I Love How You Love Me (The Sullivans #13)(2)

by Bella Andre

“Mason, sweet boy, everything’s okay,” she said again as she rocked and murmured, kissed and bounced, trying anything she could to shift him out of his crying jag. Dylan had walked several paces closer by this time, which only made her more flustered. “I just fed him before we came here, so he shouldn’t be hungry. And,” she added as she gave Mason a soft pat on his bottom to check the state of his diaper, “he’s dry and clean.”

“Does he want his toy back?”

She hadn’t noticed Dylan picking up the plastic rattle from the dock. When he held it out, she realized she’d never seen a man like him—so big and rugged and over-the-top gorgeous—holding a baby toy before. It did funny things to her stomach, sending it into flips and spins.

Miraculously, Mason stopped crying as he looked at Dylan. And then, suddenly, her son twisted in her arms and reached out. She assumed he was trying to grab the toy, but when he batted it away again, it became clear that he was really reaching for Dylan.

Her heart stopped in her chest. Actually just quit beating for a moment. Mason had never reached for anyone but her. But one look at this beautiful stranger and he was instinctively reaching out to be held?

Must run in our family.

Wait. No. That was crazy. She didn’t want to reach for Dylan. Didn’t want the gorgeous sailboat maker to pull her into his arms, hold her, and never let go. She was just tired and stressed and overwhelmed because she hadn’t had anyone else to lean on in so long.

Plus, it didn’t help that just that morning she’d read an article online about her ex—a high-profile man from D.C.—having fertility problems with his wife. Because now Grace was more desperate than ever for Dylan’s cooperation with the magazine story she was hoping to write about him.

It had been a year and a half since she’d made her initial pitch to Sailing Magazine about a piece on the heart of a sailor, inspired by her first and only sail. She hadn’t yet realized she was pregnant, and she hadn’t been dumped yet, either. Her pitch had been good enough that the editor had actually seemed upset when he’d told her they didn’t have the budget for the story. Fast forward to a week ago, when she’d been beyond shocked to see the email from the magazine’s editor-in-chief telling her they hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her story idea and had finally pulled together the budget for it. The money they had offered her for the article, along with the promise that it would be a cover story, had blown her mind. Both couldn’t have come at a better time, considering how little there was in her bank account now that she lived in such an expensive part of the country. She couldn’t believe her luck—at least until the editor had told her his one big requirement for the story: Dylan Sullivan had to agree not only to be the main subject…but the cover boy as well.

If he didn’t agree to the interview, the editor would pull the story that would not only pay the next few months’ rent, but would also increase her legal defense fund so that she could hire a really good custody lawyer if her ex ever decided to try to take Mason away from her.

“Would it help if I held him for a little while?”

Dylan’s softly spoken question broke her out of her spinning thoughts. She’d never given her child to a stranger to hold, wouldn’t have thought she would ever consider it. “Maybe if you could just hold his hand for a few seconds, that will be enough to calm him down a little.”

“Hey there, big boy.” Dylan stroked Mason’s fingers. “Welcome to my boathouse.”

But her son not only kept crying, he was leaning so close to Dylan by then that he had practically wriggled all the way out of her arms. From the look on Mason’s face, along with the tenor of his wails, Grace knew they were approximately five seconds from an even more massive meltdown. Which was why, at last, Grace made the only decision she felt she could to try to keep her son from more misery: She let him go into the arms of the man by whom he so badly wanted to be held.

Dylan took him with the ease of a man who had held plenty of babies. And who liked holding them. To her further amazement, by the time he said, “What’s your name?” to her son, Mason had stopped crying and was babbling a greeting in his own special language.

“Mason,” Grace replied. “His name is Mason.” And her little boy was smiling now, so happy that his entire face had lit up. “He’s never wanted to go to anyone else like this before.”

Dylan shifted his gaze to her, and she felt as though his dark brown eyes saw all the way down into her soul. When her son grunted to get his attention, he turned to grin back down at him.

“You’ve got quite a throwing arm, haven’t you, Mason?” As if to confirm it, the baby grabbed the baseball cap off Dylan’s head and sent it sailing into the air.

Grace hurried to pick up Dylan’s hat before the breeze took it into the water. “Mason is usually pretty mellow. I think maybe the muggy heat is getting to him.”

Or perhaps that was just her, because every time Dylan looked at her she felt as if she were heating up from the inside out. Which was crazy on a number of fronts. First, for the past year and a half she’d been completely shut down when it came to men. Second, she was here for professional, not personal, reasons. And third, the chance of ever moving beyond professional with a man like Dylan Sullivan was utterly laughable.

But when she handed him his hat, the stark heat in his gaze nearly had her dropping it from suddenly numb fingertips. Fumbling, she ended up shoving the cap at him.

“I can take my son back now.” But when she reached for Mason, he only snuggled closer into Dylan’s broad chest.

“I’m okay holding him for a while longer if you’re okay with it,” Dylan offered.

God, no, she wasn’t okay with it for a whole host of twisted-together reasons. It wasn’t just that Mason had chosen a stranger instead of her for the first time. It was more that she thought she’d made her peace with her son never knowing his father—only now that she’d seen Mason in a man’s arms, it was hitting her all over again, harder than ever, that he’d never have this. At least, not for more than these few minutes with Dylan.

Standing in front of a stranger from whom she desperately needed help—one who was holding her son so sweetly—Grace couldn’t figure out how to stop her heart from breaking into a million pieces all over again.