i b55e8bbed6ed0c22 (21 page)

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cherishing her.

The jewel-like gleam of her blue eyes reminded him. He reached into his pocket and drew out

her engagement ring, still remembering what a blow it had been to find it on his kitchen counter.

He stared down at it, and his throat muscles worked. "This is yours," he said hoarsely, fumbling

for her left hand to put the ring where it belonged. "Don't ever take it off again.”

She heard past the imperative demand in his to the need that impelled him, and she closed her

hand around the ring. "I never will," she said quietly.

"You're home, and I am yours."

He looked at her searchingly. Then he closed his eyes and such a look of peace came over his

face, she nearly cried again. He drew a breath and said, "Come on, sugar. Let's go."

He slipped an arm around her waist and walked with her to the cars. She rested her head against

his shoulder and said happily, "What a fine morning it is."

He smiled. "Isn't it," he agreed.

She nestled against him. "Chance, I don't want to drive."

"You're not going to." He led her to the passenger side of the Jeep, opened the door and lifted her

in. Then he followed, pressing her back against the seat as he kissed her hard. She moaned, her

lips parting and he plunged into the delicate, moist crevice of her mouth, ravenously drinking

from her.

She twisted under his heavy weight, straining to get closer' as she sank her hands into the hair at

the back of his head. Then she shivered and clung to him, because the incredulity had not quite

left her after so much pain, and he pulled back to enfold her tenderly.

"I want to do everything we planned to do yesterday," he said gruffly. "But you need breakfast

and bed. Are you up to facing your grandfather and Tim?"

She nodded. Poor Grampa, he deserves to hear how things worked out after I worried him so

badly yesterday. "I want to." Then her forehead wrinkled as she plucked at his shirt. "Did you

sleep much last night?"

"No," he murmured.

She put her face in his neck and inhaled his scent.

"Are you very tired, too?"

His voice roughened. "Most definitely too tired to do anything without you." He caressed her

slender thighs.

She leaned her hot forehead against his collarbone. His pulse had accelerated, and he was

breathing deeply. "What are we going to say to them?" she sighed, so hungry for him she

couldn't think straight.

"We’ll tell them we're engaged, you'll go to your room to pack an overnight bag, and we'll go

back to my place. Quickly," he added with a tight grin.

The predator was back, sleek and poised to pounce. It looked at her from the richness of his

unblinking eyes and said, Soon. -

But he, too, had been hurt recently, and there was a lingering hint of question.

Soon, she promised, and for the first time she welcomed the predator, unafraid. He saw how

wholeheartedly she meant it, and the question faded, leaving him exultant.

The trip home was a heated prelude. Chance took her hand as they walked toward the' house, and

she clasped it between both of hers. She couldn't stop touching him, and she stroked his long

fingers, remembering the intensity of the pleasure he'd given her. She could tell by the darkened

flush along his cheek bones and the glitter in his eyes that he was remembering, too. '

She took a long breath. First things first. Letting go-of his hand, she danced up the porch steps

while he purred up behind her. She opened the front door and sang out, "Hi, everybody, I'm

home!"

There was one moment when the scene of the front hall and staircase was serenely quiet. Then it

seemed the whole world descended on them. Wallis yanked open the study door, caught sight of

Chance, and his face purpled. Cassie shot out of the library, Tim on her heels.

Cassie? Mary stopped dead and Chance bumped into her. His hands went around her waist

quickly to keep her from falling.

Wallis strode toward them, bellowing, "You have a hell of a lot of nerve coming here after

treating my baby girl like that!"

"Sir," Chance said firmly.

Cassie was dressed in a gray sweat suit, red hair back in a ponytail. Her eyes were blazing. She

stalked down the hall, one fist clenched, and hissed, "This time I'm really gonna kill you, Chance."

Mary ogled her in shock, shrinking back instinctively. Chance's arms came around her, and he

said soothingly in her ear, "It's all right. Everything's under control."

Wallis was still shouting. Cassie looked at her, and her face softened. "Hi, Mary," she crooned-

gently.

"Would you get out of my way, please?"

Mary pushed back against Chance harder and shook her head. He was starting to shake with

laughter.

Tim's head popped up from behind Cassie’s shoulder, eyes shining with excitement, and he

waved.

"You were having such a bad day yesterday so I naturally thought of calling Cassie to see if we

could help. She came over right away," he said in an awed voice. "Hi, Mary. Hi, Chance."

"Hi, Tim," Chance said cheerfully.

"Er-just a minute," said Mary.

" ... and I'll give you one final chance to unhand my granddaughter!" Wallis cried.

" ... just answer me this, you big idiot!" Cassie snarled. "Why the hell did you drag me all over

town to buy the love of your life a ring if you were gonna walk out on her the next day!"

"Excuse me, everybody," Mary said.

"I want an explanation, and I want it now!" Wallis yelled.

Mary felt Chance inhale deeply, and his body stiffened. "QUIET!" he roared over her head. The

deep, powerful shout echoed off the walls like a gunshot.

Silence. Wallis and Cassie stared at him with deep offense, while Tim, big-eyed, stood very

straight.

Chance said more quietly, "Mary and I had a bad time. It's over now. I'm retiring, and we're

getting married in a week and a half."

They all looked at her. She held up her left hand, waggled her engagement ring at them and

beamed.

After a long pause, Wallis said, "Oh." The storm clouds left Cassie's face and she threw her arms

around them both in an exuberant embrace.

