Taming the Texan - Page 35

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“Go home.”

Hayes glanced up at Colt’s demand and found both brothers staring at him now. “I’m tending to my horse. If I’m offending you two, why don’t you leave?”

Colt shifted his boots on the stone walkway between the stalls and crossed his arms over his chest. If he thought that would intimidate Hayes, that was absurd. Nothing got to him anymore.

Well, one person did. She’d gotten to him with her compassion, the way she spoke of Mason, the images he’d seen of how she held her son like he was the most precious thing on earth. There was so much love in a woman like that.

“Listen, we’ve given you space to deal with the hell you’ve endured. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but since your houseguest left, you’ve been especially standoffish.”

Hayes smoothed a hand down Jumper’s mane and snorted. “How the hell would you know? This is the first time you’ve seen me in days.”

“You ignored my texts and didn’t return my call about the engineer’s ideas,” Colt countered.

“I’ve been busy.”

Trying to sleep without Alexa.

How insane was that? He’d actually slept with her only the one night, but for some reason that was the best rest he’d had since he’d come home. Maybe it was the sex relaxing him, but he didn’t think so. Alexa understood him. She hadn’t pushed verbally, but emotionally she’d been there. They were virtual strangers, yet they knew each other in the most intimate of ways.

“What the hell happened?” Nolan asked, then held out his hands. “No, don’t tell me. If you like her, why are you here?”

Hayes glanced back toward his meddling brothers. “I refuse to get into some locker room chatter. Whatever happened between Alexa and myself is between us.”

“Annabelle said she was crying when she came back to get her things,” Colt supplied. The concern in his eyes could barely be seen beneath the wide brim of his hat, but Hayes missed nothing. “I saw how the two of you were.”

“You saw us kissing,” Hayes corrected. “Don’t read any further into it.”

“After that.” Colt uncrossed his arms and took a step forward. “I saw the way you two looked at each other, the way you stared after her when she left. Don’t tell me it was all physical because I don’t believe it.”

Hayes stared for a second before he turned his focus back to his mare. “I don’t care what you believe.”

But he did care that Alexa was crying. He shouldn’t care. He should just let her go. When he’d asked her to stay he’d had a moment of weakness, though he hadn’t been lying when he’d told her it was only so she’d stay in his bed. That was precisely where he wanted her and five days later his need was just as strong, if not stronger.

“Have you been to see Father lately?” Nolan asked, thankfully changing the subject.

Hayes led Jumper back into her stall. “I was there yesterday. He didn’t know me, but he knew my name. He kept referring to the time I fell into the river.”

“You were eight,” Nolan stated. “He’s been in that time frame for a while now. I think that’s where he wants to stay. When I’m there, he’s always talking about Mom, but we’re all very young.”

Hayes hated seeing his father robbed of his memories, of his dignity. They’d gotten him the best care possible and kept the rumors about the Elliott patriarch at bay. Nobody outside the immediate family needed to know just how bad their father was.

As much as he hated seeing his once robust dad in such shape, Hayes made a point to visit every few days. He knew his brothers did the same and they tried not to go on the same days so as not to confuse him. The dude ranch had been his baby and no matter what happened with his health, the Elliott brothers would see this through…which was just another reason he didn’t have time to get swept away in some affair.

The weekend was enough. It had to be.

“Pepper said Alexa came into the store yesterday.”

Hayes shot Nolan a glare, to which Nolan merely shrugged.

“And how does she know Alexa?”

“Stone River isn’t that large of a town,” Nolan replied. “And nearly everyone has been in Pepper’s shop.”

Nolan’s wife had opened a flower shop that also showcased her one-of-a-kind paintings. Apparently the store had been thriving since the grand opening last year. No doubt Nolan had a hand in helping to make sure his wife’s venture was a huge success.

Hayes slid the stall door closed, then turned and hooked his thumbs through his belt loops. “Is there a point to this story?” he asked his brother.

Nolan merely smiled. “Just gauging your reaction.”

Glancing from brother to brother, Hayes took his hat off and tapped it against the side of his leg. “This is why I rarely come down here. Being analyzed by you two is not my idea of work or a good time. I’m fine. Okay, I’m not, but I will be.”

“Is this the war trauma or your houseguest we’re talking about now?” Colt asked, leaning against the stall on the opposite side of the walkway.

Tags: Jules Bennett Romance
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