44 Cranberry Point Page 3

"I thought—"

"It's too soon, sweetheart."

"It's been three years." Her desire for a child had grown progressively stronger in the months Ian had been at sea. It made sense to complete her schooling before getting pregnant again, but she'd done that and found a wonderful job. "I'm ready, Ian."

His shoulders sagged. "I'm not... I can't risk getting you pregnant." He zipped his pants and picked up his shirt, yanking it on and shoving his arms into the sleeves. He fastened the buttons with record speed and scooped the car keys from the dresser.

Cecilia bit her lip. He was right; she should've mentioned it earlier. They'd communicated almost daily via e-mail, and phone calls whenever possible. There'd been ample opportunity to discuss the matter long before his arrival home.

Ian walked out of the bedroom, then turned back at the door. "Stay right there," he said, pointing in her direction.

"Where are you going?"

His laugh was weak with impatience. "To the drugstore. Stay where you are, okay? I'll be back before you know it."

It felt as if the sun had disappeared behind a dark cloud.

Perhaps, deep down, Cecilia had known this would be Ian's reaction. Her husband was afraid of another pregnancy, afraid of what it would do to her physically and what it might do to them as a couple.

Cecilia understood why he felt that way because she'd faced those same fears herself. She'd believed—or wanted to believe—that Ian, too, had moved past them. Apparently she'd been wrong.


With a sense of joy and celebration, Maryellen Sherman carried the heavy cardboard box out of her rental house and set it in the trunk of her car. Soon she'd be living with Jon Bowman—married to him.

After all this time it hardly seemed possible. The barriers between them had been lowered. No longer could she disguise her love for him. Nor did she have to; they'd admitted their feelings for each other. The misunderstandings were over, pride and anger put aside.

Jon followed with a second box, which he set next to the first. He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, silently letting her know how pleased he was that they were finally going to be together for good.

Katie, their nine-month-old daughter, slept contentedly in her crib as they brought another load out to the car, then hurried back inside the house. Maryellen realized they only had a few more minutes of peace before their daughter woke. Most of her belongings weren't even packed.

"That's it for now?" Jon asked, hands on hips as he glanced around the living room.

"I'll have more later," she promised. Maryellen had barely started packing. She'd lived in this rental house for almost twelve years and what she'd accumulated in that length of time was staggering. Sorting through clothes and books— what to keep, what to give away or throw out—had already taken weeks.

"How much more?" A note of weariness entered Jon's voice.

"Lots. Do you want to pack up a few boxes now?" She was thinking she should probably fill up the back seat of her car before they caravanned to his home.

"What I want is to get you permanently in my house." He sounded as impatient as she felt.

"I'm just as eager to get there." She stepped into the compact kitchen and tried to figure out what else they should take with them this afternoon. Moving had never seemed so complicated or frustrating.

"Did you talk to your mother about a wedding date?"

"She thinks Memorial Day is perfect." Maryellen held back a smile. She suspected her momer was just plain relieved that she and Jon had actually decided to tie the knot. Since they already had a child together, a ceremony was long past due, in Grace Sherman's opinion.

"You're sure you don't mind not having a big fancy wedding?"

Maryellen shook her head. She opened the refrigerator and took out a tall pitcher of iced tea. She'd had all the glamour and glitter with her first marriage. The wedding had been lovely, the marriage itself anything but. She'd been young and naive; the divorce, a year later, had left her reeling emotionally for a long time.

Twelve years after that, when she'd met Jon, she'd still been frightened of falling in love again. In the beginning, she'd spurned him, insulted him and did everything she could think of to keep him out of her life. She felt mortified now when she thought back on everything she'd said and done.

Jon got two glasses from the cupboard and set them on the counter. "You're not getting any bargain in the husband department, you know?"

The anger that flared in her was too hot to be denied. "If you ever say that to me again, I swear I'll.. .I'll make you suffer."

A smile briefly softened Jon's sharp features. He wasn't a handsome man. He was tall and long-limbed with dark hair and intense brown eyes. And he was quite possibly the most talented photographer she'd ever encountered. His work hung in one of the best Seattle galleries and his name was fast gaining recognition.

"You know everything now," he said and lowered his head, avoiding eye contact.

"You know everything about me, too," she reminded him.

They both had their secrets, painful bits and pieces from their pasts. Now they had each other and, for the first time since her divorce, Maryellen felt she could heal the unresolved griefs of that marriage. She knew it was their pasts that had kept them apart. Despite everything, they'd been drawn toward each other from the very beginning, but the secrets they'd so desperately wanted to hide had almost torn them apart.

"You're not the one with a prison record," Jon muttered.

