I Love How You Love Me, page 1part #13 of The Sullivans Series
I LOVE HOW YOU LOVE ME
Dylan & Grace
(c) 2014 Bella Andre
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Dylan Sullivan, a renowned boat builder, has spent his entire life sailing around the world. But while he's always enjoyed the freedom of the ocean, when Grace Adrian shows up at his Seattle boathouse to interview him for a magazine, it's love at first sight. Love for both Grace and her ten-month-old son, Mason, with whom Dylan has an immediate bond. And every moment they spend together makes Dylan more and more certain that a love like theirs is worth risking everything for.
A year and a half ago, Grace's entire world turned upside down. Not only did she learn that she was pregnant, she also found out that she was nothing but a dirty little secret to her boyfriend and his elite Washington, D.C., family. Since then, Grace has been rebuilding her life in Seattle, giving one hundred percent of her attention to her son and her freelance writing career. Believing she can never risk her heart--or her son's--again, especially to a man like Dylan who could sail away at any moment, Grace tries desperately to guard her heart from the charismatic and sexy sailor.
For as sweet and protective as Dylan is during the day, at night when one incredibly hot kiss turns into so much more, Grace simply can't find a way to stop herself from tumbling into his arms. But can she ever learn to trust in love again?
A note from Bella:
After writing more than a dozen stories about the Sullivan family, I'm not only more in love with them than ever, I'm also amazed by the way each of them surprises me while I'm writing his or her story. After I finished writing the draft of I Love How You Love Me and began rereading it to polish it up for publication, I realized that somewhere along the way Dylan Sullivan had risen in the ranks to become one of my new favorite heroes.
It's love at first sight for him when he first meets Grace Adrian and her ten-month-old son...and boy, does he show her how much he adores her over and over and over throughout the book. I love heroes like him--sweet and protective, but also so incredibly sexy. I hope you fall just as hard for Dylan, Grace, and little Mason as I have!
If this is your first time reading about the Sullivans, you can easily read each book as a stand-alone--and there is a Sullivan family tree available on my website (https://bellaandre.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/SullivanFamilyTree.pdf) so you can see how the books connect together.
P.S. Adam Sullivan's story will be the next book released about The Sullivans! And I can promise you, it is going to be so romantic. Please sign up for my New Release newsletter (https://eepurl.com/eXj22) to find out as soon as Adam's story is released.
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Grace Adrian needed Dylan Sullivan. Badly enough that when the babysitter she'd scheduled to watch her ten-month-old son bailed on her at the last second, she strapped Mason into the backseat of her car and headed down to the Seattle harbor with him.
Fifteen minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot beside Dylan's boathouse. Mason, who had been happily gnawing on his favorite stuffed giraffe during the drive, immediately lifted his arms to her when she opened the rear door.
"I've got to unstrap you first, cutie." The second he was free, he all but jumped into her arms. She closed her eyes as she caught him and cuddled him close. The past year and a half hadn't been easy, but she wouldn't trade her son, or her immense love for him, for anything.
Grace had plenty of regrets...but Mason wasn't one of them.
She was just shifting him to her hip so that she could straighten out her navy-blue suit when he whimpered. "Do you want to take your giraffe with you?" She handed it to him, but he batted it out of her hand. "We'll have to clean him before you put him back in your mouth," she said in a gentle voice as she picked up the stuffed toy from the ground and put it into the car, "but don't worry, I have another one of your favorite toys." Mason immediately began to shake the multicolored circular rattle she handed him.
Grace did her best to adjust her clothes, then ran a hand through her long, dark hair in an effort to look as professional as possible while she spoke with Dylan. At least, she hoped she was going to speak to him today, given that he hadn't returned a single one of her phone messages over the past week. She would have sent him an email if she could have found a website or email address for him, but he was one of the few people on the planet who didn't seem to have either. Which was, she'd decided, just plain weird. How did he run his business if people couldn't reach him?
"Time to go track down the elusive Mr. Sullivan," she said to Mason as they headed together across the parking lot.
Her son bore down hard with his gums on his toy by way of response, but it was good enough for Grace. She'd become a master at one-sided conversations during the past ten months, and it was amazing just how much she could find to say on her end, even when the only response she ever got was a gurgle, giggle, or wail.
"Let's pray that he's nice and willing to cooperate."
The strange thing was how little information she'd been able to find about Dylan. No interviews, nothing where he was talking himself up. What kind of man didn't want to promote himself? Especially when he was not only one of the most respected wooden-sailboat makers on the West Coast, and a multi-winning sailboat racer, but he was also related to some of the wealthiest--and most well-known--people in the world, including a movie star, two rock stars, and a billionaire CEO.
It was only one of the many questions she needed to ask him.
But while she hadn't been able to find much written information about him on the Internet, she'd found plenty of pictures. Grace had vowed never to be wowed by a pretty face ever again, but that didn't mean she didn't notice a good-looking guy when she saw one. And there was no doubt whatsoever that Dylan was a very attractive man.
