Authors: Lisa Ruff
Tags: #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Man-woman relationships, #Pregnant women
“Patrick.” Kate took a deep breath and gathered her scattered wits. “I am not having dinner with you here.”
“You want to go somewhere else?” He pushed his chair back. “Just say the word.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with—”
The waitress returned with drinks on a tray. She carefully placed a glass on the table in front of Kate, then set a bottle of Perrier next to it, along with a small bowl filled with lime wedges. In front of Patrick, she set a stemmed glass of amber brew.
“We have a few specials that aren’t on the menu tonight,” Marnie began.
“Could you come back in a few minutes?” Kate cut her off with a tense smile.
“Sure, not a problem.” The waitress darted a look between the two of them and left.
Kate turned to face Patrick, who had scooted closer to the table once more. He took a sip of his beer, avoiding her eyes. She didn’t know what his game was, but she refused to play. “I am not having dinner with you. We said goodbye last Saturday. It’s over between us.”
Patrick looked back at her, his silver eyes unreadable. “Jimmy thinks I should give it another try.”
“I don’t care what
“I think you’d better care, if you want him to become the father of my child.”
Kate opened her mouth to speak, but Patrick beat her to it.
“Have you noticed that we’ve done nothing but argue since I got back to town?” He ran a hand over his face, as if tired to the bone, and lowered his voice. “I have an idea. Why don’t we call a truce tonight? Set the clock back and pretend nothing’s changed.”
Kate sighed, infected by his weariness. “But everything
“I know, but you’ve had time to figure out what you want and adapt to it. I’ve had a week and a half. I’m only human. I’ve screwed up. I admit it. You’ve got to cut me some slack.”
Kate was silent a moment considering this, not wanting to feel sorry for him. “What exactly do you want from me?”
“Time.” He pushed his beer aside and leaned forward. “We keep saying we need to talk, but we never do. Something interrupts or we end up fighting. I just want some time together so we can figure out if we can make it work. We’ve been apart for months, Katie. Don’t you think we deserve a chance to get to know each another again?”
Kate avoided looking in his eyes, afraid that if she did, her heart might open to him just a little too far. “Time is something I don’t have, Patrick. There’s a baby on the way.”
He shook his head and laughed softly. “You are so predictable sometimes.” He reached across the table and took her hands. “You don’t need to plan every second of your life, Kate. That baby won’t be born for months. If I only ask for tonight, can’t you afford to give me that much?”
He stood and drew her to her feet. Quickly, he shucked the jacket and tie, then draped them over his chair. Tossing a twenty-dollar bill on the table for the waitress, he took Kate’s hand again and led her toward the door. “Do you have your car here?”
“No, Jimmy said he’d take me home. I caught a ride with Molly.”
Outside the club, Patrick gave his parking claim to the valet. He held her hand, but didn’t speak as they waited for the truck to be brought to the curb. A low growl sounded from her stomach.
“Hold on, Junior,” he said, patting her belly. “We’ll feed you soon.”
“Patrick, stop!” Kate blushed and ducked away from his hand.
The valet pulled up in the truck and Patrick handed Kate inside carefully. Seconds later they were on the road, headed out of town.
“Where are we going?”
“The Millside Inn. Hope you like great seafood.”
“Of course. Is it far?”
“No, just over on Mill Creek. About fifteen minutes away.”
“Good. I’m starving.”
Patrick laughed. “That makes three of us.”
As they rode in silence through the city and out into the suburbs, thoughts spun through Kate’s head. What was she doing with Patrick Berzani? Couldn’t she learn to say no to him? Tonight, she didn’t want to. She wanted to believe whatever he said. Once they crossed the bridge over the Severn River, the houses thinned out and trees shaded the road. Soon, they were turning onto an even smaller road, then into a gravel parking lot. Patrick squeezed his truck into a narrow spot at the end of a long line of cars.
“You’ll have to slide over and get out on my side.”
