Mary turned to pick up her glass of wine from the coffee table and found Jack looking at her. She’d seen desire on his face. She’d seen admiration and respect in his eyes. But until this moment, she’d never seen such warmth.
So much warmth that, if she didn’t know better, she would have said it looked like love.
“I never thought I’d see one of the world’s most beautiful fashion models sitting on the floor letting a kid drool all over her.” Ethan shot Jack an incredulous look. “How’d you meet her again?”
“Pure luck.” Jack still marveled over it. “Somewhere along the line, I must have done something right.”
“That’s just how I felt the day I met Claudia,” Max said, looking across the room at his wife with love in his eyes. “And I’ve felt that every day since.”
Jack had never tried to fight what he felt for Mary, not when it had been so strong and clear from that first moment they’d met in Union Square. But when he realized she was becoming more important to him than the work that had held his focus for over a decade, he thought he should at least try to apply to the two of them the same arguments and calculations that he had always lived by.
But it had taken him less than ten seconds of watching her read to his little nephew to realize that all the brilliant analysis in the world didn’t mean a damn thing when it came to love.
People had often called Jack Sullivan a genius. Now he’d finally prove they were right by being smart enough to listen to what was in his heart.
Jack wanted Mary as more than another business colleague. He wanted her as more than a stunningly beautiful woman who made his blood simmer.
He wanted her.
He wanted the woman who laughed so easily with a toddler. He wanted the woman whose skin was so soft, whose arms were so strong even as he tried to turn them to rubber with a kiss. He wanted the woman who possessed so much intelligence behind her shockingly beautiful face. He wanted the woman who took care of three young models so that their mothers would know they were safe.
Claudia put Ian into his arms. “It’s your turn to keep him out of trouble while I make good on my promise to put together something for us all to eat tonight.”
Mary ran a hand over Ian’s soft, dark hair, then followed Claudia into the kitchen.
Mary drew Jack like a magnet, so he turned to Ian and asked, “Want to follow the pretty ladies to see what they have for us to munch on before dinner?”
Ian grinned at him, four sparkling white teeth in a mouthful of gums. “Want candy.”
Jack laughed and gave the little boy a kiss on his forehead. “Let’s see what goodies we can find hiding in Uncle Ethan’s kitchen.”
Maybe he should have been surprised to find Mary with her hands in flour and eggs at the kitchen counter while Claudia sat with her feet up on a chair, but he wasn’t. Yes, she was a gorgeous, successful model. But first and foremost, she was a woman who clearly enjoyed children and food.
“Mary offered to make fresh pasta,” Claudia told him as she sipped a club soda and relaxed deeper into her seat. “I assumed it would be too difficult to make at home, so I’ve always bought pasta at the store. Where did you learn to make it, Mary?”
Mary deftly brought the flour and eggs into a ball, then began to knead it on the kitchen counter. “I was barely older than Ian when my grandmother showed me how. Homemade pasta is a tradition in Italy.”
“Is that where you’re from? I thought I heard the slightest hint of an accent.”
“You should have seen how hard I worked to get rid of it when I moved to New York City.” She laughed at herself. “I was so desperate to look and sound like everyone else back then.”
“Are you kidding? I would have loved to have had an exotic accent like yours. I’m sure if I had,” Claudia joked, “the men would have been lining up around the block for me.”
“You’re beautiful,” Mary said in her unaffected manner. “I’m sure the men were already lining up.”
“Have I mentioned how much I like you yet?” Claudia shot a meaningful glance at Jack, one that he could see clearly asked, Have you convinced her to be yours yet?
He shot his sister-in-law back his own clear message: Trust me, I’m working on it.
“I’d love to know how you and Max met, Claudia.”
“I was dating Max’s best friend, actually. It was all very scandalous, and we both tried to fight what we felt for each other for a long time, because we didn’t want to hurt anyone. But eventually, neither of us could fight what was meant to be. Even if it meant hurting someone we both cared about.”
As Max and Ethan came into the kitchen, Claudia told them, “I was just telling Mary how we met.”
“Have you gotten to the stolen kisses part yet?” Max asked as he leaned down to give her one.
“I love hearing tales of true love,” Mary said with a small smile. “My mother and father are like that. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for each other. Nothing they wouldn’t support each other in.”
The longing on her face had Jack nearly moving to pull her into his arms and kiss her, too, in front of everyone. And he might have if Ian hadn’t poked at his cheek and said, “Thirsty.” Knowing that kissing Jack in public—especially in front of his family—was the last thing Mary would want to do, Jack knew it was something he had to resist…for now.