Page 10 of Anybody's Dad

Dia's brows drew down and she pulled Tessa from the center of the store and into the little alcove behind the register. She gripped her sister's arms, forcing her to calm down.

"Whether you think that or not is irrelevant. Chase Madison could have sued for custody, Tessa. He still could." Tessa paled. "We're damn lucky he has a heart, because if he didn't, as soon as you gave birth, this baby could have been taken by the courts until an agreement was reached. Do you want someone else holding your newborn baby before you? Caring for her? Deciding your child's future? Or would it kill you to be his friend?"

"Yes. It will," Tessa cried dejectedly, the images her sister painted striking her hard. "It will give him leverage. I can't trust him."

Dia let her go and stepped back. "No one says you have to marry the man, for God's sake."

"No one but him."

"Oh, get real." Tessa arched a brow and Dia's features stretched taut as she said, "You're serious?"

"Don't listen to the messages on your private line much, do you? I called you immediately after our lunch, all night and this morning."

Dia's gazed faltered. "I was … out of town for the evening."

Tessa gave her sister the once-over, then smiled softly. At least someone was having fun, she thought, then explained their lunch date.

Dia folded her arms and propped her hip against the counter, looking very much the high-powered attorney. "Did he badger you?"

Arranging ribbons on a dowel rod, Tessa gave her a side glance. "No."

"Would you consider his visit harassment?"

"No." How could she? He'd helped her, saw that her best customer was satisfied, and had only her best health in mind, damn him. If he hadn't forced her to rest, she'd have kept going and that wouldn't have been good for her or her baby.

"If we put a restraining order on him, it might make him pursue custody."

"Then don't." Tessa dropped her head back onto her shoulders, sighing long and slow. "I'm not due for another three months—let's not look for trouble. Maybe he'll lose interest."

When Dia didn't respond, Tessa looked at her sister. "Don't hold your breath," she finally said.

Tessa felt as if she were tottering on a peg with nothing to stop her fall, waiting for the shove that would send her into oblivion. "Go ahead, say it, I see it in your eyes."

"I've never seen a man more determined to be a father, Tessa."

"Me, either," came dispiritedly.

Dia laid a hand on her arm, forcing Tessa to meet her gaze and listen hard. "Then perhaps for once in your life you ought to quit planning out every facet with annoyingly meticulous detail and just go with it."

Tessa eyed her warily. "You like him, don't you?"

Dia shrugged elegantly clad shoulders. "I'm not the one who matters, but yes. He's charming, handsome, smart, a decorated ex-Marine, owns his own business, comes from a good family." Her eyes sparkled suddenly, devilishly. "Has two drop-dead gorgeous brothers—"

"Great." She rolled her eyes. "If he's won you over, what chance have I got? And isn't that conflict of interest or something?"

"Hey, I wouldn't worry so much, Sis," Dia said, slinging her arm over her sister's shoulder and dropping a kiss to her temple. "He hasn't met Mom or Samantha. They'll make any man run for the hills."

Tessa laughed softly at the picture of her eccentric mother and Chase in the same room. Even though she never wanted him that deep into her life, it would be something to see. She wondered idly what he'd say if her mother read his palm before ever speaking to him.

The door chime jingled and Tessa said goodbye to her sister. Dia flipped open her cellular phone, thumb-dialed a call as she grabbed her briefcase and left the shop in a brisk walk. Dia needed to slow down, Tessa thought. She was always in a rush to be somewhere she wasn't.

Tessa walked over to the customer, smiling and offering herb tea. The older, distinguished-looking woman smiled back, so warm and endearingly gentle that Tessa felt the tension in her wash away like a summer rain. This was the first person in a long time to look at her and not her tummy. As Tessa went to prepare tea, she decided that Chase Madison could be as charming and as likable as he wanted. Her guard was up, cemented into place, and ex-Marine or not, he wasn't storming past it.

Chase's gaze snapped up from the pile of tomatoes so carefully arranged in the bin. "Are you following me?" he asked hopefully.

"Hardly." Tessa's eyes narrowed on him, her hand on her hip. "I could ask the same of you."

"Yes." Unashamed, reckless.

"What?"

"I found out you shopped here, every Monday morning, at nine." His forehead wrinkled a bit. "Are you always so predictable?"

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