the way you look tonight - Page 58

Despite the fact that she’d spoken in Italian, Jack didn’t seem at all surprised when her father grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him on both cheeks.

“Your mother will be very happy.” He took both of her hands in his. “Come see her.”

Mary’s feet felt as if they were filled with lead. “Papa? When she asked for me to come see her, was she—” She stopped speaking when she saw the guilty look on her father’s face. “She doesn’t know you called me, does she?”

“Your mother has too much pride. So do you. Your silence has gone on long enough. Come, it’s time to see and to talk to each other again.”

Perhaps her father had been wrong not to tell either Mary or her mother about what he was doing, but he’d been stuck in the middle of things for too many years. So when he pulled her through the living room and down the hall to the bedroom he shared with her mother, Mary let him. But since she knew she couldn’t do this without Jack, she reached for his hand with her free one so that the three of them were a connected chain.

Her father gave a soft knock on the door before looking inside the bedroom. “Tesoro, I have someone here to see you.”

A half-dozen questions flew through Mary’s head as her father slowly opened the door. How much would the years—and illness—have changed her mother? Would her mother see that her daughter was no longer a girl but a woman now? Would there be softness in her mother’s eyes? Or would her gaze be just as cold as it had been that horrible day so many years ago?

As Jack squeezed her freezing cold hand with his warm one in a show of support, Mary knew there was only way to find out. She sucked in a deep breath and threw her shoulders back, calling on years of poise in front of the camera to get through the hardest moment of her life.

Lucia Ferrer had always been a beautiful woman. Thirteen years had turned her dark hair fully gray, but her skin was still relatively unlined, her mouth still full, her limbs long and firm. Mary had been a girl when she’d left, but now that she was an adult, she saw in her mother’s face the same eyes, nose and chin that she saw every time she looked in the mirror. How could she have forgotten how similar they were, not just in temperament, but in looks, too?

Mary couldn’t remember her mother ever being sick when she was a child. She’d inherited that from her, too—good, healthy genes that meant she’d never once called in sick. For Lucia to spend any part of the day in bed meant that she was really and truly not well.

“Mama.”

The short, simple word sounded raw and uncertain from lack of use. Her mother looked shocked, so stunned by her daughter’s sudden reappearance in her life that she couldn’t yet speak.

How Mary longed to run into the room and reach out to her. But Lucia had yet to give any sign that she was happy to see her daughter, and the pride that was never far from the surface began to bubble up again inside Mary as it had so many years before.

Only, she was no longer a headstrong, foolish girl with only dreams and adventures ahead of her. This time, Mary was a woman who had experienced some dreams coming true and others crumbling. She’d known terrible heartbreak and then had been lucky enough to find a love that would last forever.

And, most of all, for thirteen years, she’d longed for the family she’d left behind.

Her father was right: Pride had kept her away for too long. If her mother wasn’t ready to see her again, well, that was too bad. Because it was long past time for this nonsense between them to come to an end.

Decision made, Mary quickly moved into the room, holding her mother’s gaze all the while. But before she could take more than a couple of steps, pure joy moved across her mother’s face, and her arms lifted from the covers, wide open for her daughter.

Her emotions bubbled to the surface, and Mary felt incredible release as she ran into the room and put her arms around her mother. Despite her not being well, her mother pulled her even closer. Sitting on the bed together, Mary breathed in the familiar smell of her perfume and felt how strong and warm her arms still were.

Her tears fell then, not just for all the years they’d lost, but because between her and her mother, Jack and her father, the small room was overflowing with love.

Mary and her mother held each other close for a long time, and when they finally drew back, Lucia framed Mary’s face in her hands. “Let me look at you, my beautiful girl.”

There was so much Mary wanted to say to her mother, and she was sure there was at least as much that her mother wanted to say to her, but for now, just being with each other again was enough.

“You’re not a girl anymore.” Mary could read her mother’s regret at losing those years just as clearly as she could see the pride in what she’d grown to become. “You are a woman now.”

Another tear slid down Mary’s cheek. Of all the things she needed to say, two stood out above all the others. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. More than you will ever know.”

Her heart so full she thought it might burst, Mary said, “Jack came home with me, to meet you and Papa. I love him, too.”

Hearing his name, Jack came closer. Mary took his left hand in hers even as he held out his right hand for her mother. “It’s very nice to meet you, Signora Ferrer.”

Mary was amazed to hear him speak Italian, however halting. Was there nothing he wouldn’t do for her?

As her mother studied Jack carefully, Mary could almost read her mind. He wasn’t Italian or one of the men from the village, but he was clearly solid…and handsome enough to make even a happily married woman’s heart beat a little faster.