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Those Fickle Fates
Staring into her expressive blue eyes, Dave realized that the words she'd just uttered had far greater implications than either of them had expected. While a part of his macho pride wanted to preen at the admission, he realized in his soul that he was more comforted than vindicated in her response. He was slowly getting past her well fortified defenses, tunneling his ways inside inch by painful inch. Progress, however, was progress. He'd take anything he could get.
Maybe, just maybe, she did want them together. She did want what he could offer her.
Oh, he wasn't thinking about his money. Money had no influence on JJ. It was one of the things that attracted him to her. Unlike his previous relationships, she didn't give a damn how much he was worth. No, she was far more concerned with whatever damage he could do to her heart.
Drawing a deep breath as he nodded slowly, Dave cupped her cheek. "Honey, I'm never going to push you to say yes or no. I've already made that mistake once. All the offers I've made you are still on the table. You can choose which ones you want to consider and which you would rather discard. And I'm never going to tell you that what you're feeling is wrong or emotional. You have to decide when it's time and when we move forward. Either way, I'm still going to be here."
"I know that's what you've been saying, and contrary to what you probably think, I do actually listen to the words that come out of your mouth." Leaning into his gentle touch, JJ swallowed hard, her throat tightening as she considered her next words. "But what if there's a hidden catch that I don't see? What if I jump off the cliff and…"
Pressing his thumb to her soft lips, Dave interrupted, his tone firm but loving, "If you jump, I'll be there to catch you. That's one promise that you can rest assured of." Seeing the objections forming in her eyes, he continued, "And as for hidden catches, I think we've both evaluated the situation from all possible angles, including some that honestly could never exist. But we're in this together…and at your pace. I promise you that. I'm not trying to trick you or deceive you. What you see is what you get, Jen."
"The problem is that I'm enjoying what I see more and more," JJ murmured against his thumb.
"That's not a problem, Bella. Not for me," Dave countered softly. "That's accomplishment. That's something to build on. It's a solid foundation to grow from here, JJ."
"How do we know that it isn't built on sand?" she asked worriedly, her eyes nervous as she looked at him. Everything he'd offered her tempted. The promise of stability and security was almost too enticing to resist. A home and family for her children? What woman didn't want that?
"How do we know it is?" he returned evenly. "We won't be sure either way unless we try. And we've got three really good reasons to give it our all," he reminded her gently. "Sweetheart, we're already living together part-time when you think about it. Is it really so much of a jump?"
"When you put it that way, it's hard to find a defensible argument," JJ complained, her lips pursing.
"Then I'm doing my job." Dave grinned. "I guess I missed my calling as a defense attorney," he teased with a smile.
"You could say that," JJ agreed with a sigh. "Your house is bigger than mine. It has a lot more room for the kids to play."
"And a readymade dog," Dave added ever so helpfully, willing to offer up Mudgie without a single qualm.
"Not so sure that is one of its selling points," JJ retorted, chuckling even as she remembered the joy Henry had displayed while he and the behemoth pup had frolicked in Dave's backyard. "But I'd never ask you to give up your pet. I don't think Henry or you would ever forgive me."
"So, does this mean that you're giving the thought of living together some serious consideration?" Dave asked hopefully, praying silently that he wasn't misunderstanding her.
"Yes, I have been," JJ replied with a nod. "Henry obviously loves you and you've said you feel the same way." Over the last few weeks Henry had bonded completely with the man beside her. For the first time since Will had left, her baby seemed completely relaxed and content with this new reality.
"Of course I feel the same way," Dave growled, rolling his eyes as he tapped her nose with his finger. "What isn't to love? He's a great kid." The only way it could be better for him was if he was entirely my kid, Dave thought grimly. One little adoption decree would ensure that, but he knew when to choose his battles wisely and this was one of those times.
"You're pretty popular with him too," she acknowledged quietly. "Are you absolutely certain this is what you want, Dave? I mean, if I'm going to upend Henry's life and move him into a new environment, I have to know you're completely serious about being a father."
"I think I've proven that I'm willing and able to be a father whether you live with me or not. I can't deny that unfettered access to all three of these kids wouldn't make things easier, but I'm pretty sure you realize that I'm going to find a way to be deeply involved with our kids."
"You've been perfectly clear about this. And you're right, your actions have definitely shown that you want to be an integral part of their lives."
"All of their lives, JJ," Dave clarified deeply. "Not just the ones I helped create. You have to understand that. Really understand it."
"You're saying that if Henry and I move in with you, you'll want an equal say in his life. Like a…" she trailed off, uncertain how to complete that statement.
"The word you're searching for is 'father', Jen," Dave said calmly.
Swallowing hard, JJ felt the familiar fears rising within her. "You're asking for a lot, Dave. You're asking me to trust you with not only my son's life, but his happiness. That's a lot to ask me for. You do realize that, don't you?"