothes were dry. Much more of seeing her parade around in his shirt was certainly going to cause him to reach his breaking point.
“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”
Alexa came into the laundry room doorway and watched as Hayes folded clothes in a precise manner. She’d gotten a text from Sadie just a moment ago with a picture of a very happy Mason hugging his stuffed horse. That horse never left his side. Even though Alexa knew he was fine, seeing a picture eased her mind.
“Texas storms can turn nasty fast,” he stated as he creased another basic white tee.
“The river is up quite a bit,” she told him. “If it doesn’t stop raining soon, nobody will be going anywhere.”