Page 35 of Anybody's Dad

One day when he didn't show at her shop, she worried, but still couldn't bring herself to call his office or home.

"I missed you today, angel. I have a game after work. Call you later," was the message on her answering machine.

Tessa listened to it twice, missing him.

* * *


Chase turned his head to spit and nearly choked when he saw Tessa sitting in the bleachers. He grinned and missed his best player hitting a line drive to second base. He couldn't believe she was here. Here. And he had difficulty concentrating with his heart beating so hard in his chest. He called his player home, then strode toward the stands. She climbed down and met him at the fence, her fingers in the links. The fence came to just below her chin.

"Do you mind?" she asked hesitantly.

"Hell, no!" He resisted the urge to drag her across the fence and into his arms. "How long have you been here?"

"Since the second inning." That surprised him, since it was the ninth now. "You've got a good team," she said, looking out over the sea of blue jerseys and caps in the Mustang dugout before bringing her gaze back to his. She made a disgusted face. "Tell me that isn't tobacco in your mouth, Chase."

He blew a huge bubble, popped it, then sucked the pink gum back into his mouth.

"Worried about my health?"

Yeah, she was. But she wasn't going to puff up his already pleased look. She reached out to rub gum stuck to his lip.

It was a wifely thing to do, almost motherly, and he wanted this mother. Her navy blue bike shorts and sneakers showed off her shapely legs and the matching shirt, simple and loose, draped her softly. Her hair was twisted in a knot on her crown, the early summer heat dampening strands at her neck and temple. She looked good enough to eat. And he told her so.

"God, I love how you blush," he said on a laugh, then leaned closer. "What do you taste like, I wonder?"

"Sugar and spice?" she said.

"Have I mentioned I like spice? Lots of it," he said with a velvety look.

Her heart pounded with the idea of Chase tasting every inch of her. Slowly.

The umpire called for a batter.

"Go play, little boy," she said, giving him a shove, but Chase brushed a kiss to her knuckles before he turned away, his cleats digging into the dirt. Her gaze unwillingly dropped from his wide shoulders to his tight behind shifting in the dark uniform trousers. Nice, Madison, real nice, she thought and stayed there for a moment, suddenly feeling a hundred pairs of eyes drilling into the back of her head. She didn't want to turn around and see the faces of parents. While she was worried earlier about explaining him to her friends, she hadn't thought of how her very pregnant presence here could affect his position as peewee coach. Their dating, if that's what one could call the progression of their odd relationship, wasn't easily explained. But in the next instant, Tessa didn't care. She hadn't listened to anyone but herself since her divorce and she wasn't going to let a few curious stares get to her. She knew she'd been uptight about their situation and anyone discovering the means of her pregnancy, but things had changed. Their relationship had shifted, somehow felt more secure. She was proud of her child and her feelings for Chase and as she returned to her seat in the stands, she smiled to herself.

Well, for heaven's sake. She didn't know exactly when it had happened, but she'd fallen hard for that man. Or rather tripped, she thought with a dose of reality, her heart tumbling into the hands of a smiling engineer. He'd wormed his way into her life with all the finesse of a Brahman bull, bossy and determined, and she couldn't go a minute without thinking about him, about kissing him or feeling the warmth of his arms around her. For the past several days they'd spent only small amounts of time together, nothing like in the storeroom, yet it was time filled with more than getting to know him, but getting to love him. She leaned forward and braced her elbows on her knees, her eyes on him and not the game.

Oh, God.

Did she?

Something else stuck her just as quickly. Did he love her? Was their relationship progressing because of their child or in spite of it? If the baby wasn't between them, would she feel this good about him? She let the questions torment her for all of ten minutes, then decided there was nothing she could do about it. She wasn't honestly certain she loved him at all, or whether what she was feeling was simply because he was a great guy or her child's natural father. Yet when the whistle blew at the end of the game, Tessa pushed her uncertainties aside and met him at the dugout. He was shoving equipment into a heavy canvas sack.

"I'll catch you later," she said.

He straightened and frowned. "You're leaving?" She liked the almost childlike disappointment in his eyes.

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