Read part one of Homegrown Love first!
“Hope,” Paul answered, sounding as breathless as she did. “What are you doing here?”
God, he looked good. Hope wanted to throw herself at him the way she’d done so many years ago. She was the one who’d instigated their first kiss, the one who’d seduced him over and over again, the one who’d admitted their attraction and got them together.
She’d told herself over the years that she was over him, that his dark hair and blue eyes wouldn’t have the same effect on her they’d had years ago. That his broad shoulders and arms that surprised her with the gentleness despite their strength wouldn’t make her mouth water. That his masculine scent, like fresh air and a tinge of motor oil from the cars he was always tinkering with, wouldn’t bother her.
But standing face to face with him, she knew she’d been a liar.
Pushing thoughts of how much she’d loved Paul aside, Hope focused instead on Adam. She crossed her arms over her chest and stepped back to try to block his view of Adam in the backseat. The last thing she wanted was him coming into town for the first time in five years and trying to take her son. He couldn’t have him. It wasn’t an option.
“I live here, Paul. You’re the only who left town and never looked back.”
“You look amazing. Are you in school?”
Before Adam was born, Hope wanted to go to college and get an art degree. She’d always loved to paint and wanted to study it, to learn as much as she could and become a great artist. When she found out she was pregnant she was lucky to even finish high school.
“No, I’m not in school. I never had a chance to go to school.”
“Why?” he snapped, sounding angry and hurt. “Why wouldn’t you go to school?”
Hope shrugged, not willing to tell him about Adam. “It just wasn’t the right time. Maybe I’ll go one day. Listen, I’ve got to go. My car doesn’t look too bad and it’ll probably cost me more in insurance if I file a claim. Can we just forget about this? A favor between old friends?”
Paul snorted. “Old friends? Is that all we were?”
“Paul, I can’t do this okay. I don’t know why you’re back after all this time but I can’t do it.”
“How about a drink? Can I buy you a drink?”
“I’m only 20. Plus, I don’t drink.”
Paul grinned, that half smile that always made Hope feel like she was the only person in the world who mattered, even when he seemed to be laughing at her. “I was talking about a coffee. We are at Beans.”
Hope glanced behind her and looked at the coffee shop. She wasn’t going back in there. She wasn’t going anywhere with Paul when she had Adam with her. He couldn’t see his son. He would know.
“I was just leaving actually. I’ve got somewhere else I need to go.”
Hope turned back to her car like she was going to get in, hoping Paul would do the same. Instead he stepped closer to her, then glanced into the backseat. “You have a kid?” he asked, stunned. “Are you married?”
Hope dug deep for courage and told the truth. “Yes, I have a son. And no, I’m not married. His dad ran out on us.”
Paul was clearly shaken. He ran a hand through his hair, something Hope knew he only did when he was frustrated or worried. “How old is he?”
Hope’s heart beat faster. She knew she couldn’t lie to Paul, she never could, but she didn’t want him to know the truth. “Four.”
Paul’s eyes snapped to hers and saw everything she wanted to hide from him. She could tell the moment the truth dawned on him, the moment he realized he was the deadbeat dad who’d run out, the moment he looked back at his son and saw himself as a child.
“I have a son?” It was a question as much as a statement.
From within the car Adam waved at Paul, unaware of the turmoil going on between the adults standing there watching him through the window.
“Paul, this isn’t the time or place for this conversation. Maybe you can come over later and we can talk. We still live with Alex at the house. How about eight?”
Hope knew Adam would be asleep by then and Paul wouldn’t be able to yell at her too much if there was a child sleeping. At least she hoped.
Paul finally nodded his agreement and turned silently back to his car. He got in and drove off, not giving Hope a backward glance.
One down, now she needed to tell her brother who Adam’s father was, and that his best friend was in town.