When she had been with him all those long months ago, women had flocked around him. She didn’t want to see that he’d ignored them and focused only on her, but still. He’d had a few lovers before her. Lisa had mentioned them once or twice. Heck, any man who looked like a brick wall of muscle in Navy whites would have females young and old dropping at his feet.

Okay, so she’d been one of them. She’d wanted Jack. She’d always want Jack. He was under her skin, in her blood, whatever, but he was there. Fifteen months of trying to pry him out of her mind hadn’t done much good. She still wanted him. Yet, in her bed was far different from in her life.

The phone rang and Melanie rose to get it. The familiar voice on the other end of the line made her smile. “Mom, how are you?”

“Oh, we’re fine. How’s my granddaughter?”

Melanie smiled at her daughter sitting in her high chair. “Eating cereal and making a mess on my kitchen floor.” Her mother laughed. “So what’s up? I just talked to you yesterday.”

“That was before Jack called.”


“Yes, just a little while ago. He talked to your father.”

Melanie groaned and leaned against the wall. “And Daddy said what to him?”

“I don’t really know. I know he was happy when he came out of the den, because he was laughing. He was still on the phone with Jack and took it with him out into the garage. Apparently your father and Jack hit it off. Did you know Jack makes furniture?”

Oh, great. Her father made furniture, too. The man had every tool ever made for woodworking, and now that he was retired, he produced more than her parents or Melanie had room for, so he’d branched out into taking special orders. And now it seemed Jack and Dad had bonded. Swell.

“Furniture, huh? No, I didn’t know Jack made furniture.” She glared at Lisa as if it was her fault that her father and Jack had things in common. Melanie asked to speak with her father, but he was out. “Ask him to call me, please, Mom.”

“I don’t think he’ll tell you what they said—he wouldn’t tell me.”

Well, that was devious, Melanie thought. “Jack’s hoping to butter up you and Dad to get to me.” She paced, her fingers tight on the receiver.

“Oh, he didn’t do anything like that, sweetie. He just introduced himself and told us what we already knew. That he hadn’t known about Juliana till now.”

“What else?”

“He said that he would take care of you and his daughter.”

“Well, Jack Singer is going to learn that I don’t need his financial help.”

Her mother’s voice held a smile as she said, “I don’t think he was talking about money, sweetie.”

The words sent a trickle of fear down her spine. What was he up to? Melanie said goodbye and hung up, then sat back down and cupped her coffee mug. She’d sulk if she had the time, she thought, feeling a little betrayed by her parents.

“He called your father,” Lisa said, her eyes wide. Melanie nodded. “Oh, gutsy Jack. That must have been interesting.”

A little smiled twitched at Melanie’s lips. “I bet it was.”

Lisa pushed Juliana’s cereal loops within reach. “You know my brother is a great guy, don’t you?”

“I plead the Fifth.”

“Hey, he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Melanie sighed. “Except threaten me.”


“He said he was in my life and I couldn’t stop him.”

“Well, that is a threat, though weak and understandable.” Lisa made faces at Juliana and the baby imitated her. “What are you going to do?”

Melanie shrugged. When it came to Jack Singer, she felt pretty helpless.

“You know, Brian’s asked me to join him on his next business trip. For a month. I think I will.”

Melanie arched a brow. “Jumping ship on me?”

“No, I’m trying really hard to preserve what I have. A wonderful friend and a loving brother. I don’t want to have to choose.”

“Who says you’ll have to?” It was Lisa’s turn to look doubtful. And darn it, Melanie could see her friend’s point. She didn’t want to put Lisa in the middle, either. “Okay, go. I can handle Jack.”

Her friend stood and grabbed her purse, hitching it onto her shoulder. Lisa kissed the baby and smiled at the mother. “Good luck.” She headed to the door.

“Why did you write and tell him?”

“Because as much as I love you, I love my brother best.” Her eyes hardened.

So like Jack’s, Melanie thought.

“What if that night was all we had, Lisa?” Melanie called when Lisa reached the door. She couldn’t afford to get her heart crushed again.

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