She had no idea what a huge question she’d posed. “Why don’t you take your coat off and I’ll explain.”

The color heightened in her cheeks. “Not yet. I’m still cold.”

He narrowed his gaze, then shrugged. “As long as you’re not planning a quick escape.”

“Trust me. I didn’t drive all the way out here just to run off.”

He grabbed for her hand, then met her gaze, grateful to be able to look into those blue eyes again. “I do trust you. With my life.”

Her eyes filled with moisture as she reached a hand out to his cheek. “That can’t be an easy thing for you to say.”

“Funny, but with you it is.” He struggled for the right words.

She must have understood because she waited quietly.

“That week we spent together changed everything.”

She inclined her head. “Tell me about it,” she said softly.

He laughed. “I guess we both had a life altering experience. You found yourself and what you wanted out of life. I found you and learned that relationship isn’t a dirty word.” It wasn’t just the sensual experiences they’d shared but the emotional bonding they’d done in the process, Jack thought. “By the time you left I realized I couldn’t be the Terminator any more than I wanted to be.”

Her intense stare never wavered. “Alicia said you were incredible.”

He shook his head. “She was the incredible one. Just as you’d said. I just got damn lucky Lederman screwed himself because otherwise I’d have been in an untenable position. I couldn’t walk away from that case without costing the firm and I’d never do that. Even though by then I had a hunch things were over for me there, too.”

“You quit?” Her voice rose in pitch and shock.

“I’m in the process of selling my interest in the partnership. There’s no way I can go on the way I’ve been, taking cases, helping to destroy marriages no matter the cost.” He grinned. “Not when I’ve seen the light.”

“I’m floored.”

“So am I. I’m still not certain which direction to take next but I am sure I did the right thing.”

“And this place?”

He couldn’t stall any longer. His palms might be sweating like a teenager but he was a man on a mission and damned if he’d back down now. “A gamble. You were on the fast track to partnership and insisted marriage and family didn’t fit into the equation.” He drew a deep breath. “But you always believed and wanted me to believe, too. Now I do.”

“What are you saying?”

He clenched and unclenched his fists. “I’m saying that when you gave up your job, I figured you were thinking about things differently. This is it, sweetheart. Your invitation to the American dream. The house, the white picket fence…”

He pointed toward the window facing outside. “There’s an animal shelter around the corner and I know I wouldn’t mind getting started on the two-point-five kids. Of course, I wouldn’t keep you barefoot and pregnant. That mind’s too sharp to waste, but I’m sure this town could use two more brilliant attorneys.”

She blinked in stupefied, stunned silence. There was a time he’d be grateful to have been able to shock her, but no more. Control was not a damn illusion and she was in command.

And the longer her silence continued the more he wondered if he’d overestimated them. “I don’t own it yet so if you don’t like it or want to stay in the city or don’t want to get married…”

“What do you know, you ramble. I’ve never heard you nervous before.” A wide grin spread slowly across her face.

Jack had his answer. He just wanted to hear the words. “So what do you say?”

“That my dreams have come true.” In her wildest imagination, she’d never envisioned this kind of happily ever after, not for herself. And especially not for herself and Jack.

“And I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He spoke without hesitation.

Mallory smiled. She was so lucky to have found a man who thought she was worth the effort of digging beneath the surface. And he deserved to be rewarded.

She began a slow unbuttoning of her coat, her trembling fingers hindering the attempt. “I just hope you’re not expecting me to be the Mallory from the office, or a Stepford wife.” Because she’d learned she was a combination platter and she was still discovering more about herself every day.

She shrugged the long coat off her shoulders and let it pool at her feet. He took in the sexy black lingerie she’d picked with him in mind and his eyes darkened with appreciation.

He let out a slow whistle. “Don’t let the neighbors see you.”

She laughed. “I guess you’ll have to install blackout shades,” she said and crooked a finger his way.

“I take it that’s a yes to my invitation?”

Her heart pounded hard in her chest. “That’s yes to a lifetime.”

Jack stepped forward, lifting her into his arms and sealing their bargain with a long, lingering kiss-a kiss that promised a lifetime of erotic invitations to come.


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