Fuck.

We'd had a great night and just when we'd finally started to make some progress, she completely shot me down. I was tired of being told that I wasn't mature enough to handle the responsibility of dating a woman with a child. I wanted a fair chance. But as I watched her walk away, the defeated set to her shoulders, I realized she didn't want to be right about me. She just expected me to let her down.

"Kylie, wait up," I call, hopping to my feet and sprinting after her. I catch her on the patio where she's stuffing their things into a bag. Stray toys, a sippy cup and a baggie of cereal are all scattered at her feet. She lifts her chin and her eyes find mine. Confusion washes over her features. "Let me help you get Max to the car," I explain.

She doesn't respond. She just gazes up at me. But since she didn’t refuse, I reach down and take the bag from her, adding the stray items and zipping it up. "I got this."

She watches me with mild curiosity, her pretty green eyes wide, like she's taking it all in, trying to dissect what I'm doing when she just shot me down a mere thirty seconds ago. Hell, I don't even know. I'm just following my instincts. I'm not trying to impress her or play some game, and it's incredibly refreshing.

Kylie's quiet as we head into the house. I'm not sure where Max is sleeping, but she leads me into the den. It's dark and silent, except for the little breathy sounds coming from the sleeping infant. He's on the floor on some type of sleeping mat. We stand over him for just a second, watching him. His mouth lifts in his sleep, and I suddenly find myself wondering what he could be dreaming about. Probably his pretty momma. A thought that warms me.

"May I?" I whisper.

She nods and takes the bag from me. I bend down and ever so gently lift the little guy from the floor. I bring him up to my chest, holding him close. He opens one eye, checking to see who's got him, and then drops his head to my shoulder, where it rests all the way to the car. His limp little body molds to mine, and I can feel his hot breath against my neck. Smiling, I give his back a gentle pat, careful not to wake him.

Kylie watches everything, then opens the door to the backseat and I place him in his car-seat while she leans over me and buckles him in. The scent of vanilla and delicate feminine skin wafts up to greet me. The scent awakens something in me. Perhaps it was watching her with her baby all afternoon, seeing her as a mother, and now experiencing the softness of her as a woman that stirs something in me. Compared to the one-dimensional women I usually date, it's a welcome reprieve.

Standing in the driveway with the moonlight pouring down on us, neither of us says a word. Kylie closes the car door and we both check through the window to see if the sound woke Max. It didn't.

"I could have gotten him," she says, turning to me.

"I know."

She watches me intently, as if trying to figure out my angle. It's the same look she gave me when I took Max from her earlier to show him the frog I had found in the garden.

"Drive safe," I tell her.

"I will." Without another word, she slips into the driver's seat.

I remain rooted in the driveway until she pulls away and I can no longer see her taillights. It hasn’t even been two minutes, and I'm already plotting out ways to see her again.

Inside I find Sophie stationed at the kitchen island, her mouth stuffed full of a bite of cake.

I grin when I spot her and her eyes widen like she's been caught.

"Don't look at me like that," she says, licking the frosting from her thumb. "I barely got to eat with all the mingling and talking."

Holding up my hands, I motion for her to continue. "Don't stop on my account." I grab a slice of the cake with my fingers. "Here, I'll even join you. Cheers."

"Cheers." She touches the edge of her cake to mine and we eat in silence, enjoying the comfortable moment between us. Sophie already feels like family, so much more so than Colton's ex. That was one woman I couldn’t stand being near. Sophie, I wouldn’t mind cloning. That thought instantly makes me sad. She had a twin sister that she lost. I can still see a touch of sadness in her eyes, but considering everything, she's doing great.

We eat, moving on to the appetizer trays containing cheese puffs and crab rolls, while Sophie tells me stories of all the extended relatives and friends of the family she met tonight.

"I need your opinion on something," I say, wiping my hands on a cloth napkin.

"Wow, Pace needs me for something…I feel honored," she says, grinning at me. "What is it?"

"There's a woman I'm interested in," I start.

Footsteps behind me cause me to turn. It's Colton, looking for his bride-to-be, no doubt.

"As long as it's not Kylie, go to town," he says.

I hiss out a breath. "I like her, dude. What's your problem?" I'd intended to have a calm, rational conversation with Sophie. I already know my brother's views on this, and it pisses me off.

"She's a single mom," Colton says, like I don’t know this fact.

"I'm well aware. Do you think I missed the mini-human who was attached to her hip all night?" I actually viewed him as a sort of bonus.

Sophie's watching all of this, her eyes whipping back and forth between us as she struggles to catch up. "Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, Colton," she says, placing her hand on his arm. "Pace is a nice guy. Kylie's a sweet girl."

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