Jack laughed, tossing down his fork and rubbing his face. “It’s Threat Con, not def. That’s TV lingo.”

“Oops.” Melanie lost it and laughter bubbled up from her like champagne.

It shattered the tension between them, and then they changed the subject and talked of everything but how they were sitting across from each other and wanting to share more than a meal.

An hour and a half later, Juliana was tucked in bed. Melanie gathered up toys as she made her way down the hall to the living room. Jack was on the sofa, the TV on and the volume turned low.

“I think I should get this on film,” she said, and he looked up, a tiny T-shirt half-folded in his hands. “I doubt your teammates would believe it.”

“I know they wouldn’t.” Jack continued to fold laundry. “These are interesting,” he said, holding up a green silk thong.

Melanie leaned forward and snatched it from him. “Just fold it. No inspections.” She tossed the panties into the laundry basket.

“I’d like to see those modeled. Or maybe these,” he added, winging another pair of panties on his fingertip.

She took those away from him and went to the kitchen. “Go to the store. There are plastic females already dressed to model those.”

He chuckled, then stacked the remaining clothes in the basket and pushed it aside. Melanie returned with a beer, handing it to him. He smiled his thanks and popped the cap. “I’m beat.”

“Me, too.”

“It’s tough doing it all. I don’t think half the men in the world realize what’s going on in their own houses while they’re away.”

“Yeah, they have dreams of cleaning fairies and a woman reclining on the sofa with a novel and bonbons.”

Jack made a face. “I don’t think so.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of a man refer to his wife and say, ‘I don’t know what she does all day’?” Jack nodded. “But then he doesn’t consider who does the cleaning, the cooking, the raising of kids, school plays, teacher conferences and so on,” Melanie said, sitting beside him on the sofa.

“Your mom do all that?” Jack asked.

“Yes, and very well, I might add. She’s my hero.”

Jack grinned and leaned back, the beer on his stomach.

Melanie shifted her shoulders in the cushions, staring at the TV. It was the Discovery channel and the words The Making Of The U.S. Navy SEALs flashed across the screen. She sat up, grabbing the control and raising the volume.

The commentator was explaining the training.

“Okay, this is boring,” Jack said, reaching for the remote control.

“Not to me,” she said, holding it out of his reach.

Jack groaned and sipped his beer. He didn’t watch the screen. He knew what was happening and remembered his own training well enough not to want to relive it in color. So he watched Melanie, the way she bit her lip, the furrow of her brow. He wondered what seeing this show would do to the way she thought about him. He didn’t think about being with the teams. It was like breathing to him now.

Melanie learned a lot in the first few minutes of the program. “Were you always Navy? The narrator said there were some guys that were Army, Marines, even Air Force.”

“I was a Marine first. I take a lot of ribbing for it,” Jack said.

She blinked at him, then smiled. “Doesn’t surprise me.” She looked back at the screen and watched potential SEALs standing in the sea at night, linked arm in arm as waves hit them and instructors yelled. The men had been without sleep for three days. “That’s cruel,” Melanie said. “It’s like torture.”

“Nah, it makes the instructors see who can endure the worst and still want to be a SEAL.”

“You did that?”


“Why would you put yourself through that?”

He shrugged negligently. “I wanted to be a SEAL. You have to do what it takes if you want something bad enough. Didn’t you do all you could to be a banker?”

“No, actually I wanted to be a ballerina, but since I can’t jump high enough, I changed my sights.”

Jack laughed, shifting on the sofa lengthwise, wedging his feet under Melanie’s hip. She didn’t seem to mind.

“I’ve always been good with numbers. It doesn’t mean I like it,” she said.

“What would you like to do?”

“Something where I didn’t have to leave Juliana with a sitter every day. Something I could do at home.”

He didn’t say it, but marrying him could give her that, and as if she sensed his thoughts, she ignored them and looked back at the TV.

“Are those real bullets they’re shooting?”

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