Kylie's quiet for a moment and there's no way in hell I'm probing any further, but I can tell this story is far from over. And I have a feeling it's going to get even more heart-wrenching before it gets better.
"Elan stopped calling, he stopped responding to my texts and emails. He cut all ties. When I was about six months pregnant, I ran into him at the drug store one night. I had a massive craving for ice cream and ventured out in my maternity pajamas to pick some up. I still cringe thinking about what I must have looked like to him." She shudders and buries her face in her hands.
Picturing her with a firm, round belly, I see nothing she should feel ashamed about. She's a gorgeous woman – and while I'm not typically attracted to pregnant women, Kylie with a baby growing inside of her makes my mouth curl into a dopey grin.
"I saw him and some young blonde piece of arm candy," she continues. "They were buying condoms at the checkout counter. His eyes slid from mine down to my rounded belly and back up again. He made some comment to the sales clerk about using condoms, even when a woman claims to be on birth control. And then he was gone. I hated myself for trusting him with my heart. I hated myself for still missing him. But the most painful thing of all came a few weeks later. His assistant delivered a check for fifty grand and the note inside said that he didn’t want to be bothered with making weekly child support payments, and that I should use the money to start a college savings fund. Which, of course, I did – for Max's sake – even though I hated accepting that money from him. I've had no other contact with him," she finishes.
"What about when Max was born?" I can't understand a man who would just walk away from his woman and child – especially this woman. She is so strong and independent and stunningly beautiful.
"Nothing," she says. "When I went into labor, I called a cab, took myself to the hospital and had the baby."
"What about your family?" I ask. Surely she has someone to count on when she needs it.
She shrugs. "My parents divorced when I was little. I don't have much of a relationship with my dad and my mom is…well, she's always been more preoccupied with living her own life than participating in mine."
"What's Elan's last name?" I ask.
"Why?" she looks up to meet my eyes.
"I want to kick his fucking ass, that's why." My chest feels tight and my knuckles are itching to be busted over something – preferably his face.
"It's okay, Pace. I'm over Elan now. Completely. The only thing that still makes my heart hurt is knowing that one day I'll have to answer questions from Max about why his own father wanted nothing to do with him."
"I'm sorry I pried into all of this. I know it's none of my business." I feel like a grade-A asshole.
"It's okay," she says, digging her bare toes into the warm sand, her sandals long ago kicked aside. "It's taught me that I need to be better at picking men. A beautiful man with a smooth tongue who says all the right things doesn’t excite me anymore."
She's letting me inside, and I appreciate the glimpse at her inner thoughts. Turning to face her, I ask, "What does excite you?"
"A man who is kind to my child."
Her answer is so poised, so simple; I can tell she means it entirely.
I wonder if that's how she views me. I hope so. I genuinely enjoyed playing with Max today and I hope she doesn’t think I did it just to try and get into her panties. Which is what she probably expects, based on the stories she's heard from Colt. That shithead. My resolve to kick his ass is back again, full force.
"At the point I'm at, actions speak louder than words," she says. "I should probably go, I've said too much, I'm sure."
"Don't go. Not yet." I'm laying myself bare, so much more so than I ever do. My game is completely fucking shot, and I don't care.
"This isn't what my life is like, Pace. It's not all backyard barbecues where there are lots of helping hands, or fancy galas downtown."
"I get that, Kylie. You have responsibilities. I see that."
"It's hard work, Pace, and it's a twenty-four seven job. No sick days. No time off. And I know you'll say it doesn't matter – but it does. You're a Drake. I've seen the lives you guys lead. It's champagne and caviar and designer everything."
She has no way of knowing, but I'm not really like my brothers in that regard. I live in a simple two-bedroom condo, not a mansion on the beach like Colton and Collins each do. "A man gets tired of champagne and caviar after a while," I say, trying to make light of her jab.
"So you want to slum it for a while?"
"You are not slumming it. Max is not slumming it."
Her eyes flash on mine and I can tell that my words have touched something inside of her. "No, but we're not what you're used to."
"Maybe I'm tired of the same old–same old." I look her straight in the eyes as I say this, letting my meaning sink in.
She matches my serious gaze with one of her own. "And what about when you get tired of us? I can't have my son getting attached, only to have you disappear one day when you decide you're done playing house."
Damn. She's better at this verbal sparring than me, and I fucking hate it.
"I still want to take you to dinner," I say.
"I appreciate it, but I'm just not ready for anything like that." Kylie rises to her feet, and heads for the house. "Goodnight Pace."