Authors: Lisa Ruff
Tags: #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Man-woman relationships, #Pregnant women
“But I want you, Patrick,” she said in a whisper of need. “Please.”
“I don’t want to hurt the baby.” He kissed the back of her neck.
“You won’t. I promise.”
He let her hand stroke him, his breath fast and hot in her ear. When he moved away, she released him. He drew her leg up and over his as he positioned himself and slid slowly inside her from behind. As he thrust carefully, his fingers returned to their tantalizing forays. Slowly, he built her pleasure until she was writhing in his arms, desperate for release. She moaned and begged him to finish what he had started. Patrick complied, pressing himself deep within her and using his thumb to send her over the edge of ecstasy. Kate cried out, feeling the tingle spread to every nerve ending. His muffled shout of pleasure joined hers seconds later. She panted and a laugh came to her lips.
“Oh, my Patrick,” she said on a sigh.
He clasped his arms around her, pressing a kiss to the side of her neck. Kate put her hand up and slipped her fingers into his thick hair, holding his head against her. Sleep claimed her quickly, though, and she fell, relaxed and content in his arms. Tonight she would not be lonely.
Kate woke when sunshine spread across the room and hit her face. She opened her eyes and knew she was alone in bed. A sense of déjà vu swept through her and she looked toward the bathroom, expecting Patrick to come through the door. He didn’t, but it didn’t upset her. She had slept too well to let his desertion throw her. He might be gone, but he had given her one of the best nights of her life.
She levered herself up and began the slow process of getting out of bed and to the bathroom. It had been much easier in the night with Patrick’s assistance. She smiled as she splashed water on her face and ran a brush through her hair. Even the fact that her bathrobe barely closed around her girth didn’t ripple her pleasure.
Shuffling down the hall, Kate heard voices coming from the kitchen. When she reached the doorway, her mouth dropped open in astonishment. Patrick and Molly sat on either side of the table, coffee cups on the table before them. A newspaper was gutted and scattered over its surface. Molly wagged a finger at Patrick as he looked back at her, a grin on his face.
“That’s where you’re wrong, young man—”
“Does this mean I get to call you ‘old lady’ now?”
Molly stiffened and her eyes narrowed. “Only if you have complete disregard for your physical safety.”
Patrick threw his head back and laughed. As he did, Molly caught sight of Kate. “There you are,” she said. “You’re just in time. The muffins will be ready—” The oven timer buzzed. “Right now.”
Molly rose and went to the stove. Kate remained where she stood, still shocked. Molly and Patrick had never gotten along. Yet here they were in her kitchen, sharing coffee, muffins, a newspaper and chummy banter. Patrick came over to Kate and drew her into the warm, fragrant kitchen. He pressed a light kiss to her lips and pulled a chair out for her. He winked at her, a warm glow lingering in his eyes. Kate felt a blush creep up her cheeks.
Molly plunked an earthenware mug in front of her. “Herbal tea, for you, my dear. How did you sleep?”
“Fine.” Kate said in a strangled voice.
“Like an elephant,” Patrick said with a smile, as he sat diagonally across the table from her. He grinned again at Molly, who stood with raised brows. “Lumbers around a lot, snores like a freight train.”
“I do not!”
“Molly, guess how many times an elephant goes to the bathroom at night.” Patrick’s eyes twinkled with his teasing.
“You didn’t have to stay.” Kate sipped her tea.
Patrick ran a finger down her cheek. The look in his eyes had her blushing anew as she remembered his touch the night before. “Yeah, Katie, I did.”
Molly glanced at them, a smile on her face. Patrick laced his fingers with Kate’s and held her gaze with his. A shadow passed through his eyes, turning them dark.
“And thank you for letting me stay.” His voice was low, meant for her ears only. “I needed to hold you last night.”
“How do you feel?”
Patrick took a deep breath. “Better. Thanks to you.”
A warm feeling swept over Kate. She squeezed his fingers and Patrick sat back as Molly put a basket of steaming muffins on the table. She handed out plates and silverware, then placed butter and honey alongside the basket. After refilling the two cups with coffee, Molly sat and they dived into breakfast.
“Patrick’s going to take you to your doctor’s appointment this morning,” her aunt announced, liberally smearing butter on half of a muffin. “I’ve got a meeting with a woman who wants me to do an entire set of dishes to match her wallpaper.”
“That’s crazy,” Kate said, incredulous.
Molly shrugged. “Maybe, but, for the price of a service for twelve, I’ll indulge the dingbat.”
“See if you can talk her into glassware to match the drapes, why don’t you? If she’s going to throw away money, she might as well throw it at me, too.”