"Yes! I knew you wouldn't be that stupid," she assured her brother. "But what're you going to do

with yourself now?"

He shrugged. "Schubert offered me a permanent position at the university, which I may end up

taking. after Mary and I talk about it. I've got options. We'll see."

Tim was hanging back quietly. Mashed as she was between Chance and Cassie, Mary didn't see

him, but Chance did. Keeping one arm around Mary, he held out the other to her brother.

"Congratulate us, son?"

Mary put an arm around Cassie's neck as she turned to look. She saw Tim's face, vulnerable and

looking very young, and Chance's warm, reassuring smile.

Then Tim shot across the hall and was pulled into the general huddle. "I'm glad," he whispered to

Mary

"Me, too," she whispered back and kissed him.

Wallis crossed his arms and glared at the four. "I guess I'd better go open a bottle of champagne

or something," he growled, and he turned to stomp toward the kitchen.

Cassie laughed out loud. "Come on, Tim," she said. "Let's leave' these lovebirds and go help

Grampa."

"Okay," he sighed, and he trailed away behind her.

Chance turned Mary around to face him, remnants of laughter still in his eyes. He looked young,

carefree. As she spread her hands across his chest, he bent down to kiss her deeply. Passion

curled tight inside her, and she leaned against him with a shaken groan.

"I love you," he said fiercely.

Her heart leapt. "I love you," she whispered in reply. "We aren't going to get away as quickly as

we hoped, are we?"

"No." He lifted her hair away from the nape of her neck and cradled her head. "But it doesn't

matter, precious. Now we have all the time in the world."

He was right, they did.

She rested against him and was content.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

"REALLY?" Mary cried.

' 'Yes, really," Julie, the nurse from the hospital, assured her. "Congratulations. And oh, by the

way congratulations, too, on getting married last weekend. We put the notice up in the doctors'

lounge. You should have seen Victor's face. It would have curdled milk."

"Oh, him!" she exclaimed dismissively. Victor was nothing more to her than a distant splotch on

her past horizon. "Thank you so much for everything, Julie."

"Honestly, it was my pleasure. We miss you, and we miss your hunky hubby picking you up

every day. All the other nurses have quite a crush on him. I don't of course.”

Mary laughed delightedly, promised to meet Julie for lunch the next week, said goodbye and

hung up.

Then she hugged herself, looking around their bedroom. Chance had liked the peach-and-green

color scheme, and the room had been spacious enough to move in his dressers and one of his

bookshelves

She had to find him. She straightened her rose patterned skirt in the full-length mirror and

waltzed down the stairs toward the back door. The smells of the Sunday dinner made her pause,

and humming, she went to check on the large capon roasting in the oven. It was nearly ready. She

tucked the foil-wrapped potatoes to one side and put the tray of crescent rolls in to bake.

Outside she went. Cassie and her father, Johnny, were playing a cutthroat game of croquet on the

lawn in the same spot where the wedding had been held a week ago. In a nearby pavilion,

Carmen and Wallis stretched out in lounge chairs, drinking wine and talking as they watched the

game.

They waved at her, and she waved back as she hurried to the large shed where Chance and Tim

were plotting on how to fix the damaged yacht Chance had bought from Harold 0 Schubert. She

didn't quite understand yet how they were going to go about repairing the Gypsy Dancer. It

seemed to involve bottles of beer and cans of soda, and many hours of talking in the shed. She

suspected it might involve the professional help of a shipyard before it was over, but both

Chance and Tim were enjoying themselves so much, she kept her mouth shut. ....

She waltzed up to the open doors and peered inside.

The thirty-foot yacht, cradled on the boat trailer, dominated the middle space of the shed.

Chance, clad in a white shirt and tan trousers, was bent over a workbench against one wall,

studying designs, while Tim hovered at his elbow. As if aware of her presence by some sixth

sense, Chance looked up.

She never failed to be amazed at how he lit up when he saw her. He pushed away from the bench

to stroll toward her, raking his hair back with one hand, while her gaze ran possessively down the

length of his body, and she thought, You're mine, you beautiful man.

He. stepped out into the sunshine. "Hello, sweetheart, is dinner ready? What can I do to help?"

She clasped her hands together. "Chance, I'm pregnant."

He froze, staring at her incredulously. She nodded at him, beaming. Then his face ignited with

joy, and with a war whoop he darted forward to swing her up.

She threw her arms around his neck, laughing tearfully as he twirled her around.

"When did you find out?" he demanded.

"Just now, on the phone. Remember when I had to run errands this morning? I stopped at the

hospital, and Julie had one of the technicians run a test just for me."

"My God, you kept a secret!"

She lifted one shoulder, looking proud. "Well, for a couple of hours."

He stopped and dipped his head for a long, deep. kiss. She nuzzled against him, purring. "You

precious, precious thing," he whispered. "You're my universe."

Mary looked serenely up at the sky. She knew she was. He proved it in many ways every day.

"You're mine, too."

"Oh, my God," Tim said from behind them, "I'm going to be an uncle!"

They turned to look. His eyes were bugged out. Mary started to laugh again helplessly. "Don't

look so scared, honey. It'll be all right."

"I'm going to be a father," Chance breathed. "I'm looking forward to every terrifying minute of it.

Let's go tell everybody now."

Mary nodded and looked at the ground, expecting to be put down, but he held on to her tight.

While Tim ran ahead, Chance stepped lightly around the corner of the shed and followed with a

lilting step, dancing with her in his arms.

BOOK: i b55e8bbed6ed0c22
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