In Los Angeles her modesty is refreshing. She would be the type of woman to age gracefully. No injections or fillers or skin pulled too tight around her eyes. She'd still be beautiful at sixty. I could see it now. Long silver hair, the same cheeky gleam in her green eyes, as she pushed up on her toes to kiss her grown son on the cheek.
"I should go. It's late, and…"
Hell, I can't let her walk away yet. "Max's asleep inside, right?"
She looks down at the baby monitor in her hands. "Yes, but…"
"You could stay for a little while longer, couldn’t you?"
She looks like she wants to say no, but then at the last minute, she surprises me. "I suppose so."
"I know you said you're not much of a drinker, but could I get you anything…water? Soda?"
"No, I'm fine. You didn't have to hang around us all night, Max and I, I mean," she says.
"I wanted to, Kylie."
She swallows and glances up at my eyes, trying to read if I'm feeding her a line. "Pace, I've worked for Colton for over a year now. He's told me a few stories about his younger brother. I know this isn’t you. You're not the guy who's looking to settle down with a single mom. You said so yourself at the gala."
"Then what kind of guy am I, Kylie?"
Her brilliant emerald gaze flashes on mine, looking dark and dangerous. "You're the guy who drops panties and breaks hearts and does it all with a sultry grin. I've heard the stories. They're a bit wild." She winks.
I'm going to fucking kill Colton. I don’t care that it's his engagement party. He's a dead man. Shit, I realize I can't do that to Sophie. I'll just have to come up with some type of plan B to make him pay.
"Unless you have some type of mommy dearest issue you need to explore?" she raises a brow.
Her joke is off color, but she doesn’t know it. "I lost my mother when I was nine."
"Oh, God, I didn't know. I'm so sorry." Her hands flies to her chest and stays there while she watches me.
"It's okay. You didn't know."
"I'm sorry. Colton never mentioned it." Her tone is tender and caring.
I shrug. I'm not surprised. "It's not something we like to discuss."
As we sit here together in the company of the endless blue ocean, I can't help but wonder if my interest in Kylie has anything to do with the fact that I do see her as a mother. Her softness, the love I see pouring out of her in every interaction with Max – maybe those are things that attract me to her. Her warmth, her devotion – they are all part of what makes her beautiful. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to find the link here. But it isn't something I care to dwell on.
Beside me, Kylie cups handfuls of sand and lets them drift through her parted fingers like a sieve.
"Can I ask you something?" I ask.
"What happened to Max's father?" It's something I've wondered about since the first time I met her, but I'm only brave enough to ask now, in the cover of night, and once she's already stumbled over the death of my mother.
She pauses her motions, letting the sand fall from her hands, then dusts them off. "Have you ever been in love, Pace?" she surprises me by asking.
"Nope." I'm hopeful that it'll happen someday, I just haven’t gotten there yet. I've been too busy building my career and sleeping my way through the LA singles scene.
"It's a scary thing – handing your heart over like that. Giving someone the very best pieces of yourself." Her eyes are far away and she remains staring out at the water as she speaks. "I met Max's father, Elan, when I first moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. He was quite a bit older than me, thirty-six at the time, already settled and successful. I didn't know anyone in the city, and he seemed like a safe choice. We dated for about six months, and even though we never talked about our future in the terms of marriage and children, I felt like we were building toward something real and long-lasting. We stayed together every weekend, at either his place or mine. And even though we were careful – I was on birth control at the time – somehow, I got pregnant. I guess they're serious with those fine print warnings about no birth control method being one-hundred percent effective. I just never thought anything like that would happen to me."
The urge to reach over and take her hand in mine is nearly overwhelming. I fist my hands in my lap instead and wait for Kylie to continue.
"I was scared when I found out – mostly because it was so unexpected. I was just getting my career off the ground, and my relationship with Elan was still pretty new. I never thought I had to worry about being a single mom, though. I wasn’t scared to tell Elan. He'd never been anything other than loving and kind toward me." Kylie's tone tightens at the end, like she has something stuck in her throat.
I hate the direction this story is headed and I hate myself even more for asking and making her relive all these bitter memories. I want to kick myself in the balls for my curiosity.
"I called him over to the apartment I lived in at the time, I didn’t want to tell him over the phone. He came over, playful and curious about what it was that I wanted to say. But the moment the words, 'I'm pregnant' left my lips, all playfulness evaporated. His entire demeanor changed. The kind side of him disappeared and was replaced with a man who was suddenly all business. He wanted to know when, how and what I planned to do about it. It took me several moments to understand he wasn't using the word we. He was asking about what I planned to do. I was on my own from that point forward, it was just me and the little life growing inside of me. I felt sick and hollow. He had put this baby inside me and now he suddenly wanted nothing to do with us. It was a harrowing feeling."