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"You're a lifesaver," Cassidy Franzone said as she opened her front door.
At thirty-four weeks pregnant, she needed food when she wanted it. She was single and fine with that. She'd made the choice to have her baby on her own, but she hated going out in Charleston's August heat to pick up her favorite she-crab soup if she didn't have to.
Her father had put his employees at her disposal. If she needed anything, no matter what time of day it was, someone on the staff at Franzone Waste Management was available.
The man standing in the doorway wasn't her father's employee. In fact, he was the father of her child.
Cassidy gaped at Donovan Tolley. He was still the most attractive man she'd ever seen. His thick hair hair she'd loved to run her fingers throughlifted in the warm summer breeze. His designer clothes were tailored perfectly to his framenot for vanity's sake, but because he liked quality.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. She hoped that she sounded nonchalant, as if the reason was not important, but she couldn't help but cover her stomach with one arm protectively. How had Donovan found out that she was pregnant? Or had he?
Maybe it was the fact that she was so hungry, or maybe it had just been so longalmost eight months, to be exactsince she'd seen him. But she felt a sting of tears in the back of her eyes as Donovan smiled at her.
"Can I come in? I don't want to talk to you in the doorway." He seemed a bit dazed. As he pushed his sunglasses up to the top of his head she saw in his eyes that he was busy processing her pregnancy.
"What do you want to talk about?" she asked. What if he didn't believe he was the father of her child? What exactly did he want? And why the hell was she still attracted to this man after he'd broken her heart and left her alone for almost eight months?
He eyed her belly and arched one eyebrow. "Your pregnancy, for starters."
She hadn't told Donovan that she was pregnant with his child, but then again he'd made his views on children quite clear when he'd made his rather businesslike marriage proposal to her. "I know everything I need to about how you feel about kids."
"I'm not so sure about that. Invite me in, Cassidy. I need to talk to you. And I'm not going away."
She hesitated. She would have shut the door on any other man, but then she wouldn't be pregnant with any other man's child. Donovan was the only man she'd ever loved. Still, she didn't need this kind of tension right now.
She was hungry, the baby was moving around and she wasn't exactly sure she wanted to send Donovan on his way. That wasn't like her. She'd always been very decisive, but lately she hadn't been herself.
She felt a bit faint, probably due to the heat. She made up her mind to send Donovan away. She'd deal with him after the baby was born, when she had her act together.
A late-model black-windowed Mercedes pulled into her driveway and Cassidy smiled. Finally her food was here.
"Got your soup, Ms. Cassidy."
"Thank you, Jimmy," she said as the young man handed her a brown bag. He nodded at her as she took the bag and then he left.
Donovan smiled. "Crab Shack?"
She nodded. She always tried not to focus on the fact that the soup she loved so much came from the place where she and Donovan had eaten at least once a week while they'd been together. The Crab Shack was a famous Charleston institution.
"I'll keep you company while you eat," he said.
"I don't think so. We can talk later this week. I'll call your assistant."
"I'm not leaving, Cassidy."
"Are you going to force your way into my house?" she asked.
"No," he said, bracing one arm on the door frame and leaning in over her. "You're going to invite me in."
His cologne was one-of-a-kind, made for him by an exclusive perfumery in France, and at this moment she really hated that company because Donovan smelled so good. The scent reminded her of the many times she'd lain cuddled close to his side with her head on his chest.
"Cassidy, baby, please let me in," he said, leaning closer so that his words were more of a whisper.
Everything feminine inside of her went nuts. Her breasts felt fuller and her nipples tightened against the fabric of her bra. Her skin felt more sensitive, her lips dry. She wet them with her tongue and saw his eyes narrow as he watched her.
"Is there anything I can do to convince you to go away?"
"No. I've missed you, Cassidy, and leaving is the last thing I want to do."
She hated the little thrill she got when he said he'd missed her. She tried to be nonchalant when she stepped back so that he could enter her house.
Donovan closed the front door behind them and she hesitated in the foyer of her own home. She should have never let him back into her house. She wasn't going to be able to keep any kind of distance between them. Face-to-face with Donovan again, all she could think about was sex. About being back in his arms one last time. Her hormones had been going crazy throughout her pregnancy, and once again they came rushing to the fore. She wanted this man. She hadn't even tried dating in the last eight months, though a few brave guys had asked her out. She didn't want anyone but Donovan.
