Her stomach twisted as she forced herself to face the truth.
No! She didn’t want to let go of Jack’s hand when they went back downstairs. And she definitely didn’t want to pretend that he hadn’t come to mean everything to her.
It was time to come clean, not just with the rest of the world, but with Jack…and with herself, too.
To hell with caution. Mary wanted everyone to know she was his.
“I was wrong, Jack.”
She had felt the warmth of his gaze on her as soon as the lights went up. Now, he took her hands in his and gently asked, “Singin’ in the Rain isn’t one of your favorite movies, after all?”
She’d been focusing so hard on her guilt and trying to be brave. Only Jack could have made her smile at a moment like this.
“Not about the movie—I still love it, and seeing it with you has made it even more special. What I meant was that I was wrong about hiding our relationship.”
Even though she knew he didn’t want them to continue as a secret, he said, “I didn’t bring you here tonight to try to make you change your mind, or to make your reasons seem less valid.”
“You could have never done that, Jack.” It was why she’d come to care about him so strongly, so quickly. Working to ignore the flutter in her belly that proved she wasn’t nearly as brave as she was trying to appear, she declared, “I’m tired of letting the past rule my present. And my future.”
The way he was looking at her, Mary swore he could see right down into her soul.
“I’ll wait as long as you need me to wait,” he vowed in a low voice.
Had anyone ever cared for her this much?
“No more waiting.”
And then she pressed her lips to his in a soft kiss so much like their very first under the mistletoe.Chapter Fifteen
Mary held tight to Jack’s hand as they came down the stairs. By now, there were only a few people left in the lobby to see them together, but when she and Jack didn’t rush into a taxi, several strangers came up to ask for her autograph. Throughout, while Mary made it a point to remain close to Jack, she noted that he was still being careful not to touch her too much or be too publicly affectionate. It was as though he knew one wrong move so close to her decision to share their relationship with the world would make her skittish.
It never ceased to amaze her how well he knew her…and how deeply he’d gotten into her heart right from the first day she’d met him.
Could he know that she was working overtime to try to ignore the voice in her head that said she was moving too fast? Could he hear the cautionary whisper inside her that was trying to warn her she was making decisions too wildly where he was concerned? Could he see her worrying that she was letting her heart run away with her again…and that she would pay for her foolish romantic ideas in the end?
A part of her wished that he’d push her tonight, that he’d force her to admit all of her remaining fears—of being scared to trust him with her heart, and wondering if love could truly last forever…even whether she would still be someone who mattered to him or anyone else when her face was no longer on magazines and TV screens and billboards.
But in the back of the taxi on the drive back to her house, Jack didn’t force her to admit her hidden fears. He simply pulled her close and held her.
Mary had been with men who were flashy, the life of every party, the head of every line, the first in front of every camera. Whereas Jack reminded her of her own father. Steady. Warm. Strong.
Solid, from heart to soul.
When the taxi pulled up in front of her house, she slid her fingers through his. “I’m not ready for the most romantic date of my life to end.”
Of course, she wanted him to come inside and spend the night with her, sweet hours of sinful lovemaking that stole her breath and set her heart to racing. But even more than that, after those moments when they’d temporarily sated their passions and he was holding her in his arms, she wanted to experience the feeling of deep, sweet closeness and joy.
Jack’s dark eyes never left hers as he paid for the taxi, and then they were standing in front of her house once again, two lovers who she now understood had never had a chance of resisting the beautiful pull between them.
What sweet relief it was to allow herself to give in to the heady urge to kiss him out on the sidewalk beneath the moon and the stars for anyone to see. And when his mouth was against hers and his arms were around her, it was easy to ignore her lingering fears, the worries that she wished would stop trying to push their way to the surface.
“Thank you for the flowers, the movie, the popcorn, and the company…they were all wonderful.” With each word, she drew him step by step up the stairs. “I’d offer to make you a cup of coffee, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t give you a chance to let you drink it before it got really, really cold.”
She was just opening her front door when he said, “We’ll have it in bed,” in that low voice that sizzled up her spine. “After.”
Oh, yes. After.
As soon as they were inside, Mary started stripping away Jack’s jacket and shirt, her lips immediately covering each patch of skin she bared. He was doing the same with her, when her phone rang.
She’d never once let the phone go unheeded, even when the timing was as bad as it was now. What if it was her parents calling? What if they were hurt or sick? Or what if her mother was finally ready to talk to her again?
The men Mary had been with before Jack had never understood why she would drop everything to pick up the phone, but when she looked into Jack’s eyes with an apology in hers and said, “I’m sorry, I have to get the phone,” he didn’t look upset.