"Are you always this fanatical?"
"Excuse me?" Her tone should have put him on guard.
It didn't and he charged ahead. "You're organized to the hilt here." He waved to encompass the house.
"It's my life, Chase. You don't have to live it."
"Well…" He folded his arms over his stomach, looking like big Chief Ha-ha, and said, "I'm not sure I want my kid growing up with the fear of getting his dirty shoes on the floor."
She eyed him suspiciously. "Are you trying to start something?"
His gaze moved leisurely over her, and he found the oversized T-shirt and tights attractive as hell. "You inviting something?" he said with a grin.
Tessa rolled her eyes. "You're pathetic, Chase."
He frowned. "'Cause I'm attracted to you?"
She arched a brow, doubt in her expression. "You're attracted to the mother of your child, that's all." She headed to the dining room with the platter, and he hated the resolution in her voice.
He caught her arm, pulling her close against his side. Warmth meshed and mingled between them. "That wasn't a momma I kissed yesterday." She opened her mouth to protest. "No. Don't tell me that was a mistake, Tessa, because besides this baby, that was the best thing to happen to me in a long time."
He stared at her with such blatant desire, she thought he was going to kiss her again. But instead he snatched a slice of fruit off the platter, popped it into his mouth, then strode to the door.
"See ya. I'm late for a ball game."
She blinked, feeling incredibly stupid. "Baseball?"
"Yup." He spun back to face her and made like he was hitting a ball, adding sound effects of the ball cracking against a bat, of the crowd cheering wildly, then he pulled a cap from his back pocket. He positioned it on his head and fairly bounced down her front steps.
It wasn't until she finished her fruit that she admitted she was actually jealous of a baseball game.
This was not good.
Two days later, Chase stared at the man over the desk and felt like a kid at the principal's office. The administrator looked over the papers containing his background and what he could find on Tessa's.
"You left the child's name and birth date blank."
"I cannot submit an application to Trojan Academy, sir, without it."
Chase shifted uncomfortably in the chair. This is where it got a little sticky. "He isn't born yet."
Thergoode peered over the rim of his glasses. "I beg your pardon?"
"Miss Lightfoot is pregnant with my child and I want him to attend this school. Since your waiting list is damn near three years, I figured it wouldn't hurt to get a head start."
"You understood incorrectly, sir."
Instantly Chase disliked Thergoode's superior look and knew this interview wasn't going to go well.
"Trojan Academy is the finest school in the county and, yes, we screen all applicants thoroughly. But not only is your child unborn, but he or she isn't even—" The round, pudgy man looked away for a moment and a rage of absolute proportions slithered through Chase.
"Legitimate?" came ground between clenched teeth.
"So." Chase leaned forward. "You're saying that you'd turn away an innocent child, deny him the best education, simply because his parents weren't married to each other?"
Thergoode flushed with embarrassment. "Well, no, not exactly."
"What then, exactly?" There was a deadly calm to Chase's voice that Thergoode couldn't catch.
"Trojan Academy has a high standard, which is—"
"Which is practicing discrimination," Chase cut in as he stood, snatching back the paper. He loomed over the desk, braced his fist on the surface and smiled thinly at the man. "And you seem to forget that your standards include, by law, everyone."
"This is a private school, Mr. Madison."
"And I sit on the board of education, Mr. Thergoode. My company built this school."
Thergoode lost a little more color. "Mr. Madison, if you'll just relax, we can come to an understanding." Thergoode's skin brightened a fraction. "It is a senator's grandchild, after all. And the child isn't born. This could be for nothing, should he—"
Suddenly Chase's eyes darkened, narrowing to mere slits. "Don't even say it." The man was digging himself deeper by the second, and Chase wanted to hand him a shovel.
"No, of course not. How thoughtless of me." He shuffled papers, and Chase, no calmer than moments before, clamped his hand over fidgeting fingers.
"Process it. And we'll see who is residing at this academy in a couple years." He ended the statement with an arched brow, the look menacing. Mr. Thergoode swallowed hard. His Adam's apple bobbing like a slice of broken glass. Chase hoped he cut his throat on it.