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Crystal Green
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Silhouette Special Edition #1906
June 2008
ISBN: 0373248873

"I want to be your husband again."

He had almost lost them. Now, Travis had come home, determined to be the family man Mei and their little girl needed.

It was a family growing by leaps and bounds, if Mei's burgeoning belly was any indication….

Mei had never stopped loving Travis, but things had changed when he was off saving the world. Now, more than ever, she needed him to be a full-time husband and father. She needed to know once and for all—was he in…or was he out?

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Mei walked into the apartment to find the place transformed.

At least, she hadn’t seen it this way in years.

As she wandered inside, a glow of soft light greeted her—candles contained in small lanterns she’d once bought on a whim.  They were placed around the dining area, around the table set with their best Delft china and a centerpiece bowl filled with water and rose petals.

Mei dropped her purse near the kitchen counter, her heart going to her throat.

This was evidence of her husband’ all-too-persuasive romantic streak: the way he used to surprise her just after they got married with wine and cheese on a bench by the bay.  The way he used to sweep her off at the end of a workday when they were both at Webb, Incorporated, to a B&B in the mountains or a weekend trip to a fancy hotel.

He stepped out from behind the long pantry cupboard, dressed casually in jeans and a white T-shirt that was minus any of his usual mischievous slogans. 

So handsome with his ocean-tinted eyes clear against sun-burnished skin.  So tall and rugged and strong….

“I finished lighting all these things just minutes ago,” he said.  “My timing is on.”

He seemed to want to inject some lightness into the evening, but she could tell there was something behind that gorgeous gaze.  A heaviness. 

“Dinner smells wonderful.”  She smoothed down the airy long-sleeved yellow dress she’d donned earlier.  She wanted to look nice tonight, wanted things to go well, even if a true reunion couldn’t happen yet.

Not until she was more secure in his promises—and until she could ascertain how the future might affect the child who might be growing within her.

“So,” he said, “how are your mom and pop?”

“Over the moon to have their granddaughter overnight, of course.”

Travis nodded, busying himself by readying a bottle of wine.

Mei held up a hand.  “None for me, thanks.  I don’t have a yen for it tonight.”

“Then,” he said with a smile, clearly not suspecting her real reason for avoiding alcohol, “I hope you don’t mind if I grab a beer.”

“Have at it.”

As he opened the fridge and traded the wine for his preferred beverage, he said, “I imagine you told your parents I’m back.”

Great—this was not how she’d wanted their night to start out, but she would be honest.

“I’d already mentioned it, so it wasn’t a surprise.”

“And they proceeded to remind you about what a mistake you made by marrying me, the boy from a snobby family.  The guy who’d never come to any good.”

Mei walked over to the kitchen counter and leaned on it.  “Okay, their tune hasn’t changed—it’s just gained a new chorus.”

He fished in the utensil drawer for a beer opener, popped open his bottle and saluted her.  “You said that with a real impressive flourish, Mei.  Now that’s how to put a spin on something.”

“I wasn’t in marketing for nothing.”  She traced the edges of the white counter tile.  “You know my parents are always going to be a challenge.  They had their eye on a perfect son-in-law once we came to America, and I disappointed them by going against their plans.  You started out with a disadvantage, Travis, and…”

She trailed off.

But he picked right back up where she’d ended.  “…And I didn’t do much to prove you’d made the right choice in a devoted husband.”

“That was then, and this is now,” she said hopefully. 

He looked at her still-bare ring finger, and that said it all.

She lowered her hand from the counter, picturing her wedding band waiting in the vanity drawer in the bedroom, where it seemed lonely in its velvet-box vigil.

Taking a deep breath, she gestured toward the stove, where covered pots and pans gleamed in the dimness.  “What’s cooking?”

He seemed dissatisfied at the reprieve.  “Garlic mashed potatoes and leeks to go with some sautéed scallops.  Your favorite meal followed by some chocolate mousse.”

Scallops.  She did love them, but not if she were pregnant.  She didn’t want to take any chances with seafood.

He went over to the table and pulled out her chair.  She took it, grinning at him.  In spite of everything, Travis would never stop being a gentleman.

As she adjusted her skirt, she felt him standing over her.  Felt the heat of his skin, the overwhelming awareness of just being near him.  And then…something more.

His hand on her hair. 

One stroke. 

One tentative step toward a more intimate reconciliation.

Her core went hot, desire melting down until it stirred low and tingling.

Travis knew just how to touch her.

Glancing up at him, she wanted to make it clear that tonight was just about talk, and talk only, but she couldn’t speak. 

His eyes were a murky green, clouded with darkness, and a quiver of fear jumbled her already muddled senses. 

“I went to the firehouse today,” he said softly.

A leaden weight settled on her.  “Why?”

“I…” He shook his head.  “The nightmare dogged me when I had time to think about it, and I just found myself there while I was running errands.”

She wouldn’t cry.  Wouldn’t do it now, even if she couldn’t seem to help it anymore.

“And here I thought we were getting somewhere,” she said, the words catching on their way out.

“We are.”  He kept his hand near her hair, as if he wanted to stroke it again but didn’t know if he should.  “I told you because I had to be honest.  But I left soon, right after I realized it’s not where I wanted to be.”

Should she believe him? 

“It’s like you can’t help yourself.”  She looked down at the table.  “It’s like your job gives you more than…I do.”

As the comment hovered, she tried to chase away the looks on her parents’ faces earlier.  Among other questions, she knew they’d probably already asked themselves the same exact thing: why wasn’t Mei able to keep her husband home? 

Worst of all, she knew they thought that a mate they approved of would’ve appreciated their daughter more if she had only followed their advice.

“Oh, hey, now,” Travis said, sounding upset, too.  “Mei, you know you’re the best wife a man could ever ask for.”

She didn’t want to meet his eyes, because if she did, she would lose it.  The last thing they needed were tears, because their situation required logic at this point.  Emotion would get them into deeper trouble.

Yet it didn’t require more than a tender touch, his fingers underneath her chin, to guide her gaze back to him.

“Mei,” he said again, but this time it was just a whisper.

Soft, low, tempting.

A laden beat passed, filled with such repressed longing that her heart banged to get out of her body, pounding, pounding.  Demanding.

Before she knew it, they were inches apart.  Heartbeats.

A breath.

Yes, she thought. Yes.

And when their lips met, there was nothing but a warm throb that linked them together, just as she’d been craving all along.


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From the book: The Second-Chance Groom
By: Crystal Green
Imprint and Series: Silhouette Special Edition
Publication Date: 6/08
ISBN: 0-373-24906-0
Copyright: 2008
By: Chris Marie Green
R and TM are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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