Sage, holding her shoe, stared at him with panic-filled eyes. “You can’t! They aren’t ready for you, for us... I need to tell them on my own.”

Tyce shook his head. “The sooner they get used to the idea that I am going to be hanging around, the easier this situation will become.” And really, irritating her brothers would be an added bonus.

“Tyce...” Sage’s eyes slammed into his. “Please, I need some time. Your revelations today, the pregnancy, my family... You’ve known about your sister for years and...we’ve only just learned about her. We need time to catch up, to process all of this.”

Tyce considered her statement, impatience and a need to move forward warring with her words. She did have a point, he reluctantly conceded. They were playing catch-up and he needed to give her, and her family, time to do that.

Tyce opened her front door and held it open. “Okay, I hear you. But we still have more to discuss, a lot more.”

“I know...we didn’t get very far tonight,” Sage said, pulling on a long navy coat and winding a cashmere scarf around her neck. “But I need some time, Tyce, and some space. I’ll call you.”

He wanted to argue, to have a firm date and time in mind but he also knew that, if he pushed her, she’d retreat back inside her shell. It was, after all, exactly what he would do.

“You’d better. And soon,” Tyce told her, bending to drop a kiss on her temple. He stepped away and touched her stomach with the tips of his fingers. His kid, growing inside her. God, what a concept. “Take care of yourself, Sage. Call me if you need me.”

Sage sent him a puzzled look, her expression stating that she couldn’t imagine a situation in which she might need him. She had three brothers, three new sisters and more money than God. She didn’t need him for anything except, possibly, sex and that wasn’t on the table. Tyce ran his hand through his hair and followed her into the elevator opposite her front door.

He looked at their reflection in the mirror finish of the lift. Sage’s hands were in her hair—where his really wanted to be—and twenty seconds later she’d, somehow, secured all those waves into a messy knot at the back of her neck. She pulled a tube of lipstick from the side pocket of her bag and swiped the color across her lips, turning her mouth from sweet to luscious. The lipstick was returned to the bag and a multicolored scarf appeared in her hand. She twisted it around her neck, tied it into a complicated knot and she was, once again, Sage Ballantyne, heiress, ready to face the world.

Tyce glanced at his outfit, old jeans, hiking boots, a black sweater over a black shirt and a leather bomber jacket that he’d had for too many years to count. Sage was an heiress from a family whose blood ran blue; he was an artist who genuinely thought that the art world would one day wake up from their stupor and realize that he wasn’t half as good as they’d proclaimed him to be and definitely not worth the ridiculous money the collectors paid for his work. He plowed the bulk of the money he earned from his art into buying those Ballantyne International shares so he was, well, not broke but he wasn’t flush with cash either. He didn’t have a college degree and his only asset was a battered warehouse on the edge of an industrial park.

He was her former lover, the father of her child...the man who’d given her the bare bones of a very complicated story involving both their families, too scared to open up and make even the smallest emotional connection. He was also the man who wanted her more than he wanted to keep breathing, existing. His raging need to strip her naked and sink inside was part of the problem, he reluctantly admitted, but it went deeper than that.

Sage was, had always been, in a class of her own. She was funny and smart and generous and, surprisingly, she was the most down-to-earth girl he knew. She had no idea that her smile could stop traffic, that her legs could make grown men weep, that her eyes could be weaponized. She had the ability to cut him off at the knees and that was the primary reason why he needed to keep her at a distance. He could fall into something deeper with Sage. She was the one woman who could tempt him into opening up, to explore a world that went beyond some bed-based fun.

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