She would be Logan’s dream girl, if his dark past had left him with any dreams. Now the brooding bachelor’s only hope is to satisfy his mother’s dying wish to see him happily paired off—and give lovely Tess the baby she longs for. But when he and Tess opt to make a baby the old-fashioned way, he’s fighting hard against the longing to hold on to the elusive Harrison beauty forever . . .
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Tess Harrison surveyed the festive scene around her. It was Christmas Day, and over sixty relatives were celebrating at her father's enormous estate. The mansion, set atop a hill on hundreds of acres beside the Long Island Sound, was filled with the sights and sounds of a picturesque holiday gathering. The grand main living room was decorated elegantly, beautifully, as the staff did every year. No lights — that would be gauche — but red ribbons, garland, holly, and faux white candles made the whole ground floor look like something straight out of a Christmas movie. Bright flames crackled and popped in the enormous stone fireplace, and the eight-foot-tall tree stood majestically in the corner. That did have white lights, and decorative ornaments that went back four generations. Tess suppressed a yawn. She was officially over the holidays.
She cradled her china cup of eggnog and watched her eldest brother, Charles, and his wife, Lisette, sit together on one of the longer sofas as they played with their infant daughter, Charlotte. Tess adored her newest niece, and had spent a lot of time with her. Bonding with that baby had wakened things in Tess she hadn't known existed. Now five months old, the dark-haired cherub squealed as Charles's strong arms raised Charlotte up, then back down to kiss her sweet face, over and over, as Lisette smiled brightly at his side. They'd married in May, and the love they shared was tangible. Tess was so glad for them. But oh, how she adored that little girl. Every time Charlotte squeaked, she felt it in her core. Such pure love, such pure joy.
Across from them, Tess's middle brother, Dane, and his wife, Julia, sat together leisurely and smiled along as they watched too. The baby's giggles were infectious, and everyone around Charlotte was under her spell. Tess relaxed against the lush cushions of the armchair and sipped her drink. She loved all four of Charles's kids deeply; they'd brought the kind of light to her life that only children could.
She longed for that kind of light in her life, the kind that children brought.
Charles's three older children from his first marriage sat huddled in the far corner of the room, playing hand-held video games with some other cousins close to their age. The youngest Harrison, Pierce, and his wife, Abby, were absent, and Tess felt it keenly. But Pierce would rather die than spend a family holiday with their father, and gladly went to Abby's family for every major holiday. Tess couldn't fault him for that, given the tumultuous history, but she still missed her baby brother.
At least Pierce and Abby had been at Charles's house the night before. Charles always hosted Christmas Eve, and it had been a lovely gathering. Only twenty people, only closest family, with the exception of the Harrison patriarch ... which was why it was a lovely gathering. No vitriol, no stress, no walking on eggshells waiting to see who'd fire the first verbal shot that would kick off a horrible fight. Last night had been even more special, though, as Pierce and Abby — who'd just been married in a lavish ceremony in August — shared their surprise news: Abby was pregnant. They'd only found out a few days before and were bursting with it. It was a lot sooner than they'd planned, but they were excited and their joy was palpable. Tess was thrilled for them.
She sipped her eggnog again and gazed at the Christmas tree. The lights blurred as she zoned out and slipped deeper into her thoughts. More than anything, she wanted a baby of her own. There was no reason that she couldn't make it happen. She was thirty-seven, healthy, wealthy ... but she lacked a candidate for the father. She had always believed in love, and been deeply in love twice in her life. The second time, she'd come close ... and then had to break her engagement after being betrayed. In the years since then, she'd hoped to find someone else, but she knew the truth of it: she didn't trust enough to open her heart that completely again. She dated perfectly nice men, and some not so nice ... none were a father-to-her-future-children candidate.
And over the last few months, spending time with Charlotte had driven it home more than ever: she wanted children of her own, and time was ticking away.
