“Your cell,” she panted, trying to breathe. “It’s… Stop that. It’s ringing.”
Hayes loomed over her, the widest smile on his face. She hadn’t seen him like that before. A smirk here and there, a naughty grin, sure. But a full-fledged genuine smile was staring back at her. Alexa’s heart tumbled over in her chest.
“What’s that look for?” he asked, resting his hands on either side of her head. “You were just laughing and now you look on the verge of tears.”
The cell stopped in the other room, silence once again settling around them.
“I haven’t been this happy in a long time.” She reached up, framed his face and stared into his eyes. “I didn’t think I could be, but you’ve done something to me. I wasn’t expecting this.”
His cell went off again. With a sigh, he eased off her and turned to head from the room. He’d only taken two steps when he froze. His shoulders tensed and Alexa followed his line of vision.
Her heart immediately sank. How could she have forgotten about that photo? The wedding picture of her and Scott had sat so long on her dresser, and she hadn’t been able to remove it after his death. Then she just…didn’t.
The cell continued to ring, the only thing breaking through the heavy tension. Hayes slowly made his way to the silver frame and picked it up. Alexa sat up in the bed, pulling the comforter up and under her arms.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” he asked.
Alexa closed her eyes, not wanting to see his face when he turned around. She was a coward—clearly.
“I didn’t know at first,” she said. “Then I didn’t think we’d see each other anymore.”
When he didn’t say anything, Alexa risked looking up, but wished she hadn’t. Hayes stood at the end of her bed, clutching the picture in one hand and staring at her as if he hadn’t just been with her all night, as if everything up until this point had been a lie.
“What’s your excuse for all the times you’ve seen me since then?” he asked.
“I have no excuse,” she muttered, picking at the thread on the comforter. “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t know how. When you first mentioned his name, I was so shocked. Then I knew what we had was temporary so I figured I would keep it to myself and not make things awkward. Plus, talking about Scott with you seemed wrong, like if I started opening up about him too much it would seem like I was ready to move on and I didn’t know if I was.”
The muscle ticked in his jaw. The cell stopped, then started seconds later, and finally stopped again.
“Then when you showed up at my house and we fell back into…well, us, I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t expected to see you again and I was afraid if I said anything you’d see it as betrayal. There was no good time, Hayes.”
She wanted him to look at her so she could see his eyes, to hopefully get a glimpse of what he was thinking, feeling.
“I didn’t want you hurt any more,” she whispered. “I care for you. You have to know that.”
Hayes cursed and sat the picture at the end of the bed. He stared at it a moment before raking a hand through his messy hair.
He turned without looking at her and stormed from her room. Alexa climbed out of bed and quickly pulled on a T-shirt and panties. As she headed down the hall, she saw Hayes holding the cell between his ear and his shoulder. He hopped from one foot to the other pulling on his pants.
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
He shoved the cell in his pants pocket, grabbed his jacket and shoes without putting them on.
“My father had a stroke,” he told her without looking her way.
Alexa stepped forward. “I’ll drive—”
“No.” That sharp gaze of his cut to her. “You’re getting your wish. We don’t have to see each other anymore and then you won’t have to worry about telling me any more truths you conveniently forgot.”
Her heart broke, shattered. “Hayes.”
He jerked on the door and stepped out, not bothering to spare her one last glance. The door didn’t slam, but the final click resonated throughout the open space.
Wrapping her arms around her midsection, Alexa stared at the door. He was gone. She’d done this. Had he not seen that picture, had she told him the minute she realized who his best friend had been, she would probably be with him now.
Who would be there for him? How bad off was his father? Alexa knew how much his family meant to him and knew how fragile his father’s health had been.
How would Hayes cope? With all the ugliness he’d experienced, Alexa prayed he wouldn’t lose his father.
She padded back to the bedroom, stopping just inside the bedroom door to look at the messed-up bed and the image of her and Scott on their wedding day.
It didn’t matter that he’d told her he didn’t want to see her again; she had to explain herself. Not that she had much defense, but she had to go to him. She couldn’t let him believe she’d set out on betrayal. Plus, she needed to check on him regarding his father.