"You saw her!" Chase's wide eyes narrowed suddenly. "She didn't know it was you, did she? God, Mom, if she thinks we're all ganging up on her, she might leave town!" He paced, wearing a path in the carpet. The last thing he wanted was to scare Tessa.
"Chase dearest, please."
"You're mother isn't an imbecile, Chase, don't treat her like one."
"Carl, hush. He's just concerned, as we all are." She patted the space beside her, and Chase paced a bit more, then sank down beside her, rubbing his hand over his face.
"I like her, Chase. She's poised, gracious. One can tell a great deal about a person when you're in their territory."
Though those were not the traits Tessa had shown him, Chase took his mother's word for it. "And you discovered?"
Carole Anne looked thoughtful before she spoke. "She makes everyone feel welcome, instantly. Even offered tea and joined me to have it. She's very honest about her designs and whom they suit." His mother paused, her eyes unusually bright. "And your baby's growing beautifully." Chase enjoyed the happiness spreading across his mother's face.
His father cleared his throat. "It's just like you to do everything backwards, boy."
Chase stiffened and left his chair in a lurch, wondering if his father would ever forgive him for not becoming a politician. As usual, his mother defended him with a sharp glare at his dad.
"Do you think Janis did this thing with the computer mix-up?" his mother asked.
Chase shrugged. "I wouldn't put it past her." He didn't want to address his suspicions, not when Tessa could use them to keep him out of his child's life. Things were just too fragile right now. "But then we all know how she hated being excommunicated from the Madison clan." The divorce settlement had nearly made Chase broke, and he eyed his father, all too aware that the man had never liked Janis, thought she was a gold digger, and had let him know it on a regular basis. Yet Chase had understood her need to feel part of a family. Of course, only Senator Madison's family would do. His dad thought Janis had married him because of who his father was, and finally, Chase had been inclined to believe it.
"Oh, Chase," his mother said suddenly. "But this is so wonderful." He gazed at her and saw tears, tears she never shed in front of anyone. He sank to one knee in front of her. "I hoped that you or your brothers would find women to love like I love your father." Beyond them, Carl Madison softened, in expression and posture, and he came to his wife, settling beside her and enfolding her hand in his.
"I'm not in love with Tessa Lightfoot, Mom." In lust would be a better word. He couldn't believe how turned on he was by this particular woman, pregnant or not. "And I can truthfully say she wishes I was never born."
Carole Anne's brow wrinkled softly. "She really is obstinate about your involvement?"
"She wants me gone. Trust me."
Carole Anne smiled slightly. "But you like her."
The corner of Chase's mouth quirked. "Oh yes."
"That's all I needed to hear," she said succinctly. "We'll stand back and promise not to interfere. At all." His mother looked pointedly at his father. "Won't we, Carl?" Though there was a softness in her voice, her sharp blue eyes warned his father there would be hell to pay if he so much as spoke to Tessa without Chase's permission. His father finally nodded and Chase leaned forward, kissed her forehead and whispered, "I knew I could count on you, Mom. Thanks."
He left, glad his parents weren't going to stick their noses into this. Chase wanted his baby in the worst way. But after spending several sleepless nights with Tessa Lightfoot's image bursting across his mind, Chase wanted more. He wanted to see if he wasn't fooling himself about this energy they shared, the way she could stir his senses into madness. He wanted to kiss her, really kiss her. But as he thought of her perfectly lush mouth, a mouth made for old-fashioned slow, wet kisses, Chase figured at this point, she'd just bite him.
* * *
In her doctor's office two days later, Tessa looked up from the magazine and frowned. The hint of a voice, a male voice, pricked her attention and she strained to define it. When the receptionist called her name, she rushed past the partition and froze.
Chase. His shoulder propped against the wall, he was obviously receiving a thorough explanation of the birth process, via a wall diagram, from the pretty blond nurse. Tessa didn't like that he was here, didn't like that he'd used that oozing Madison charm to worm his way past the front desk of a women's clinic, and she did not like the way Blondie was looking at him as if he could cure cancer.