Molly laughed. “I’m sure I could easily convince her. She loved your stuff in the shop yesterday. I told her you couldn’t meet her this morning, but she may want to see you when she gets back from her trip. She leaves for Italy this afternoon to look at some furniture.”
Kate shook her head and took a muffin from the basket. She cut it in half and added a pat of butter to each side, letting it melt.
“What time do you need to be at the doctor?” Patrick bit into the soft, warm bread. “This is fabulous,” he mumbled through crumbs.
“Ten-fifteen.” Kate took a bite of the muffin she held and nodded at her aunt. “He’s right, these are terrific.”
Molly beamed at their compliments. “Pumpkin-spice. I got the recipe from Suzanne at the coffee shop and then tweaked it a little.”
Kate bemusedly listened as Patrick and Molly took up their earlier debate about a condo project that was planned for a vacant property nearby. Molly was against the construction and Patrick, though he claimed to be neutral, fanned the flames of Molly’s ire with every word he spoke.
“I like tall buildings. You can see them for miles. They’re like navigation beacons.” Patrick’s half-hidden smile and twinkling eyes showed his true sentiment, but the remark reduced Molly to speechlessness. “You should meet Jimmy Johnson sometime,” he added. “You might like him. He’s got the same opinions you do. And he’s no good at arguing, either.”
Molly threw her napkin at him and he laughed. Rising, he cleared the table, ordering the women to stay seated. After he cleaned the kitchen, he announced that he was going to shower.
“You two seem pretty chummy this morning,” Kate said to her aunt after Patrick left.
“I’ve gotten to know him better over the past few weeks.” Molly leaned her elbows on the table. “I like him. He’s not what I thought he was. He’s in love with you.” Her clear blue eyes caught Kate’s in an intense stare.
Kate dropped her own eyes and toyed with the tab from her tea bag, still dangling off the side of her mug. She wanted to believe that, but she was afraid to, afraid of her own wishful thinking. “He sold his boat,” she said.
“And bought a house.”
Molly’s eyes opened wide. “You’re
. Why would he do that?”
“He claims he needs more room.”
Her aunt was silent for a while. “Did he ask you to move in with him?”
“Not yet. He hasn’t said anything except that there’s a room that would be perfect for a nursery. He’s right. It was perfect.” Kate smiled as she mentally filled the cozy room with baby furniture.
“You saw it?”
“He took me there yesterday. It’s over on Clements, not far from Bayside Park.”
Molly sipped her coffee. “Hmm.”
Kate laughed at the expression on her face. “That’s what I think. Am I deceiving myself, Molly? Has he changed?” She looked at her aunt with pleading eyes. “He’s been wonderful as a coach and I, I—” She paused and swallowed back the lump in her throat. “I want him to be different, but I don’t trust myself to know if he is or isn’t.”
“I didn’t know him all that well before, so it’s hard for me to say. I like him, Katie, but that’s not a very informed opinion.”
“I like him, too.” Kate sighed softly.
him, you mean.”
Kate shifted in her seat and kept her eyes on her mug. “I don’t want to.”
Molly put her hand over Kate’s and squeezed. “Love isn’t something you can control. It’s not like molten glass. It’s alive, sometimes with a mind of its own.”
With a snort, Kate lifted the cup to her lips and drank the last swallow. “I know that. If it behaved itself, I’d be in love with Steve Craig right now and Patrick would be long gone.”
Molly smiled. “I can’t tell you what to do, sweetheart, but I will give you some advice. Listen to your heart. It often has the best idea of what will make you happy in the long run.”
Patrick strode back into the kitchen, smelling like her floral shampoo. It didn’t make him any less masculine. In fact, the effect was exactly the opposite. His hair was slicked down, the natural waves tamed and his jaw was smoothly shaved. Kate’s heart sped up, thinking about what Molly had said about him being in love with her.
Patrick gathered up the paper, glancing over to see her watching him. He smiled. “Better get a move on, Katie, my love. It’s nine-fifteen.”
Kate pushed herself from the table and he helped her to her feet. He patted her on the butt as she passed and laughed at the glare she shot at him. As she got ready for her appointment, Kate’s thoughts ambled in confusion. Should she give Patrick the chance her heart wanted her to give him? She wished there was a clear answer. If only something would point her in the right direction. All the signs that whirled in her head pointed in every which direction.
that took so long. The doctor’s usually not so backed up.” Kate adjusted the heater to send more hot air into the cab.
“Not much she can do when a baby decides to pop out first thing in the morning.” Patrick shifted gears and glanced over at Kate’s bulging stomach. “Think you can time it a little better?”
Kate shot him a dry look. “I’ll make sure to check with your schedule before going into labor.”