Still, she couldn't help but think he'd be a heck of a lot more attractive if he actually returned one of her phone calls.
As she carefully dodged one of the puddles from the previous evening's rainstorm and breathed in the sweet yet salty sea air on the surprisingly warm and muggy day, she thought again how happy she was about her move to Seattle. Sure, it rained quite a bit, but she loved how dust never had a chance to settle. Plus, constant rain meant there was water pretty much everywhere. She'd grown up on a farm half an hour outside of Washington, D.C., and had loved playing in the river and streams, but the only time she'd been out on the ocean had been with her ex a year and a half ago. She'd loved the sea breeze and the feel of the water rushing beneat
A seagull swooping toward the water just a few feet in front of them brought her back to the present. Mason dropped his toy to point at it excitedly and she agreed, "It is very exciting!" even though the gull came up empty-beaked. But when Mason looked down at his hand a few seconds later and realized his toy was gone, his face crumpled.
Uh-oh. The last thing she needed was to be holding a crying baby when she finally met Dylan.
Grace quickly bent down, and her pre-baby suit skirt tightened even more around her hips as she picked up the rattle. Normally she would never give the toy back to Mason without washing it thoroughly first, but when he started to cry, she simply tried her best to shake off the dirt before he shoved it back into his mouth. She reminded herself that she'd eaten plenty of dirt growing up on a farm and had lived through it just fine.
Not, unfortunately, that the toy seemed to be making any difference as Mason let loose with a loud wail, then chucked the plastic rattle so that it landed with a loud bang on the wooden dock.
"Mason, sweetie, don't cry. Please don't cry." She brushed a hand over his hair, then across his wet cheeks. "We just need to spend a few minutes here and then we'll get you home for your nap." But the more she tried to soothe him, the more Mason fussed in her arms.
"Everything okay out there?"
She looked up at the dark-haired man who had stepped out of the boathouse...and literally lost her breath. Dylan Sullivan was a million times better looking in person than he'd been online. And he'd been pretty amazing looking on her computer screen.
She'd wondered what a boat builder's uniform was, and now she knew: T-shirt, worn blue jeans, and heavy work boots. The dark hair beneath his ball cap was a little too long and just unruly enough to make a girl want to drop everything to run her hands through it. But given that she had taught herself to be fairly immune to good-looking men, his movie-star looks alone wouldn't have been enough to send her breath whooshing from her lungs.
It was the concern in his eyes as he took in Mason's distress that completely undid her.
"Everything is fine, thanks."
Mason turned to look up at her, then, and even though he couldn't yet speak, she could clearly read his mind. I am not fine! Her son followed up his silent message with a far less silent one that echoed off the surface of the water in a shockingly loud way.
"Mason, sweet boy, everything's okay," she said again as she rocked and murmured, kissed and bounced, trying anything she could to shift him out of his crying jag. Dylan had walked several paces closer by this time, which only made her more flustered. "I just fed him before we came here, so he shouldn't be hungry. And," she added as she gave Mason a soft pat on his bottom to check the state of his diaper, "he's dry and clean."
"Does he want his toy back?"
She hadn't noticed Dylan picking up the plastic rattle from the dock. When he held it out, she realized she'd never seen a man like him--so big and rugged and over-the-top gorgeous--holding a baby toy before. It did funny things to her stomach, sending it into flips and spins.
Miraculously, Mason stopped crying as he looked at Dylan. And then, suddenly, her son twisted in her arms and reached out. She assumed he was trying to grab the toy, but when he batted it away again, it became clear that he was really reaching for Dylan.
Her heart stopped in her chest. Actually just quit beating for a moment. Mason had never reached for anyone but her. But one look at this beautiful stranger and he was instinctively reaching out to be held?
Must run in our family.
Wait. No. That was crazy. She didn't want to reach for Dylan. Didn't want the gorgeous sailboat maker to pull her into his arms, hold her, and never let go. She was just tired and stressed and overwhelmed because she hadn't had anyone else to lean on in so long.
Plus, it didn't help that just that morning she'd read an article online about her ex--a high-profile man from D.C.--having fertility problems with his wife. Because now Grace was more desperate than ever for Dylan's cooperation with the magazine story she was hoping to write about him.
It had been a year and a half since she'd made her initial pitch to Sailing Magazine about a piece on the heart of a sailor, inspired by her first and only sail. She hadn't yet realized she was pregnant, and she hadn't been dumped yet, either. Her pitch had been good enough that the editor had actually seemed upset when he'd told her they didn't have the budget for the story. Fast forward to a week ago, when she'd been beyond shocked to see the email from the magazine's editor-in-chief telling her they hadn't been able to stop thinking about her story idea and had finally pulled together the budget for it. The money they had offered her for the article, along with the promise that it would be a cover story, had blown her mind. Both couldn't have come at a better time, considering how little there was in her bank account now that she lived in such an expensive part of the country. She couldn't believe her luck--at least until the editor had told her his one big requirement for the story: Dylan Sullivan had to agree not only to be the main subject...but the cover boy as well.
