Tate checked his watch. It was five. Certainly not out of the realm for preparing dinner. By the time Chessy drove over and they settled into the kitchen and he started preparations it would be six. Perfect timing.

“Can you head over now?” he asked, trying to keep his enthusiasm at bay and sound normal even though when it came to Chessy, anything at all to do with Chessy, normal wasn’t part of his vocabulary for sure.

He couldn’t wait to finally see Chessy one-on-one for the first time since the night she’d walked out, when she had been devastated and so damn fragile looking. As though she’d break if someone stared at her too hard. And yet he had let a brute of a man put his precious girl through the paces, warming her up for when Tate would have taken over.

Chessy could have been seriously injured. For all practical purposes she had been raped. Just because the bastard hadn’t fully penetrated her didn’t mean he hadn’t forced himself on her, even as she was screaming her safe word.

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To still his restless mind and whirling thoughts, he began to prepare the crepes while he waited for her answer. In theory this recipe was damn good. But it was all in the execution. And Tate wasn’t one to ever follow the letter of a recipe. He always improvised, adding stuff he liked and experimenting until he got the flavor he wanted. He and Chessy had always taken turns being the guinea pig and then they’d offer constructive criticism. Not enough Cajun seasoning. Too much black pepper. The lobster and crab smelled and tasted too “fishy.”

There was no modesty from him when it came to this dish. He and Chessy could make themselves sick on it, eating way beyond the point where they were already full. It was always “Oh, I’ll just have one more bite,” and then a moan of pleasure followed by another bite and another … Until they groaned in agony and flopped onto the couch in a vegetative state and watched mindless reality shows to get their minds off their miserably full stomachs.

“Yes,” Chessy said finally. Was there a hint of excitement in her voice or was he simply hearing what he wanted. If she had missed him only half as much as he was missing her, then he had a shot. “I’ll leave in a few minutes after I shower and change. If I wait any longer, someone will want to take me, and as I said, I’d rather not have an audience for what I want to talk about.”

Again that tendril of dread curled tighter and tighter around his neck. “Tell me at least that you’re okay. That there’s nothing seriously wrong with you. Don’t leave me to my worst imaginings, Chess. You’ve got me scared shitless.”

“I’m fine, Tate. Truly. It’s just … complicated, which is why I wanted to say it face-to-face.”

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Whatever got her back home where she belonged, even if it was only for a short time, worked for him.

“Okay then. Head this way. I’m putting together supper now.”

TWENTY-FIVE

KYLIE and Joss, as well as Jensen and Dash, faced Chessy with concern as she prepared to leave to go back … home. She still considered it her home no matter that she hadn’t lived there in several weeks. Maybe she’d always consider it home.

Moreover, when they’d bought the house, she’d picked it out with a family in mind. It was a huge house for just the two of them. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms plus a guest room downstairs, space for an office, two living areas, a formal dining room plus an eat-in kitchen and an island bar.

In her mind she could so easily see having children and raising them in that house. Most couples didn’t buy their forever home right after marrying, but Tate had been financially secure enough to purchase the house and once she’d seen it—and envisioned their future in it—she’d instantly fallen in love.

Five years later she was pregnant with the child she’d always desperately wanted but her marriage was in ruins and the house she’d once dreamed of raising a family in was off-limits. Even if she did end up getting the house if she and Tate divorced, how could she ever raise her child in a home that screamed Tate from every corner?

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go over there alone,” Dash said firmly.

He and Jensen were standing between her and the doorway, a formidable barrier, their arms crossed over their chests and stubborn looks on their faces.

Kylie and Joss stood at Chessy’s side but it was clear they were in agreement with the men.

“You should make him come here. On neutral ground,” Joss said in a low voice. “Or over at mine and Dash’s house. We’ll give you all the privacy you need but you shouldn’t be at a disadvantage emotionally, and with you being pregnant you’re especially vulnerable. Just ask Dash! I cry over the most ridiculous things. I swear I’m a hormonal mess. I certainly can’t be trusted to make life-altering decisions with pregnancy brain.”

Dash’s entire face softened with love as he gazed at his wife. “You’re adorable pregnant. And you are not a hormonal mess. I love every part of you and wouldn’t change a thing. You pregnant is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait until you get bigger and I can feel the little one kick.”

Chessy’s hand went to her own flat stomach and tears welled in her eyes. Joss shot Dash a look of reprimand and Dash immediately looked contrite.

“I’m sorry, Chessy. That was digging the knife deeper.”

Chessy shook her head. “Do not ever hold back with Joss for fear of hurting me. That isn’t fair. She deserves to have someone who sees her for how special she is.”

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