“The one thing is that Jack’s a SEAL, which means that more or less the wives are on the need-to-know basis,” Sarah said. “SEAL actions are classified, so don’t expect to learn where he’s been and what he’s doing. It’s the same with Force Recon.”

Sue leaned forward and said, “And they’ll debate for years about which is the more macho, Recon or SEALs. I never add my two cents. I like my Navy friends too much.” She patted Melanie’s arm.

“Oh, forewarned,” Melanie said, smiling.

“When they are deployed, there’s a chain of command for information. Because I’m the Key Volunteer, I get it straight from the colonel and the sergeant major. My job is to keep the spouse informed and stop nasty rumors,” Maria said.

“Same here,” Sarah said.

“How do you get over the fear?” Mel asked.

“You don’t,” Sue said. “You live with it. Your job—our job—is to make certain when our men go into battle, they won’t worry about home and family and they’ll know you’ll be okay. Learn to handle anything they throw at you and do it in a—”

“—proficient military fashion,” the rest of the women joined to say.

Melanie laughed. “Okay, as long as I can call on you all, I’m content.”

“Good.” Almost in unison, they set aside the paperwork and books and leaned in.

“Daniel’s known Jack since the academy,” Sarah said. “And I know Gary and Jack served together, but neither of them will say doing what. So how did you meet Jack?”

Melanie glanced over at Jack. “His sister is my best friend. She was my pledge to the sorority. I’d heard a lot about him, but had never met him until two weeks before Lisa married.”

“It must have been awful learning you were pregnant when he couldn’t be reached.”

Melanie had been up front with the women, especially when Jack announced to their husbands that he was married with a child. “It wasn’t pleasant, but I dealt with it.”

“True Navy-wife material,” Sue said. “My husband wasn’t around for one of my pregnancies. Left when I wasn’t even showing and arrived home three days after I’d had our second child. I wasn’t exactly feeling frisky, if you know what I mean.”

Melanie smiled again, admiring them and wondering how they survived so well. She wanted to be a valuable part of this elite group of women, as she was, by virtue of marriage. They were strong and resourceful and giving. She looked over at Jack, suddenly thinking about more children and years down the road with him. She’d been on birth control since Juliana was born, but the thought of having another child didn’t scare her as she’d thought it would. She had some of the burdens to share. Well, all of them to share, she corrected.

“Oh, I remember that look,” Sarah said, when Melanie didn’t take her eyes off Jack. He was smiling at her, his gaze doing that lazy prowl over her that made her feel beautiful and desired and possessed. She wanted to be possessed. Because Jack did it in the best way.

“Catch all you can now, honey,” Sue said. “We have to make it last through tough times.”

Melanie stood and walked to Jack. The other men backed up a bit, offering a greeting, but Melanie slid her arms around Jack and kissed him.

The group howled with applause.

Jack caught his breath and said, “What’s that for?”

“Thanks for inviting them, Jack,” she whispered.

“I thought an introduction from the ladies would be clearer than hearing it all from me.”

“Oh, it is.” She eased back, but he kept his arm around her waist. “Now,” she said, looking at the men. “I want to know how come the Marines are a part of the Navy?”

Gary spoke up. “We need someone to sail us to the war.”

Good-natured laughter erupted, and Melanie thought she might be afraid for Jack, but she would be well taken care of—her family had just grown so much bigger.


It was official. She had an ID card with the most dreadful picture of herself ever, stickers on her car, and she could actually speak in acronyms and abbreviations, like IPAC, Cencom, SecNav, and know what they meant. In the back of her heart, she felt she was destined for this. She soaked it up like a sponge. Jack had shown her the local base, and although they were Marine installations, he wanted her to get the feel of it, be aware of passing by armed guards, security checks and know the territory that was off-limits, as well as all the facilities. He’d answered her questions patiently, and she felt her excitement build. Life with him was going to be an adventure. She was looking forward to it. Which surprised her.

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