“I will call you, Tate,” she said quietly. “I just need a few days. I have a lot of thinking to do. Perhaps we can get together this weekend.”

It took everything he had to sit there and agree when his gut was screaming at him to argue, to chip away at the wall between them until she gave in. But he didn’t want a reluctant victory. He wanted it all. Chessy. Their baby. Her heart, soul and body. And he wanted it given freely. Not because he’d forced her into a corner.

“I’ll wait for your call then,” he finally conceded. “But promise me if anything crops up, if there are any problems with your pregnancy, that you’ll let me know so I can be there.”

“I have no intention of keeping anything from you, Tate.”

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She rose from the couch and he caught her hand, reluctant for her to leave just yet.

“Do you have to go now?”

She nodded. “I don’t want Kylie and Jensen or Joss and Dash to worry. They’ve worried enough about me lately.”

“I’ve worried about my girl too,” Tate said in a low voice.

Hurt immediately echoed in her eyes at the endearment. He hadn’t meant to land a blow. It just slipped out, a natural pet name he’d always used for her.

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“Tell me something, Tate,” she said, cocking her head to the side. “Do you miss me? Or do you miss the convenience of having me around. Would any woman do in my stead? Do you just not like being alone?”

He sucked in his breath at the hollow pain he felt in every word she uttered. It hurt him that she could possibly even think such a thing.

“No other woman could ever fill your shoes, baby. Of course I miss you. And I damn sure don’t like being alone but it’s because I’m not with you. Given a choice between being alone or being with someone other than you, then I’d choose to be alone.”

He knew he scored points with his answer because for the first time, uncertainty flickered in her eyes. As if she were truly second-guessing her decision to remain apart from him. He could only hope that she changed her mind in short order because every day without her was a day in hell.

TWENTY-SEVEN

THE next morning Chessy was sitting in the living room, newspaper in hand turned to the business section while contemplating the evening before with Tate when Joss and Kylie both burst through the front door.

“Did you see the …?”

Joss broke off when she saw the newspaper Chessy was holding.

“Ah, I guess you have seen it then,” Joss finished.

“If you’re referring to the article about Tate’s partnership with two other financial guys then yeah,” Chessy murmured. “But I knew. He told me last night.”

“And you didn’t tell us?” Kylie demanded.

“I was emotionally wrung out by the time I got in last night,” Chessy replied. “I was too confused to rehash it all then. Hell, I’m still confused. I can’t figure out his angle and it’s driving me crazy.”

Joss sat down on the couch next to Chessy, her eyes full of love and understanding. “Have you considered his only angle is winning you back at any cost, sweetie?”

“But that’s just it. With Tate it’s all about winning whether in business or his personal life, but especially in business. How do I know I’m not just some giant victory for him? I mean, how am I supposed to know if he’s truly sincere this time? It’s not like he hasn’t had multiple opportunities. So what’s changed now? And in his defense, he told me about taking on partners and lightening his work load so he could devote more time to our marriage before I told him I was pregnant.”

“Then maybe he really does mean it this time,” Kylie admitted.

Chessy looked at her in surprise because up to now she’d been Tate’s biggest detractor.

“I know, I know,” Kylie defended. “I’ve not exactly been his biggest fan. But I have to hand it to the guy. He’s persistent and he really seems sincere. If it involved anyone but my best friend I’d probably wonder if she had rocks in her head for continuing to put him off. Not that it’s what I think about you. You’re certainly justified in being wary of allowing him the power to hurt you again. Self-preservation is a strong thing. Once bitten, twice shy, et cetera et cetera.”

“I think the question that has to be asked here is what do you want, Chessy?” Joss asked softly. “Because it doesn’t matter what I think or Kylie or Dash and Jensen. This is your life, your marriage. Only you can decide what’s best for you and more importantly what will make you happy. Are you resisting because you truly don’t trust him not to hurt you again? Or are you resisting because of your pride and you don’t want to look like a gullible fool for trusting him again?”

Chessy looked thunderstruck as Joss’s question sank in. “Wow. You don’t ask the hard ones, do you?”

“I’d say she scored a few points judging by the expression on your face,” Kylie said.

“Good God, could you be right?” Chessy breathed out. “Is it my stupid pride and me not wanting to look stupid for taking him back? Or is it truly because I don’t trust him.”

Joss shrugged. “Maybe it’s a little of both. I certainly can’t blame you either way. I wouldn’t be lining up for that kind of humiliation or hurt again. But then I went through something similar with Dash and I forgave him.”

“And I forgave Jensen his stupidity,” Kylie said dryly. “I think it’s an inherent quality in men. Some stupid gene they inherit purely because they’re male. Women are so much smarter and more logical. Men? Not so much. They think with their dicks, when they’re thinking at all.”

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