There was a stretch of silence before she said, "Because what I have isn't enough."
He folded his arms over his naked chest and waited for more.
"Because loving you and loving our child are two different things."
"Surprise, surprise," he muttered, looking off to the side.
She moved up to him, against him. "Chase?"
He wouldn't look at her and she pressed her hand to his cheek and made him. "I've missed you terribly."
He crumbled, his shoulders sagging, arms falling to his sides.
She closed her hands around his muscled biceps. "I need you to love me, Chase." Her searching eyes filled with tears. "Nothing in my life means anything except having you there, every hour, every minute." Her voice lowered to a husky pitch, fracturing with torment. "I feel so broken inside without you."
Chase gazed down into her bright green eyes and saw her heart pleading for his understanding. Slowly his arms slipped around her waist, pulling her flush against him. He smoothed his hand up her back and tucked her head against the curve of his shoulder. "Now you know how I've been feeling for the past months."
"I'm sorry I hurt you."
Her quiet tears wet his bare chest. "Yeah, me too."
"I love you, Chase." She squeezed him tighter. "That never stopped."
"I know, angel," he said softly. "I love you."
Over her head, his gaze rested on his briefcase, the papers he knew were inside, and he took a deep breath, hoping he wasn't putting a gun to his future. He let her go and moved to the case, flipping the latches and opening it. His hand hesitated.
He turned, the document crimping in his hand.
Her complexion paled as her gaze dropped to the papers, their every word imprinted in her brain. Oh, God. They were signed. She spun away, covering her mouth to hold back a cry as she flew down the steps to the pier. She stopped, unable to go farther, and felt him move up behind her. She looked at him over her shoulder.
"I thought we'd gone past that." Her voice was scarcely a whisper.
Chase winced, hearing her torment in every syllable, but he clung to his need to clear away the last bit of rubble between them. "Not far enough."
She faced him and stared at the document, swiping her tears with the sleeve of her robe. That he even had them, let alone signed them, was so far removed from his supposed feelings that she was struck dumb again.
Her gaze lifted to his. "Why are you doing this still?"
"Because I want to see you completely happy."
She choked, aghast. "And you think this will do it?" she cried, looking as if he'd stabbed her, and Chase grasped for his equilibrium. "Chase, we're a—"
"Family?" he cut in, arching a brow. "I want to be a husband, a lover … then a father."
The pier bobbed beneath her bare feet as she rapidly searched his stark features. "You love our baby."
He reared back. "Of course I do," came without a doubt. "I gave up my rights, but not my heart. I love you, Tessa," he said, advancing and making her back-step down the dock. "You. Because you're gentle and caring and you're the sexiest woman on this earth." He seared a quick look down her body. "Not because you suffered having our baby. I can't separate the woman who carried my child from the woman I love." He shrugged. "They have the same body, the same heart. I have no rights." He snapped the thick document against the wind. "I gave them away to prove it's you I want. You I love first." He leaned down in her face, his voice softening a fraction. "When Christopher is grown and gone, it'll still be just you."
Confused, her shoulders drooping, Tessa stared up into the eyes of the man who could destroy her world. "Now what do we do?"
Chase looked at the sky and muttered, "Damn," then met her gaze. "For a smart woman, you act incredibly stupid far too often."
She gasped, openmouthed, and he gave her a shove, sending her tumbling backward off the dock and into the water. She burst through the surface, shoving her hair from her face and glaring at him. She struggled to keep afloat in the waterlogged robe, and Chase, the rat, simply sat on the edge of the pier, holding out his hand.
"All you have to do is take it, Tessa. Come to me."
"You hurt me!" she cried. "You scared me!"
"I know, angel," came regretfully. "And now I'm being selfish, so don't come to me because of Christopher. Don't come to me because we're good together and making love with you is like a flash fire. Come to me because I'll die without you." He slipped into the water, paddling out to her. "Be magnanimous and feel sorry for me 'cause I don't want to be a part of your life, even for our son's sake, if I can't have every part of you to love."