She felt the power of his green-eyed gaze and licked her lips, finding the strength to continue. “Today was tough. Aside from what happened with the dress, to start off, this morning I had tea with Granny James, and she came up with the brilliant suggestion that we call my mother to tell her the baby news.”

“What?” Taylor sounded both surprised and angry.

“I know. Stupid, but we did. Mummy was cool at first, which was no surprise. But then, when I told her about the baby, she actually said she was happy for me. And congratulations. That’s all it took for me to melt into a blubbering pool. I was so grateful. Can you imagine? Grateful my mother told me congratulations. Oh, Taylor, when will I ever learn?”

Taylor shook his head in sympathy, eyes trained on her, his facial expression unmoving but his green gaze glowing like embers in a fire.

“Then she used the baby to make me feel like it was my responsibility to take over Greenfields Park for Granny and Papa. That’s when I lost it. I told her off.” Harper smiled at him. “It felt good.”

Taylor’s face softened and he leaned in to kiss her. His lips were soft yet strong, comforting. “That’s my girl. I knew you had it in you. I don’t mind telling you, that was a long time coming.”

“Yeah.” Though inside Harper’s heart, she didn’t feel her struggles with her mother were over. Far from it. She looked over at Taylor. His handsome face was relaxed again and he leaned back against his pillows. “Taylor, there’s one more thing. My grandmother wants us to sign a prenuptial agreement.” Harper didn’t mean to blurt it out like this. She’d practiced how she would broach the subject, but the words just tumbled out.

Taylor’s eyes widened, but he didn’t comment. He moved back into an upright position, resting his elbows on his thighs, and stared unseeingly at some point in the room, silently taking in all that the words implied.

At length he said with a short laugh, “Have to admit, I didn’t see that one coming.”

“Nor did I.”

“Explain, please.”

Taylor was always most calm and succinct when he was tense. This was but one of the many things she’d learned about this man during the past year. Things such as how he liked her to fall asleep on his shoulder at night, the slanted gaze he sent her way when she was teasing him, his stoic silence when he was angry, how he didn’t like cologne and yet smelled so good just with shaving cream, the way his brows creased when he concentrated or was worried, the idle way he stroked Thor’s head when the dog sat beside him, and the way he let his fingertips glide along her arm when she talked to him. He was extraordinarily thoughtful and kind. It was as though with his being so large, his gentleness provided balance.

“It started with Granny telling me that she sold Greenfields Park. I know,” Harper said, seeing Taylor’s surprise. “That’s huge. And with Papa Jeffrey in the home without mental acuity, Granny’s in the process of making significant changes to her will.” Harper took a breath. “She suggested—more like demanded—that we have a prenuptial agreement in place as soon as possible.”

His gaze hardened. “Demanded, huh?” He reached back and grabbed a pillow and squeezed it in his hands. “I wish I could say I was surprised by that. She’s never fully believed I’m not after you for your money.”

“No, Taylor, that’s not it at all. She loves you. She even told me that she had faith that you’d have no problem with this because you’re so strong and practical. And you love me. Granny is just looking toward the future. She has to. She has a huge estate to protect. The way she put it is that by doing this, family money stays in the family to be passed down from generation to generation.” Harper had been thinking about this all afternoon, and the idea of a prenup was beginning to make sense to her. “Why should all that my grandparents built be at risk when someone new marries into the family?”

“At risk? That’s how you see marrying me?” Taylor tossed the pillow across the room.

“No!” Harper suddenly felt sick. She could see Taylor beginning to blow up. This was her worst nightmare coming true. “Of course not. I love you. I trust you.”

“But you don’t trust me with your money.”

“I do!” Harper cried, and put her hands over her face. “I don’t care about my money. You know that. I never have. But it’s not just the money, can’t you see? It’s the estate, the family property. That’s more important than just money. Granny James is rather insisting. Oh, Taylor, I don’t know what I should do.”

Taylor rubbed his forehead with agitation, then let his hand drop. He reached out again to bring Harper close to his chest. She slunk into his arms and wrapped hers around him.

“I don’t want this to come between us,” she said miserably.

“It won’t,” he said in a low voice. “We won’t let it.”

Harper sniffed and wiped her eyes, feeling suddenly a world better.

“It’s just the way I see it,” Taylor continued, “is being married means we’re in it together. Married couples ought to protect each other by being fair and generous in all ways, including financially. So it strikes me that starting our marriage with financial negotiations and withholding property isn’t a very good way to begin a relationship that should be built on love, trust, and mutual protection.”

“I agree with the heart of what you’re saying. Really, I do, and I said just as much to my sisters earlier this afternoon. If I weren’t the heir to the James estate, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But the fact is, I am. That puts a different slant on things. But a prenup would be simply protecting property that has been in my family for generations.”

“Still, there’s no way it won’t disturb the balance of power in our marriage. You’ll control all of our finances. I’ll always feel like it’s your money at the end of the day, your decisions. That’ll make me feel less than an equal partner.”

“Taylor, Sea Breeze is already in my name and you don’t have a problem with that.”

He looked at her, his brow raised mockingly. “I don’t?”

“What?” she exclaimed, shocked. “Do you?”

“Of course I do. But your grandmother bought you this place. What was I going to say? No, I won’t live here with you?”

Tags: Mary Alice Monroe Lowcountry Summer Romance