Clasping his hand, Maryellen raised it to her lips. "I consider it one of my life's greatest blessings that I'll be your wife. Until I met you I was in prison, too—a prison of my own making." That might sound melodramatic, but she meant every word.

His smile was enough to brighten the kitchen, and she slipped her arms around his waist and buried her face against him. "The truth is, I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you."

His arms tightened around her as she felt a sigh rumble through his chest. "It's a little silly, don't you think, you living here until after the wedding?"

"Perhaps, but I prefer to wait." Maryellen had made too many mistakes, and with this marriage, she wanted to do everything right. When she came to him on their wedding night, she wanted it to be special.

"We have a child together, so it's not as if..." His voice trailed off.

She tilted her head to look up at him, unsure how to say what was in her heart. "Do you mind terribly much?"

"I mind like hell, but I can wait if it means that much to you."

She nodded and then kissed his jaw to let him know she appreciated his patience. Jon tangled his fingers in her dark hair as he pressed his mouth to hers. She tasted his passion and his desire, and her resolve weakened. This was all so new and exciting. Their physical need for each other had always been explosive, their hunger undeniable.

Suddenly Katie let out a wail from the back bedroom. Jon sighed and broke off the kiss.

By the time Maryellen reached Katie's room, her daughter was standing up in her crib, both arms raised to her mother. Maryellen lifted her out, and after changing Katie's diaper, carried her into the kitchen and placed her in the high chair. Her afternoon snack of juice and an arrowroot cracker was already waiting for her.

Awake now and in a good mood, Katie grabbed her juice cup and eagerly brought it to her mouth. She took a noisy slurp, then banged the cup against the plastic tray.

"Every time I look at her, I feel a sense of wonder," Jon said and squatted down so he was eye-level with his daughter. "You're daddy's little girl, aren't you?"

Katie rewarded him with a broad four-tooth grin.

Jon automatically retrieved his camera from the counter and started snapping pictures.

"Jon." Maryellen laughed, unable to stop herself. He was so predictable. When she'd first begun working with him at the HarborStreetArtGallery, he'd asked her out a dozen times. Maryellen had refused all his invitations. She hadn't wanted a man in her life. Later she'd succumbed—and soon afterward she'd discovered to her shock that she was pregnant. She'd made every effort to keep Jon out of her child's life. And hers...

Like a lot of other women, she'd chosen to be a single mother. Not until Katie was born had she come to realize how much her daughter needed a father and how much she herself wanted and needed Jon's help in rearing their child. Then it seemed too late. While Jon obviously loved their daughter, he wanted little or nothing to do with her.

When he'd finished taking photographs of Katie, Jon focused the camera on her. Before Maryellen could react he'd snapped several pictures. When he'd first turned his camera on her, early in their relationship, she'd felt both self-conscious and flattered; now she simply trusted him, never protesting when he aimed his Nikon at her, no matter how unexpected the moment might be. In many ways Jon was most comfortable behind the camera's lens. It was through photography that he revealed his personality and emotions.

"I want you and Katie with me as soon as possible," he said when he'd rewound the film and removed the cartridge.

"It won't be long. Two weeks."

He looked as if he wanted to argue, but seemed to change his mind. "We've waited this long, I don't suppose another two weeks will kill me."

"The anticipation is half the pleasure."

He growled something she couldn't decipher. She could guess, though, and it made her smile.

"I thought we could ask Pastor Hemming to officiate." Maryellen didn't attend church regularly, but her mother's best friend, Olivia Lockhart, had recently married Jack Griffin, and the Methodist minister had performed the ceremony. She'd found it deeply moving.

"What about Judge Lockhart—or Griffin, I guess?"

"She's using both names," Maryellen said.

Jon nodded.

"I—I'd like a religious service." Olivia was a longtime family friend, but Maryellen had already decided against a civil wedding. When she spoke her vows, she was committing herself, before God and the community, to love Jon for the rest of her life.

Jon's eyes narrowed. "You want to be married in a church? You're sure?"

"Either at the MethodistChurch or perhaps on your property, if that's all right?" Jon had inherited the land from his grandfather and had built a beautiful two-story house there. The acreage overlooked Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier as a backdrop.

"It's fine," he said. "What about the reception?"

"At the house, too." All at once she wondered if she was asking too much of him. "I don't imagine we'll have many guests, just family and a few friends. All we'd need to serve is wedding cake and champagne. If the weather cooperates, we could be married outside." With the rhododendrons, many of which grew wild on the property, and the azaleas in bloom, the place would be stunning.

He nodded. "Perhaps we should serve a few hors d'oeu-vres. I can easily prepare them a day or two before."


"A friend of mine can do the pictures, but I want to take the ones of you myself."

Maryellen could tell he was warming to the subject of their wedding. "Can we put all this together in two weeks?" she asked.

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