She led the way to the first floor screened-in porch. It overlooked the wooded area behind her house, and with its tall ceilings and the shade provided by the nearby oak and magnolia trees, it was a cool refuge from the heat.
"Can I get you a beer or tea?" she asked.
"Beer would be great," he said.
She set her soup on the table and went to the wet bar to get Donovan's beer. He liked Heineken, same as she did. Though she hadn't had a beer since she'd gotten pregnant, she still kept her refrigerator stocked for when her brothers and friends visited.
She grabbed a bottle of Pellegrino for herself and came back to the table. Donovan stood up and held her chair for her. The gentlemanly courtesy was one he had always performed, and she appreciated it. That was one of the things that had always set Donovan apart from other men. She thanked him and sat down.
Food suddenly became unimportant as she realized the man she loved was sitting there next to her. She had to clasp her hands in her lap to keep from reaching out to touch him. To keep from leaning across the table and making sure he was really there.
"How are you, Cassidy?" he asked.
"Good. I haven't had any complications from the pregnancy." She was twenty-eight years old and in great shape thanks to a lifetime of exercise and eating right. The baby was healthy, something that she sometimes fancied was due to the fact that she and Donovan had been so much in love when he'd been conceived. But she knew that was her imagination running away with her.
"Are you?" she asked, trying for sarcasm but guessing she'd sounded a bit pleased that he was concerned about her health.
"Yes." He leaned back in his chair. "Why didn't you tell me about the baby? I'm assuming the baby is mine."
She suspected he knew she wasn't interested in any other man. She hadn't hidden her feelings for him when they were together.
"Yes, it is yours. I didn't tell you because it didn't seem like the type of information you'd be interested in."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Just that if something doesn't involve Tolley-Patterson Manufacturing or any of your other business interests, you usually don't pay much attention to it."
"I paid attention to you," he said.
"When there wasn't a crisis at one of your companies, sure, you did pay attention to me."
But she had always been aware that his position as executive vice president at Tolley-Patterson, the company his family owned, was the most important thing in Donovan's life. He was also consumed by his other business interests, and with increasing his holdings. He co-owned a sporting goods company with his former college roommate, and he had an interest in an island resort on Tobago with a friend from his boarding-school days. For a while his constant focus on business hadn't mattered. But during the last few months, while they'd been apart, she'd come to realize she had sold herself short in their relationship.
Donovan had always been obsessed with proving there was more to him than just his trust fund. And she wasn't interested in competing for his attention again. Getting over Donovan had been hard. The hardest thing she'd ever gone through. She'd thought she wasn't going to recover at first, and when she'd gotten confirmation that she was pregnant with his child, she'd made up her mind that the baby was the reason she'd been brought into Donovan's life. His child would be the one on whom she'd pour all the love that he'd never really wanted from her.
But now he was back, and she had this tingly excitement in the pit of her stomach that made her hope he might be back for good.
And that scared her more than facing the future alone.
"What does that comment mean? I never ignored you when we were together."
Donovan was still trying to process the fact that Cassidy was having his baby. He couldn't believe his good fortune in finding her pregnant. He'd come here today to ask her to marry him again, to convince her that he'd changed his mind about family. And he had to do it without revealing the circumstances that had brought him to her doorstep today.
Donovan had forgotten how truly beautiful Cassidy was. Her skin was like porcelain, fine and pale, and her hair was rich and thick. He knew from experience how soft it felt against his skin. Her lips were full, and though she didn't have lipstick on, they were a perfect deep pink colorthe exact same shade as her nipples. God, he wanted to forget about talking and just draw her into his arms and kiss her. How he'd missed her mouth
His body hardened and he adjusted his legs, trying to quell his erection. He'd never thought of pregnant women as sensual before, but there was something about seeing Cassidy's lush body filled out with his child.
"Only because I knew that you needed to be at work twelve hours a day and on weekends
I didn't make a lot of demands on your time," she said.
It took a moment for her words to register, because he'd been watching her mouth and wondering
if he leaned over and kissed her, would she kiss him back?
But then the words registered and he realized that she probably wasn't in the mood to be kissed. She was busy focusing on all the reasons they were no longer together. And he needed to get her thinking about why they should be again.