Kate did and Patrick lifted her out of the truck and down to the ground. He held her with both hands at her waist, gazing into her face. Kate’s hands were on his shoulders and she felt an overwhelming urge to slide them up and around his neck. She remembered how good his arms had felt wrapped around her at the picnic. Patrick stepped back before she could act on her impulse. Then he draped an arm around her shoulder and snuggled her up into his side. Slowly, she put her arm around his waist. She should push him away, but she didn’t.
The small, waterside restaurant was thronged with diners. An outside deck wrapped three sides. Umbrella-shaded tables packed the space there. Waitresses wove intricate patterns through the tables, trays of crabs held high overhead. “Maryland Blue Crab, our special of the day, every day” read a motto on the sign just inside the door. A hostess dressed in tight shorts, with hair as straight and stiff as a board, led them to a small table off to the side. Seconds later a waitress buzzed by their table.
“What’ll it be, hon,” she asked in a nasal twang.
“A glass of ice water for the lady, a Yuengling for me, and a dozen crabs with the works.”
“Youse want coleslaw or potato salad?”
“Both,” Patrick said.
The waitress nodded and scribbled on her pad. “Johnny! Set ’em up over here.”
Kate took in the view of Mill Creek, then of her companion seated across from her. “You’ve been here before.”
“We used to sail up here when I was a kid.” Patrick gestured to several sail and power boats bobbing at anchor. “It wasn’t this crowded, but almost. I don’t think the menu’s changed at all since then.”
Looking around at the crowds of people, Kate saw how her black cocktail dress clashed with all the shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits. Even Patrick’s polo shirt and khaki trousers looked formal. Still, no one gave them a second glance. Unlike the yacht club, people were here to have a good time and eat good food. They didn’t care who sat next to them or how they dressed.
A young man with a bleached-blond buzz cut came up to their table. “Crabs?” he asked.
Patrick nodded and leaned back to give him enough working room to spread a piece of heavy, brown butcher’s paper over the table. He creased the corners and taped them in place. Next came two sets of wooden mallets, crab crackers and a roll of paper towels on an upright spindle. The young man left without another word. Moments later, the waitress plunked two glasses on the table. Beer foamed over the edge of one and dampened the brown paper.
They took a sip of their drinks and food started to arrive. First, a tray of crabs which the waitress spilled out onto the paper. Steam rose from the shells crusted with Old Bay Seasoning. She spun away, but was back in seconds with salads, corn bread, corn on the cob and soft, hot dinner rolls.
Kate tore off a length of paper towel and tucked it into the neck of her dress. “I didn’t exactly wear proper attire for the occasion.”
Patrick picked up a crab and turned it over, exposing the pale underbelly. He deftly pulled up a section of the carapace, pulled off the top shell and split the thing in two. “How does one dress for eating crabs?” He shot her a smile, one dark eyebrow raised in question.
“In clothes that can be hosed down.” Kate cracked her own crab, sending juice splattering across the table and onto Patrick’s shirt. “Oops.”
He laughed and kept eating. “Watch out. Your turn might be next.”
The meal was messy and delicious. Soon, they were up to their wrists in Old Bay and crab juice. It was a far cry from the refined meal Kate had expected at the yacht club. Perhaps better. And she decided, as she laughed and talked with Patrick, that she was having a much better time, too. It was like other meals they had once shared, months ago, before life had gotten complicated. For once—for one night—she was going to do as Patrick suggested and enjoy herself and his company. So far, she was having no trouble doing that, none at all.
A gentle breeze blew across the table, setting tendrils of Kate’s hair dancing around her face. The busboy had cleared away the remains of dinner by simply folding the paper tablecloth in on itself and whisking the entire mess away. Now they sat sipping a second drink. The remnants of a dish of peach cobbler sat on the table between them. The crowd at the restaurant had thinned and it was quieter than before, but the pace would pick up again soon, judging by the band that was setting up inside.
