Page 58 of Anybody's Dad

She didn't give him a chance to comment and asked one of his competitors to dance. Chase stood on the sidelines, not sure what had just happened, and unable to do anything but gather his thoughts and watch her.

She was graceful and exotic and turned several heads as she danced, the glittering fabric shivering over her skin.

When it was over, she didn't return to their table. Chase regretted his comments. This was his last chance. He'd done the unthinkable for her love, to ease his pain and end his suffering. Nightly he'd hoped she was as unhappy as he, but one look at her vibrant smile told him to think again. Yet as she moved around the room, he could pick out her laugh as if he had radar. She was facing him and, briefly, her gaze strayed, locking with his. Chase felt electrified by it and the conversation he was supposed to be involved in seemed to fade away to nothing but Tessa.

Dark possession reared in Chase, a beast screaming inside him. He didn't even offer an excuse to the people talking around him as he left their circle and strode to her.

Tessa's entire body tensed as he neared. He was going to make a scene, she thought, his expression so black and scowling she felt her hands shake. He stopped inches from her, ignored her conversation partners, took her drink and set it on the tray of a passing waiter. Then he caught her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor. He swept her into his arms.

"Chase. That was rude." He held his long frame back from her, bodies inches apart, dignified. But it felt like miles.

"Don't talk. Just dance."

"Go to hell." She tried to step out of his embrace.

He jerked her flush against him. His eyes flared at the contact.

"I am not yours to control."

"No, you prefer that task for yourself."

"You never had to stick around, Chase."

"Yes, I did. Christopher is my son, too."

Not because I love you, she thought, looking away, but for Christopher's sake. Obviously loving his son and loving her were two different things. Were two different things, echoed in her head. She lifted her gaze, noticing the hard line of his mouth, the suppressed rage in his expression. It seemed so hopeless.

"Smile," she said through gritted teeth and a fake grin. "We're supposed to be engaged."

His expression shifted from shock to realization in the space of a wink. "Oh, yeah." Her legs brushed his, her hips rocking to the music, and Chase remembered what it was like to feel her naked in his arms. He closed his eyes, willing his body to behave. It didn't.

Tessa pretended not to notice.

This is want you wanted, Tessa thought. To be close to him again, to have his attention long enough to take back what she'd lost to her foolishness. Obviously loving his son and loving her were two different things. The thought pounced on her over and over, tearing at her composure. She'd known it for a while, it just took longer to understand the price of her misjudgment. The weeks apart from him were hard pills to swallow. For she knew she would have loved Chase even if he wasn't Christopher's father. She loved him for the man he was, not the dad he would be. Even if he chose to walk out of her life and never come back, she would be utterly miserable, but she would still love him with every breath. If she could be certain of this, than why couldn't he? Why hadn't she seen he might be feeling the same way?

When the music softened further, Tessa slid her hand up his lapel, feeling the wild beat of his heart. Look at me, Chase, she silently begged. He did, and she was once again struck with how much she'd hurt him. She had to get him to talk with her rationally.

She gathered her determination and said, "I know you've been visiting Christopher."

His brows shot up.

"Your cologne. He wears it well."

"What are you going to do about it?" She didn't mistake the challenge in his voice.

"Nothing." Her hand slid higher, fingers toying with the curls at his collar, and for a moment, his gaze softened. "I would have let you see him, Chase, anytime, if you'd just asked."

He stopped in the center of the floor, dancers moving around them, but the world, their world, centered on the man locked in her arms. "You didn't want me around, Tessa. At the hospital—"

She pressed her fingers over his lips, silencing him. "I wanted time. I couldn't handle seeing you, then," she whispered. "But I never intended to keep your son from you."

"What did I do to make you hate me so much, Tessa?"

"Oh, Chase," she whispered sadly, then she shook her head. "Not hate, never. Disappointment, maybe."

His features hardened instantly and she felt him tense in her arms. "Who has the right to be disappointed, Tessa? Me, for giving you what you always wanted? Or you, for accepting it?" He stepped out of her arms and headed to their table. Turning, he grabbed her coat, waiting for her to come to him.