It appears, she thought, they were leaving. Good. Because if there was one thing her mother had taught her, it was that a lady didn't do battle in public.
* * *
Tessa pulled away from his grasp as the valet drove before the hotel entrance. "I swear you turn into the rudest man when you're mad."
"Mad?" He stopped short, absently taking the key from the attendant. "You think that's it?"
She met his gaze over the edge of the open car door. "Of course it's not. Pigheaded, irritating, jealous and stubborn come to mind real quick."
"Describing yourself, Tessa?"
"Hah!" she scoffed and slid into the car, taking clear delight in showing off her legs and the knowledge that his glance, though laced with anger, devoured her.
He moved around the front and climbed into the driver's seat, jamming the key in the ignition and gunning the engine.
"Chase, calm down. I'd like to be alive to see our son grow up."
It was the fear in her voice that stopped him cold. He looked at her and his expression softened a bit. He drove cautiously away from the curb. Inches apart, they rode in silence, Tessa staring out her window, Chase with his eyes on the road. The tension rose with every mile that passed.
When the city was only a glimmer in the distance, she gathered every ounce of courage to open a wound and ask, very softly, "Are you going to tell me where we're going, or just brood?"
"I'm not brooding."
"Of course not."
He shot her a deadly glare.
"Fine, brood. See if I care." Tessa glanced into the back seat, noticing a large cooler and his bags beside hers. And a briefcase. The papers are in there, she thought, and she realized it didn't matter where they were going. Just as long as they were alone. Tessa's mind worked frantically for a way to get him to talk reasonably with her, yet his underlying anger and hurt radiated from him like a warning light to step carefully. He thought she wanted this end, this total exclusion from her life. Well, he was in for a few surprises. She wasn't signing anything. And when he loosened the tie and opened his shirt collar, her attention focused on how seductive he looked, even glaring bullets at her.
She wanted him. Badly. If she lived two centuries, she would always hunger for his kiss, the way his hands felt on her body. She'd thought about it so much in the past hours, she imagined attacking him at the first opportunity. She didn't want to fight. She wanted desperately to postpone the argument, the inevitable torture of emotions they'd suffer discussing him leaving her forever. A knot worked in her throat and she looked at her lap, fidgeting with her purse strap.
Chase glanced to the side and noticed she was biting her lip. She looked scared and his anger softened. "Tessa, I want you to know—"
"Yes?" she said when he hesitated and her stomach pitched.
"I—I'm sorry." He relaxed visibly. "Back there." He inclined his head to the city in the distance. "I swear I hated seeing you gawked at by all those men."
"Hated it because of how you feel about me? Or because of the dress?"
Her coat was open, her lush body outlined in the thin garment, and he remembered the hunger in a half dozen men's eyes. "Both," he snapped, and her hopeful expression fell.
Would she ever get through to him?
"I wanted to be with you, Chase."
An arrow of hope pierced his chest. "Why? You've ignored me for weeks."
She shook her head. "I called and you didn't answer. Even your answering machine wasn't on."
"I smashed it."
Her eyes widened.
He shrugged, a little sheepish. "I haven't bought a new one yet." He wasn't going to tell her that every day he had come home hoping to find a message there from her and when he didn't, his frustration grew until he took it out on the technology.
"I tried to reach you."
It wasn't enough. "You could have come over, dammit. Or called the office or sent up smoke signals, for Christ's sake!"
"And you could have waited for me to come home just one of those times when you were in my house."
"I got tired of always hunting you down!"
"Jeez, are you going to keep verbally beating me or would you rather just deck me one and get it over with?"
He looked horrified. "Hell, no!"
"Well, right now, you look mad enough to tear me in half."
"Well, I'm not!"
She arched a brow at that.
"I'm—" he hesitated "—hell, I don't know what I am," he rasped in frustration, pulling to a sharp halt in front of a cottage and shutting off the motor.
"Me, either," she whispered under her breath as he left the car to open the back and retrieve their bags. "But I will."