Smiling privately, she watched Jack and her father inspect a joist. Jack’s father, David, had passed away two years ago, which was the reason Jack had escorted his little sister down the aisle at her wedding, but she learned that David had been a wonderful, calm man. She suspected Jack got that from him.

“You don’t know what to do with yourself, do you, honey,” her mother said, and Melanie glanced back over her shoulder. Jack’s mother and hers were sharing Juliana like a great prize. The baby was in Grandma heaven.

“Both of you are going to spoil Juliana so badly I’ll be tearing my hair out when you’re not here.”

“Grandmas’ privilege,” Laura, Jack’s mother, said. “We get to have all the fun and none of the work.” With that, Laura handed Juliana a biscuit. “Do you have any chocolate?” she teased.

Melanie laughed and, shaking her head, went into the kitchen. Jack’s mother was great, a cut-up like Lisa. It was all…perfect. Perfection in anything but numbers on a bank account scared Melanie. And it was strange. Strange having Jack in her house, his things in the bathroom. She wasn’t territorial or anything and had made room for him. But she had to smile when they awoke in her very feminine bedroom. He looked a little silly there. But that was the only place. Waking up beside him, staring across the dinner table, talking late at night, it was all so real and comforting. And it had only been a few days. While Jack learned she gave great back rubs, she realized he could repair just about anything. Juliana loved that her daddy was near, and though Melanie had some time off, she almost dreaded going back to work. And dreaded the moment when Jack would leave for duty.

Laura came into the kitchen carrying snack trays and dishes from their barbecue. Melanie reached for them.

“I got it.” Laura started rinsing and loading them into the dishwasher. “So how you doing, honey?”

“Just fine. Great, actually.”

Laura, who was petite with dark hair that showed very little gray, moved a little closer. “You sound shocked.”

She looked at Laura. “I wasn’t expecting for it to be this…easy.”

“It wasn’t easy getting to this spot though, was it?”

Melanie scoffed to herself. “No, ma’am.”

“I knew there was something between you two at Lisa’s wedding.” At Melanie’s glance, Laura wiggled her brows. Melanie laughed and knew where Jack got his charm. “I just didn’t know how much, and when Jack called to tell me he was a daddy, I knew it was you.”

Melanie’s brows shot upward. She and Laura had spent time together during Lisa’s wedding, and though she lived out of state, most of the preparations had been taken care of by Lisa and Melanie. And Jack, when he’d arrived. “I’m glad you approve, Laura.”

Laura patted her hand, her voice low and private. “I understand what you’re going through. Sometimes it works and it scares us. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, the roof to fall.” Laura was staring out at nothing, a sweet private smile on her face. “Then sometimes you just get more than a little lucky.”

Melanie prepared a pot of coffee. “Jack’s a good man. We’re married and we’re friends.”

Laura laughed sharply. “Friends? The way the two of you look at each other?” She leaned close. “And buddies share a bed, right? Pals can’t keep their hands off each other, although we all know you two have to try real hard. I hate to see the two of you the minute we all leave.”

Melanie blushed ten shades of red.

Laura laughed again. “I’ve seen the way Jack looks at you. He’s drunk with loving you.”

Melanie’s gaze snapped to Laura’s as she poured detergent in the dishwasher. “Oh, I don’t think so.”

Laura folded her arms and smiled as she leaned back against the counter. “I know my son. I know his reasons behind wanting to marry you, and the two of you may talk a good game, but I can see it in his eyes. He can do that Navy SEAL thing, looking all cool and aloof, but it doesn’t hold up when he looks at you. So you keep telling yourself this is just for my granddaughter’s sake if that helps you accept it. But I know better.”

Melanie almost resented that.

As if Laura sensed it, she stepped close. “He loves you. Madly.”

Melanie closed the dishwasher, her hands shaking as she switched it on. Laura slipped out of the kitchen as Melanie looked out the windows at Jack. Love her? He’d already said he couldn’t give her that. Melanie wondered what kind of fool she was even to consider the romantic ideas of his mother. Laura wanted them to be happy and in love, but that didn’t make it so. Marriage didn’t automatically mean happily ever after, especially when they married for reasons other than love. Copyright 2016 - 2023