He had a son. Christ.
He knocked at her door three times, stepping back and working on his facial expression. Erin had lectured him on his delivery and the way he’d been with Gillian thus far. He truly didn’t want to have an acrimonious relationship with this woman so he needed to try to get things back on track with her. He’d charmed plenty of women in his time—he could do this.
She opened up and her loveliness hit him square in the gut. Soft and feminine with all that hair and those big brown eyes peeking out from the fringe of French roast–toned bangs.
She smelled good too. Sweet and spicy.
He sent her a charming smile. “Hi. I—”
She slammed the door in his face before he could finish his sentence.
He stood there, struck stupid in love with Gillian Forrester. Though he wouldn’t know it for a while yet.
Before he could knock again, she yanked the door open, those gorgeous sexy eyes of hers honed in his direction with an angry violence. “You! How dare you come to my doorstep knocking after you sicced your lawyers on me forbidding me from any contact?”
Fascinated by her, by the way her accent had sharpened from that smooth flow to sharp-tongued barbs, he stood, struck mute. Goddamn, he wanted to take a bite.
But not until they got past this thing between them.
“I want to add that I never contacted you after I gave my information to your brother. It was always
, you contacting and then you send me a letter telling me I can’t do something I never done! You are an arse. A big-headed, too-good-looking-for-his-own-good dickhead.”
This hot governess of a woman was all kinds of dirty underneath. She just threw the gloves off and sent a shiver through him. He took a step closer and found himself half inside her house. Murphy Oil Soap? He breathed in deep.
He let her go on as he tried not to have a fantasy about her polishing the table in nothing but an apron and some heels. Clearly he had some fetish about cleaning and housework. This needed investigating.
“Are you even listening to me?”
“I had to protect myself. Okay? I’m sorry. It was shitty and I was a . . . What did you call me? A good-looking asshole?” She was like one of those little dogs just then, the energy in her radiated outward. She would jump on his back and scratch his eyes out to protect her son. His son.
That mama-bear, elegant-and-modest-on-the-outside, hot-as-allfuck-on-the-inside thing was ringing his doorbell. And God help him, he knew it was beyond inappropriate to be making up fuck fantasies about this woman right then, but he couldn’t help it.
“Leave it to you to choose to interpret what I said that way. The ego on you! Astounding is what—”
And his mouth was on hers, and her words morphed into a groan so sexually tortured his entire body got hard.
Her back hit the wall and she practically climbed up his body to keep the kiss. Her fingers tangled in his hair as his taste first hit her.
She gasped it in, coffee and an Altoid. Stupid to get wet over it, but Forrester women never had very smart pussies, and that’s what was doing the thinking just then.
His tongue slid into her mouth like it was made to be there. Not a single bit of hesitation in him. Adrian Brown owned this kiss and that only made her madder for him.
The sexual tension that’d been stewing, deepening, thickening between them burst over her skin, into her system, taking hold like a frenzy. He was warm against her front. One of his hands cradled her ass where she rested against his thigh.
Dragging her nails over his chest and then down his belly, she shivered and swallowed his tortured moan. The way he had her propped and balanced between the wall and his body brought her thigh against his cock.
One of his hands had been at her waist but he’d slid it up to cup her breast. She arched with a groan and the door slammed closed, bringing a surprised start from them both.
Adrian looked back to her, leaning closer to get back to the kiss, and then he froze.
She managed to extricate herself to turn and look at the picture she knew he’d just seen. Miles on the first day of kindergarten. He’d lost one of his front teeth, on the top, and he cheesed it up, making sure the grin was extra wide.
She saw it on his face. The wonder. The joy and then the sadness that he’d come to it so late. It was at that moment she let go of her anger at him and let herself sympathize.
“That’s Miles on his first day of kindergarten. Right out front, as a matter of fact. Would you like to come in and sit down? I can make tea. I’ve got something stronger if you’ve a need.”
She walked ahead of him, into her house, and let that get her balance back. The kiss, the way she’d totally come undone the moment he’d touched her, had sent her reeling. Gillian was not a kiss-a-total-stranger type of woman. It was the opposite usually. It took her a long time to trust someone enough to get sexual in any way. But when his hands were on her, his mouth, she lost all her rules and fell into their insane chemistry. This bore a great deal of thinking and care. Too bad her hormones were far more interested in jumping on him than thinking.
He’d be reeling too, she knew, for entirely different reasons.
She put a kettle on and moved to the bookcases at the other end of the room. Selecting some photo albums, she brought them back to him. “Would you like to see some pictures? I’m not saying you have to meet him before the test comes back. But I thought . . .” She shrugged, feeling suddenly self-conscious.
“I’d love that. Thank you.” He patted the couch next to where he sat. “Please, I’ll need you to narrate.”
She sat, trying to keep her thigh from touching his.
like to meet him as soon as possible. I understand this might be a surprise for him and I want to do this right. But I want to start getting to know him. Being his dad. At this point, the test seems, well, a foregone conclusion.”
Fear nibbled at her insides as she held on to the knowledge that she had control here. She was Miles’s mom and nothing was going to change that.
It still scared her. The thought of losing him, even if it wouldn’t happen in reality, made her sort of woozy.
“I appreciate this. The way, well, you brought him to me and you didn’t have to. And then I treated you badly. You invited me into your home today. I’m grateful.” His lips curved upward just slightly and she repressed a shiver. Oh yes, they had high-octane sexual heat. Which was stupid because this thing between them was foolhardy. He would need to focus on Miles and she’d help him because it was the thing to do. And it would make Miles happy.
