His lips quirked in a smile. “This is about the only time I’m allowed to kiss you in public, you know.”
She smiled weakly. “No public displays of affection, I know.”
He held her gaze, his blue eyes going dark with emotion. He brushed a kiss to her lips and whispered, “I love you, Melanie.” Then he turned and walked away.
She blinked and swallowed. “Don’t you drop a bomb like that and think you can walk away, Singer.”
He stopped, but didn’t turn around.
“You really love me?”
He turned, and with an unreadable expression, strode back to her, gathered her in his arms and kissed her senseless. Absolutely senseless.
“Yes, I really do.” He scraped her hair back off her face and cupped her jaw. His gaze was dark and intense. “You’ve been in my mind and heart from that first day, Melanie. Sure I love our daughter, but I loved you first. You. Because you’re still the woman who knocked me over at my sister’s wedding. That’s the woman I fell in love with.”
Melanie stared into his ice-blue eyes and saw only cool calm seas. The distrust and fear she held unwound like a velvet ribbon. Her heart no longer struggled and the words tumbled off her lips. “Oh, Jack,” she whispered, “I love you, too.”
His grin was slow and wide. “About time you said it.”
She gave him an affronted look and he laughed softly. “I knew you did. You were just too scared to say it.”
Her anger left her before it had the chance to boil. “You’re right, I was scared. I’ve been so happy these past weeks that I was terrified it wasn’t real, that I wanted it so badly that I couldn’t trust what I already knew. But it doesn’t matter. Scared is okay. Fear keeps you sharp.” She repeated his own words back at him. “Nothing, not even fear or our being apart is going to ever change my love for you, Jack Singer.” Now she cupped his face, her confession giving her the freedom she’d always wanted. “Not the date on a license or certificate, either. It doesn’t matter how we started this marriage, only how we live it.”
The plane’s engine revved.
“I love you, Melanie. I was a goner the moment you called me Sir Galahad.”
She grinned through a teary smile. “My hero,” she said, and he kissed her deeply.
The Marines watching them hung out of the transport, howling like Comanche raiders. Someone called out and the engine noise grew louder.
“I have to go.”
“Go then. I’ll be here. I’ll hold down the fort, waiting for you to come home to me.”
He brushed her lips with his fingers and stole one more kiss.
“This time and forever, Jack.”
Jack’s chest locked with emotion, and defying the pilot’s orders to get aboard, Jack grabbed her and kissed her again, then let her go and walked to the plane, happiness lighting his face.
Once inside, he gripped a strap, then looked back to see her smiling. A smile that lit her entire body and shouted back at him, I love you!
Then just before the hydraulic door stole her from his sight, she yelled, “Hoo-yahh!”
Lt. Jack Singer, U.S. Navy SEAL, would always remember this moment as the day Melanie brought him to his knees with her declaration.
A surprise baby had given him the love of his lifetime. His soul knew it the first time he saw Melanie. And nothing was ever going to keep him from having the pleasure of proving it to her for the rest of her life.
Three years later
Jack stepped into the kitchen. Melanie didn’t look at all pleased and Juliana was sitting in a chair pouting and sniffling.
He set his briefcase down and said, “Hey, what’s up?”
Melanie spun around, then came over to him and kissed him.
“Hi, Daddy,” Juliana said sullenly.
Melanie said clearly, “We’ve had a difference of opinion. I thought she shouldn’t be messing with the scissors, and she thought she could give herself a haircut.”
Jack groaned, just now noticing that Juliana’s hair was much shorter. He squatted down in front of his daughter. “Oh, man.” He touched the shortened locks. He eyed her darkly.
“I’m sorry,” his little girl blubbered, her lip quivering, and Jack felt himself about to cave.
Melanie cleared her throat, and when he looked at her, she inclined her head. Jack knew better than to go soft on his daughter right now. Even when she stared at him with those soulful blue eyes.
“I want you to think about what disobeying me has cost you, honey.” Melanie hated punishing Juliana. “Go to your room.”