If he didn't agree to the interview, the editor would pull the story that would not only pay the next few months' rent, but would also increase her legal defense fund so that she could hire a really good custody lawyer if her ex ever decided to try to take Mason away from her.
"Would it help if I held him for a little while?"
Dylan's softly spoken question broke her out of her spinning thoughts. She'd never given her child to a stranger to hold, wouldn't have thought she would ever consider it. "Maybe if you could just hold his hand for a few seconds, that will be enough to calm him down a little."
"Hey there, big boy." Dylan stroked Mason's fingers. "Welcome to my boathouse."
But her son not only kept crying, he was leaning so close to Dylan by then that he had practically wriggled all the way out of her arms. From the look on Mason's face, along with the tenor of his wails, Grace knew they were approximately five seconds from an even more massive meltdown. Which was why, at last, Grace made the only decision she felt she could to try to keep her son from more misery: She let him go into the arms of the man by whom he so badly wanted to be held.
Dylan took him with the ease of a man who had held plenty of babies. And who liked holding them. To her further amazement, by the time he said, "What's your name?" to her son, Mason had stopped crying and was babbling a greeting in his own special language.
"Mason," Grace replied. "His name is Mason." And her little boy was smiling now, so happy that his entire face had lit up. "He's never wanted to go to anyone else like this before."
Dylan shifted his gaze to her, and she felt as though his dark brown eyes saw all the way down into her soul. When her son grunted to get his attention, he turned to grin back down at him.
"You've got quite a throwing arm, haven't you, Mason?" As if to confirm it, the baby grabbed the baseball cap off Dylan's head and sent it sailing into the air.
Grace hurried to pick up Dylan's hat before the breeze took it into the water. "Mason is usually pretty mellow. I think maybe the muggy heat is getting to him."
Or perhaps that was just her, because every time Dylan looked at her she felt as if she were heating up from the inside out. Which was crazy on a number of fronts. First, for the past year and a half she'd been completely shut down when it came to men. Second, she was here for professional, not personal, reasons. And third, the chance of ever moving beyond professional with a man like Dylan Sullivan was utterly laughable.
But when she handed him his hat, the stark heat in his gaze nearly had her dropping it from suddenly numb fingertips. Fumbling, she ended up shoving the cap at him.
"I can take my son back now." But when she reached for Mason, he only snuggled closer into Dylan's broad chest.
"I'm okay holding him for a while longer if you're okay with it," Dyla
God, no, she wasn't okay with it for a whole host of twisted-together reasons. It wasn't just that Mason had chosen a stranger instead of her for the first time. It was more that she thought she'd made her peace with her son never knowing his father--only now that she'd seen Mason in a man's arms, it was hitting her all over again, harder than ever, that he'd never have this. At least, not for more than these few minutes with Dylan.
Standing in front of a stranger from whom she desperately needed help--one who was holding her son so sweetly--Grace couldn't figure out how to stop her heart from breaking into a million pieces all over again.
Or to keep from falling head over heels for Dylan the same way it seemed her son just had.
Two years ago, Dylan had been sailing in Belize when he'd looked up and seen a rogue wave come crashing toward him and his boat. He hadn't stopped to think, hadn't had time to be afraid, had simply done whatever he could to sail through what was later called the "storm of the century." And he'd known that every second he'd spent in a sailboat during the past two decades had been to prepare him for that moment.
Seeing Grace and Mason for the first time had felt exactly the same way. He'd been working in his boathouse, enjoying the quiet and the physical labor, when he'd heard crying, and then the somewhat desperate murmur of a woman's voice as she tried to calm the baby. The moment he'd stepped outside to make sure neither of them were hurt, and set eyes on the mother and child, his entire world had spun off its axis.
Desire for the woman--and his need to soothe the little boy--had come so fast that he hadn't stopped to overthink or be afraid of what he was feeling. He'd simply reached out for the baby at the same time that he'd confirmed the little boy's mother wasn't wearing a wedding ring...and thought, I'm going to marry her.
Maybe he should have been surprised, but he wasn't. Not when he'd always known that this would be how he'd love. All or nothing. And faster than a sloop flying over the water at twenty-five knots. All the years he'd spent watching his parents together, along with the way his cousins and siblings had found love these past few years, had prepared him well for this moment when he'd be hit by his own lightning bolt straight to the heart.
BELLA ANDRE SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Just To Be With YouI Only Have Eyes for YouThe Way You Look TonightThe Look of LoveIf You Were MineIt Must Be Your LoveLet Me Be the OneCome A Little Bit Closer
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