By Thanksgiving, she'd decided to take matters into her own hands. She had the means, so why not? This was one of the times that being born into a ridiculously wealthy family, along with making her own strong and vital career, gave her benefits and options that other single mothers didn't have. And while a part of her wanted to talk about it with her brothers ... most of her wanted to keep it to herself until she was actually pregnant. They'd all have something to say, and for once, she didn't want to hear it if it was negative. Not from any of them.
"Hey, Tesstastic." Dane's jovial voice interrupted her thoughts. "You sure Julia and I can't convince you to spend a few days with us in Cancun?"
Tess smiled but shook her head. "You're both sweet to ask, but I don't need to be a third wheel during your three-week jaunt in paradise."
"Don't be ridiculous," Dane scoffed. "You're no such thing."
"Colin is coming for the whole second week," Julia pointed out. Her grown son from her first marriage was a quiet, kind young man. "We won't be alone. He's not worried about being a third wheel."
"He's twenty-four," Tess reminded them. "He's not worried because he'll be at the bars and clubs every night trying to pick up women, I'm sure."
"God, I hope so," Julia said. "But it's not a good reason for you not to come too. Come on, who wants to be in New York in January? It's miserable. Come down for a week."
"Again, I thank you both," Tess said. "But I ... have plans of my own. They would overlap."
"You do?" Dane arched a brow. "Why didn't you just say so?"
"I tried, brother dear." A grin tugged at the corners of Tess's lips. "You keep asking anyway. Which is sweet, but ..."
"I think I smell a deflection tactic," Dane said.
"I think you should leave her be," Charles piped in. Lisette bit down on her lip.
"It's so wrong that I want my sister to have some fun?" Dane asked him.
"Of course not," Tess said.
"You just finished months of hard work, pulling off another massively successful Harrison Foundation Holiday Ball," Dane said to her. "You need a real vacation. To go somewhere and be pampered. I offered to make that happen, since you don't do it enough for yourself. Sue me."
Tess rolled her eyes at her big brother. "I love you too, you big nag."
"I'm a nag now?" Dane put his hand to his chest. "You wound me!" They all snorted out laughter.
Tess had had enough of this conversation. She rose to her feet and swept her long curtain of curls back over her shoulders. "I'm getting more eggnog," she said. "Anyone want some?"
The four of them murmured various forms of "no thanks," and she crossed the room to the cavernous crystal bowl that held enough lightly spiked eggnog for a small village.
Tess couldn't help but smile to herself as she refilled her mug. Charles, Dane, and Pierce weren't just her brothers, they were some of her closest friends. They were incredibly devoted to and protective of her, and she counted on them as much as they all counted on her. After all, she'd spent years watching over the three of them. When their parents split up and their mother left home over two decades before, as the only female left in the family, Tess had slowly but surely slipped into the role of mother hen. Some of it was a conscious decision, some of it wasn't. She never minded — her brothers needed her, even when they didn't realize it, and she was all too happy to provide crucial emotional support. She was a caring person, with so much love to give — who better to lavish it on than her own siblings, who needed it so desperately?
But they were all fine now. Grown men, they'd all eventually found their place in the world, especially now that they had the help of good women who loved them and believed in them. Tess was grateful beyond words that she genuinely liked her three sisters-in-law. Charles, Dane, and Pierce were strong men, but pairing with women like Lisette, Julia, and Abby had truly completed them. They had all built, or were building, their own families, and didn't need Tess's pseudo-mothering like they had before.
And Tess found herself feeling like something was missing. Despite that she had adoring siblings and family, good friends, a fulfilling career running the Harrison Foundation, the family's massive nonprofit organization ... maybe it was the holidays and the slight melancholy that could sometimes accompany the season, but for months she hadn't been able to deny the basic facts: She was creeping up on forty, she wanted a baby, and she'd somehow have to get that done on her own.
