He’d seen how much she’d loved holding the toddler who had rushed onto the set the previous afternoon. With an amused shake of her head, she picked up a stray scarf and hat belonging to one of her modeling charges. She would, he thought now, be an amazing mother one day. Loving but without holding on too tightly. Strict but fair.
Jack’s brother Max had a toddler with another on the way, but Jack had never thought about becoming a parent himself. Not, he was stunned to realize, until this very moment.
“Mary, you’re soaked!” Janeen was a beautiful twenty-year-old blonde model with legs that went on forever. Her eyes widened even further when she saw Jack standing behind Mary. “Well, hello there.” The girl’s voice had immediately dropped into a husky register as she slunk forward and thrust her hand into Jack’s. “I’m Janeen.”
More than a little disgusted with herself for feeling any jealousy at all where Jack and the girls were concerned, Mary went to grab a couple of dry towels from the linen closet while her housemates finished introducing themselves. By the time she returned to the large, open-plan living and kitchen area, they had Jack in a captive circle of their youth and beauty.
In her experience, even the nicest man couldn’t resist three pretty girls fawning over him, so it wouldn’t have been fair for Mary to expect Jack to not look at them with some appreciation, at the very least. But when she said, “Why don’t I trade you this towel for your coat?” and Yvette boldly stepped forward to help him peel it off, Mary couldn’t see even one trace of lust on his face for the stunning redhead. Only laughter when the wet fabric caught on his watch clasp.
At least until he turned his gaze back to Mary and took the towel she was offering. She’d also taken off her jacket and was standing in front of him in her wet wrap dress. Just that quickly, the desire in his eyes was back.
But only for her.
“Jack is the engineer and inventor I was telling you girls about last night,” Mary explained.
“Mary is so lucky to get to work with you,” Susan said with a seductive toss of her curly black hair.
“My partners and I are the lucky ones.” He wiped his hair and face with the towel. In unison, the three young models all sighed over his gorgeously rumpled good looks.
Well, Mary thought as she barely held back her own sigh of appreciation, could she blame them? Jack really was that gorgeous, especially with his button-down shirt and slacks damp and clinging to his well-developed muscles. Clearly, he must not spend all of his time working.
People always asked Mary about her life because she was a celebrity, but she was just as interested in theirs. Journalist, waitress, mother, photographer, bus driver—they all had interesting stories to tell. What, she wondered, was the rest of Jack’s story? She guessed he was close to his family from what he’d told her at the diner, and she knew he was devoted to his work. But neither of those things explained the slight air of danger—and risk—that he wore so easily. He hadn’t been at all intimidated by the bigwigs in the boardroom.
“If you need any other models for your campaign,” Yvette offered with her most alluring smile, “you know where to find us.”
Feeling as if she’d accidentally dropped Jack straight into a shark tank, Mary stepped into the fray by gesturing to the three sets of sparkly heels on the wood-planked floor. “Looks like you have a big Friday night out planned?”
Janeen nodded, then looked back at Jack with a hopeful expression. “It’s a new club Yvette heard about from the photographer on her shoot today. You two should come with us.”
“I’m all danced out,” Jack said with a grin for Mary that brought back every wonderful moment of their impromptu dance in the rain. “But thank you.”
Mary watched Susan shoot the other girls a pointed glance. When Janeen and Yvette didn’t immediately understand, Susan did the world’s most obvious pantomime of Jack and Mary being a couple that included a heart drawn in the air and kissy motions with her lips.
“Oh,” Yvette said as she looked between them. “Of course, you two don’t want to go dancing with us.”
Janeen chimed in with, “We should probably let you two be alone now, shouldn’t we?”
What could Mary do but laugh as she turned on the kitchen tap? “I’m making coffee if you want some before you head out on the town.”
But the girls were now a blur as they strapped on their shoes, grabbed their coats and sparkly purses and headed for the door. “Thanks, Mary, but our dates have already been waiting for us for a while.”
Mary followed them to the front door and caught them as they flitted down the front steps. “Be careful, and call me if you need anything. It doesn’t matter how late, I’ll come and bring you home.” Reminding herself that they were young, but that each of them had a good head on her shoulders, she added, “And have fun.”
A taxi immediately skidded to a stop for the three long-legged beauties and they blew her kisses as they got inside. “You, too!” Yvette called out before tucking her feet into the cab and closing the door.
Jack was laying both of their jackets over the radiator when Mary returned. She’d chosen the house not only for its views, but because she loved how big and open the rooms felt. Even with four people living in it, she never felt cramped. In fact, on nights like this when the girls went out, rather than appreciate the quiet, she often found herself counting the minutes until they returned with their noise and laughter and exuberance.