“These are organized by year. Yes, I know it’s sort of obsessive of me, but for a time when Miles was an infant I made scrapbooks for people to pay my bills.” She tried to sound nonchalant, but the truth was, she was proud of those scrapbooks. Had spent a great deal of time and creative energy on them. But suddenly it seemed intimate to share that. So she didn’t.
“These are amazing. I can’t believe anyone could make something so beautiful. All this detail. He’ll have this forever.”
She ducked her head a moment. “Thank you. Obviously this is his first year.” She touched the first picture of him. A blurry shot she’d taken in the hospital. The card had read, “Baby Boy Forrester,” and she had it there, tucked into the page, along with his identification bracelet.
“He was little.”
Gillian laughed. “He was premature. But you know he was only in the hospital for a few extra days. We were lucky.” Lucky he hadn’t had to go through drug withdrawal or suffered any long-term effects from the life Tina had led while pregnant.
Adrian turned the page, amazed at the scrapbook he held. Amazed by her generosity in sharing it with him.
She moved quickly to get the tea and bring it back. She smiled, tapping her finger on a picture of a baby about Marti’s age sitting on an elderly woman’s lap.
“That’s my gran. She lived here with us for a few years until Miles got a little older and I had a steady income. They were inseparable. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Especially at the beginning.”
On it went, she showed him picture after picture in the first several albums. It was surreal, watching his son grow and change. Knowing other people got to watch him—love him—and all the while Adrian was less than thirty miles away.
“Miles is going to be home in about two hours. Would you like to have some lunch and perhaps talk about how we’ll move this forward?”
His stomach growled. “I haven’t had much of an appetite, but apparently that’s back now. I’d like that. I’m a pretty good helper.”
She looked him up and down and seemed to doubt that, but he left it alone. She’d just opened herself up to him and he appreciated it more than he could say.
“You’re in luck. My friend runs a food truck and she took pity on me and Miles and brought by a huge amount of food last night.” She put several containers out on the counter. “Plates are just behind you, in the cabinet.”
He got them out and moved to the island where she poked open containers and hummed her delight.
“Lucky you to have such friends.”
She shrugged. “I’m very lucky indeed. Miles too.”
He bit into a piece of spanakopita. “Damn, this is good.” He sighed. “Why didn’t she tell you, Gillian?” He hadn’t meant to sound angry, but there it was anyway.
“I don’t know. Tina was impulsive, flighty and pretty self-centered most of the time. But I do believe she didn’t say anything out of some sort of misplaced duty to Miles.”
“How could she look at him and think it was all right for that boy to grow up without a father? That wasn’t her choice to make.”
“She didn’t look at him. She never held him, not a single time. She signed him over to me immediately and then the adoption went forward very quickly. She never named the father on the birth certificate, and to be totally honest with you, I figured she just didn’t know. She was a girl who loved a good time with a lot of people. She was reckless and thoughtless a lot of her life, but I never knew her to be malicious.”
She poured them some juice and returned to the island. “And no, it wasn’t her choice to make and I’m sorry she robbed you of your son and Miles of his dad. All I can do is try to make it right from now on.”
His anger ebbed a little. “Thank you. I can’t understand it, why she’d have the baby and then give him up without even contacting me.”
She looked him dead on. “My sister is dead. Her reasons were her own. She never shared them with me, though I did ask. She liked . . . attention. Whatever those reasons were, there is nothing to be gained in your going over it again and again. I’m not trying to rob you of your anger; you have every right to be mad. Talk to a professional if you need to, and heaven knows you might. But she’s not here. Miles is.”
“Last night my sister told me bitterness was useless in this situation.”
Gillian shrugged. “You said you wanted to move quickly and start being a dad. Would you like to come for dinner tomorrow night? It’ll give me a chance to talk to Miles first. Prepare him. I need to be there for this first meeting and it should be small and on familiar turf.”
talk to someone about this?” His emotions ran riot, but he continued to be impressed with how she put Miles first over and over.
“I did, yes. Cal, that’s my attorney”—she paused to send him a look—“he hooked me up with a counselor he’s worked with before. She gave me some handouts.” She left the room and came back shortly. “Here. This is what she gave me. It might help.” She thrust an envelope into his grateful hands.
“I’d love to come to dinner. I appreciate how supportive of all this you’re being. I don’t know what I’d do in your place.”
“Parenting is hard work. The hardest job I’ve ever had. What else can I be? Even if you don’t like me, I’m Miles’s mum and I hope we can work through this mess if for no other reason than to make things better for him.”
“I’m surrounded by parents and I guess I assumed it would just come naturally.”
She laughed and his desire roared back to life. They’d both played it cool since the kiss, but neither of them had forgotten it. She’d looked at his mouth enough that he was sure of that fact.
“Miles is a good kid, but he’d try a saint sometimes. Naturally? I don’t know about that. Maybe it’s just me, but I wouldn’t say it was natural as much as trying, but alleviated by the fact that you love this person so much you’ll endure attitude and having to harp on silly stuff to train them to be good adults. Though I’m not really surrounded by parents. Miles has a lot of aunts and uncles, but I’m the only one in the group who has kids. I could be mucking it all up but not know it.”
He doubted it. She seemed eminently capable.
“Anyway. Why don’t you show up around six? Would you like to help make pizza? The papers said that an activity might be good, to keep the nervousness at bay but also start building a relationship.”