After dragging Mary against him for one more kiss, he left the commercial set they’d constructed on the beach that morning.
It took her a few moments for her synapses to start firing properly again. “I’m ready whenever you are,” she said to Georgina.
But, instead of getting right back to business, her friend put a hand on her arm. “I’m happy for you, Mary.”
Mary could still feel Jack’s kiss tingling on her lips and his loving gaze on her as she told Georgina, “I am, too. Happier than I ever thought I could be.”
“Do you ever think about what would have happened if we hadn’t met each other last December?”
They were taking a late-evening stroll on the paths through the marshlands near their home. While Jack greatly enjoyed the surprises they gave each other and the many exciting moments they shared together, it was everyday moments like this that he loved best.
Her hand was in his and the sun was still quite high in the summer night sky as he replied, “No, I’ve never wondered that.”
Mary turned to him in obvious surprise. “You haven’t?”
He smiled at his wife, thinking how amazing it was that she grew more beautiful by the day. Love, more than one of their friends had remarked in the past nine months, had given her an even brighter glow than she’d already possessed.
“We were meant to be together. And whether we had met last Christmas or ten years from now, I would have still loved you. Truthfully,” he added as he tugged her into his arms, “the only thing I’m wondering is how long it will take to get back home and get you into bed.”
“Did you know I was the fastest girl on my track team?” She gave him a quick kiss before taking off, running in the direction of their house at a quick clip.
Jack chased after her, laughing—and loving her more and more—every step of the way.
Mary and Jack stood at the top of a hill in Napa Valley and looked out over the rolling vineyards. The crush was just starting, and the air was perfumed with the scent of grapes.
“Growing up in Italy, the local winery owners would let us in to crush grapes with our feet in barrels. And then they’d pour the juice into cups for us to drink afterward.” She laughed as she looked down at her feet and added, “Unfortunately, I’m not sure how many of us thought to wash our feet before getting into the barrels.”
Jack loved to hear her speak about her childhood. Rosciano was in the heart of the Abruzzo wine region of Italy, so when a friend of his who owned a winery in Napa suggested they come up for the weekend to be a part of the crush celebrations, Jack had known Mary would love it.
“What do you think about chucking it all in and opening up Sullivan Winery?”
“Maybe one day,” she said as they headed down the hill toward the winery buildings. “But for now I’m rather partial to our life just the way it is.”
His friend David waved them over when they got to the stone-walled barn. “Up for crushing some grapes?” He pointed to a barrel full of grapes. “If you are, hop in.”
Jack grinned at Mary. “What do you say you show me how it’s done?”
She was clearly thrilled with the plan as she kicked off her heels. After she took off her stockings and he rolled up his pants and both of them quickly washed their feet, they got into the barrel, laughing as the grapes squashed beneath their toes. They were quickly covered in juice, not just their feet but their legs and clothes, as well.
He would never get enough of the sound of her laughter or the taste of her kiss. And later, as they sat out under the night sky and sipped the juice they’d made together, followed by one of his friend’s vintages, Jack made a wish on the stars above.
His wish was that the children he and Mary would have together one day would also find a love this deep and true for themselves.
The Sullivans had agreed to gather together at Mary and Jack’s house for Thanksgiving. Max and Claudia arrived first with Ian and Adam, and Mary was amazed by how much both boys had grown. Ian immediately ran into the backyard to play, and Mary scooped Adam into her arms where he happily settled while Jack poured his brother and sister-in-law drinks.
Mary was holding the baby on one hip when she answered the door to find Ethan on the doorstep.
“Hey, Beautiful,” he said in his typical flirtatious way. “You look good with the kid. When are you and Jack going to start popping them out?”
Mary was laughing as she gave him a kiss hello. “You sound just like my mother. No wonder she adored you so much when she met you at our wedding.”
“All those pretty Italian girls,” he said with a wistful look. “I really should get back to Rosciano soon.”
“Let me know when you’re done flirting with my wife,” Jack called out to Ethan, “and I’ll get you a drink.”
Mary was about to close the door when a shiny black limousine pulled up. Finally, she was going to meet William Sullivan. Every time she and Jack made plans to see him, his trips to San Francisco had been rerouted to other cities at the last second. Mary sympathized, as her travel schedule had once been just as hectic.
As he emerged from the vehicle, she noted that he was just as good-looking as his brothers, but unlike Jack, Max and Ethan, she couldn’t read William’s expression. She knew he was an artist, a very talented one, but even Jack seemed to find his brother a bit of a mystery.
“You must be Mary.”