“The defensive scowl they’d been greeted with had turned into a considering frown as Ellis listened to Ford.

“I’m sorry that you lost your son, Ellis, but I lost one of the best friends I ever had. Aaron was one of the few who befriended me at a point in my life that had become very bleak. Your son had a big heart, and so does your daughter. You ought to be proud of both of them for having such generous qualities. I plan to raise our children the exact same way.”

Ellis’ eyes shimmered with a multitude of emotions, and the tense set of his shouldered eased. He looked as though he were teetering between giving in and clinging to old resentments.

Ford continued, determined to reach the older man. “I know I’m not your choice for a husband for Grace, but I love her more than anything. I would never purposely hurt her, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make her happy and bring my child up in a secure, wholesome environment.” That was a vow he’d keep until the end of time. “And I know I speak for the both of us when I say we’d really like for you to be a part of our family.”

Ford heard Grace sniffle, and both men looked at the woman who meant so much to them.

Standing, she rounded the desk toward Ellis, her gaze issuing the silent plea she put into words. “Give Ford a chance, Dad,” Grace whispered, resting a hand lightly over the swell of her belly. “Please?”

His gaze dropped to the baby she carried, his expression miserable, and filled with regret. “Dammit, Grace, I don’t want to lose you!”

“You haven’t.” She swallowed back the tears making her voice quiver. “You never will. I promise.”

“I . . . I want to be a part of my grandbaby’s life,” he said, the admission seemingly costing the proud man, yet giving him a sense of peace, too.

“That’s the way it should be,” Ford said, and in a gesture meant to heal the past and pave the way to a smooth future, he extended his hand toward Ellis Holbrook.

Ellis hesitated for only a moment before slipping his palm into Ford’s and shook his hand. They still had a long way to go in becoming friends, but Ford was optimistic that this was the first step in dissolving the dissension between them.

“Did you mean what you said today, about loving me?”

Back at Ford’s house, Grace wrapped her arms around her husband’s neck and gazed lovingly into his violet-hued eyes. In the depth of his gaze she saw his devotion for her, and also the barest hint of insecurity.

She catered to the latter, knowing she was going to spend the rest of her life making sure he knew just how much she adored him. “Yes, I meant what I said. I love you, Ford McCabe. And I’m sorry for doubting you.”

His large hands skimmed down her spine, warming her, and sparking a tantalizing hunger that made her breasts swell against his chest. “And I’m sorry for not telling you about me buying that property, and I hereby solemnly swear to never keep anything from you ever again.”

Her fingers threaded through the soft hair at the nape of his neck as the awareness between them increased. “All you have to do is trust me, Ford, and I’ll give you the same in return.”

A smile eased up the corners of his mouth. “I love you, Mrs. McCabe. You’ve given me everything missing from my life, and I can’t imagine a life without you.”

“You won’t have to. I’m not going anywhere.” Sliding her hands around the collar of his shirt, she began unbuttoning his shirt. She gave him a sultry, upswept look full of sensual promise. “In fact, I think there’s a little detail to our marriage that you need to attend to.”

He lifted a brow, but he was definitely interested. “Oh, and what’s that?”

“Consummating it,” she said huskily.

Desire heated his gaze. “Yes, Ma’am.”

In a move that took her completely by surprise, he swept her into his arms, and she squealed in delight and clutched at his shoulders. Laughing, he headed toward the bedroom and laid her gently on the mattress, following her down and settling beside her. All amusement ceased as he glided a hand beneath her blouse, and trailed his fingers over her rounded belly.”