But no, before he left, her grandfather wanted to give her one last lecture and that was the only reason why he would’ve asked her to meet him and Rose on the plane. He’d leave her with a reprimand about doing the right thing, raising her baby with its father and not as a single mom in Houston.
She was depriving Daniel of being a full-time dad, depriving Gus and Rose of having quick and easy access to the baby, making life ten times harder for herself without having the support of Daniel, as well as her family and friends.
She knew that—how could she not? Being on her own in Houston, trying to run a company as a single mom, was going to be the hardest challenge of her life! But Gus didn’t understand—she doubted anyone would—that was less scary than remaining in Royal, utterly in lust and half in love with her baby’s father. The best chance she had to stop thinking about Daniel Clayton and the life she could never have was for her to move back to Houston. She had a far better chance of pushing him out of her mind there than here in Royal.
If she stayed here, she might just do something crazy.
“Grandpa, Daniel and I had our chance.”
“That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a second one,” Gus replied.
It was like talking to a brick wall. In an effort to get through to him, Alex pulled out the big guns. “One of the reasons we missed our chance was because you and your new bride were vehemently opposed to us being together.”
Gus hesitated before replying. “We might not have been completely correct in that assumption.”
Okay, that was as close to an apology as she was going to get from her taciturn grandfather.
“But in our defense, you were also very young.”
“Daniel,” Alex reminded him, “chose The Silver C over me. His loyalty to Rose and to the ranch has always been stronger than any love he had for me.”
She hadn’t been able to explain further, unable to admit to Gus that she couldn’t trust that Daniel would be there for her and her baby when life got tough, couldn’t tolerate the thought of being second or third on his list of priorities.
“I think you are making a mistake, Alexis,” Gus quietly told her.
“But, Grandpa, it’s my life and my mistake to make,” Alex insisted.
“Except it’s not—you have a baby to think of,” Gus replied before ending the call.
Why couldn’t he understand that she’d lost so much? If she and Daniel lived together, raised their child together, there was a good chance that she would fall in love with him again; of that she had no doubt. Wasn’t that the reason she’d broken up with him recently, because she could feel herself sliding downhill into love?
Alex had lost Daniel’s love once, and she’d mourned him for years. Their breakup had been another type of death, and she was done with death, of all types.
She wouldn’t survive another loss. Her shattered heart would crumble into pieces too fine to be patched back together again. And while she had no intention of denying him access to his child, she needed to start getting used to being on her own, to a life that didn’t have Daniel in it. He was her baby’s father, not her lover and definitely not her friend.
It was better, safer, this way. Gus might’ve found love after a half century—and she was truly happy for him—but his path wasn’t hers. She didn’t want love in her life, it hurt too damn much when it left.
If only she could get Gus, and by extension Rose, to understand that.
Alex heard footsteps and turned to look down the aisle, expecting to see the happy couple. Oh crap. Daniel. Maybe she wasn’t in for a lecture; maybe Gus and Rose simply wanted a glass of champagne with their two favorite people before jetting off for a week of sun and sand and sex—ooh, can’t go there. Sun and sand was descriptive enough.
Daniel took the seat opposite her and looked at the open bottle of champagne sitting in an ice bucket. “We’re here for a dressing-down, aren’t we? This time they are going to tackle us together?”
Alex wanted to think otherwise but she nodded. “Probably.”
Daniel placed his boot on his ankle and Alex noticed that his denims, soft from washing, had a rip at the left knee and that the hems were frayed. She pulled in a deep breath and her womb throbbed at the intoxicating scent of soap, sun and ranch life mixed with pure, primal alpha male. She’d missed him so much. Keeping her distance was torture but so very necessary.