Colt eased back in his seat and sighed. “At least he’s in a good mood when talking about Mom. I’ll take that over the rage any day.”
Hayes hadn’t experienced those days with his father, but he’d heard that sometimes his father demanded to see his home, demanded someone take him to Pebblebrook. On those occasions, he still wasn’t in his right mind. He was confused about where he was and why he wasn’t home. Every day brought a different challenge.
“That’s not why I came,” Hayes stated. “I had a visit from the engineer. He mentioned expanding onto my property.”
Colt eased forward, resting his forearms on the desk. “I never okayed that.”
“Then why was he there?”
Colt shook his head. “He mentioned it to me in the beginning stages. He said there might be more revenue if we spread out over the land.”
“And that was while I was away?” Hayes asked.
“Yeah. But Nolan and I had the area where we wanted the cabins marked off on the map.” Colt narrowed his gaze. “What did he say to you? Because I’d hate to have to find another engineer this late in the game.”
Hayes blew out a breath. “He was nosing more than anything, trying to get a feel from me what I thought. He left knowing exactly where I stand on outsiders on my part of the property.”
The engineer wasn’t the only reason Hayes was in a pissy mood. He was so damn confused about Alexa.
Tonight was the awards ceremony, which he hadn’t mentioned to his family. He honestly didn’t want this to be a big deal. If they found out later, fine. But if they knew now, they’d blow it all up and insist on attending.
He’d invited Alexa because he wanted to be with someone without feeling the pressure of being someone he wasn’t. He wanted a friend.
But she was more than that, wasn’t she? She was so much more and there was no denying he was in deep with her, which ultimately was going to put him in deep with Mason.
Damn it. That little boy was so sweet, so precious. He looked like Alexa and was so loving and free with his affection. When Hayes had been holding him… Even now just thinking about that weight in his arms had Hayes pausing, his heart tightening in fear…and affection.
Colt tipped his head. “Everything else okay?” he asked.
“Getting there.” Hayes didn’t know that he’d ever be the man he was before leaving, but he was slowly making steps to improve himself little by little. Alexa definitely had a hand in his recovery. “I need to head out.”
Hayes came to his feet and slapped his hat back on his head. He had to get back to dress for the ceremony and leave with enough time to pick up Alexa and head to the governor’s mansion, which was nearly two hours away.
“You know we’re all here for you.”
Hayes stilled in the doorway at Colt’s words. He threw a glance over his shoulder. “Yeah. I know.”
The look Colt gave him was that same one he’d had when Hayes had first returned. Pity. When would they stop? When would they start acting like he wasn’t going to shatter?
Hayes headed back to his house. He had a date tonight. He hadn’t spoken to Alexa since she’d left the ranch, but he knew she wouldn’t go back on their date. Besides, he also knew she’d chosen a dress; she’d sent the others back. He’d paid for delivery of jewelry and shoes, too. Hopefully she’d found what she needed. He knew she’d be stunning in anything, but he wanted her to feel special.
There was too much going on in his mind for him to decipher the newfound emotions, but he didn’t have time to figure them out. He wanted to get to Alexa and get this night over with.
As he pulled up to his house, he knew he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t going to try to seduce her. He meant it when he said he wanted her still. Relationships weren’t for him, but Alexa was the one bright spot in his life right now and he was damn well going to hold on to her…which meant he better wrap his mind around the fact he’d have to man up for Mason.
Hayes wasn’t about to enter a child’s life and not be anything less than stable.
* * *
Maybe she should’ve kept the classic black dress.
Alexa turned side to side in front of her floor-length mirror. The red dress draped over her shoulders and hugged her every curve…maybe a little too well. Something about the trumpet-style skirt and fitted bodice had made her feel sexy when she’d been trying on the host of dresses Hayes had sent.
But now that it was go time, she wondered if she should’ve ignored the sexy and kept the black with a modest scoop neck.
What did one wear to a governor’s mansion?
Alexa smoothed a hand down her abdomen, hoping to rid herself of some of those nerves. Sadie had offered to take Mason for the night. All Alexa had to say was that she had a date and Sadie jumped at the opportunity to quiz Alexa. She didn’t give in. What she and Hayes shared was… Honestly, she wasn’t even sure, so how was she supposed to tell anyone else?
Just as she fastened the bracelet around her wrist, her doorbell rang. In that instant, her heart sped up and the chaos of jumbled nerves returned.