Juliana slipped off the chair and clomped toward her room.

As soon as she was gone, Melanie’s face broke into a smile. “You should have seen the haircut. Thank heaven that Dara next door is a hairdresser. I was about to scalp that child with a Marine regulation high and tight I was so mad.”

Laughing, Jack crossed to her. “Anyway I can ease the tension?” He wrapped his arms around her.

“Yeah, you can.” She sighed into his arms, feeling his strength and drawing it into her. “I want chocolate and a bubble bath.”

“Easy enough.”

He kissed her warmly, wanting more and wondering if their daughter would stay in her room as she was told. He’d only just returned from a short deployment a couple of weeks ago, and he and Melanie still had some catching up to do.

They parted and she went to the stove, stirring a pot of homemade soup. Jack let his gaze wander over her. Every day he thanked God for that night after his sister’s wedding.

“Can you come over to the Command tomorrow at nine?” He snatched a carrot from the cutting board and munched.

“Sure, why?”

“I’d like you to pin on my oak leaves.”

She whipped around, her eyes wide. “You got the promotion!”

He just grinned and her smile went hundred-watt bright.

“Oh, Jack!” Melanie dropped the spoon and launched herself at him, jumping into his arms and wrapping her legs around his waist. “I’m so proud of you!”

Jack laughed and didn’t think he could feel any better, but he did. “Is this the behavior of the wife of a lieutenant commander?”

“Have I ever been politically correct?” She kissed him hard and met his gaze. “This is so great. And we’ll need the money.”

He frowned. “Anything specific you have in mind?”

“Saving for two college educations.”

He just stared at her.

She tipped her head to the side and said, “You know for a lieutenant commander selectee you’re slow on the uptake.”

His eyes flew wide. “We’re pregnant.”

She smiled. “If you want to have this baby, I’ll see if it can be arranged.”

“Oh, Lord,” he said softly, and swung her into his arms, then sank into a chair.


“Yes!” He rained kisses over her face, squeezing her. He was going to get the chance to see her pregnant, and although he’d viewed the videotape and had seen the pictures of her last delivery, it was not the same as being there. Thoughts of putting in for a SEAL-instructor position for a while popped into his mind.

“We might get a boy this time.”

He lifted his gaze to hers, and Melanie was unhinged by the look in his eyes.

“I don’t care.”

A woman couldn’t ask for more, she thought. Jack never failed to surprise her. “I love you, Jack.”

“I love you, too, baby,” he murmured, and stood up with her in his arms, carrying her from the kitchen into the living room and settling comfortably on the sofa. He never let her go. “How do you feel?”

“Ask me in the morning,” she said, grinning. “This promotion means orders, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, very likely.”

“To where?”

He shrugged. “California. Maybe West PAC.”

She waved off the Navy installations he suggested, not really caring where they went, as long as they were together. “When?”

“A few weeks to a few months.”

Hurry up and wait, she thought, and looked around at their darling house and all the work she’d put into it. Oh, well, she thought and sighed into his arms.

His hand slid down to her belly, slipping under the band of her jeans, his palm warm and teasing on her skin. She studied his expression, the awe in it, and was glad she’d get to experience this baby with him near this time.

“I want to know everything,” he told her.

“Oh, swollen ankles, barfing at the crack of dawn…oh, so sexy,” she said.

His expression remained serious. “It is to me, Melanie. Everything about you is.”

“Daddy,” his daughter called from the hallway.

Melanie arched a brow.

“Yes, Juliana,” he said in a tone that reminded her that he was not pleased with her behavior this afternoon.

“Can I come out?”

He looked at Melanie. She nodded.

“Sure, honey.”

Juliana stepped around the corner, her eyes red-rimmed and downcast.

“Come on, munchkin,” Melanie said, and her daughter leapt onto the sofa, instantly snuggling up to her father and mother.

Melanie didn’t tell her that she was going to have a brother or sister. She’d save it for later and savor the private knowledge with Jack a bit longer. She lifted her gaze to his, touching the side of his face. Gently he kissed her, whispered his love, then looked down at Juliana.

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