She considered herself to be a positive, upbeat person. A woman who accomplished things, took the lead, and knew how to get things done — she didn't wait around and let life happen to her. Why should having a baby be any different than her other goals and successes? That thought had churned in her head for too long. It was time to take her future into her own hands. She was ready.
"How's my best girl?" Her father's confident baritone sounded behind her.
She turned to him with a fake smile. "Great, Dad. Hope you're having a nice Christmas?"
"I am," he said. "Thank you again for the painting. What a special gift."
"I'm glad you like it," she said as he kissed her cheek. She'd been able to find a small Picasso piece that she knew he'd love to add to his impressive collection, and called in a favor from an acquaintance in Paris to make it happen.
"You're very thoughtful, as always." There was the tiniest shift in his gaze, but Tess knew him so well, she steeled herself. "So. Charles tells me that Pierce got Abby pregnant already. I guess expecting my youngest son to call me himself with that kind of news is too much to hope for, eh?"
"Dad." Tess touched his arm with her free hand. "He only told us last night. They only found out last week."
"So? He told you all last night. He could've called to tell me, or to say 'Merry Christmas,' anytime since then. He hasn't. Yet another intentional snub."
"Did you call him to say 'Merry Christmas'?" Tess asked.
Caught, Charles II scowled and sipped his drink.
"I thought not." She gentled her voice to soften the blow, but looked her father right in the eye as she said, "You blew that relationship sky-high two years ago. You attacked him and Abby both. You did that."
"There were two of us in that fight," Charles II reminded her, an angry edge to his voice. "But everyone always holds only me responsible."
"And they had their big, elaborate wedding," Charles II barreled on, "and I was shunned! Not even invited to my own son's wedding, purposely kept away, unwelcome. That was disgraceful."
She was tired of this argument that always remained unresolved. "I'm not going to get into all this with you now," Tess said. Her tone was mild, but her words were firm. "I refuse. It's Christmas."
He nodded curtly, lips pursed, but grunted, "Fine."
Tess knew he wouldn't push it with her then, not with the room filled with extended family on such a major holiday. Since the heart attack last year, at least he'd softened that much. "I'm sorry you're upset. Just be happy for them. Send a nice gift when the baby's born. Who, by the way, will be your fifth grandchild."
Charles scowled. "Pierce will likely keep me away from that child, you know."
Tess sighed. He was right, of course. But she said, "Maybe by then, if you try and are truly invested, you can attempt to make things better with Pierce somehow."
Her father snorted derisively. "That stubborn ass will never have it. He holds grudges; it's one of the few things we have in common. And now he's going to be a father?" Charles II huffed out a laugh. "Good luck to that baby."
A split second of ire made her stomach twist. Her younger brother was a good man, in spite of what her father had said, done, or still thought. "Merry Christmas," she said, and turned her back on her father to cross the room, back to the safe haven of her older brothers.
She shook off the irritation as she walked. Starting his usual crap on Christmas? His problem, not hers. Pierce had completely shunned him, as he'd said. Charles and Dane still talked to him, showed up at family occasions and the like, but both had withdrawn considerably. She was the only one of the four siblings who still tried to maintain a good relationship with their difficult father. Times like this, she wondered why. Why was she still being the dutiful daughter after all these years? She did love her father, but she didn't like him. It'd been a habit she hadn't been able to break, borne from a sense of duty, even though it led to frustration more often than satisfaction.
As she retook her seat with her brothers and sisters-in-law, someone turned on Christmas music, likely a member of her father's household staff. A classical arrangement of "Silent Night" played softly, Charlotte let out a high-pitched peal of delight as her father lifted her over his head once again, the adults around them smiled and laughed, voices of others rose in a low but merry cacophony. Charles smiled broadly and dropped tiny kisses all over his baby's face, and she squealed and wiggled in delight. A pang hit Tess's heart, and she suddenly felt tears sting the backs of her eyes. She looked around at the heartwarming scene ... she thought of her own dreams for a family ... God, she wanted that. She didn't want to spend another Christmas aching and wishing for a child of her own.
