Taming the Texan - Page 47

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Tonight, she’d go to him and pray she hadn’t lost this second chance she’d been given. How often did anyone get another shot at love? She’d been so afraid before, too scared to even think about opening her heart, but not anymore. Hayes had taught her all about courage and just how strong she was.

To think she’d been worried about having a man in Mason’s life. There was no better man to fill the role of father to her sweet son. Hayes might be afraid, but she wasn’t going to let him hide and she wasn’t going to let him think for a second that she’d hurt him on purpose.

She would make him see that she loved him, that they belonged together…that they were a family.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

“He’s going to be all right.”

Hayes had barely gotten into the waiting room when Piper, Nolan’s wife, delivered the news.

“The doctor said the damage is minor from what they can tell, but they are keeping him.”

Hayes breathed easily for what felt like the first time in an hour. Between the news of his father and Alexa…

No. He couldn’t think of her. Not here when he was surrounded by his family.

“Why are you in uniform?”

Hayes turned at Colt’s voice. “I didn’t go home last night,” Hayes explained.

“And you were out somewhere that required a uniform?”

Colt crossed his arms over his chest as Nolan came up behind him wearing his scrubs. Most likely his brother had been on call when they’d brought their father in.

“I had a ceremony I had to attend.” They didn’t need to know any more. He’d tell them about the award later, but right now they had more pressing matters. “What’s going on with Dad?”

“He was slurring his speech with the nurse at the assisted living facility and had some paralysis on his right side,” Nolan explained. “She called the squad to bring him in and they ran some tests, did an ultrasound of his carotid. It’s a minor stroke and we won’t know more until the days progress, but he’s going to be all right.”

How was any of this all right? His father suffered from dementia and now he’d had a minor stroke? Hayes felt like the only stable world he’d known was crumbling around him.

“Can I see him?”

Nolan nodded. “He’s not supposed to have visitors, but I requested an exception. Only a couple minutes. Room 108. It’s at the end of the hall.”

Hayes nodded and started to push past his brothers. Colt reached out and gripped Hayes’s arm.

“After this, we want to know what you were doing,” he murmured, probably so the ladies couldn’t hear. “You wanted so far away from the Army, to forget what happened, and you show up in uniform after a ceremony? Something isn’t jibing.”

Hayes jerked his arm away and continued down the hall toward his father’s room. He stopped just outside the door, pulling in a deep breath and trying to prepare himself for what he might see.

As he rounded the corner, Hayes zeroed in on his frail father lying in the bed, his head turned away. His thinning, silver hair had been smoothed back. There was once a time this man never went without his black hat. He’d been robust, strong, the rock of their entire family. Now that duty fell to the four boys…well, three when they removed Beau from the equation.

Hayes needed to make sure someone contacted Beau just as soon as he was done here.

As Hayes moved closer, his father shifted and turned his way. A ghost of a smile slid across his lips.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hayes.”

Relief like he’d never known crashed through him. “You remember me.”

“For now.” His father’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry, son. I—I hate the b-burden I’ve become.”

Hayes eased a hip on the edge of the bed and took his father’s worn hand. “You’re not a burden. You’re our father and we’ll do anything for you.”

“I raised good b-boys,” he stuttered, then narrowed his gaze. “U-uniform?”

“Long story,” Hayes stated, then found that he wanted to share it. He wanted to have a moment with his father because it might be the last. “I got an award last night. I was invited to the governor’s mansion to receive it.”

“That’s a-amazing. S-so proud…of you. Did your brothers g-go?”

Hayes shook his head and glanced to his father’s frail hand in his. “No. I didn’t tell them. I ended up taking a date.”

“Someone serious?”

“I thought she was,” Hayes admitted. “Not sure anymore.”

“Since last n-night?” his father questioned. “If you think…she is, d-don’t let her go.”

Hayes glanced back to his father. “Neither of us were looking for a relationship.”

His father attempted a smile and squeezed his hand. “Those are the best k-kind. Your mother and I w-weren’t, either. L-loved her more than anything. S-still do.”

Hayes didn’t want to think about this right now. He didn’t want to try to deal with Alexa and her reasons for keeping something so monumental from him while he was also worried about his father’s health.


Tags: Jules Bennett Romance
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