the way you look tonight - Page 34

Jack shot his brother a warning look, his fingers curling hard around the edges of the plates. “Mary is a hell of a lot more than just a foxy model.”

“Sure she is,” Ethan quickly agreed, “but the fact is, she’s way out of your league. You might have gotten lucky catching her eye, but you’re going to have to count on more than luck to keep her.”

Nothing like family to rub in the truth, was there? “Nice to know you’re on my side,” Jack muttered.

When he looked up, Ethan was grinning at him. “Does she have any sisters?”

“No.” Thinking of the young models living with Mary, he added, “And before you ask, I’m not going to introduce you to any of her friends, either.”

“Times like this make me wonder why I ever bothered to cover for you with Mom when we were kids,” Ethan said as he dropped silverware beside the plates Jack had laid out on the table.

But even as they continued to razz each other, Jack could read the subtext of their conversation loud and clear: Even if Ethan couldn’t understand how the engineer and the model could fit so well together, his brother was happy Jack had found Mary…and he hoped things would work out for the two of them.

* * *

Spending time with his family had always been Jack’s favorite pastime, especially when, as adults, his brothers’ jobs and moves around the country meant they didn’t get to see each other nearly enough. But tonight, while he’d enjoyed catching up with everyone, Jack realized he was looking for excuses to leave so that he and Mary could be alone. And when she tried to hide a yawn behind her hand and he realized how beat she must be from her long day in front of the TV camera, not to mention making dinner for all of them, he pushed back from the table.

“Time to call it a night, folks.”

Ethan looked around at his once-pristine home in dismay. Between the meal and Ian’s fort made out of the cushions on his couch, his place was a mess.

“What am I supposed to do with all of these dirty pots and pans and dishes? My cleaning lady won’t be back for another few days.”

Max grinned at him. “We’ll stack them real neat by the sink for you.”

A while earlier, Claudia had tucked Ian into the middle of Ethan’s big king bed with pillows propped up on each side of him so that he couldn’t roll off and hurt himself. Claudia began to slowly stand to go get him, but when Mary offered to rouse him instead, Claudia nodded sleepily and tucked herself in tighter against Max.

From where Jack was standing in the living room, he could see Mary get to the master bedroom doorway then stop in her tracks. Wondering what had her halting, he moved down the hall.

“Mary?”

She held her finger to her lips, then pointed to the bed. Ian was sprawled on his back, three of his four chubby little limbs spread wide. His thumb had found its way into his mouth, and his cheeks were pink from drying spaghetti sauce and the exertions of sleep.

Jack had been careful all night long to keep what was between them private. He hadn’t touched Mary. Hadn’t dragged her against him for a kiss. Now, he threaded his fingers through hers and lifted her hand to his lips.

She stared into his eyes, and what he saw in hers made his chest clench with love again, even tighter, even stronger this time. “Claudia and Max are waiting for me to bring him out.”

Reluctantly, Jack let her hand go and watched her sit gently on the bed beside Ian. She stroked his hair back with a soft touch so that the little boy wouldn’t wake too quickly, and Jack wasn’t surprised when the first thing his nephew said after finally opening his eyes was, “Pretty.”

Mary smiled down at him. “Your mommy and daddy miss you. Can I take you to them?”

When the little boy held out his arms and Mary lifted him up and buried her face against his warm, soft body, Jack’s heart skipped more than just one beat.

Chapter Eleven

The night was so clear that the stars seemed to be putting on a show in celebration of the beautiful San Francisco winter weather. Mary couldn’t remember the last time she’d enjoyed an evening so much, and she didn’t want it to be over yet.

After saying goodbye to his family, Mary turned to Jack with a smile. “What do you say we walk off some of that pasta?”

She’d never felt so comfortable—or so completely alive—with anyone else. It was just as natural to laugh and talk with Jack as it was to enjoy the quiet night as they made their way down the city sidewalk.

“Your family is wonderful,” she said as she linked her fingers with his.

“They obviously feel the same way about you. Claudia was clearly thrilled about no longer being the odd woman out with all of us boys. And she'll never forget that you made dinner so that she could put her feet up for a little while.”

“Your brother and his wife seem so happy together.”

“They definitely are now, although like Claudia said, it was a pretty big mess at first. Max was a basket case, falling in love with her while she was engaged to his best friend. He was pretty badly torn up about it. I spent more than a few nights closing down the bars with him back then.”

While all of the Sullivan men had the same rugged good looks, each of the brothers she’d met tonight had very different personalities. Max had been the easygoing one. Ethan was sharper, darker somehow. And Jack, well, not only was he brilliant and focused, but he was also the only one who made her heart beat hard and her lips tingle with pleasure even before he’d pressed his mouth to hers.