Something clicked inside her, soft but sure. Now. Do it now. Go for it. What are you waiting for?
Adrenaline and excitement and a deep sense of knowing all whooshed through her, almost leaving her breathless.
"I'm leaving," she blurted out.
Charles and Lisette hadn't heard her, but Dane and Julia's heads swiveled to look at her. "What?" Dane asked, as if he hadn't heard her correctly.
"Why?" Julia asked, her hazel eyes narrowing to study Tess. "Are you feeling okay?" "I'm fine. But I'm leaving. As in, leaving New York," Tess said, only formulating the plan as the words poured from her mouth. She'd been thinking of it for weeks, but something now prodded at her, pushed up from inside, and flooded out. "I'm going away for a while. I need to go. So I am."
All eyes were on her now, rounded with shock. Dane gaped, his mouth an O of surprise. Charles stared hard at his sister as Lisette gently took their baby from his hands. "What's going on, Tess?" he asked softly, as if talking to a wounded animal.
Tess set her cup on the nearby end table before turning back to them. Again she swept the heavy mass of her long curls over her shoulders. Her heart rate was climbing, but now that she'd said the words, they made more sense than anything had in a long time. "I need to be by myself for a little while. To change things up. So I'm going to go to Aspen, and stay at the house there. You'll be in Cancun for most of January," she said to Dane, "and you'll be at the Palm Beach house for two weeks," she said to Charles. "So neither of you will be using the ski house. I am. I'm just letting you all know."
Dane made a sound that sounded like sputtering.
"Why is this the first we're hearing of it?" Charles asked.
"Umm, because I don't have to report to anyone," Tess replied evenly.
"I didn't mean to insinuate that, and you know it," Charles said, shifting forward in his seat. His eyes, the bright marine blue they'd all inherited from their mother, were now focused like lasers on Tess. "If you need to take a break, of course you should. I'm just surprised."
"Ten minutes ago, we were talking about Cancun, and you didn't even mention it." Dane was equally focused on her, studying her as if sensing something was off. "So yeah, this seems like it's coming out of nowhere."
"And if it is?" Tess inquired sharply. "So what?"
"You guys are acting like her parents," Julia remarked. "Might want to take it down a notch."
"She's right," Lisette said, bouncing Charlotte on her knees.
"We are not," Charles said, but it came out weak with recognition.
Dane kept staring at his sister. "How long will you be gone?"
"I'm not sure," Tess admitted. But she knew what she really wanted to do, so why not do it? Throw herself into researching sperm donors, in vitro, whatever it would take to help her have the baby she so desperately wanted. Be away from stress and prying eyes, cleanse her body and mind ... "At least two months, I think. Until the end of February, probably? Maybe more. I'll see."
Excerpted from "Between You and Me"
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Gracen.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
## Stellar read. I have been looking forward to Tess' story and it did not disappoint. I love how Jennifer wrote her character. Fierce, capable, kind, playful, strong, caring, and so honest. AND beautiful to boot. Very cool. I wish authors would write more heroines like this. Hero and heroine had amazing chemistry. I love that we got to read actual conversations between them; that it wasn't just summed up. Thanks Jennifer for such a complete ending as well. My only complaint was the hero mentioning "we're just friends" about 100 times. And I do wish the cover had matched their descriptions. That's always a good start. Other than that, perfection.
4.5 star review of Between You and Me (The Harrisons #4) by Jennifer Gracen Jennifer Gracen is a relatively new author to me and although I have not read the previous books in The Harrison series, I had no trouble diving in to Between You and Me. Being the only girl, Tess tends to be a tad spoilt, never seeking the limelight, she is content to be in her brother’s shadows. Tess desperately wants a baby and with this in mind, turns to the man who has agreed to make her dream come true. Logan Carter is the manager of the Harrison ski house and he offers his services in exchange for her playing his girlfriend so that his dying mother is secure in the knowledge that he will not be alone when she dies. It’s a win/win for both of them ? Or is it? Complications arise when the purely physical relationship evolves into so much more when intense feelings develop. Will Logan and Tess decide to take a chance on love or will they ignore their feelings? One click to find out as this book had me drawn in from the very first page. This was a really enjoyable read, so much so that I am going to go and get the previous books in the series to read.
