Page 54 of Anybody's Dad

But mostly he wanted her to come to him.

His fists clenched, the only sign of the battle waging inside him—his desperation to leave the Jeep and go to her, to tell her he loved her more than his life and that he would do almost anything to have her back in his. Almost. Chase wasn't settling for half a relationship anymore. He wanted all or nothing. His head was ruling this time.

He started the engine and pulled into traffic. He didn't see Tessa rise up on her knees and wave to get his attention, didn't hear her call his name before she resolutely settled back to the blanket and watched him drive away.

The next day, Tessa lifted her son in her arms and hugged him, aching inside, longing for his father to ease the pain she was feeling. She buried her face in his soft neck and inhaled the baby scents. She inhaled again, then frowned as she held up her son, eyeing him.

"You've been conspiring against me, haven't you?"

Christopher blew bubbles, his chubby legs pumping the air.

Tessa hugged him again, then looked across the living room at her elder sister and her mother. "Which one of you is going to confess to letting Chase in here every day?"

Celeste and Samantha paled, looked at each other, then Tessa.

"Christopher smells like his father." She'd been wondering why the scent kept haunting her.

Turning away, she kept her lips from curling into a smile, yet she wanted to shout. She wanted to laugh. Chase was sneaking behind her back to be with his son and it relieved some of Tessa's fears that even his son couldn't hold his love. She'd been wrong about a lot of things. Again. This gave her a little hope as she took her son with her to the bedroom. She dropped onto the bed, snuggling Christopher, and picked up the phone. She dialed Chase's number. It rang and rang, but the answering machine didn't pick up. Frowning, she decided she'd try again later. Chase had said they were done talking. Tessa had other ideas.

Dia gaped at the document. "Is he serious?" she asked, glancing at Tigh, then to Chase's back where he stared out the huge plate glass window.

"I tried, Dia," Tigh said, his expression bearing the battle he'd done with his client long into the night. "He won't budge."

"But this is too far, Chase. You can't do it."

Chase cast a glance over his shoulder, half-lidded and emotionless. His gaze dipped to the custody papers before Dia. "She's given me no choice, Dia. You know that."

"I can't believe it." She shook her head softly, her eyes wet. "I swear if I live to be a hundred, I never thought you'd do this."

Chase felt a sharp blade of pain dice him in two. Even the skilled lawyer couldn't see the end to his means.

"This will kill her," Dia whispered, a fracture in her voice as she stared at the papers, searching for the secret hidden within the legal words. "After all you've gone through together. You love her, don't you?" Dia held her breath.

Chase turned from the window, his hands braced behind his back. "More than my life. But she's cut me out of her life, and for what? Because she's afraid I only want her because of our son." His composure slipped a little and he pushed his fingers through his hair, destroying the neat styled look. "She's pushed me to this, Dia. Tessa can't find her heart and I can't wait around for her to do it."

Chase left the room, his own heart shattering with every step. For the hundredth time he hesitated about what he was doing, then he pressed on down the hall. He'd just played his trump card, and if he failed, he'd lose everything.

In her living room, Tessa stared at the thick folded papers in Dia's hand. Oh, God no, please no, she thought wildly. He wouldn't. Not Chase.

Tessa's hand trembled as she accepted them. "He did it, didn't he?"

Dia's face was vacant except for the brightness of her eyes. Tessa unfolded the thick document and scanned it. She inhaled sharply and dropped into the nearest chair. Tears welled in her eyes and she swallowed and swallowed and felt her heart about to burst in her chest. Instead it just ripped and tore, gouged by each word she read, bleeding so painfully she couldn't catch her breath. She covered her mouth, air rushing past her fingers.

"Oh, God. Why?"

"Does this really surprise you? You pushed and he folded, Tessa. What can I say?"

"You can tell me how this happened. How you let him do this." She shook the papers in her lawyer's face.

Dia grabbed them. "Get a grip. Hysterics won't help now. What did you think, Tessa? That Chase was going to keep letting you dictate his life and his son's? You've acted like a selfish prima donna, doing what you wanted and needed. He's a man with feelings, for heaven's sake, and he wants what's best for his son and a clean cut from you."

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