I Love How You Love Me (The Sullivans #13)(15)

by Bella Andre

And she’d done exactly the same thing to him.

For as hot as he’d been from the heat of the day and sun pouring in over him, thinking about Grace now had Dylan burning up enough that he needed to grab a Coke and stand on the dock for a few minutes to let the breeze cool him down.

He took in the sun glinting off the water and the boats, the sound of the seals barking playfully at each other, the smell of sunscreen and sea air as a mother and daughter headed out into the bay on a Laser. It was a small boat compared to the yachts owned by the rich and famous of the Pacific Northwest, but it was a classic. A Laser was the first boat his dad had sailed with him. Max Sullivan loved the water, but he wasn’t a natural sailor, even if he understood the technicalities of sailing to the finest detail. It was a windier day than a couple of beginners should have been out in, but Dylan had learned fast and had kept them from turtling.

It had been a thrill handling the rigging, learning to tack, holding the tiller, flying across the water. Even better when it started to turn, when he’d had to save them from going over. He’d always enjoyed an easy sail, one where he could just stretch out in the sun and let his mind wander, but right from that first sail he’d known that it was easy to sail well in perfect conditions; it was when the ride started getting rocky that the stronger wills rose to victory.

Even after the kiss he and Grace had shared, Dylan knew she was sure nothing could work between them. Tonight’s trip to the aquarium would be another step in proving to Grace that she could trust him not only to be her and her son’s friend, but hopefully so much more, too.

He was determined to prove this to her, one perfect kiss at a time...

He might have felt a little bad about throwing her into the deep end last night with his family were it not for the facts that (a) they were awesome, and (b) if all went well with them she would be getting to know his brothers and sisters and parents anyway, so why not do it sooner rather than later? And it had been really good to see how well she fit in with them all despite her initial nerves. In fact, while she’d been helping his mother in the kitchen for a few minutes, Rafe had pulled him aside.

“I never thought that when you finally fell for a woman, it would be one with a kid you’d have to be home for,” his brother had said. “But there’s something about Grace—and her baby is pretty cute, too. You thinking about hanging up the sails for a while?”

“Families sail around the world all the time,” had been Dylan’s reply. “Until then, it’ll be great to be home more.”

Rafe’s eyebrows had gone up, then. “You’re really serious about her, aren’t you?” When Dylan had nodded, Rafe had asked, “How long has this been brewing?”

Dylan had grinned and said, “We met on Tuesday,” then went to help Grace and Mason get seated at the dining table while his brother’s head spun. It was always fun to throw his siblings off, especially over something they’d never seen coming.

He was just heading back inside when his phone rang. The sight of his parents’ number on the caller ID screen made him break his usual rule to ignore it when he was working.

“Dylan, sweetie,” his mother said, a smile in her voice, “I’m so glad you picked up.”

“For you, always. That was some Friday night dinner, wasn’t it?”

His mother gave a happy sigh. “It was just wonderful. Beyond wonderful.” He could tell that she was tearing up even now. “Can you believe how sneaky your brother and sister are, cooking up a surprise wedding between them?”

“Sure can. In fact, one time they—” Dylan reconsidered spilling the beans at the last second. “Actually, never mind. It was twenty years ago, but you’re probably still better off not knowing. I wouldn’t want you to have to ground the newlywed. Especially after she and Ian just pulled off the wedding coup of the century.”

When Dylan had called Mia and Ford earlier to congratulate them again, they had been on their way to the airport for an impromptu Hawaiian honeymoon. They’d brought the champagne and roses that he’d sent over for their private plane. Still, for as much as she’d loved the wedding, he knew that wasn’t why his mom was calling.

“I absolutely adored Grace and Mason.”

“I knew you would. Especially when you saw how cute her son was.”

“You five were the cutest babies I’d ever seen, but I have to tell you, Mason slipped right up there into the running last night. He’s so sweet and curious and loves meeting and playing with people. And I also noticed that he was particularly partial to you, with the way he kept climbing up into your arms.”

“We bonded earlier this week when they came by my boathouse. The three of us are heading out tonight to the hands-on aquarium.”

“On a date?” He could hear the hope in her voice.

“Last night was an interview. Tonight we’re going to be friends. I’m trying not to move too fast.” It was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, holding himself back when he wanted Grace so badly…and knew, even before their smoking-hot kiss, that she wanted him just as badly.

“She’s careful,” his mother mused. “Or trying to be, at least. She’s obviously been hurt.”

Knowing he would never forgive himself if he hurt her in any way, he said, “I’ll be careful with her, Mom.”

“I know you will. Although, honestly, I’m not sure that careful is always the right way to go. Take your father and me, for instance. If we’d succeeded at being careful, we would never have taken a chance on each other.”

“You look so innocent for someone who dumped your fiancé to marry his best friend,” he teased.

She made a sound that he could easily interpret as Watch yourself, kid. “In any case,” she said, “I get the sense that Grace has been careful for too long already. She’s obviously a very accomplished and determined woman, given that she has a successful freelance writing career and has done a marvelous job of raising her son by herself. If you ask me, there is a daring woman inside of her just itching to bust out.”

It was just what he’d seen, too, and was the reason he didn’t feel guilty about last night’s kiss. Not only because she’d been the one to start it, but also because it was obvious how much she’d wanted it.

“I remember what it was like to want something so badly that it scared me, Dylan. Scared me enough that I thought pushing your father away was the only thing that made sense.”