“It’s been very…nice.”
“Admit it. I’m not so frightening, am I?”
She shifted sideways to look at him and smiled. “You can be.”
“When you kiss me.” It must be the wine talking, yet it was the truth.
Jon took her hand and examined her long, tapering fingers. “This might come as s surprise, but your kisses frighten me, too.”
“I frighten you?” This didn’t surprise so much as amuse Maryellen.
As if to prove his point, he bent forward and pressed his mouth to hers. It was a gentle, undemanding kiss but one that promised so much more.
“See?” he said in a low voice, sounding unlike himself. He flattened her hand against his chest. “Feel my heart.”
“Yes…It’s beating hard.” Her own heart was pounding, too. Wanting to reveal what his kisses did to her, she leaned toward him and placed her mouth over his. The kiss was deeper, longer, more involved. By the time it ended, Maryellen’s head was swimming. “Feel my heart,” she whispered.
Jon laid his large hand over her chest, but then as though he couldn’t resist, he cupped her breast. He gave her ample opportunity to stop him, but she couldn’t. The feelings his touch produced in her were too exciting. Too enticing. His fingers fumbled with the buttons on her blouse as he continued to kiss her. Even before he’d finished, she reached behind and released her bra, letting her breasts spill forward. Jon caught them with both hands and groaned when she leaned closer and ran her tongue along the inner edge of his ear.
After that, everything happened so fast, Maryellen lost track of who undressed whom. All she knew was that they were on the sofa and Jon was about to make love to her. His eyes held hers as he positioned himself above her.
“Do you want this?” he asked.
She closed her eyes and nodded, so eager for him that she wrapped her arms tightly around him and urged his mouth back to hers.
“Say it,” he insisted.
Their lovemaking was long and slow. And it was exquisite, unlike anything she’d ever experienced. At some point during the night, they moved upstairs to his bed. Exhausted, Maryellen fell into a deep sleep with Jon’s body curled around hers, his arm over her waist, his hand pressing her close.
Shortly before dawn, with morning just beginning to light the sky, she stirred. Startled, barely aware of her surroundings, Maryellen woke and abruptly sat up. “Where am I?” she asked.
“You’re with me,” Jon said and brought her back into his arms. He kissed her again and she turned to face him.
The second time they made love, she sat atop him, her long hair streaming over her shoulders and onto her breasts.
In the morning, Maryellen woke first and lay quietly in his arms for several moments, considering what she’d done. Jon Bowman had seduced her—and she’d let him. He’d wined and dined her and then he’d lured her into his bed—and she’d let him. She’d been a willing participant, without a thought to birth control or any form of protection. This was insanity.
Careful not to disturb him, she slipped out of the bed, mortified to find she was completely nude. Tiptoeing down the stairs, she gathered her clothes piece by piece and held them against her breasts. She’d put her underwear on and was stepping into her wool slacks when Jon appeared at the top of the stairs, naked from the waist up.
“You’re sneaking away?” he asked.
She didn’t answer. Her intentions were obvious, and they didn’t include breakfast over coffee and a newspaper, either. “That shouldn’t have happened.”
“But it did. Are you going to pretend it didn’t?”
Her face burned red. “Yes.”
“Maryellen, be reasonable.”
“No—we have a professional relationship. It can’t be anything else.”
She didn’t have any answers without launching into explanations she didn’t want to give. “Because it can’t. I’m sorry, but this is the way it has to be.”
“You owe me more than that.”
“I owe you nothing.” She continued dressing as fast as she could, zipping up her pants. “You planned this little seduction. The wine, the dinner, the music…”
“The hell I did! You wanted me as much as I wanted you. If you’re going to be angry, fine, but at least be honest.”
“Yes, I wanted you, but I would never have slept with you if you hadn’t blackmailed me into coming out here. You had everything planned—right down to the three glasses of wine, didn’t you?” She flipped the hair away from her face and grabbed her blouse. She jerked her arms into the sleeves and didn’t bother to fasten the buttons before walking over to the closet and grabbing her coat. She yanked it free and left the hanger swinging.
“Maryellen,” he pleaded. “Don’t leave like this. Don’t lie to me, and don’t lie to yourself. I didn’t plan what happened.”
“It’s very clear that you did.” When she was young and naive and a virgin, Clint had lured her into his bed with wine and promises. They’d taken wild, irresponsible chances with pregnancy, just as she’d done now. In all the years since her marriage and divorce, she’d apparently learned nothing.
“Fine,” he snapped. “Believe what you want, but I know the truth and so do you.”
Maryellen stomped out, and it wasn’t until she’d driven halfway home that she remembered the photographs.