Kate leaned her elbows on the table and looked out at the sparkling lights of the boats. Patrick’s eyes traced the delicate planes of her face. Long lashes concealed the darkness of her eyes. Those eyes, deep brown and sparkling, had held him captivated all evening. Her rosy lips tempted him to lean over the table and kiss them.
He let his gaze travel down to the plump curves of her breasts where they rose above the neckline of her dress. A necklace of twisted green and blue glass nestled in the notch there. Matching earrings swung above, revealed by her upswept hair. His fingers itched to delve into the golden mass, pull the pins loose and send it tumbling down around her shoulders. His heart wanted to forget about their differences and bask in this moment forever.
Kate looked back at him and smiled. “This was fantastic. Better than the yacht club. Thank you for bringing me here.”
“Thank you for not walking out on me at the club.”
A slight flush rose in her cheeks and she looked away. “It crossed my mind.”
Patrick smiled. “I know. You handled the surprise well.” Beneath the tabletop, he clenched and unclenched his fists in indecision. “Why is it—” He stopped, uncertain that he wanted to continue.
“Why is what?”
He took a drink of beer and set the glass down carefully. Kate kept looking at him, a quizzical gleam in her eyes, but he avoided her gaze. One wrong question could lead to another argument, and that was the last thing he wanted right now. They were at peace tonight and he wanted to keep it that way.
“What, Patrick?” she asked again, touching his hand lightly.
Catching her fingers in his, he laced them together. Jimmy had given him this chance. He had to take some risk. “Why is it so important that I’m around all the time?” he asked, locking his eyes on hers.
“A child needs a father, Patrick,” she said quietly.
“Agreed, but there’s more to it, isn’t there?”
She looked away, out over the water.
“Tell me, Katie,” he urged. “I need to understand.”
She sat still for a long time, drinking in the silence. When she looked back at him, her face seemed sad. “I suppose I don’t want my child to miss her father the way I missed mine.” She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“Why was he gone? His job?”
“It was more like his whole life.” She shifted restlessly.
“What did he do?”
“He had a business. Still does. I guess you would call him a corporate raider.”
“Like in the movies?”
Kate shook her head, chuckling a little. “A bit like that. Maybe not so exciting or sinister. Just a little sleazy. He buys companies that aren’t doing so well, installs his own management team, fires some people, hires others and turns the company around and sells it.”
“You don’t sound too enamored with his methods.”
“I’m not. A lot of people get hurt in the process.”
“But isn’t he ultimately helping people? I mean, if the company is doing badly and he makes improvements, that’s better in the long run, right?”
“That’s one way of looking at it, but it seldom works that way. Basically, my dad’s in it for the money. He doesn’t care about the people involved.” Kate took a sip of her water. “I doubt he ever lost sleep over any of the people he fired or the careers he might have ruined.”
“He doesn’t sound like a very nice guy.”
“He isn’t. At best, he’s a charming opportunist. Corporate
is not a term of affection,” she added drily.
“And his work came first. Family second.”
“Or third or fourth. I’m not sure. He lived in his Lear. We saw him on the occasional holiday and the odd weekend when we flew out to wherever he was.”
“That must have been fun, traveling all over the place.”
“Mmm. I can describe the decor in some of the finest hotels in the country. No. The traveling was boring. My mother worshipped him. She made us wait around for him in between meetings. We couldn’t leave the hotel because,
what if he was free and wanted to see his precious children,
” she finished, her eyes wide in a parody of a concerned mother.
“He didn’t spoil you?”
Kate turned her water glass around and around. “Oh, we had everything. Everything except a father who was there to hold your hand, pick you up when you fell. The sort of things fathers are supposed to do. I tried to be daddy’s little girl, but trying to get his attention drained me. My brother never gave up. I think his first words were ‘Watch this, Daddy.’”
“Wait a minute, you have a brother?” Patrick was surprised. “Where does he live?”
“He doesn’t live anywhere,” Kate said quietly. “He died four years ago.”
