With: Jennifer Gracen
BETWEEN YOU AND ME
As the only daughter of the wealthy Harrison clan, Tess Harrison has everything—except the baby she longs for. With no husband in sight, she escapes to her family’s retreat in Aspen, Colorado, visions of sperm donors dancing in her head. Instead, she finds Logan Carter. When the ruggedly handsome manager of the Harrison ski house offers to be her baby daddy in exchange for her playing his girlfriend, Tess is breathless to begin the charade. After all, the brokenhearted heiress knows better than to fall in love . . .
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 . . .
Tess sipped her tea as Logan settled his big frame into the ornate, high-backed cherrywood chair. In his blue and gray flannel, her rugged, sexy guest looked slightly out of place at the long, elegant table. She kind of liked that.
Finally she said, “Yes, I’m pissed at you. But probably not for why you think.”
“Do I get to guess?”
“You don’t have to. I’ll tell you outright, if you really want to know.”
His pale green eyes met hers. “C’mon, Tess, I know why. And you should be mad. I would be too, if someone I’d come to think of as a friend disappeared on me without a word for days. Much less after I asked something enormous and made myself vulnerable.”
Impressed with his insight, she only nodded and sipped again.
“I’m very sorry for how I’ve behaved,” he said. “It’s inexcusable.”
“Well . . . it’s not totally inexcusable,” she said. “Not the first few hours of it, anyway. I took you off guard, I shocked you with something major.”
“Damn right you did. But the two days since? No excuse.”
Respect sparked in her core. But hurt and disappointment still reigned. “There I have to agree as well. And before you proceed any further, you should know I’m not interested in excuses.”
His eyes rounded for a second. “You get formal when you’re furious. Like . . . haughty. Even your word choices . . . Interesting. I have to remember that. The more regal and frosty you get, the more trouble the other person’s in.”
He kept impressing her with how clearly he understood her, but she wasn’t ready to take her icy wall down just yet. “You’re not in trouble, Logan. Things are just . . .different now.”
“I deserve that. But . . .” He leaned in a drop and asked softly, “Any chance you’d be willing to let me back in? I’d like to try.”
Her heart skipped a beat and she swallowed hard. Damn. Damn him and his magnetism and natural charisma and sharp perceptiveness and his beautiful eyes staring into hers. “Don’t know yet. But I do appreciate your coming here and trying to make amends. Better late than not at all, I suppose.” Her hands circled her mug, hot beneath her skin. “What did you want to discuss?”
“I hate the formal Tess.” He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “Makes me want to shake you and get the real Tess to come out. The sweet one, the warm one.”
She just stared at him, even as her breath caught.
“And I hate that guarded look in your eyes,” he said. “I know I’m the one who put it there. Yes, I let you down. I’m so sorry. I just needed time to think. To process your . . .request.”
Her heart squeezed. She sipped some more tea, welcoming its warmth as it helped stretch out the silence. If he wanted to get back into her good graces, she still needed more.
He sighed again, heavily. “Mostly, I wanted to apologize for bailing on you like I did. I’m really sorry I acted like such a dick. You deserved better. I’m very sorry.”
“Thank you.” She set the cup down. “I appreciate that.”
“And”—his eyes met and held hers—“I’ve missed you. That surprised me.”
She didn’t move, transfixed. The waves of intensity and longing that came off him were so strong and raw, they were palpable.
“Somehow, my little texts with you became a bright spot in my day. I . . .” His voice softened, but his gaze didn’t waver as he admitted, “I missed that. And you. I’ve enjoyed the growing friendship. I only hope I haven’t wrecked it permanently.”
Her stomach filled with butterflies. She drew a long, deep breath, then said, “Your coming here to talk like this . . . goes a long way. It’s not wrecked permanently. I’ve . . . I enjoy you too. We can try to move on from this.”
His stare intensified. “Do you still trust me?”
She blinked at that. His direct question deserved an honest answer. “Not like I did before, but yes, mostly I still trust you. What you did doesn’t change who you are.”
His nod came slowly, processing. “Fair enough. All I can do is try to earn your full trust back.”
She just stared. That was something he wanted? Did she mean something to him, then? The way he’d started meaning something to her? Her heart did a little fluttery thing that made her draw another deep breath.
“Well. Okay, so . . . there’s the other thing I want to talk about.” He scratched his beard, his eyes flickering away and back again before it seemed like he was ready to forge ahead. “If you still want me to be your donor, even after what a jackass I’ve been . . . I’m willing. Actually, I’d be honored. I want to help you. I’ll do it.”
Her jaw dropped and her heart rate skyrocketed as she stared at him. He . . . he was saying yes? He wanted to help her? He’ll do it?
“Wow. Your whole face just . . .” His sensual lips twisted in a grin. “Who’s the shocked one now?”
She huffed out a breath, stammering, “I . . . I, yes, I’m in shock. That was the last thing in the world I expected you to say.”
“I’m sure.” He grinned, but it faded as he asked, “Is it too late? Did you scratch me off the list for being an ass?”
“I took you off the list because I thought your response was a loud and clear hell no,” she said. “But . . . Logan. Seriously?” She edged a tiny bit closer, questions filling her mind even as her heart thudded away. “What changed your mind?”
“I’ve been thinking about it.” He snorted and added wryly, “Haven’t been able to think of much else, really.”
She gaped at him, stunned speechless.
He reached forward, cautious, tentative, and took her hand in his. His skin felt a little rough, and so warm, as his huge hand wrapped around hers. “I can’t tell you how flattered I am that you want me to . . . well, I was going to say be the father of your child, but that’s not it, really. That you want any of my DNA in your child. That you think that highly of anything I have to offer.”
“I do,” she whispered.
He squeezed her hand and she squeezed back as they looked into each other’s eyes. “You’ll be an amazing mother, Tess,” he said. “I have no doubt of that. You deserve to have the baby you want so much . . . and any child will be so incredibly lucky to have you for his or her mom.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. “Oh, Logan. Thank you for saying that.”
“I mean it. I really do, or I wouldn’t be here. Also . . .” He caressed the back of her hand with the calloused pad of his thumb. The gentle intimacy of the gesture fired sparks in her as he continued. “I have to admit that the more I thought about everything you presented, the more it made sense. I mean . . . you think my physical and mental traits are ones you’d like in your child? That’s amazing to me.”
Something like awe lit his eyes. “But then there’s the other part: I don’t want kids.” His voice was firmer now. “I made that pretty clear. And you know what? That does work to your advantage. Because you don’t want a partner, or a guy who wants to be an active part of your child’s life. You’re not asking me to be a father, you’re not asking anything of me except to just . . . contribute, and then leave you and the child alone. Which is pretty much the only way I’d agree to it, because I don’t want that responsibility. So all that makes me a dream candidate, doesn’t it? I’m the right guy to ask.”
Her breath caught and tears slid down her cheeks. “Yes. Yes, all of those things were considerations in my decision.”
“Okay.” He reached up and brushed her tears away with gentle fingers, gazing at her with kindness and acceptance. Something inside her melted and overflowed with warmth.
About the Author:
Jennifer Gracen writes contemporary romance and romantic women's fiction. She likes to write about tangled mature relationships, with equal doses of humor, warmth, passion, and gravity. Mom to two young boys, she originally hails from Long Island, New York and lives there currently. When not spending time with her family and friends, reading, or writing, she also does freelance copy editing and proofreading, and is a professed social media addict. She gives lively concerts in her car and dance parties in her kitchen.