Jack didn’t know how much longer he’d be able to stand having Eric in his house. His very small house. When he went to make breakfast that morning, he discovered an empty bread sack. Eric had eaten the last of the bread. That was just the most recent instance of his son’s thoughtlessness. He wondered how Shelly coped with Eric’s slovenly behavior, cursing as he shoved plates and cups into the dishwasher.
Doing his best to control his irritation, Jack decided he could go without his morning toast. It would be good for his waistline. However his attitude didn’t improve when he discovered that Eric had used up most of the hot water for his own shower and then thrown in a load of wash.
Unaware that the hot water tank was empty, Jack stepped into the stall and turned on the water, only to be drenched in icy spray. Yelping, he slammed open the glass door, scrambled out and grabbed a towel. Unfortunately it was damp from Eric’s shower. His son had managed to use both towels, so there wasn’t a dry one for Jack.
“That does it!” he shouted, flinging down the towel. When Eric had first come to live with him, it was supposed to be for a few days. This had gone on for weeks now, and Jack was putting an end to it.
His disposition was quickly moving from irritation to outrage as he tried to dress, still wet from the shower. Twice he had to stop and take deep breaths in order to calm his thundering heart. As far as he could see, Eric and Shelly were at a stalemate. Neither one of them was going to budge. Jack had hoped they’d patch things up on Thanksgiving Day at Olivia’s. Unfortunately, Shelly had refused the invitation.
Eric had tried to hide his feelings, but they were all too transparent. His son had pinned his hopes on seeing Shelly over the Thanksgiving holiday, and her refusal had left him reeling. He was convinced she was involved with someone else now. That was when Jack had convinced Eric to visit a fertility clinic. Following the visit, Eric had gone into a depression that had lasted for days.
Not knowing what else to do, Jack felt he had no choice but to take matters into his own hands. By the time he reached the newspaper office, he’d formed a plan of action. He was going to call Shelly himself.
Luckily he had her work number, and when they connected, he suggested they meet for dinner. Shelly agreed and they set a time, choosing a place on the Seattle waterfront. Things had to change, and quickly. For his son’s sake…and his own.
At six-thirty that same day, Shelly met Jack at the fancy seafood restaurant. She’d already been seated and was waiting for him. She hadn’t seen him yet and he took advantage of the moment to study her. Shelly was a pretty girl, petite and fragile-looking, especially now. Jack was surprised to see that she was already wearing a maternity top. Easy enough to guess that she was pregnant.
“Hello, Shelly,” he said, kissing her on the cheek before sitting across from her.
“Please,” he insisted, “call me Jack.”
“All right.” She lowered her gaze, apparently reading the menu, but Jack had the feeling she already knew what she wanted to order. He knew what he wanted. The crab cakes were excellent. But this meeting wasn’t about crab cakes or any other menu item.
“I imagine you’re wondering why I called you,” Jack said as he set aside the menu.
“I assume it has to do with Eric.” Then, as if she couldn’t help herself, she asked. “How is he?”
“Not great,” Jack told her. “He misses you.”
Shelly looked toward the pier and the expanse of black inky water beyond. “I miss him, too.” Her voice was soft.
“Was my son always such a slob?” Jack tossed in the question, hoping for a lighter mood. Eric could well have come by it naturally. His own lack of orderliness had never bothered Jack much, but Eric’s drove him to distraction. Besides, Eric far surpassed him in any slob competition.
“Always,” Shelly said with the beginning of a smile. “I’m the organized one. Is he eating all right?”
It probably wasn’t a good idea to admit his son was eating him out of house and home. “He seems to be doing just fine in that department. How about you?”
Shelly smiled a little more, and Jack noticed how pale she was. “I’m constantly hungry. I’ve never had an appetite like this in my life. I have breakfast and then by midmorning I’m so ravenous I have a second breakfast.”
That explained why she was already into maternity tops. The poor girl had turned to food to help her through this difficult time. Jack wished he knew what to say.
“Have you talked to Eric recently?” he asked, carefully broaching the subject.
“No…we haven’t spoken since a week before Thanksgiving.”
“Then you don’t know.” Jack’s heart fell. So Eric hadn’t told her.
“I convinced Eric to visit one of those fertility clinics and have his sperm tested. You claim this baby is his and Eric says it can’t be because of something a doctor told us years ago.”
Shelly brightened immediately. “That was a great idea. Then he knows the baby is his.”
“Unfortunately, no.” Jack glanced around, surprised they hadn’t seen a waiter yet. As if on cue, the man stepped forward. Jack asked for coffee and the crab cakes; Shelly ordered the garden salad, with extra ranch dressing on the side, chicken fettuccini Alfredo, plus an order of garlic-and-cheese bread. Jack suspected that if desserts had been listed on the main menu, she would have ordered that, too.