the way you look tonight - Page 16

Oh, but she did.

She leaned closer, but before she could press her lips to his, his mouth found hers.

Their kiss was gentle and sweeter than any she’d shared in recent memory, little more than a split-second brush of mouth against mouth. But, oh, from the sparks that lit off all through her system, it was much, much more than one simple kiss under the mistletoe. Jack’s lips tasted like champagne and she wanted to reach up to thread her fingers through his dark hair and pull him closer so that she could get an even better taste.

Stunned by her strong feelings for a man she’d met less than twenty-four hours ago, Mary instinctively pulled back. In the span of one short kiss, she’d forgotten not only that his partners were sitting at the table with them but that they were in the middle of a crowded bar. As a public figure, she’d long ago learned to be aware of her behavior in public, especially as her fame had grown larger and larger. Over the years she would often find her name and picture in the papers after a night out.

More than a little worried that she was going to do something to embarrass herself soon, she scooted off her seat. “Thank you for the champagne.” She tried to smile at everyone as though everything was fine, but her lips were still tingling from the sweet pressure of Jack’s mouth against hers. “I’m sorry to have to leave already, but I’ll be in touch with the photographer’s information and location for Monday’s shoot by Sunday night at the very latest.”

Larry and Howie were loose enough from the drink now that they gave her one-armed hugs goodbye. Layla also hugged her and whispered, “Thank you again for saving the boys. I don’t know what they would have done without you.”

Jack had gotten up from his seat, too, but instead of saying goodbye, he said, “I’ll take you home.”

Mary was having enough trouble controlling herself around him in a crowded bar. She could only imagine how little self-control she’d be able to muster up if they went to a more private location. Besides, at this point she desperately needed a cool and breezy walk back to her place to help clear her mind, a walk that was long enough for her to systematically rewind through each of the reasons why getting involved with Jack now—when their promotional campaign had barely begun—was a bad idea.

“You should stay to celebrate, Jack.”

But he was already slipping her jacket on over her shoulders. “I’ll call you both tomorrow morning to coordinate our schedules for next week,” he told Larry and Howie as he reached for his coat. After kissing Layla on the cheek, he put his hand on the small of Mary’s back and walked to the entrance with her.

Despite his presence behind her, she felt unsteady in her heels for the first time since being a teenager on her first catwalk. Not because of the champagne, which she’d barely sipped, but because Jack’s nearness affected her so powerfully.

Out on the curb he started to hail a cab, but Mary put her hand on his arm. “I’d much rather walk, if you don’t mind.”

He covered her hand with his to keep them connected. “Which way?”

She nodded in the direction of the Bay. “Nob Hill.”

“That’s a half-dozen blocks.” He looked down at the heels on her boots. “You can walk that far in those?”

It had been a long time since she’d been with someone who didn’t know the ins and outs of her world. Despite all of her warnings to herself to stop being charmed by every little thing Jack said and did, she found it really refreshing.

“When I’m working, I spend all day in heels, most higher than these. The first few months,” she admitted, “I would hobble home at night from a shoot or runway show and soak my feet in an ice bath.” And cry for her mother, who she knew would have called her crazy for sticking with a career that tore her feet to shreds like that. “Eventually, I got used to the pain.” From the shoes, anyway.

“Well, if they do start to hurt, you should know I give a mean piggyback ride,” he said with an adorable grin. “At least, according to my little nephew Ian.”

Sexy she could deal with. Kind and intelligent certainly upped the ante and tested her mettle in a serious way.

But adorable?

How was she supposed to resist adorable?

Just then, a teenage girl waiting for the traffic light to change asked her for an autograph. Mary signed it, and after they’d crossed the street, Jack said, “If I had known you were this famous, I’m not sure I’d have gotten up the nerve to talk to you yesterday.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You don’t strike me as a man who lets nerves or doubts rule him.”

“I never have before,” he said, “but you’re making me feel a lot of things I’ve never felt before.”

Mary was used to men who practically rented out an orchestral hall and filled it from floor to ceiling with roses to set the stage for declaring themselves to her. Jack, on the other hand, simply said the most shockingly delicious things without any fanfare at all.

“Does it ever bother you to have people constantly looking at you? The way they all want to talk to you and ask for autographs?”

“Ninety-nine percent of the strangers who approach me for an autograph are lovely, polite people. Honestly, the only thing that bothers me about any of it is that I haven’t done anything extraordinary enough for them to be so starstruck.”

The sidewalk was crowded, but Jack didn’t seem to care as he turned her to face him in the middle of it. “You were born with incredible blue eyes. Your mouth drives a guy crazy just looking at it. And you have a figure that Michelangelo could have spent a lifetime trying to set into stone and never done justice to it. But I’ve seen how hard you work during photo shoots and I’ve just heard you come up with a half-dozen fantastic ideas for the ads we’re going to shoot together. I’m certain that there are plenty of beautiful women who couldn’t do what you do anywhere near as well, or make it seem as effortless.”