He brushed past the nurse and flung open the door. Tessa looked up from folding clothes into a small suitcase. She was dressed and ready to leave, but Christopher was nowhere in sight.
Panic shot through him like a bullet. "Where's my son?"
She blinked. "In the nursery, of course." Calm and composed.
"I want to see him. Now."
She buzzed the nurse's station. Tessa would never deny Chase his son, but they needed to get a few things clear right now. She couldn't be around him just yet when he saw his son. Not and think straight about their future. "You can see him now, Chase," she said, stalling over her next words. "But I need some more time. Alone." His face drained of color. "I think it's best that we don't see each other for a little while. And that includes—"
"Don't even say it!" Chase cut in, seeing red. In the space of a heartbeat, his patience snapped. "Was this—" he waved the paper "—supposed to make me happy, satisfy me till you got your act together? Offering me a scrap of paper instead of my son? I'm Christopher's father, dammit!"
His rage stunned her. "Calm down, Chase, you're getting out of control."
"Woman, you haven't seen me out of control." He took a step closer, threatening, brandishing the certificate. "This still makes him a bastard."
She gasped and back-stepped, looking as if he'd hit her. "What!"
"You heard me. You chose to make my son a bastard, Tessa. I've asked you to marry me enough times for you to know exactly how I feel about you. I love you."
Her eyes glossed and she blinked rapidly. "You love the mother of your son."
"How the hell can you stand there and say that?"
"How can I ever be sure it isn't true?" she cried. He was a madman at just the implication that he'd be parted from his son. What was she supposed to think?
A muscle ticked in his jaw, and his eyes were dark with rage as they pinned her, raked her from head to toe. She'd never seen him like this and remembered what he'd said about his temper. He closed in on her, looming over her, his voice deceptively soft and lethal.
"I've been patient. Goddamn noble. I loved you so much it never mattered what I wanted. Well, I've done it your way, Tessa. Done what was best for you long enough!" He crumbled the paper in his fist. "Now I do what's best for my son."
He didn't stop and brushed past a startled nurse. Tessa simply stared at the empty doorway, feeling the floor sinking beneath her feet. How had this happened? She just wanted more time, but now he looked as if he hated her. She sank into a chair as his intention suddenly hit her.
Oh, God. He was going to try to take her son away.
That afternoon Tessa stood in the doorway of her son's room, then looked back over her shoulder at her sisters, Dia and Sam.
"He had a crew in an hour after Christopher was born. They just finished."
Tessa fought back tears, moved to the crib and laid her son on the fluffy mattress. It was exactly like the picture. Everything was here, everything she'd sent back to him.
Till you hold our baby in your arms.
She swallowed and brushed her fingers over her baby's head. He was the image of Chase; already his eyes had that stark, deep blue. How was she going to live seeing Chase in her baby's face every day? But what about what he'd said to her, the threat?
"Tell me he can't take him, Dia."
"I can't. He's done nothing wrong. In fact, his behavior is and was exemplary. The mother usually holds more power in a decision, but no judge will find him an unfit father."
Tessa knew it before she spoke. God, how had she made such a mess of their lives. She slipped her finger into Christopher's fist, her heart clenching as his fragile grip tightened.
"Come on, Sis," Samantha said, shooting Dia a quelling look, then wrapped her arm around Tessa and pulled her from the room. "You need to get some sleep."
I need to crawl in a hole and die, Tessa thought, moving numbly to her bedroom. She let her sisters pamper her, tuck her in, then she rolled over and cried into the pillow. She loved Chase so much, needed him. She'd had it all and lost it. She'd pushed him too far.
Tessa smiled weakly at Carole Anne and Carl as they fussed over their grandson. Colin sat on the edge of the sofa, making faces and baby talk at Christopher. It was amazing how grown men reverted to idiots when they were around newborns. She couldn't deny them visits, but they had no idea how hard it was. She felt like a hypocrite. The one person who should be in her son's life, wasn't.
Carl looked up, his eyes dark and accusing. "Chase should be here to see this."
Carole Anne nudged her husband sharply, and Tessa looked away. Chase doesn't want to be here with her. Chase only wants Christopher, she thought, and she was constantly tormented by the last words he'd said to her. I loved you enough. Loved. Had she crushed it so easily? It proved to her that Chase wanted his son and not her. And her heart threatened to shatter again.