He shook his head, hating having to admit that he hadn’t had enough money for the ring. Money had never seemed important before, not when all he’d ever needed was enough to keep a roof over his head and to be able to buy the hardware he needed for his research and development.
“I went to Allen and asked him for a loan, one that would, hopefully, be an advance on profits. When he asked why I needed the money, I told him I had fallen in love with you…and that I wanted to ask you to marry me.”
“Oh, Jack, I love the ring, but you could have put a dime-store ring on my finger and I would have loved you just as much.”
“I know you don’t need fancy jewels, that you must have a hundred already, but that’s not why I wanted you to have it. A diamond,” he said softly as she splayed her hand across his chest, right over the heart that would always beat harder when she was near, “is nearly impossible to break, no matter how hard you try.”
She lifted her gaze to his. “Just like us.”
For the next several hours, Mary and Jack went from one interview to the next, answering questions not only about why the Pocket Planner was the must-have Christmas gift of the year but also about their whirlwind romance. Allen had been right that the press couldn’t get enough of their human-interest story.
No matter how different people were, they all had one thing in common: a dream of finding the one.
Mary told the journalists how she’d set eyes on Jack in Union Square at what was supposed to be her final photo shoot and had instantly known she’d fall in love with him. But what she didn’t say to anyone was how sure she’d become over the years that she would never find a man like Jack.
Throughout the hours, Jack continued to hold on to her hand. She wondered, did he realize how much he touched her as he spoke? Her face, her hair, his forehead pressed against hers as they laughed together. He was so free with his affection, so unafraid of giving too much.
She’d learned so much from him already—not only how to love, but what forgiveness looked like.
A familiar pang resounded within her chest as she thought about her mother…and how happy she would be to see an engagement ring on her daughter’s finger, at last. Of course, Mary knew that her mother would be even happier about the man her daughter was marrying. Jack was such a good man. Such a solid man.Such a beautiful man, inside and out.
Tonight. She’d call home tonight with the good news. And even if her mother still wasn’t ready to forgive, Mary told herself it would be enough just to know their engagement was the news her mother had longed to hear.
When the last journalist finally left the boardroom, Jack’s eyes were warm as he smiled at her. “We should probably make a run for it before Allen scrounges up another twenty journalists.”
They gathered their coats, and she felt like a little girl again, trying to sneak out of her room to play when she was supposed to be taking a nap.
Mary was used to this kind of intense photo-and-interview schedule, but considering it was all new for Jack, she thought he’d held up remarkably well. Especially considering the big launch was the following day, and Mary knew it would be even busier. But Mary had no problem with hard work, especially when the man she loved would be reaping the rewards.
Allen caught them both before they could escape out the side door. “You two were marvelous today. I’m very happy for both of you. And I’ll admit to being rather pleased that your engagement is a PR dream come true,” he added with a grin.
Earlier that morning, Allen’s words would have driven fear through every part of her. But not anymore. Not now that she finally believed that the love she and Jack shared was real.
“I’d love to take both of you out to dinner, if you’re not too tired from the interviews,” Allen offered.
Mary appreciated the offer, but after giving a long day to the campaign, what she wanted was to be alone with Jack tonight before they started all over again tomorrow morning with the launch-day festivities. Because while they’d made up after she’d thrown the ring at him, she very much wanted to show him with more than words how sorry she was for ever doubting his love…and that she never would again.
“Thanks for the invitation, Allen,” Jack said, “but I’m going to take Mary home so she can rest up a bit before tomorrow. And thanks again for getting behind the Pocket Planner in such a major way. We’ll see you bright and early at the launch.”
Even though Mary was easily strong enough to keep from being swept away by a powerful man, she was thrilled to let Jack lead her out of the building, his large hand on the small of her back.
He hailed a cab outside the corporate offices and when he slid in beside her, she couldn’t wait another second to do what she’d been longing to do since the moment Jack had slid the ring back on her finger. Putting her hands on his gorgeously scruffy jaw, she brought his face down to hers and kissed him. Despite the cold, his lips were warm and more delicious every time she tasted them.
“I love you.” She whispered the words against his lips between kisses, and he whispered them right back.
They couldn’t get to her house fast enough. She wanted to be as close as she could to Jack. She wanted to strip off his clothes and then her own and wrap herself all around him…and never, ever let go.
They paid the taxi and then kissed their way up her front steps, navigating by feel alone. Somehow she was able to find her key in her purse, without breaking apart from him, and open the door.