"You get that girl pregnant, boss?"
"Hey, Dave, you know me."
Dave smirked at the innocent look. "Yeah, that's why I asked."
"Button it up! Lady on the lot!" Chase shouted, and his crew threw on shirts and knew to keep their language clean. He moved down the small slope to meet her.
Tessa watched him come, a relaxed long-legged stride that made her pulse leap. Even with his jeans and T-shirt covered with gray gunk, he looked sexy. It really was unfair! To make matters worse, he stopped a little too close for comfort.
She took a step back and shielded her eyes to look up at him. "This has to stop, Mr. Madison."
"When are you going to call me Chase?" After the doctor's office, he'd hoped they'd gone past that.
"When pigs fly."
She sent him a disgusted look.
"Swine of indeterminate variety have been known to board aircraft and fly."
Her lips twitched. Well, heck. How was she supposed to argue with that kind of logic? "Chase," she said tiredly, and he grinned at the victory. "The gifts have to stop."
"I want my son to have the best."
"I can provide for my child."
"But Dana said you hadn't bought anything yet."
"Interrogating my employees while I was incapacitated. Great," she muttered, glancing away.
"She was just making conversation. Don't blame Dana. I thought I could help out a little."
Her gaze snapped back to his. "Can't you get it through your head? I don't want you in my life. I don't want anything from you!" She was shouting, her fist clenched.
And Chase reared back. "Good God, Tessa. Calm down."
Her gaze thinned. "I am calm." Her lips scarcely moved.
"No, you're not," he said. "And standing in the sun isn't helping. Come on." Whether she liked it or not, he took her arm and escorted her to where his car was parked beneath the shade of a tree. She was grateful for the reprieve. She looked at the black Jeep Grand Cherokee, then to her maroon one.
He smirked. "It seems we have similar tastes, at least."
Same make, same year. It was creepy.
"Want some water?"
"Yes," she said, just to gather her thoughts. He moved to the rear of the Jeep and poked around in a cooler. Tessa stole a moment to peek inside the vehicle, hoping to get an idea about this man. On the seat was a cellular phone, a portable fax, and papers filling an accordion file, but that was the only neat spot she could see. The rest of the Jeep was littered with rolled-up clothes, muddy boots, paper cups and a hundred fast-food wrappers. He lives out of this thing, she thought as he came back with two bottles of water. He cracked the seal and handed her one.
Chase watched her, his favorite pastime lately, as she drank.
"Now tell me the real reason you won't accept my gifts. It's my child, too."
"Yes. This is your baby." He smiled hugely. "But I was artificially inseminated, Chase, by number 3-4-6 dash something or other, and that's what I think of you." His expression withered quickly, sadly, and the sight of it sent a shaft of pain through her chest. "I did this because I wanted a child, my own child. Not with the hope that the father would butt his nose in and ruin my plans."
Chase felt something clench at his chest, taking his breath, and he stared off into the distance and swallowed hard. "I can't not want this, Tessa. So don't ask. I never thought I'd get this chance." He met her gaze. "And how can a few gifts ruin anything?"
"A few? For heaven's sake, did you buy Bloomingdale's or just the infant department?"
His smile was a little strained. "It was too much fun. Just thinking about this baby makes me crazy."
"You can't do this, Chase." Her voice wavered. "No furniture or clothes, not yet, not again."
Again? He searched her features, the tightness around her mouth bearing a tension that spoke volumes. "Tell me what's got you so scared?"
She sighed against the Jeep, drank water, then looked at him. "I've lost a child before, Chase." The color drained from his face. "And it was hard. Very hard." Her throat closed up and she drank more water, staring anywhere but at him. "I bought everything and then when I miscarried, it hurt just to look at it all." It hurt to remember Ryan's insensitivity, to remember she failed at everything but her work. "I gave it to charity and swore I wouldn't buy a thing—" she met his gaze "—till I held my child in my arms."
The tears in her eyes hit him like a punch to the gut and Chase tossed his empty bottle into his Jeep as he stepped closer. He made to hold her, then let his arms fall to his sides. "I'm sorry, Tessa." He drove his fingers through his hair. "God, I can be such an idiot sometimes." She shrugged, and he scoffed, half amused. "Agreeing on something, are we?"