Melanie sipped champagne and stared out over the wide river. She was amazingly content. Though this was the first time she’d been parted from her child overnight, her parents were having fun with their grandchild, and Jack’s mother was planning to join them in the morning for an outing. Yet with the knowledge that she wasn’t alone anymore, the anxiety she’d carried for some time slipped off her in waves with each passing moment. Somewhere behind her in the suite, Jack was tipping the bellman for room service. She’d known he’d go all out. The ceremony spoke for itself, and she didn’t question how he managed to get all those people together so quickly. That was Jack. He made things happen. She smiled to herself and took another sip of champagne. The slap of water against the seawall seemed to match the occasional glitter and pulse of the stars in the blanket of night. She pulled the combs from her hair and shook it out, tossing the combs aside and letting the warm breeze sweep over her.
She felt Jack come up behind her, her senses tuning into him like radar. She leaned on the balcony rail. “I’d forgotten how beautiful it was in this town.”
“For the first time since I arrived you look peaceful.”
She glanced at him as he moved up beside her, his uniform jacket already discarded somewhere in the suite. The white T-shirt stretched tight over his muscles.
“I am.” She stared at her goblet for a moment, then looked out over the moonlit water. The trees sighed with the breeze, Spanish moss dancing like a lacy hem beneath a skirt of branches.
“I’m a little relieved, too.”
“How so?” He sipped his drink, then put it aside, resting his forearms on the rail and folding his hands—mostly to keep them off her when he wanted badly to touch her.
“I didn’t really want to be a single mom, Jack.”
His brows shot up.
“I thought I did. But when you showed up and bullied your way into my house—” he smiled at that “—I realized how much Juliana was missing. How much my life was a bit—” she shrugged “—empty.”
Her confession fueled the idea that she’d done this for more than their daughter. “It looked pretty busy to me,” Jack said.
Melanie ran her finger around the rim of the goblet. “I want you to know that if you find someone else and want out, I’ll understand.”
He grinned, took the glass from her and, setting it aside, drew her into his arms. “I thought I was keeping you from finding someone else, too, but I don’t want you looking elsewhere.”
She wouldn’t. She knew that in her heart that very second. “Demands already?”
“I have what I want,” he murmured, his gaze lowering to her mouth. “Can you say you’re satisfied?”
She threw her arms around his neck. “Ask me in the morning.”
His smile grew wider by the second. “That’s what I love about you, Melanie—you never say what I expect.”
“What are you expecting? And if you say nothing, I’ll know you’re fibbing.”
He met her gaze steadily. “Fidelity, honesty and your trust.”
Both realized he didn’t say love, yet neither acknowledged it.
“Two out of three?”
He settled his arms more comfortably around her. “I know you trust me. You just don’t want to admit it.”
Cocky, isn’t he, she thought. “How would you know?”
“You wouldn’t have married me if you didn’t trust me a little. And I know you wouldn’t have let me get this close to you again, either,” he said, and laid his mouth over hers.
Melanie felt something inside her unwind, go loose and languid, then wrap around him. Ribbons of desire slid along her body with every second he kissed her. It was slow and tender at first. He molded and toyed, nipped and licked, playful and patient, and when she thought she couldn’t draw in air fast enough, he moved to her throat. He kissed the base of her throat, slid his tongue lower, and she felt the sudden exquisite rush he gave her splinter over her. Her arms slipped from his neck and she palmed his chest, wanting his hold to tighten, to be stronger. Because she’d been alone for so long. Because she’d missed this man. Only this man. It was like finding safety and contentment in his arms, as if it had been stripped from her when he left that day, and only now was she allowed to let the feelings back into her heart.
His touch weakened her and she loved it. The strap slid off her shoulder, and her zipper was slowly undone, the snug bodice easing from her.
“It’s been eating at me all night.”