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Grace is saying goodbye to her sister-in-law when Jack returns from his run.
The apartment door opened as they gave each other one last hug. Jack, wearing a gray T-shirt and sweatpants, looked from Jill to Grace. “What’s wrong?”
"Just happy you’re home.” Jill hugged him, then lifted her head from his chest. “Ewhh, you’re all sweaty.”
“ Yeah, I need a shower.” He drew away from Jill and lifted the bottom of his T-shirt to wipe the beads of perspiration from his forehead. Grace’s gaze dropped to the deeply tanned washboard stomach he revealed. She hooked a ﬁnger in her strand of pearls. Oh my. Before he caught her ogling his body, she dragged her eyes back to his face. Blue eyes locked on to hers as he lowered the T-shirt.
Jill snorted a laugh and patted his arm. “I’ll leave you two alone. Three,” she corrected at the sound of toppling blocks.
"I thought you’d stick around for a while.” There was a hint of desperation in Jack’s voice as he glanced from Grace to the living room. Oh, great. Her reaction to that brief ﬂash of naked abs probably had him worried she was going to jump him as soon as Jill left. Or maybe he was worried about which limb their son would gnaw on next. Then Grace reminded herself that he didn’t think of Jack Junior as his son, and that was more hurtful than what he might think of her. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Jill,” she said as she walked toward the living room.
Attempting to ignore their quiet conversation in the hall, Grace knelt beside her son. “Do you want to help mommy get dinner ready?” She forced a bright smile and piled the blocks in the bin.
Jack Junior nodded, and Grace nattered on about peeling carrots and potatoes while organizing the blocks into neat rows. “How does that—” she went to ask her son when she noticed Jack leaning against the white plaster pillar, watching her with an unreadable emotion in his eyes. “I didn’t see you there.”
“Sounds like you guys are going to be busy for a while. Mind if I take a shower?”
Unconsciously her gaze ﬂitted over his incredibly masculine, broad-shouldered frame. She’d memorized every glorious inch of him, knew where every freckle was, knew how to touch him to drive him wild with passion, knew how to make him laugh.
Heat suffused her cheeks at the memories, and she cleared her throat. “Not at all. There’s clean towels on the bed for you. Everything else is where you left . . .” She grimaced and pushed the bin aside. “You probably don’t remember where anything is. I’ll show—”
“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I’ll ﬁnd what I need.” He came to crouch beside them. His gaze roamed her face, a gentle smile curving his lips. “I know this is as tough on you as it is me. I’m sorry if my reaction earlier made it harder. It’ll take me some time to get used to the changes, that’s all.” He handed her a block as if it was a peace offering.
Her son, who’d been quietly sizing up the big stranger beside him, grabbed the block and held it to his chest. “Mine.”
“Jack Junior,” Grace said on an exasperated sigh, then apologized. “He’s a little possessive of his things right now.”
Jack shrugged and held her gaze. “So am I. I never did like to share. Still don’t.”
Excerpt from CHRISTMAS IN JULY ©2014 by Debbie Mason. All rights reserved.
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Forever (June 24, 2013)
Grace Flaherty had given up hope of ever seeing her husband again. After all, it'd been over a year since he went missing in combat. So when he strides through the door of her bakery in downtown Christmas one sunny afternoon, she can hardly believe her eyes. But her happily-ever-after is going to take some effort - because Jack has no memory of his family.
All Jack Flaherty remembers about Christmas is that he couldn't wait to leave town. Now he's a local hero with a wife and son he doesn't know. Even as he struggles to rekindle the romance with his wife, he knows in his heart what he wants: a second chance at love.
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