“You need to stop grinning to yourself,” Lisa said. “People are gonna talk.”

Melanie swung her gaze to Lisa’s and smiled. Juliana was in bed, Jack was off helping Sarah’s husband put in a dog fence at their quarters, and she and Lisa had enjoyed a good hour of cappuccino and catching up on their friendship.

“You stop in the middle of a conversation and just grin,” Lisa said.

“Yeah, so?”

“Lord, you sound like Jack,” Lisa said with a laugh.

Melanie frowned questioningly.

“He can’t stop talking about you two, the future, and he does that same—” Lisa gestured meaninglessly “—face thing you do.”

“And your point is?”

Lisa’s eyes widened. “You’re in love with my brother, aren’t you? Despite everything that got you here, you fell in love with him.”

“Yes,” Melanie admitted. “I did.”

“Have you told him?”


“Why not?”

“Because I’d thought I was in love before and it came back to bite me.”

“Jack loves you.”

Melanie rolled her eyes and knew she shouldn’t have said anything. Lisa was just as bullheaded as Jack. “You’re prejudiced.”

“No, honest. I know he’s in love with you.”

“He said that?”

“No, but it’s the face thing. We sisters know when they’re guilty, too.”

“Oh, really. How so?”

“Don’t try to change the subject. You’re scared.”

“Sure I am. We’re married—it’s lifelong in my book.”

“So you think you’re going to go through, say, thirty years of marriage and never say the words to him?”

“No.” Melanie looked down at her coffee cup. “He didn’t marry me because he wanted to, Lisa, and I’m having a hard time believing what he’s feeling. He was doing the right thing in his mind.”

“Oh, Melanie,” Lisa said sympathetically. “He’d love you without Juliana.”

“He married me because of her.”

“And how do you think he feels, marrying a woman who did everything she could not to say I do. He could have just married you and gone back to work. Or never showed up at all.”

“I know.”

Lisa frowned. “You don’t trust him.”

“I trust Jack, the man. Feelings are another subject. He was so adamant about marriage, almost fanatical. Like it was the only solution.”

“For Jack it was.”

Melanie opened her mouth to agree, then she focused on Lisa’s expression. It was almost sad.

“Jack’s honorable, and it means a lot to him for his child to have his name.”

“It was more than that.”

Lisa hesitated for half a minute. “That’s because of his father.”

Melanie frowned. “He loved his father. He talks about David all the time.”

“David was my father, not Jack’s.”

“I don’t get it.”

“That’s because I was born a bastard,” came the response from the doorway, and Melanie looked up as Jack entered the kitchen through the garage. He set his new toolbox, which no longer looked new, on the floor.

Lisa got up to prepare a small pot of coffee.

Jack winked at her, assuring Lisa that she hadn’t done anything she shouldn’t have. He didn’t think she believed him. “Lisa and I have the same mother, not the same father,” he said to Melanie. “My father skipped out on Mom when she was pregnant with me. So she raised me alone until she met David.”

Lisa grabbed her purse and, whispering that the coffee was on, said goodbye to Melanie and quietly slipped out.

Melanie only nodded, her gaze on her husband.

“So you see, Melanie, I know what it’s like being called a bastard to my face.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“You didn’t want to marry me in the first place, and I figured you would think my own illegitimacy wasn’t reason enough to marry me.”

“Your lineage doesn’t matter to me, Jack.”

Jack’s mouth quirked in a smile. He should have known. “When my mom fell in love with David, I was a happy kid. He treated me like his own and adopted me, so I had his last name. He was the greatest father in the world.” Jack smiled to himself, missing the heck out of David and thinking he could use his advice right now. “Then they gave me a sister to tease.”

Melanie realized that though Jack might be telling this casually, it meant a great deal to him. He looked at Melanie, his eyes hardening. “I lived for a few years with the stigma, and it wasn’t pleasant. Not till David changed everything. I remember being called names, but it was the judging looks from adults that hurt the most.” He moved toward her, gripping her shoulders and staring down into her beautiful eyes. “Juliana won’t have anyone but us, and I couldn’t stand that everyone would think her father didn’t have the guts to marry her mother. Or that he didn’t care about her.”

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