Patrick grinned and kept his eyes on the road. “Do you mind if we stop at the marina on our way back to your place? My mother left a message while we were in the doctor’s office. She needs me to talk to a customer who’s there right now.”
“That’s fine. I can wait in the truck.”
“Could you do me a favor and come into the office? Ma’s dying to see you, again. She’s been trying to get me to bring you by for weeks.” Kate was silent and Patrick knew she was thinking the same thing he was. “She’ll be thrilled. Get ready for some serious grandmother action, though.”
“Is she into her grandkids?”
“Are you kidding?” Patrick asked with a laugh. “She’s Irish. It’s all about family for her.”
Kate frowned slightly. “I thought your family was Italian.”
“On my father’s side. My mother’s so Irish, she bleeds green.”
“And they get along?”
“Yeah. They love each other a lot.” Remembering what Kate had said about her parents, Patrick thought again how lucky he was. “Not to say that they haven’t had their moments. They both have pretty volatile tempers. Which makes for some interesting fights.” He chuckled. “Ian got grounded for a week once, when he asked them if they minded putting an argument on hold so he could make popcorn and enjoy the show.”
Kate burst out laughing at that. Patrick turned into the parking lot at the marina and pulled into a slot. He went around to help Kate down and they walked to the office as fast as she was able. The wind was blowing a gale, much fiercer near the water than farther inland. Patrick shielded Kate from the brunt of it until they were inside.
A wide, excited smile lit Elaine’s face when she saw Kate. She spoke a few words into the phone she held to her ear, then dropped it with a bang.
“Finally!” Elaine came around the counter and took Kate’s hands in hers. “Oh, look at you! You’re just beautiful.”
Patrick gave Kate an I-told-you-so look and kissed his mother on the cheek. “Nice to see you, too, Ma.”
Elaine patted him on the shoulder, but kept her eyes glued to Kate. She drew her over to the empty desk facing her own. “Sit down, dear. Patrick, your father is on the docks with—oh, here they are now.”
Antonio Berzani walked into the office followed by a short, squat man with receding brown hair. Both men sported wild, windblown hair and ruddy cheeks.
“Gusting over forty now, I’d say,” Antonio said with a laugh. “Katerina!” He came to Kate and pressed a kiss to each of her cheeks, then patted her stomach. “This is a big one, eh? Probably a boy. You name him Antonio, for me, okay? Someone in this family needs a good Italian name!”
Patrick saw Kate flush with color, but Elaine shooed his father away. “Go talk boats and leave us alone.”
Antonio pressed a kiss to his wife’s lips. “Anything for you, my love.”
Patrick shared a look with Kate, then turned and greeted the other man. “Patrick Berzani,” he said, holding out his hand.
The man shook it. “Roger Whited. Nice to meet you.”
Antonio stood next to Patrick. “Roger’s buying a Harris 60 and may have us do the commissioning. I took him on a tour of the yard, but he wanted to talk to you, too.”
“What can I tell you, Mr. Whited?”
“This yard and you, especially, were recommended to me by Greg Chastain. I’ve had a boat in San Francisco for years and now I want one on this coast, too. He said you were the man for the job.”
“I’m glad Greg thought that highly of me.” Patrick’s voice faltered as he said his friend’s name. He swallowed hard, looking away from Mr. Whited and his father.
“Patricio?” Antonio gripped Patrick’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Patrick cleared his throat. “Mr. Whited, I don’t know how—” He took a deep breath and met the man’s puzzled stare. “I’m sorry, but talking about Greg is hard right now. I got a call yesterday from a friend on his boat. Greg got swept off in a squall. He’s…he’s dead.”
Roger Whited paled and put a hand out to grip the edge of the counter.
“This is the friend Ian told us about last night?” Antonio asked.
“Yeah,” Patrick said, nodding. “I’m sorry to spring it on you, Mr. Whited. I just thought you should know.”
“Please, call me Roger.” He took a deep breath. “No, no. I’m glad you told me, but it is a shock. You just heard yesterday?”
“It happened in the Tasman Sea. They were two days out, at the most.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Roger said. “Greg was a great guy. A great sailor. I’ve been following the race when I can.”
“Patricio is going to skipper his friend’s boat,” Antonio said proudly.
Turning around, Patrick saw that Kate was standing at his elbow. She had heard his father’s announcement and her face turned pale. The cup of coffee trembled in her hand. He took the cup and put it on the counter to take her hands in his.
“Is it true? You’re going to sail that boat?” she asked.
“And win, of course,” Antonio said, before Patrick could answer.
“It would be a great sail,” Roger said, his eyes alight with the idea. “And winning would be an amazing way to honor Greg.”