When Yvette told her that of course she had to call, because Mary was family, her eyes finally teared up, but not with fear or worry.
* * *
Women had often told Jack over the years that he didn’t pay enough attention to their needs, their feelings, that he was too focused on his computers and circuits to understand them. And they’d been right, but only because none of them had captured enough of his heart to get all his attention.
But Mary had had his full attention from the first moment he’d set eyes on her. He’d watched her shift from an animated phone conversation with Yvette to turning pale as a ghost and when he’d heard the name Romain fall from her lips, he’d immediately sensed her concern for the young woman she’d been watching over.
At the same time, he’d instinctively known that Mary’s doubts and fears about their relationship had to be rising up again. What could have been a better reminder of the need to be careful with Jack than hearing about that bastard again?
Back at the movie theater, it had meant so much to Jack when she’d said she didn’t want their relationship to be a secret anymore. And yet, even as she’d said it, he’d known that she was still holding something back from him, that final piece of herself…just in case.
Jack knew how badly she’d been hurt. Not only by the Swiss watch mogul, but also by the way her own family had pushed her out of their lives. And he’d meant it when he’d said he’d wait as long as he needed to for her.
She’d told him that day in his garage that it would take her some time to heal all the way. Well, he was a very patient man when he needed to be…and he would just keep loving her through her doubts and fears until they were completely gone.
As she hung up the phone, Jack moved beside her on the couch and asked, “Are you okay?”
She put one hand on his cheek and held it there. “You know what? I am.” She stroked her fingertips lightly over the stubble on his cheek. “I’ve never had a man to lean on,” she said softly. “Not until you.”
In that instant, all of the vows he’d just made to himself to be patient snapped in two.He had to tell her how he felt.
She had to know.
“I love you, Mary.”
She’d blinked at him in pain and confusion minutes earlier when Romain’s name had left her lips. And then, when she’d put her hand on his cheek after she’d hung up the phone, she’d gazed at him with warmth. Now, she was clearly shocked by his sudden declaration.
As an engineer, Jack understood precision and timing better than most. And yet, even if he was screwing up everything in this moment, he simply couldn’t hold back the depths of what he felt for Mary one more second.
“I never want to keep anything from you, Angel.” Now he was the one cupping her face in his hands as he told her, “Even when my professional dreams stretched from a few years to a decade, I always felt like I was holding the reins of control. I could see steady progress, and I was certain that nothing would knock me off course before I achieved my goal. But then I met you, and from that moment I’ve been hit with countless feelings—and desires—that I never saw coming. Not just the desire to kiss you, to touch you, to make love with you, but the need to make a life with you. I want to know that you’re mine and I’m yours and that everything we do from here on out, we’ll do together. I want you to become a part of my family. I want to find a way to reconcile you with your family. And I want the two of us to create a family of our own together, too.”
Jack hoped like hell that he was making some sense, but he’d never been caught up in a storm of emotions like this before. Only Mary could have unleashed such passion from a man who had always been so rational.
“I don’t want to push you any faster than you’re ready to go, and you’ve already given me so much more than I ever dreamed I’d have, but—”
Mary lifted her hands to touch his as they rested on her cheeks and, at that exact moment, her mouth covered his, and her kiss stole the rest of his words. His heart hammered in his chest as she stroked her tongue over his. Of course, he loved kissing her, but right now he needed to understand what her kiss meant. Was she trying to tell him she felt the same way…or was she trying to stop him before he said anything more?
Gently, he drew her back, but before he could ask her anything, she was looking at him with such open trust and so much emotion that his hands would have trembled if she hadn’t been holding them.
“I love you, too, Jack.”
For the first few seconds after she spoke, all he could do was stare at the most beautiful woman he’d ever known and marvel not only that she was here with him but also that she’d actually said the three sweetest words he’d ever heard.
Finally, when he thought he’d found his voice again, he said, “You—”
He stopped, more than a little afraid to repeat the words out of fear that she’d take them back when she finally realized she’d said them aloud to him.
“I meant what I said earlier tonight,” she said in a soft but steady voice. “I don’t want to let what happened with Romain ruin the best thing I’ve ever known.” Her eyes were the clearest blue he’d ever seen as she said, “I know you told me you’d wait for me, but I don’t want either of us to wait anymore. Especially when I knew from the first moment I saw you that you were special. I feel like I’ve been running my whole life, speeding from a small town into a big city, jumping from one place to the next for years until they all blurred together. And right when I decided it was time to finally stop running and set down some roots, there you were. My new beginning.” Her eyes filled with tears as she smiled up at him and slid her arms around his neck to pull him closer. “My love.”