Patrick squeezed the hand he still held. “I’m sorry, Katie.”
“So am I.” Her mouth lifted in a slight smile, but her eyes shimmered with tears. She sighed and looked away.
She shook her head and kept her face turned toward the water, as though she was avoiding his gaze.
She darted a glance at him, then looked back at the boats again. Her fingers squeezed his, then she drew her hand away. “His death was senseless and stupid. I’d rather not talk about it. Please? Not tonight. We’re supposed to be enjoying each other.”
Patrick watched her closely while she kept staring out at the boats as if they fascinated her. Whatever had happened was a key to her fears but, for tonight, too painful to unlock. He filed his question away for later.
The band started up with a blare of guitars backed by the deep bass throb of drums. The lead singer swung into “Old Time Rock and Roll,” drawing everyone’s attention, even Kate’s. Couples piled onto the dance floor. Lights flashed and bodies twirled to the beat. Patrick noticed her body sway to the rhythm. Her fingers tapped on the table. Some of the sadness lifted from her face.
He stood and held out his hand to her. “Come on. Let’s dance.”
Kate looked up at him, her eyes startled. “Really?” Her smile chased the rest of the pain from her eyes. “Yes, I’d love to.”
Patrick led her inside, weaving his way through the mass of bodies to a tiny spot of clear space on the dance floor. The music and the energy of the other dancers infected them. Kate moved her hips to the bass and sang along to every word. When she laughed aloud, her dark eyes shining up at him, Patrick shared her delight.
One song segued into another and another. Kate spun and twirled, bopped and shook. Patrick did his best to match her, but was often content just watching her. She looked so happy. And irresistible. For the first time since he had come back home, he was seeing her without shadows.
Finally, the band swept into a slow number. Kate flowed into his arms like a gentle river. He closed his eyes and drew her close, then closer still. Her arms encircled his neck, fingers lightly stroking over the back of his head, playing with the hair at his nape. Patrick pressed a kiss to the side of her throat. He felt rather than heard the laugh of pleasure she made.
She felt so good. He wanted to go on holding her forever. Her scent filled his head, warmed by the heat of her dancing. Pressed this close to her, he could feel the bulge of their child. Easily, as if he had done it a hundred times before, his hands slipped down her back to her hips, pulling her—them—into the protection of his body. Kate rocked against him slowly, driving him completely crazy. The song ended and she slipped away, leaving him burning for another chance to hold her. They danced through another fast one before Kate took his hand. He let her lead him back outside to their table, into the evening air that cooled his cheeks.
She sat down with a breathless laugh, then picked up her glass of water for a long drink. Her delight was evident. Her eyes were shining and a flush filled her cheeks.
“I haven’t done this in forever.” She smiled at him and reached out a hand. “I’m having a great time.”
“We ought to do this more often.” The tone was light, but Patrick meant every word.
A few minutes later, he tugged her to her feet once more. “Let’s do it again.”
He danced her through more songs, drinking in her laughter and the sight of her sensuously shifting body. When the band started another slow song, Patrick took Kate into his arms. He pulled back enough to look into her eyes before slowly lowering his mouth to hers. The fire was instantaneous. But it wasn’t enough. He needed more of her than he could get on a dance floor.
He trailed kisses to her ear. “Let’s get out of here.”
When he lifted his head to look at her, Kate’s eyes were half-lidded, desire plain on her face. This time, he led her back to their table, snagging the waitress along the way. When she brought the credit-card slip, Patrick added a tip and scribbled his signature. Finally, they threaded their way through the crowd. In the parking lot, Patrick pulled Kate close as they walked.
Once again, they were silent on the drive to her house, only this time anticipation kept them from speaking. Patrick held one of her hands, brushing a thumb over her wrist. In her strong pulse he felt the beat of his own heart.
