Grace hurried to pick up Dylan’s hat before the breeze took it into the water. “Mason is usually pretty mellow. I think maybe the muggy heat is getting to him.”
Or perhaps that was just her, because every time Dylan looked at her she felt as if she were heating up from the inside out. Which was crazy on a number of fronts. First, for the past year and a half she’d been completely shut down when it came to men. Second, she was here for professional, not personal, reasons. And third, the chance of ever moving beyond professional with a man like Dylan Sullivan was utterly laughable.
But when she handed him his hat, the stark heat in his gaze nearly had her dropping it from suddenly numb fingertips. Fumbling, she ended up shoving the cap at him.
“I can take my son back now.” But when she reached for Mason, he only snuggled closer into Dylan’s broad chest.
“I’m okay holding him for a while longer if you’re okay with it,” Dylan offered.
God, no, she wasn’t okay with it for a whole host of twisted-together reasons. It wasn’t just that Mason had chosen a stranger instead of her for the first time. It was more that she thought she’d made her peace with her son never knowing his father—only now that she’d seen Mason in a man’s arms, it was hitting her all over again, harder than ever, that he’d never have this. At least, not for more than these few minutes with Dylan.
Standing in front of a stranger from whom she desperately needed help—one who was holding her son so sweetly—Grace couldn’t figure out how to stop her heart from breaking into a million pieces all over again.
Or to keep from falling head over heels for Dylan the same way it seemed her son just had.
Two years ago, Dylan had been sailing in Belize when he’d looked up and seen a rogue wave come crashing toward him and his boat. He hadn’t stopped to think, hadn’t had time to be afraid, had simply done whatever he could to sail through what was later called the “storm of the century.” And he’d known that every second he’d spent in a sailboat during the past two decades had been to prepare him for that moment.
Seeing Grace and Mason for the first time had felt exactly the same way. He’d been working in his boathouse, enjoying the quiet and the physical labor, when he’d heard crying, and then the somewhat desperate murmur of a woman’s voice as she tried to calm the baby. The moment he’d stepped outside to make sure neither of them were hurt, and set eyes on the mother and child, his entire world had spun off its axis.
Desire for the woman—and his need to soothe the little boy—had come so fast that he hadn’t stopped to overthink or be afraid of what he was feeling. He’d simply reached out for the baby at the same time that he’d confirmed the little boy’s mother wasn’t wearing a wedding ring...and thought, I’m going to marry her.
Maybe he should have been surprised, but he wasn’t. Not when he’d always known that this would be how he’d love. All or nothing. And faster than a sloop flying over the water at twenty-five knots. All the years he’d spent watching his parents together, along with the way his cousins and siblings had found love these past few years, had prepared him well for this moment when he’d be hit by his own lightning bolt straight to the heart.
Dylan had never second-guessed himself. He’d always known he would be a sailor and build boats. There had been small struggles along the way, of course, but he’d never doubted his direction or his beliefs. So when he’d stepped close to Grace and the sparks between them practically exploded from nothing more than that, he’d barely been able to keep from sealing both their fates with a kiss.
But he hadn’t been raised to be an idiot. Which was why he wasn’t going to let himself pull her closer and kiss her.
Not yet, anyway.
“I have some cold drinks inside the boathouse. If you have a few minutes, why don’t you come in and have one?”
“Thank you,” she said as she gave him a small smile, one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Despite their obvious attraction to one another, she was wary, he could see that. Of him specifically? Or of all men? “I’d like that.”
Dylan settled her son more firmly on his hip as he moved aside to let her walk into the large building. Her eyes widened when she saw the interior of his boathouse. Framed in a classic Craftsman style, the ceiling was three stories high, with large wood-framed windows letting in light on every side. But the best part of the building was, hands down, that the skylights were retractable so that he could work under the open sky.
“Your boathouse is incredible.”
He grinned at her awed tone as he pulled a couple of bottles of water out of the fridge in the corner where there was a small kitchen area built in. “Thanks. My brothers and father helped me put it together, although the genius behind the design is my brother Adam.”
Before he could give her the water, she caught sight of the nearly completed sailboat in the back of the boathouse and headed toward it as if drawn by a magnet. “How do you do it?” she asked him. “How can you create and build something this amazing?”
“It’s all I ever wanted to do. I read everything I could find about making boats as a kid and then once I had the basics down, I started taking them apart. I’d save up my money to buy the junkiest sloops and my parents would let me haul them into their backyard. I’d saw through them, study the hulls, and then I’d try to replicate them as closely as I could.”