the way you look tonight - Page 56

The second they were inside and alone, Jack pushed her back against the door and slid both his hands into her hair. Their earlier kisses had set her heart racing and her blood pumping in the taxi and on the sidewalk and steps.

But this kiss lit a fuse in her very soul.

During each photo they’d taken and during every interview they’d given today, she’d been dreaming of falling into bed with Jack. But there was no way they were going to make it that far.

She raked her hands over his broad chest to tear open the buttons on his shirt, and his hand slipped up her thigh to undo the clasp on her garters. Every touch, every gasp of pleasure as bare skin met bare skin, was absolutely perfect. Especially when Jack began kissing his way from her mouth, across her jaw to her neck and into the hollow behind her collarbone. She was tilting her head back to give him better access when her phone rang.

“Damn it,” he growled against her skin, letting go of her to snatch the phone out of its cradle. “I told you, Mary is done working for the night.” But listening to the person on the other end of the line had his expression changing in an instant. “Hold on a moment.” He covered the mouthpiece and held out his free hand to her. “I think it’s your father.” Concern furrowed his brow. “He sounds upset.”

Mary’s heart dropped into her stomach and her skin, which had been so warm just seconds before, was suddenly ice cold.

“Papa?”

Her father’s words came out in a rush of anguish. She worked to stay calm to listen to the details, then told her father in Italian, “I’m coming right away on the night flight from San Francisco. I will be home tomorrow.”

The phone would have fallen from her numb hand had Jack not taken it from her.

“My mother is sick. Papa was calling from the hospital.” Mary pressed her hands to her churning stomach. “She’s never sick. Never.” Her father hadn’t stayed on the line long enough to tell her much other than that her mother had been coughing so badly that he’d decided to take her to the hospital. “I need to go to her. To them. Tonight.”

She started to move toward her bedroom to pack, but her legs were trembling so hard that when Jack brought her over to the couch and made her sit, she didn’t try to fight him.

He knelt in front of her. “First, I’m going to get you a drink to steady your nerves, and then I’m going to book our flight and pack your bag.”

Again, she was too shell-shocked to argue, to do anything but accept the glass of whisky he handed her a few seconds later. But just as she was lifting it to her mouth with a shaky hand, she realized what he’d said: Our flight.

He had already picked up the phone and was dialing the airline when she put down her drink and went to him. “Jack, are you planning to come with me?”

“Of course I am.”

He said it as if there had never been any doubt that he would, but she’d been alone for so long that she’d immediately assumed she’d be alone in this, too.

Only, she wasn’t alone anymore, was she? Not now that Jack loved her.

But though the trip back to her childhood home would be a thousand times harder without Jack by her side, it was her love for him that had her trying to take the phone from his hand.

“Your launch is tomorrow. I’m so sorry I’m going to miss it, that I won’t be there for you to celebrate your dream coming true, but I can’t let you miss it. Not when you’ve worked so long and hard for this day.”

“My dream came true the moment I found you, Mary. And we both know that family is what matters most. We’re going to Italy together to see your parents.”

He kissed her then, a soft press against her lips that was at once empathetic and passionate, before he put the phone back up to his ear and booked two tickets to Rome.

* * *

Mary hadn’t thought she’d be able to sleep a wink on the airplane, but with Jack sitting warm and steady beside her, his arms holding her tight, she was asleep almost as soon as she closed her eyes. By the time she woke, they were flying over Rome. Hand in hand, Mary and Jack got off the plane with their carry-on luggage.

Fear that they were already too late sent her to the first pay phone she found in the airport. But when she called the hospital, an old childhood friend who was now a nurse gave her a very welcome piece of good news: Her mother had been diagnosed with pneumonia and had spent the night at the hospital, but had been discharged this morning.

Mary told Jack, “My parents left the hospital an hour ago.”

Jack dropped a kiss onto her mouth. “Whatever you just said, I’m glad it’s good news.”

She’d been so relieved by the news her old friend had given her that she’d forgotten to switch back to English after getting off the phone.

She repeated what she’d just told him in English. “They’ve diagnosed her with pneumonia, which I know is still dangerous, but would they have sent her home if she wasn’t well enough to recover there on her own?”

“From everything you’ve told me, your mother sounds like a very strong woman.”

He was right. Lucia Ferrer was too strong willed to let illness get the best of her. Then again, Mary thought as panic rose again, she was also so stubborn that she might have let the infection go on for too long.

Jack pulled her to him and kissed the top of her head. He didn’t give her a bunch of empty words that she would have been too anxious to take in anyway. He simply told her with his steady warmth, just as he had a hundred different times since she’d met him, that he was there for her.