the way you look tonight - Page 17

“I know I’m good at my job,” she agreed, “but I’m not a doctor curing cancer. I’m not an activist changing history. I’m not a mother with children who need me, either.” She’d rarely voiced these doubts aloud, but for some reason, with Jack she couldn’t stop them all from pouring out.

He reached over to gently stroke his fingers across her cheek, the heat of his touch in sharp contrast to the coolness of her skin. “You make people happy, Mary, and that’s an extraordinary thing.”

Jack’s words warmed her, just as his touch—and his kiss—had. So when they began to walk again and a damp wind whipped up around them, she let herself hold his arm a little more tightly and move just a little bit closer, too.

* * *

Jack had never had any problems with the opposite sex. Girls and then women had always seemed to like his looks, and he’d never been nervous or fumbling around them. But with Mary?

He could barely think a straight thought…especially after that kiss under the mistletoe.

The kiss had been two sets of lips barely touching. They hadn’t even held hands. And yet, she’d completely knocked his socks off to the point where his heart was still pounding hard and his veins were still buzzing with desire as they walked down the crowded street.

Had Mary been affected by their kiss in the same way?

And was there any way he could have felt that much if she hadn’t felt it, too?

The first drops of rain came from out of nowhere. Within seconds, they were falling hard and fast. Jack was searching for an overhanging awning when he realized Mary was staring up at the sky as the rain poured down on her. And there was a big smile on her stunning face.

“I was eleven years old when Singin’ in the Rain made it to Italy,” she said as she let go of his arm to reach for a lamppost and swing around it, humming the title tune from the film. “It’s still one of my favorite movies.”

Jack had seen Mary as a supermodel, he’d seen her as a businesswoman, and now he saw her as she must have been as a young girl. Full of wonder from something as simple as an unexpected rainstorm, her long, dark hair wet and slicked back, drops of water falling from her eyelashes to her cheeks, her full lips catching drops of rain just moments before she licked them off with the tip of her tongue.

Once upon a time he’d loved to play in the rain, but over the years, as he’d focused more and more on his invention—with only the occasional break for a fast car or a pretty woman—he’d lost sight of those pleasures.

After everyone else ran for cover, Jack and Mary were the only two people left on the sidewalk. It felt, for a moment, as if the city was entirely theirs.

He reached out his hand for her again. “Dance with me.”

She immediately turned into his arms as if she’d been waiting for him to ask. They might not be Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, but neither of them cared as they danced. No other woman had felt so right in his arms, and none had laughed with such joy in them, either.

“No one has ever danced with me in the rain before.” Mary had the same look of soft surprise in her eyes as she had after their kiss under the mistletoe.

“‘This California dew is just a little heavier than usual tonight.’”

“You’ve seen the movie?” She looked delighted by the discovery that he knew it well enough to quote from the scene right before Don Lockwood went out to sing and dance in the rain.

“My mother was a big fan.” And, boy, was he glad that she’d taken him to the theater as a ten-year-old boy and made him watch it. In retrospect, the dance lessons hadn’t been a bad idea, either.

Jack had meant it when he’d told her he was going to try to respect Mary’s wishes to keep things professional between them until they were done working together. But as they stood together in the rain, kissing her again was inevitable. They were both leaning in toward each other when the rain abruptly stopped falling and dozens of people suddenly emerged from the overhangs and bumped the two of them apart.

“I’m just around the corner.” Mary pointed to a building a few yards away. When they got to the bottom step, she immediately offered, “Why don’t you come in and warm up with a cup of coffee?”

Jack badly wanted to spend more time with her, but he couldn’t live with himself if he wasn’t completely honest with her. “There’s nothing I’d like more, Mary. But you have to know, I can’t stop thinking about that kiss in the bar…or how much I want another one.”

He wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d taken back her invitation at that point. Instead, her gaze dropped to his lips, and he knew she was being just as honest when she said, “Me, too.” Tearing her eyes from his mouth, she shook her head. “Coffee. We’re just going to have coffee.” She softened the blow with a smile, then led them up the stairs.

Both of them were wet from the rain, and he had a sudden flash of making love with her in a warm rain, skin slick from the heat of their bodies, her damp hand sliding into his, that beautiful smile on her face as he kissed every inch of her until she was begging for him to take her.

Jack was surprised to hear several young female voices when Mary opened the door and stepped aside to let him in. She explained in a low voice, “I’m an informal den mother to several young models while they’re working in San Francisco. It’s a very exciting and sometimes scary lifestyle to be thrown into, especially for girls who may never have left home before now. Basically, I promise their mothers that I’ll make sure they eat enough, don’t date indiscriminately, and put on something warm when they go out.”