When I see my place through her eyes, I realize it's not nearly as baby-friendly as I thought. Shit. I want her to be comfortable here, but if she has to constantly worry about her son, she's not going to be. And she needs to heal.
"What about the sleeping arrangements?" she asks.
Shit. This is where things are going to go from bad to worse. I hadn't shown her the bedrooms yet, and for good reason. It's a two-bedroom condo, but one has been converted into an office.
"Come on," I say, grabbing her and Max's bags from near the front door. "This way."
I lead them down the back hallway, past the guest bath and toward my room. I know I hadn't made my bed that morning, but it was too late now. Hopefully I didn't leave any dirty clothes on the floor.
"This is the office," I point to the spare bedroom that holds a basic desk, laptop and chair. Nothing too exciting. "And this is my room." I enter through the double doorway, and she follows me inside. Her confusion is visible in her tense shoulders and squinty eyes that dart around the room. Max begins exploring while Kylie turns to face me. "W-where are we going to sleep?"
"It's a king-size bed. You and Max can share it. I'll take the couch." We both know that my couch is one of those uncomfortable-looking modern affairs, and I hope to God she doesn’t make me actually sleep on it. Besides, I'm six-foot two, and I'm pretty sure it's only like five-feet long. That would suck. But it would suck worse knowing this angel was in my bed, and I was all alone out in the living room.
"Pace, you can't be serious. I figured your home was like Colton's with fifteen extra bedrooms, and you wouldn’t even know we were here, let alone be inconveniencing you like this."
I know she's two seconds away from pulling the plug on this entire thing, and my brain is working overtime to think of something I can say that will get her to stay. I've never wanted a woman to stay over before—usually I have the opposite problem—I'm trying to get someone to leave. Which is the reason I stopped bringing women home altogether. I didn’t need a bed for the things I did with them. Sex in a bed would actually be a novelty at this point. But sex in a bed with Kylie … somewhere we could linger and explore and…
"Max, no!" Kylie shouts, snapping my attention back into the moment.
Oh, Christ. He's found my supply of condoms in one of the bedside drawers. Max is waving the row of packets around in the air like he's discovered his new favorite toy.
Kylie runs after him, but not before her eyes flash on mine. She's noticed the brand name, and the size—extra-large and her mouth has dropped open into an adorable pouty grin.
Yeah, I'm a big boy. But it's okay, angel, I won't just ram him home all at once, I'll make sure you're nice and slippery first.
When she reaches him, he holds the strip up for her to take. "Mumma," he says.
"No, these aren't Mumma's. They are Pace's."
"Pa-pa," he repeats in an attempt to say my name. Kylie's eyes flash to mine, and my chest gets tight.
"I'll teach you about these much later, little dude." I ruffle his hair and accept the condoms from Kylie's outstretched hand. She's holding them like they're diseased. "Sorry about that." I can't tell if she's mad about him finding my stash, or over the sleeping arrangement I've sprung on her. Either way, I'm off to a rocky start.
"It's fine, it's just a good reminder that you can't be serious about giving us your bed."
"Why's that?" I inquire.
"Where will be you bring your … dates? I don't want Max exposed to that type of thing."
"You have nothing to worry about. I don't bring women here."
She watches me curiously, but she doesn't argue.
It's a start. I place their overnight bags on the ottoman at the foot of the bed. "Master bath is through there." I point to the door that opens from the end of my room. "You're welcome to use anything and make yourself comfortable. Towels are in the cabinet under the sink and extra pillows are in the hall closet."
She nods. "Okay, thank you." Her voice is small, and I'm unsure how to read her.
But I don't stand there pondering it for long, because Max has zipped out the door and Kylie gives chase. I follow behind.
After I make sure they're settled, I head into the kitchen with dinner on my mind. "I don't really have any groceries…" I never have groceries. I eat the majority of my meals out, but she doesn’t need to know that. Staying in, alone, at my place is something I rarely do, actually. I get too bored. It's too quiet here. I'd rather go over to Colton's or Collins' place, and I do, most nights of the week. "Are you guys okay with takeout?" I ask.
"Sure, takeout's great," Kylie says.
"Pizza or…" I'd been about to suggest sushi, until it occurs to me that infants probably can't eat sushi.
"Pizza is fine with us. Thank you. Let me just grab my wallet, and I can pay for half."
"Your money is no good here, woman." I treat her to a friendly smile, but my tone is firm, so she'll understand I'm serious. I can provide a safe place for her and her son as well as a meal. I don't know why it's so hard for her to just accept a little help. I get the sense she's not used to leaning on people, but it's still frustrating.
Thankfully, for the rest of the evening, Kylie lets me help with all the tasks that require two hands, like cutting up Max's pizza into small bites and screwing the lid on his sippy cup. But she watches me intently the entire time, as if she's trying to figure out my angle. I thought I'd already made that perfectly clear—I told her I liked her. I normally wasn’t so forward with my feelings, but she made me act differently. And I was only fully starting to understand that.
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