He walked into the bedroom. She stood in the shadows, moonlight falling over, missing in spots, showing her beauty in others. Without a word she crossed to him, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him hungrily.

His knees softened with the force behind her kiss, and Jack needed nothing more than the freedom his heart felt when he was holding her. In moments their clothes lay scattered on the floor, and their bodies naked and hot and clinging to feel more and more. The desperation in them magnified each movement. Each touch had power, like needles of heat sinking into their skin.

In her mind Melanie couldn’t let him go. In a small place she refused to acknowledge, she understood that this could be the last time she touched him.

And Jack knew it. It made his throat constrict. They had a couple of hours, no more. And both wondered if it would be their last together.

Melanie poured herself into every kiss, adored him with every keening breath. She left her imprint on him, claiming him completely. He tasted her flesh like a man about to be imprisoned. To him he was. Separated from Melanie would be madness. It was already creeping in, and then, unable to temper his need, unable to think of anything but proving the feelings spilling through his heart, he pulled her beneath him, held her as he pushed her thighs apart and possessed her. She flexed beautifully, a smooth lush arch, and Jack thrust into her, his fingers laced with hers as he slid back and then pushed home. He watched her face, saw love shining there and wished she’d speak of it. He loved her so damn much his insides came apart with the thought of losing her, with the very idea that she couldn’t trust her heart to him. She was scared of being hurt. So was he. But he took the risk and let himself love her at first sight. There was no turning back. Never had been.

Emotions and movements blended. When he touched, his actions spoke of his love for her. She responded with soft moans and sweet smiles, and then she gave back to him. In simple ways, such as a kiss, a stroke of her fingers through his hair, the way her hips lifted now to greet him.

Their loving was tender and patient, though time was their enemy. He challenged it, wanting her totally, wanting everything, selfishly, greedily. With her gaze locked to his, he watched the exquisite fire of her climax rise and rise. He shoved and the passion broke, splintering, then flowing through them like hot, red wine.

They clung together madly, fingertips digging, bodies fused, and even after the haze settled round them like a soft blanket, they kept their bodies tightly woven in a tangle of arms and legs.

Jack lifted his head, kissing her before he whispered, “I’m going to miss you, baby.”

Melanie felt her heart crack. “Oh, Jack. I hate that you’re leaving. I know you have to, I accept that, but I can barely stand it.”

“Me neither.” His gaze searched hers, his fingers pushing the damp hair off her face. “I didn’t think it would be this hard.” Because I love you, he thought.

“You’ll be back soon. I’ll keep busy. I’ll look for a place in Virginia.”

He kissed her again and glanced at the clock.

“I have to get showered.”

She nodded, and when he moved off her and slipped from the bed, she turned her back on him, not wanting him to see her cry.

Lisa had come over to sit with Juliana while Jack and Melanie went to the airstrip. Melanie glanced at Jack as he returned the sentry’s salute and drove through the airfield gates. Jack was wearing a khaki uniform, his chest covered in too many ribbons and gold emblems for one so young, she thought. What had he done to earn them? How many more would he earn and she’d never know what for?

Her breath shuddered through her. He pulled onto the flight line, parked her car and climbed out. Carrying his bags, he walked with Melanie to the hangar. She was awed by the size of it, the noise level high. Jack didn’t say anything except salute Marines before they came to the huge open doors.

A wide gray aircraft was several yards away, a group of Marines loading cargo into it.

A young Marine wearing red headphones trotted up to Jack, stopped and snapped a sharp salute. Jack returned it.

“Ma’am,” he said, touching his fingertips to the brim of his camouflage cover. Melanie nodded and tried to smile.

The Marine looked at Jack, his gaze dropping briefly to the SEAL emblem on his chest. “Glad to have you aboard, sir.” He gestured to the duffel. “I can stow that for you if you’d like some more time with your lady, sir.”

Jack nodded, handing over the bag. The Marine spun around and trotted back to the plane.

Jack looked at Melanie. “I have to get on board. Hate to have them dogging me because I held up the flight.”

Melanie bit her lip, refusing to embarrass him with tears. But with each passing second she felt she was being drained of life.

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