"How did things go with Elan after I left yesterday?" he asks.
His eyes might be on the set of colorful blocks he's stacking with Max, but his question has all kinds of weight to it, and his voice is rich with emotion.
"It's going to take some time," I say. "But I think it was a good start. He couldn’t believe how much Max looks like him."
Pace nods, his eyes downcast on the tower he and Max are building. "It'll be good for Max, I'm sure. Having his biological father in his life."
I nod in agreement.
Pace lifts his head, his gorgeous deep blue eyes meeting mine. "And what about you? Where do you and Elan stand?"
I swallow a sudden wave of nerves that dance in my belly. "I-I don’t know," I admit. "He wants me back," I add, softly.
"I see," Pace bites out in a clipped tone.
We sit in silence for several moments and watch Max drive trucks all over the carpeting and crash them into the legs of Pace's couch.
Thankfully, Max has no idea about the tension that exists between us. I can't believe that just two nights ago Pace and I had hot, frantic sex on the desk in his office and now it feels like there is an ocean of distance between us.
"Are you guy’s hungry?" Pace asks finally.
I make the sign for eat to Max, and he does repeats it eagerly, bringing his hand to his mouth and mimicking me. Pace and I both laugh. "I guess that's a yes."
I remove the casserole dish from the oven while Kylie gets Max settled in the new booster seat I bought for the dining room table. I thought about buying a high chair, but the sales clerk insisted this seat with its safety harness would be fine for a one-year old. It seems like it is, and plus now Max can eat at the table with us. Although the voice inside of me points out that this could be the last time they're over for dinner.
Pushing the dark thoughts aside, I dish up servings of the homemade macaroni and cheese that I once made for Sophie after the death of her sister. Comfort food. It smells great and looks like it turned out well too.
"Wow. Is that homemade?" Kylie asks, peeking over my shoulder as I spoon out a small serving for Max onto a plastic plate. Another of my new purchases. Along with little plastic spoons and sippy cups. Dear God, this has to work. Or I will be left with an entire home of baby items that I don't need. I'd wanted to get a crib too, and move my office furniture from the guest room to outfit it for Max. I even browsed through a baby furniture catalog at the store last night, but when I realized that if Kylie chooses Elan, I couldn't handle walking past a nursery every day. It would be a constant reminder that I'd lost them.
"Yes," I answer stiffly. "It's homemade."
"It looks great." Kylie smiles brightly up at me, and I decide I have no idea how to read her. She seemed angry and detached when she first got here, and now she seems happy to be here with me.
We eat dinner, making occasional small talk, and we mostly watch Max. To say he's enthusiastic about the macaroni would be an understatement. By the end of the meal, I'm pretty sure he's not only covered in it, he's smeared it into his hair and eyebrows.
"The offer still stands for you to use the hose out back to rinse him off,” I joke.
She shakes her head. "Actually, could I use your bathtub again? There's no way I'm putting him in my car like this."
"Of course. I'll start the water if you like."
Once again, we leave the dishes abandoned on the table and head into the master bath with a squirming, filthy toddler between us. I feel a routine developing, but then again, I can't get my hopes up. She could choose Elan, and all of this would be taken from me. It's not a thought I want to dwell on.
Kylie strips him down to his diaper right there on the bathroom floor, while I fill the tub, making sure the water isn't too hot.
While we bath him together, my eyes keep wandering over to hers. I want to know what she's thinking. I want to know where we stand.
A strange sensation washes over me. I want to bare my soul to her, and beg her not to leave. Christ, is this what Colton felt like on the verge of losing Sophie? The feeling is terrifying. It’s free-falling with no net, it’s like being on a roller coaster with no safety harness. No wonder Colt flew coach all the way to Italy when she left. I would cross any mountain, tear down any barrier for a chance to make her mine.
When I catch her watching me too, I decide to take a chance.
"I thought the other night meant something," I say. "It did for me. I know how rare that was for you, and I want you to know it was for me too." I didn't bring women home and I sure as hell didn't fuck them bareback.
Kylie's eyes find mine, while her hand rests on Max's shoulder. While he sits pretty well in the tub, he's still unpredictable and squirmy. "I thought it was too. It was one of the best nights of my life, but when you left the morning after without saying anything – without even a goodbye kiss, I'd assumed that I imagined the whole thing. I figured I'd imagined the intimacy we shared, the closeness I felt was all just in my head because I wanted it to be there. I wanted to believe you were a reformed playboy."
"Who I was before became irrelevant the moment I met you. None of those women were worth settling down for.”
"And me and Max…we're worth it?"
"Most definitely. I would keep you both permanently if I could."