I spot Sophie and Colton by the outdoor fireplace.
"Hey guys." I lean in and give each of them a hug. "Great party. Thank you for having us." I feel bad that I haven’t spent any time with the hosts yet, but chasing a one-year-old around keeps you busy.
Sophie's mouth curls in a smile. It's so good to see her happy. "You look gorgeous tonight."
I chuckle, realizing she usually only sees me dressed for work. And since I work at home, my ensemble usually consists of a pair of faded yoga pants and a stretched out t-shirt.
If I'm being honest, the only reason I took the extra time and care getting ready – wearing a sundress, curling my hair – was because I knew I'd see Pace again. It's stupid, and I brush off her compliment.
"Max is sleeping in your den. Hope that's okay," I say.
"Absolutely," Colton says. "You could have put him upstairs in a bed, you know?"
I wave him off. "He's fine. But thank you."
"Looks like he had fun with Pace today," Colton remarks, watching me closely to see my reaction. Colton and his brother are really quite different. Where Colton is intense, calculated and exacting in everything he does, Pace is open and easy going and puts a smile on your face, despite your best efforts to hate him.
I want to drill him for information, ask him what is up with Pace's attention toward me and my son, but I don't want to appear to be overly interested. "Just a couple more days until you guys set off, right?" I ask.
Colton wraps his arms around Sophie's middle and tugs her back against him. "It'll be Sophie's first time in Africa. The first of many, hopefully. I'm anxious to see all the progress from my visit there two years ago."
Colton and I discuss the logistics of their trip, while Sophie peppers us with questions of her own. They've each been receiving the necessary vaccinations before their travel, and have their passports and travel visas ready. They'll be gone for three weeks. I'll miss seeing Sophie on the days she works with me.
"I wish you could come, Kylie," Sophie says. "Would your nanny stay with Max?"
I shrug. "She probably would if I asked her, but I don't think I could handle being separated from Max for so long." He is my heart.
She nods like she understands. But I don't think she truly does. She will when she's a mother.
Pace wanders over in bare feet, his white shirtsleeves are pushed up, showing off tan and muscular forearms sprinkled with light hair. He's dangling a bottle of beer from one hand and grinning at me.
"Where's your mini?" he asks, looking directly at me.
My belly tightens. "He's all partied-out."
"Excuse us," Colton says. "We've got to go say goodnight to Dad. He's still operating on the eastern time zone." He leads Sophie away and I'm, once again, alone with Pace. I'm not sure why I feel so out of my element when I'm near him. It's probably because I don't understand his motivations, I decide.
"Care to join me by the water?" he asks.
"Sure." He leads me toward the beach. And even though my brain is screaming at me to say no, my feet carry me down toward the water, following closely behind him.
I lead Kylie to a secluded spot on the beach. After seeing her with the little koala bear she's had attached to her hip or by her side all afternoon, it's like part of her is missing. There's something I don't like about it.
"This okay?" I ask, indicating a dry spot in the sand where the tall grasses shield some of the wind blowing in off the water.
"Fine," she says, lowering herself down. "The monitor should still work out here." Kylie crosses her legs and folds her hands in her lap.
I sink down beside her. The sand is warm and sugar soft. The gentle sounds of the low rolling waves and moonlight gleaming down on us make a romantic backdrop. If she were any other woman, I would have her down on her knees by now with my cock deep in her throat. To be honest, I'm a bit at a loss right now, unsure what to do or say next. It's an interesting change for me.
"Did you enjoy yourself tonight?" I ask.
"Max had fun, so that was good."
It wasn't what I'd asked her, but I let it go.
When she talks about her son, her eyes light up and her mouth curves into a silly grin. It's actually quite adorable. She's a far cry from the women in my past. For one, she's not all over me, and two, she's mostly quiet and contemplative as she looks out at the water. She feels no need to fill the silence with nonsense jabber. It's refreshing.
She's never fake, never tries to impress me, she's just comfortable in her own skin and that makes the man inside me take notice.
From the corner of my vision, I watch the breeze lift the stray pieces of hair that have escaped her ponytail. They flutter around her neck and cheeks while Kylie looks straight ahead, watching the waves. I'm certain she has no idea how beautiful she is with her minimal makeup and no-fuss style. I was noticing things I never took the time to notice before, like the delicate scent hanging around her, and how soft and smooth her skin looked.
When you fuck a woman in the bathroom of a nightclub, there's no reason to take her out again. Where's the chase? The mystery? I liked to get a little crazy now and then, but I still believed a woman should behave like a woman. Kylie is every bit poised and put together with a shit ton of mystery and enough depth to make me want to give chase.
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