Guess what? I'm falling in love! With Mack McAfee.
My baby daughter, Noelle, and I have been living next door to Mack since the spring. I'm still a little wary about our relationship, because I haven't always made good decisions when it comes to men. My baby's father, David Rhodes, is testament to that. I'm so worried he might sue for custody.
In the meantime, the World War II letters I found are a wonderful distraction. Both Mack and I are trying to learn what happened to the soldier who wrote them and the woman he loved.
Come by sometime for a glass of iced tea and I'll show you the letters. Plus I'll tell you the latest about Grace and Olivia, my brother Linc and his wife, Lori (who tied the knot about five minutes after they met!), and all our other mutual friends. Oh, and maybe Mack can join us....
Mary Jo Wyse
Almost home. Grateful for the end of his shift, Mack McAfee turned the corner onto Evergreen Place and approached his house, the duplex at 1022. He felt an instant sense of peace when he saw Mary Jo Wyse working in the garden, taking advantage of the longer days and the perfection of a Pacific Northwest spring. At six, the sun was still bright and the sky had the clean-washed look of early May. Mack had to smile as he watched Mary Jo. The young single mother was his tenant, his friend-- and the woman he'd fallen for. Hard. Lovely as ever, she wore jeans and a pink, long-sleeved top that clung in all the right places. Noelle was asleep in a stroller a few feet away.
Mack had delivered the baby last Christmas--or assisted in her delivery; that was probably a better way to put it. He'd just joined the Cedar Cove Fire Department and as the most recent hire, he'd pulled duty on Christmas Eve. It'd been a quiet night until the call from the Harding ranch. A woman said she was about to give birth. Mack had taken a medical course and received his emergency medical technician certificate, but nothing he'd learned had prepared him for the exhilaration of being at a delivery. The moment little Noelle drew her first breath she'd completely won him over.
Noelle and her mother had laid claim to Mack's heart.
Mack parked on his side of the driveway and climbed out of the truck. He was outwardly calm, but his thoughts were in chaos. He hadn't seen either of them in two days.
With his help, Mary Jo had planted a small garden, which she tended daily. "Hi," she said, getting up from her knees. She brushed the dirt from her pant legs and glanced at him with a shy smile.
"Hi," he responded. Afraid that Mary Jo would be able to interpret his feelings, he studied the neat row of green seedlings that had begun to poke through the earth. Mary Jo was still suspicious of men, thanks to her experience with David Rhodes, although Mack was making a serious effort to gain her trust. "The garden's starting to take shape, I see."
He crouched down and peeked at Noelle, who slept contentedly with one small clenched fist raised above her head. The baby mesmerized him. For that matter, so did Mary Jo....
"I...missed seeing you the past couple of days," she said in a low voice.
That was encouraging. "You did?" He hated to sound too eager since he was treading carefully in this relationship. He'd made a big mistake with her and was almost afraid of what would happen next.
"Well, yes. The last time we talked, well...you know."
Mack straightened and nervously shoved his hands in his back pockets.
"You told me it wasn't a good idea for us to continue with the engagement," she said, although he didn't need any reminder.
"That seemed for the best," he muttered. "But--"
Before he could qualify his remark, she broke in. "And you're right, it is for the best, especially if you don't love me."
Mack couldn't believe he'd actually said that. "No, I just thought--"
"I understand," she said, cutting him off again. "You proposed because you were trying to protect me."
Mack studied her through narrowed eyes. "You didn't hear from David Rhodes again, did you?"
"No." She shook her head emphatically.
Noelle's biological father had threatened, more than once, to take the baby from Mary Jo, which Mack felt was nothing more than a bluff. But it had frightened her so badly that she'd panicked and decided to move back to Seattle. Back to her brothers, who'd look...