I Love How You Love Me (The Sullivans #13)(17)


by Bella Andre

Her gut twisted as she looked at a picture of her ex, the woman he’d married a year ago, and the older Bentleys at the White House correspondents’ dinner. They looked just as they had a year and a half ago, with no shadows or guilt marring their perfect smiles. No one would look at this picture and believe they had given her money to get rid of her baby. Yet again, the caption of the picture mentioned her ex’s issues with infertility, which had been leaked to the press via an unnamed source who was “close to the family.”

Her gut twisted with fear again—Mason might have been born out of wedlock, but in the absence of any legitimate children, he was the one and only Bentley heir to their Fortune 500 throne! Thank God Dylan had agreed to let her write the cover story about him so that she could put more money toward her just-in-case defense fund. She would never let that family take her son away from her. Not in a million years.

A few moments later, a new photo popped up on the screen, and Grace was stunned yet again, not by another picture of her ex, but by one of Smith Sullivan and his beautiful fiancée, Valentina. According to the text beneath the photo, they had also attended the dinner in Washington, D.C.

How close to her ex had Dylan’s cousin been? Had they sat at the same table? Were they friends? Did they do business together?

There could have been no more perfect, or potent, reminder of how crazy she’d be if she let one kiss with Dylan sway her. She’d sworn she would never forget to keep her guard up, and yet look how quickly it had started falling.

But it was more than that. What would a Sullivan want with a nearly broke single mother? A year and a half ago, she hadn’t wanted to sit down and examine what it was that Richard had wanted from her, what his angle was. She’d simply wanted to be swept away from everything, especially the pain of losing her father. Now, she knew she needed not only to be more careful, but to be smarter, too, rather than just letting herself fall for the fantasy again.

Especially when the fantasy was likely to up and sail away to far-flung lands at any time.

After closing her laptop, she worked to shake off her black mood as she walked into the bedroom. Hearing her approach, Mason grinned and reached out for her.

Her child was the most important thing in her world, and nothing—not even the hottest kiss ever with Dylan Sullivan—would change that.

CHAPTER NINE

Instinct, for a sailor, was much more important than intellect. It wasn’t that sailors weren’t smart—all those long hours at sea when the winds weren’t cooperating made reading anything you could get your hands on crucial to keep from losing your mind sometimes. It was simply that a great sailor understood that analytics and calculations could never be a match for a wild and beautiful ocean that could easily outmatch the best radar and the newest computer consoles.

After the kiss Dylan and Grace had shared the night before, he believed more strongly than ever that the instincts he had been trusting for thirty-one years were going to lead him in the right direction, yet again. And soon, he hoped, Grace would learn to trust her own instincts again, too, even if she had clearly lifted her guard all the way back up in the wake of last night’s kiss.

Keeping things light and easy all evening at the aquarium, as friends, would hopefully be the first step to truly earning Grace’s heart. Hating that she’d been hurt and felt she needed to be so wary and cautious with him, he silently vowed to do whatever he could to help her learn that it was okay to risk—and to trust him. Still, it wasn’t easy to rein in the fierce urge to yank those walls back down by giving her another kiss.

Mason giggled as a group of koi swam, quick and slippery, beneath his little fingertips in the tank. For the past half hour he’d refused to leave this spot.

“I’ve taken him to aquariums before, but he’s never responded like this. Actually being able to touch and feed the animals makes such a huge difference.” Grace’s eyes were shining with gratitude when she turned to him. “Please thank your friend for agreeing to stay open late so that we could come here tonight. Between Mason’s nap times and my trying to fit in work around them, I would never have been able to work it out.” Turning back to her son, she said, “It’s time to say good-bye to everyone now so that they can close up.”

Dylan did his best not to laugh at Mason’s stubborn look and the slight shake of his head. No question about it, this kid was going to be a handful one day. Just like Dylan and his siblings had been. Still were, actually, despite his mother having said that he’d made it easy on her. She’d been strict about kindness and manners, but in everything else she’d always just let them be kids. Even if getting wild and stupid had sometimes—usually—resulted in banged-up bones and scraped skin.

He was impressed by how well Grace dealt with what might have turned into a tantrum when she started to wave bye-bye to the fish and Mason got so caught up in mirroring her that he forgot about not wanting to leave.

As soon as they walked away from the tank, Mason reached out for Dylan. But instead of passing him over, Grace gave her son a kiss on the forehead and said, “He’s already been carrying you most of the night. You can stay with me for a little while.”

“I’m happy to take him, Grace.”

“I know you are, but—” She scrunched up her nose, looking as cute as her kid always did. “It’s been just the two of us for so long that I guess I’m not yet sure how I feel about him being so comfortable in anyone else’s arms. Which really isn’t fair when I can see how much he likes being around another guy.”

“You’re obviously the most important person in the world to him. But if you ever want to lean on someone else for a while, I’m here.”

He could tell she wanted to ask him why he was already clearly all-in—especially since asking the important questions was a large part of the reason she’d chosen journalism. At the same time, it wasn’t too hard to guess that the reason she didn’t was because she wasn’t yet ready to hear his answer.

“I’ve seen how great you are with Mason,” she said instead, “but you’re also quite a trouper around so many other little kids.”

Not all of the children in the aquarium had been as thrilled to be there as Mason was. In fact, Dylan’s left ear was still ringing from one girl’s high-pitched screams. “I like kids. Even if that one did split a hole in my eardrum.”