The fractured anger and fear in her words struck him hard, with insight and just enough frustration to want to shake her. "Yes, I didn't have any part in this, and yes, I wasn't consulted, but there is more than our feelings and rights at stake now. There is the child. Our child," he gestured between himself and Tessa and out of the corner of his eye saw her shoulders stiffen. "And whether you like it or not," he said, turning his gaze to Tessa and meeting her stare, "that infant—" he nodded to her tummy "—needs everyone who cares about him, protecting him and his rights." God, Chase thought, he loved this baby already. He lowered his voice, speaking to Tessa as if they didn't have an audience. "Think what you want, Tessa, but I didn't come here to upset you. After what happened in the Golden Dragon, I realized how unbelievably miraculous this all is."
Tessa felt a lump work in her throat, at the raw emotion playing across his features, lacing his voice with a tender roughness.
"And I only wanted some of the experiences I've already missed." He held her gaze a moment longer, then looked at Dr. Faraday. "Take good care of her," he said, then left without a word.
Both women stared at the empty doorway, then at each other.
Tessa's eyes burned and she felt awful. "Oh hell, now what do I do?"
"He could stand beyond the curtain and listen."
Tessa stared at her lap. This was so personal. And they hadn't even really kissed, for heaven's sake. But the look in his eyes, oh God, she felt as if she were cheating him. She was cheating him. Finally Tessa nodded and Johanna left the office to catch him. Outside the door she heard Johanna laying down the rules. She didn't even look at him. God, she was being a coward, but every minute with the man had her feeling like a general losing ground in a battle. Still, the excitement in his voice hurt. Only the baby, she reminded herself. He wants this only for the baby.
The sonogram was under way when Tessa heard a nurse escort him in through the hall door. She glanced down and saw his shoes beneath the curtain, but even with Johanna talking louder than usual, he didn't utter a word, didn't move.
Then Chase heard the rapid, steady heartbeat. His breath caught in his chest, a violent surge of air that left him stunned. Alive. Alive, his brain shouted. His child. Flesh and bone and blood were growing, breathing in there, waiting to be born. Waiting to be loved and protected. And he rejoiced in the warm feeling racing through his body, pushing his pulse to match his child's.
Then suddenly the heartbeat stopped.
"What happened?" Panic filled his voice.
Johanna's was calm. "I just moved to a different area, Mr. Madison, wait. Listen? There it is again. Oh look, Tessa, her fingers."
Abruptly, Chase whipped the curtain back and stared first at Tessa, her belly so round and smooth and covered with some slimy gel, then beyond her to the monitor. And Chase saw a tiny fist unfurl. His eyes burned and he leaned closer, scanning every detail.
"Do you mind?" Tessa said, but he wasn't listening. He was awed. There was no other word for it. And Tessa thought right there that things could have been worse. He could have been like Ryan, who hoped never to see this sight. But Chase Madison was looking at her now as if she could spin straw into gold.
Dr. Faraday and she exchanged a glance, Johanna's gaze dropping to the black-and-white printout. She tore it off and offered it to him. Hesitantly, he accepted it, his eyes searching the undefinable shades of gray for the unborn life hidden within. The doctor peered over the sheet and pointed. And Tessa realized that strong, handsome, ex-Marine, construction engineer Chase Madison was very close to tears. The sight left her stunned. He gazed down at her, then he bent and kissed her, quick and hard on the mouth.
Then he left.
And Tessa, though oddly delighted to see a man brought to his knees by the sight of an unborn child, realized just how much he wanted to be her baby's father. And exactly how much she didn't matter.
Tigh McBain raced forward and slammed the ball against the court wall, believing he had his racquetball partner in the clinch. But Chase dived out, sneakers squeaking as he skidded to a halt and smashed the tiny ball to the baseline. Tigh knew he'd never get the return in time and tossed the racquet to the floor.
"I give." Bent over, breathing heavily, he braced his hands on his thighs before he fell flat on his face.
"You?" Chase tugged the tank top from his shorts and swiped the sweat from his face with the hem.
"Yes, me," came back tightly. "God, where do you get the energy?"
Chase thought about Tessa and smiled to himself. "I don't sit behind a desk getting fat."
Tigh straightened immediately, scowling, and Chase noticed he couldn't resist touching his stomach. Chase laughed.