He thought about telling Melanie his reason for wanting to marry, though he knew his father’s lack of backbone was only part of it. Melanie herself was the real reason, and she wouldn’t understand. She’d tell him that just because he was born out of wedlock didn’t mean he had to make up for his father’s mistakes—which was true.
Jack just didn’t want to repeat them. Not at his child’s expense.
Melanie pushed through her front door, glad to be home. Her feet ached, and her head was brewing a whopper of a headache. Mostly because while managing the bank, she’d been plagued with thoughts of Jack and what happened last night.
She’d fallen asleep on him. Literally. And during a conversation she should have been paying strict attention to. This morning she’d awoken in her own bed, alone, the doors tightly locked and the dinner mess cleaned up. And no sign of Jack.
Jack at night was hard to handle.
Jack in the morning would just bring back a ton of memories of waking up in his arms, feeling his strength surround her.
She hadn’t set her briefcase down before the scent of something wonderful cooking hit her full force and made her mouth water. Had Diana, her sitter, cooked? It wasn’t unusual since the older woman did more than just care for her daughter.
“Diana, you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.”
“I didn’t, dear,” the woman said before Melanie stepped fully inside the kitchen. “It’s his show.”
Melanie went still with anger. “Jack.”
“Yes,” he said, his back to her while he stirred something in a saucepan.
“What are you doing here?”
He tisked, keeping his back to her. “And here I was hoping our daughter got her smarts from you.” He seasoned whatever was simmering in the saucepan and only glanced back briefly, throwing a beautiful smile in her direction.
It landed on Melanie like a blanket, warming her to her toes. How did he do that? she wondered. She bent to kiss their daughter, her gaze going to Diana.
While Juliana made excited noises, her sitter looked uncomfortable and said quickly, “He came over earlier to be with Juliana.”
“It’s all right, Diana. I’m sure Jack bullied his way in.”
“On the contrary, he didn’t want to come in till you came home, and we called the bank, but you were out.”
“I was at the head office most of the day in meetings.”
“And he is the child’s father.”
Question laced Diana’s voice, and Jack looked back over his shoulder as if waiting for Melanie to deny that. “Yes, he is. But this is my home, Jack.”
“And my daughter’s.”
“I didn’t invite you here.”
“She did. Isn’t that right, princess?” he said, turning from the stove to lean down to the baby. Juliana grabbed his face and rubbed his nose with hers.
Melanie’s heart dissolved in a puddle at her feet.
Jack flashed Melanie another smile that lit her insides like Christmas morning, then rushed back to the stove.
Well, this was a news flash, Melanie thought, fighting her smile. A U.S. Navy SEAL was at her stove, with an apron tied around his waist and looking awfully comfortable for a man who was more at ease wielding a machine gun than a spatula. With a quick glance she noticed the table was set beautifully for two; Diana was enjoying a cup of coffee and Juliana was in her high chair, gurgling at her father and chewing on the end of a wooden spoon.
Diana rose and set her cup in the sink. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she said, moving to the back door.
“Diana, you don’t have to leave so soon.” That sounded too much like a plea, even to her own ears.
Over at the stove, Jack chuckled.
“Oh, honey, yes I do,” Diana said with a glance at the table setting.
Melanie rolled her eyes and waved the sitter off. That grin of Diana’s spoke volumes. “Are you trying to seduce me with cooking?” she asked Jack after Diana was gone.
He looked at her. “No, but if that’s what it’ll take to get you to relax around me again…”
“I am relaxed.”
“Then why are your hands in fists?”
“Because I want to pummel you for coming into my home without asking me.”
“I tried. You should keep your pager on.”
“The battery died this morning.” She kicked off her shoes and went over to Juliana, lifting her out of the high chair and cuddling her close.
“I’m on leave, Melanie. I had all day to do nothing while my daughter was here with a baby-sitter. I just wanted to get to know Juliana.”
She couldn’t argue with that. Tipping her head to the side, she watched him. His ease in the culinary department was a bit of a shock. “I didn’t know you could cook.”