I was really looking forward to Tess’s story, and Ms. Gracen certainly didn’t disappoint. As the only female in the Harrison brood, she’s been sister, mother, friend, and confidant to her brothers. Now it’s finally her turn to have a life, and find a little bit of the happiness that’s always seemed to elude her. To her, that means a baby. Enter Logan Carter, the hottie who caretakes the family ski lodge in Aspen. He’s got all kinds of issues, but there’s such a great guy under all that angst it’s impossible not to see how perfect they are for each other. As complicated as it would be for them to open themselves up to each other under normal circumstances, the baby issue makes it ten times more complicated, and ten times more fun to read. Like all of the Harrisons books, this one gets a huge two thumbs-up from me!
An awesome read. Love the Harrisons, and to finally get Tess's story, it so worth the wait. As the only daughter in the family, she has always played mother hen, now it is her turn. Tess has one thing on her mind, to have a baby of her own. She doesn't want a husband. She goes out to the family home in Aspen to get this accomplished when she meets up with Logan Carter, the manger of their home. They soon strike up a friendship, when Tess decides he would be the perfect donor. Logan is not into relationships and the last thing he wants is a child but he is willing to help Tess in her project. It soon becomes apparent that this plan brings in more than baby making as the friendship develops into so much more. Logan is also dealing with a sick mother. This is a book that I could not put down. I will admit that I did shed a few tears while reading. Loved Tess, a strong willed independent woman. Logan just makes your heart melt. I highly recommend this book!
4.5 ENTHUSIASTIC STARS! I’ve been waiting impatiently for Tess’s story (aka “Tesstastic”) since I first met her back in 2015 in MORE THAN YOU KNOW (The Harrisons #1), and met her again in SOMEONE LIKE YOU and ‘TIS THE SEASON (The Harrisons #2 and #3). But…I saved BETWEEN YOU AND ME (The Harrisons #4) for a long drive to and from Phoenix, and what I knew would be a highly stressful day, specifically because I was confident Jennifer Gracen would take me away to the world she created. I wasn’t disappointed. The hours slipped by as I eagerly turned the pages, and I hated having to put the book aside from time to time as I dealt with what I had to deal with. But as soon as I finished each task, I dove right back into the book. I loved Tess’s determination to create the family she longed for, and the way she went about it. I adored the relationship between Tess and Logan, between Logan and his mom, Annmarie, as well as the relationship between Tess and Annmarie. And I couldn’t help but chuckle over Tess’s relationship with her brothers, and how she dealt with their overprotectiveness. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s not a slapstick comedy. There were a few emotionally wrenching moments, but thankfully the book didn’t dwell on them and drag me into depression. BETWEEN YOU AND ME is filled with humor and heart—my favorite kind of romance. The best thing about this book is its characters’ imperfections. These could be people I know, and I shared their joys and sorrows from the get go. The twists and turns the story took were enough so I was never confident what would happen next, and yet there was a warm and fuzzy overall feel, a likeability quotient that kept me hopeful. I needed an enjoyable escape, and in BETWEEN YOU AND ME Jennifer Gracen delivered in spades. I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Blessings are not found in the possessions we have, but in the people we love and the memories we make. Tess has wealth and family, but is finding it hard to obtain the one thing she wants. To be a mother. Can a rash decision and a brooding loner be the answer to her long waiting dreams? Between You and Me paves a sentimental, yet realistic road to the center of the heart with angsty romance and emotional fulfilling characters.