Page 42 of Anybody's Dad

"Good God, Chase. Who did you invite?" There was enough food to feed a small country.

He sat. "I wasn't sure what you wanted, and I'm starved." He wiggled his brows suggestively, in case she forgot why.

"Nice to know I can work a man into starvation," she said, sinking back into the overstuffed cushions, sliding her feet behind him. "Now what did you bring for yourself?"

He chuckled, unwrapping food, and her gaze slipped over him, the shirt straining against his arms, his trim hips. She remembered last night, the long slope of his naked thighs between hers, counting the ridges in his stomach as he dozed, then watching him thicken with desire as she smoothed her hand over his taut body. He enjoyed her touch and that made her want to do it more, to feel him squirm and beg. It was a power she had never known before. In a heartbeat she knew she could make love with him again. Right here.

She let her bare foot slide over his waist, teasing his ribs, his back, and he turned, his look sly and aware of her intent.

Bracing his hand on the back of the sofa, he loomed over her, his face nearing. Her hands pressed to his chest, molding up across his strength before wrapping around his neck. His mouth was heavy on hers, his tongue pushing between her parted lips, sweeping lazily inside, and she was noticeably breathless and flushed when he drew back.

"Morning, angel."

She found her breath and swallowed. It really was unfair, the way he could make her all hot and bothered with just a kiss.

"Good morning." She pushed a lock of dark brown hair back off his forehead.

His frown was soft. "How do you feel?"

"Like a woman who's had really great sex."

He went very still. "Was that all it was?"

She traced the lines in his features, smoothing them out. "You know better than to ask that, Chase."

His throat bobbed. "Do I?"

Her brows knitted. She'd never seen him unsure. It made him more vulnerable, and Tessa's heart ached for him. "I love you, Chase."

He blinked. "Really? Ah, I mean … really?" The hope in his voice quivered through her, stealing her breath and bringing tears to her eyes.

"You're kind of hard not to love, handsome."

"Aha, found out," he said, bussing her lips, her cheeks, his heart thundering wildly. "I've spent my life trying to get every pregnant woman I see to love me." He swallowed thickly. "But you're the first to fall."

His voice trembled as he spoke, and Tessa pulled him to the sofa beside her.

"I love you, but I won't marry you." He tried to sit up, but she held him down, his head pillowed on her shoulder, his hand on her tummy. "I won't marry you because I can't escape the feelings I have that you're asking because you're our baby's father. No, please don't say anything yet," she asked when he tried to look at her. "Let me get this out. It's unfair to you, since you seem so sure of yourself, but I have to think of this child first, Chase. Is it best for her if we go into a marriage with misgivings and doubts that haunt—every minute?"

She stroked his hair lovingly and closed her eyes. She was hurting him and she hated herself for it. But she'd failed at marriage before with Ryan, because of a baby she never had. And with her child, their child connecting her and Chase before their feelings ever did, she was scared of making another mistake and ruining Chase's life just because it seemed the best thing to do for the child. She'd never know if it was her or his child he wanted. And watching her own mother suffer over the same situation made her think more than twice about whom they'd affect later on.

"I love you, Chase. So very much." She brushed her mouth over his soft, shiny hair, her words warm against his head. "But I don't trust either of us right now enough to make a decision that will alter all our lives forever." Her breath shuddered. "Please try to understand."

"I'm trying." But he wanted to shake her. His child moved restlessly inside her and Chase sympathized. He felt confined, playing by her rules, but as her tears wet his hair, he decided that he'd wait her out. And if she still refused, he'd bring in the big guns. But he was going to marry Tessa. He'd die without her.

Six weeks later Chase stood beside Tessa's design table, admiring the sketches, a wedding dress, a little girl's party outfit. But tucked in the corner of the wide table was a scrap torn from a magazine: a baby's room. He studied it, smiling. Even if she didn't want the stuff he'd given her in the baby's room, she knew what she wanted.

The doorbell sounded.

"Would you get that?" Tessa called from the kitchen.

He inhaled the delicious smells pouring through the house, then crossed to the door. He flung it open and stared at the woman on Tessa's doorstep.