He parked behind her house and helped her out of the truck cab. When he lifted her down, she let her hands slide up over his shoulders and around his neck. She stretched up on tiptoe as his mouth descended to hers. Their lips met in a greedy, hungry kiss.
The scent, taste, feel of this woman in Patrick’s arms nearly overwhelmed him. He couldn’t seem to touch her enough. His hands stroked over her back, her filmy dress the slightest barrier to his touch. He caressed down to her bottom and back up, relearning every dip and curve that he had once known so well. Heart pounding, his body tightened. Every nerve seemed afire.
He slipped a hand between them and cupped one breast gently. When he stroked a thumb over her nipple, she moaned. He kissed his way across her jaw to her ear, savoring the feel of her silky skin under his lips. The perfume she wore teased his nose, making him want to explore all the places where the wonderful scent might hide. Nibbling gently, he followed the column of her throat down to the plump flesh he cradled, then blazed a trail of kisses just above the frilled edge of her dress.
Kate gasped and tightened her hands on his shoulders. She pressed against him, arching herself into him. “Please, Patrick.” Her voice was soft and aching with need.
He said nothing, but caught her lips in another hard kiss.
“More,” she whispered. Her eyes met his in the darkness, gleaming with urgency. “I need all of you. Now.”
With her words, Patrick’s restraint snapped. He pulled her close and their mouths fused together in a kiss that re-kindled all the passion they had snuffed for months. He thrust his fingers into Kate’s hair, holding her head still for his plundering. The pins anchoring her hair in place scattered to the ground and the silken, scented mass tumbled over her shoulders.
With a groan, he lifted his mouth from hers. “Let’s go inside.”
Kate nodded. When she stumbled a little on the steps, Patrick picked her up and carried her to the door. There, he slid her down his body, pressing her against the panel and bringing both hands up to cup her breasts. Fabric impeded his touch too much now, so he reached around and unzipped her dress enough to pull the shoulder straps down. She wasn’t wearing a bra. Pale flesh glimmered in the porch light and Patrick couldn’t help staring at her beauty. Reverently, he held her breasts in his palms. The nipples were larger than he remembered, a deeper pink than before.
Kate gasped at the first touch of his hands on her skin. “Oh, Patrick.”
“Does it hurt?”
“No,” she whispered, laying her head back on the door panels. “It feels like I’m on fire.”
Patrick swallowed hard. He bent his head and kissed each rosy bud before looking into her face once more. Kate’s eyes were half-closed and a smile played upon her lips. If he hadn’t known she only drank water that night, he would have thought she was drunk.
“I want to make love to you, Katie. Can I?” He splayed a hand over the bulge of her belly, hidden by the gauzy skirt of her dress. “Can
Slipping her arms around his neck again, Kate stood on tiptoe and brushed her mouth against his. “Yes, Patrick. Yes to all your questions.”
NLOCKING THE DOOR
and stepping into the dark house, Kate felt Patrick follow her inside. He closed the door behind him and placed a kiss on the back of her neck. Her dress still gaped open in the back, so he trailed his mouth down her spine, unzipping and baring more of her skin as he went. Once the dress was completely unzipped, the fabric slipped to the floor, pooling at her feet to expose her stockings, lacy panties and high-heeled shoes.
Patrick groaned. “You’re killing me.”
Kate laughed, low and seductively.
His hands came around and he pulled her back against his chest. “Don’t tell me you dressed like this for
” He sounded jealous.
“I didn’t intend for anyone to see this,” Kate reassured him, leaning her head back onto his shoulder as he fondled her breasts. She had thought that, being pregnant, she would be indifferent to sex. And with her stomach growing larger every day, she should feel fat, but when Patrick ran his hands over the bulge, all she really felt was sexy and filled with desire for more.
His hands dipped lower, slipped inside her panties and his fingers touched her lightly, delicately. She couldn’t believe how good it felt. In an instant, before she knew what was happening, she felt an orgasm rush through her in a burst of power. She laughed, then sobbed, all the time shaking from the intensity.