the way you look tonight - Page 35

She’d loved seeing how close Jack was to his brothers. And despite the differences and the disagreements four brothers that close in age must have had over the years, it was clear that they’d do anything for one another. What’s more, tonight she’d felt as if he’d welcomed her into his family without any reservations whatsoever…whereas she’d been so afraid to let him do more than kiss her.

“They’re all so proud of you.” Every time his invention had come up during dinner, his family had been extremely supportive and excited.

“My brothers have all been really successful with their careers, but they never tried to get me to leave my dusty garage. I guess they figured if my vision didn’t end up working out, they knew I could come to them for help.”

“That’s why you never needed to,” she marveled, “because you really did know they’d always be there for you. No matter what.”

“Always.”

“When I was a little girl I thought that, too, about my own family. But—” Not wanting to ruin a perfect evening with self-pity, she tried to brush away her comment. “Listen to me, sounding like I’m still that little girl when it’s been long enough for me to have gotten over it by now.”

Jack squeezed her hand. “We all want our families to approve of us and the dreams we’re chasing.”

“Why aren’t you married already, Jack?”

Mary gave a slightly embarrassed laugh. She hadn’t meant to blurt that out, but when he kept saying such sweet things, she simply couldn’t understand why he hasn’t already been snapped up.

“That didn’t come out quite right. I just meant that not only have you got two great examples of happy marriages between your parents and your brother, but, at this point, most men would be running away as fast as they could from their weepy dinner date who can’t seem to get over something that happened when she was a teenager.”

“Even though I can see that my brother Max is happy, and that my parents have something really special with each other, it never occurred to me to look for a wife or to start a family. Not when work always came first.”

“That makes sense,” she agreed. “The timing has to be right—otherwise you could end up losing the woman you’re supposed to be with, like Max almost did.”

“You know what?” Jack stroked his thumb over her palm, sending shivers through her that had nothing to do with the cool night air. “I don’t think bad timing is the entire answer anymore.”

Her senses came completely alive as she asked, “It isn’t?”

“Now I know that when I meet the right woman, I won’t have any problem at all making time for her. In fact,” he said as his gaze locked on hers, “it will be the most natural, easy thing in the world to put her first.”

Her heart fluttered in her chest as she realized they were standing at the base of her front steps. And as she drank in Jack’s rugged beauty in the winter moonlight, Mary couldn’t stop thinking about what Claudia had said: “We both tried to fight what we felt for each other for a long time. But eventually, neither of us could fight what was meant to be.”

Why, she had to ask herself, was she still fighting so hard against what she’d felt for Jack Sullivan from the first moment she’d set eyes on him?

What if they were meant to be?

“I don’t want to say goodnight yet,” she whispered.

“Neither do I.”

Jack put his arms around her and pulled her in tight to him so that his face was buried in her hair and her cheek was pressed to his broad chest. She could have stood in the circle of his strong arms until sunrise.

But she wanted more.

Which meant that she would finally have to be brave enough to risk not only her body…but her heart, too.

Lifting her face from his chest, she remembered what he’d said to her the first and last time he’d been to her home: Next time you invite me in, I’m going to make love to you. A shiver of need ran through her as she looked up at him.

“Come inside, Jack.”

His dark eyes flared with heat and so much desire it took her breath away. But he didn’t make a move for the door.

“The campaign isn’t over yet, and I made you a promise.”

“I love that you’re willing to stick by the promise you made to me, no matter how hard it is to do that. But I don’t need that promise tonight, Jack. I just need you.” She’d made the rules, and now she was the one tossing them away, at least for one night.

Despite how much he obviously wanted to come inside and make love to her, he didn’t move from the step he was standing on. “Be sure, Angel, because once I come inside and your front door is closed, there's going to be no turning back tonight.” His hands tightened on her. “Not for either of us.”

She could have tried to lie to herself by believing this was all just about sex, that she and Jack were simply going to take the night to let their attraction come to its inevitable conclusion. But Mary had never been a convincing liar…and deep inside, a voice that had been silent for far too long told her that making love with Jack would, instead of being an ending, be the beginning of something so much better, sweeter and more amazing than she’d ever dreamed.

“After watching you with Ian—” Emotion swept through her again as she thought about how sweet Jack had been as he’d held and played with the toddler. “You were so good with him, and he obviously trusts and loves you so much.