the way you look tonight - Page 9

Jack Sullivan.

His dark eyes were intense as he held her gaze, and she felt every inch of her skin come alive.

“You’ve been standing in the cold for hours,” she said as she held out his jacket. “You should really have this back now.”

But instead of taking it, he asked, “Where’s your coat?”

“It was surprisingly warm this morning when I came on set and since I figured I’d be heading straight back home in a taxi after the shoot, I didn’t bother to bring one.”

He took his jacket from her, but only to slide it back over her shoulders again. “It looks better on you.”

He put his hand on the small of her back, and even through all of the fabric she could feel how warm he was.

They didn’t speak as they walked the couple of short blocks to the diner, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. On the contrary, Mary couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so immediately at ease with someone. And yet, at the same time, her skin felt just a little too sensitive, her lips fuller and tingly, her breath coming faster, even though they were on one of the rare flat streets in the hilly city.

When Jack held the door for her, Mary took note of the small gesture with pleasure. She was all for women’s liberation, especially considering she’d been earning her own way for more than a decade, but she couldn’t see why it had to mean the loss of common courtesy.

The gray-haired woman behind the counter greeted Jack like an old friend and eyed Mary with obvious interest. “Two pieces of cherry pie, warm, with big fat scoops of ice cream on top?”

Mary smiled at the woman, who reminded her of her mother’s friends back in Italy. Everything that needed to be said could always be said with food. Warm pies, cold ices and fresh baked bread all spoke loudly of love as well as words ever could.

“That would be lovely, thank you,” she said as she slid onto the shiny red seat in a corner booth. “And some coffee, as well, please.”

“I’ll take some java, too, Betty.” Jack waited until Mary had taken off his jacket before saying, “I’ve never seen a model at work before. It was fascinating.”

Long ago she’d learned how to accept a compliment graciously, something she thought was at least as important as knowing how to take constructive criticism. “Thank you. Gerry, the photographer, is wonderful to work with. He makes the process as easy as possible for all of us.”

Betty brought over their slices of pie, the ice cream already melting down the edges of the thick crust and warm cherries. But it was the coffee that Mary went for first to warm her cold hands. She held on to it for a moment and enjoyed the heat against her palms before taking a sip.

“How long have you been modeling?”

At the beginning of her career, fame had been tremendously fun and heady for a young girl from a small Italian village. As the years went by, however, it had become more and more invasive. And surprisingly lonely, even with people constantly around her. It was rare that she met anyone who didn’t know who she was.

“Ever since I left Italy when I was nineteen.” She didn’t see a point in hiding her age, so she added, “That was thirteen years ago.”

His eyebrows raised in surprise. “We’re the same age.” He gave her one of his devastating grins that made her heart beat faster. “The years are another thing you wear better than I do.”

“If you ask me,” she murmured, “they look pretty good on you, too.”

Mary couldn’t remember the last time she’d flirted with a man. She was always so careful not to lead anyone on, just in case he thought she was feeling something she wasn’t. But the attraction that had simmered between the two of them in Union Square was heating up with every moment they spent together.

“Where in Italy?”

“A little town nobody has ever heard of called Rosciano.”

“I imagine your life over the past thirteen years has been very different from how you grew up.”

“Well, I had hoped it would be.” Feeling that had come out wrong, she clarified, “I had a great childhood, but I desperately wanted to see more of the world. San Francisco is one of my favorite places, which is why I’ve decided to stay for a while. This city certainly isn’t small, but it still reminds me of my old town in a lot of ways. The hills. The water nearby. How friendly the people are.”

Mary had been interviewed dozens of times over the years, by some of the best journalists in the business. But none of them had ever looked at her with such honest interest. Because even when they’d been friendly with each other, she’d only been a job to them. Mary had worked so much during her adult years that she’d always met the men she dated on the job.

She was extremely glad that Jack had nothing whatsoever to do with her career. It made her feel even more convinced that something might actually be possible with him. She wasn’t a product for him. She wasn’t connected to his bottom line.

She was simply a woman getting to know him.

“Did your brothers or sisters leave the country, too?”

“Unlike most Italian families, I was an only child. My mother—” She paused and tried not to betray the emotion that always came over her when she spoke of her mother, but she could already hear the little bit of an Italian accent that always slipped into her voice when she spoke of home and her childhood. “She always longed for more children, but her prayers weren’t answered.”