Nora Roberts: Loving Jack

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Nora Roberts Loving Jack
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    Loving Jack
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LOVING JACK: Somehow her own fictional brooding hero had turned up in person right under her own roof, and now all romance writer Jackie MacNamara had to do was convince stubborn Nathan Powell that happily-ever-after began at home - and in her arms ...

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Nathan scowled at her but found his palm resting against hers. A small hand, and a soft one, he thought, but the grip was firm. If he lived to regret this temporary arrangement, he'd have one more score to settle with Fred. "I'm going to take a spa."

"Good idea. Loosen up all those tense muscles. By the way, what would you like for lunch?"

He didn't look back. "Surprise me."

Jackie picked up his plate and did a quick dance around the kitchen.

* * *

Temporary insanity. Nathan debated the wisdom of pleading that cause to his associates, his family or the higher courts. He had a boarder. A nonpaying one at that. Nathan Powell, a conservative, upstanding member of society, a member of the Fortune 500, the thirty-two-year-old wunderkind of architecture, had a strange woman in his house.

He didn't necessarily mean strange as in unknown. Jackie MacNamara was strange. He'd come to that conclusion when he'd seen her meditating by the pool after lunch. He'd glanced out and spotted her, sitting cross-legged on the stone apron, head tilted back, eyes closed, hands resting lightly on her knees, palms up. He'd been mortally afraid she was reciting a mantra. Did people still do that sort of thing?

He must have been insane to agree to her arrangement because of blueberry pancakes and a smile. Jet lag, he decided as he poured another glass of iced tea Jackie had made to go with a truly exceptional spinach salad. Even a competent, intelligent man could fall victim to the weakness of the body after a transatlantic flight.

Two weeks, he reminded himself. Technically, he'd only agreed to two weeks. After that time had passed, he could gently but firmly ease her on her way. In the meantime, he would do what he should have done hours ago-make certain he didn't have a maniac on his hands.

There was a neat leather-bound address book by the kitchen phone, as there was by every phone in the house. Nathan flipped through it to the L's. Jackie was upstairs working on her book-if indeed there was a book at all. He would make the call, glean a few pertinent facts, then decide how to move from there.

"Lindstrom residence."

"Adele Lindstrom, please, Nathan Powell calling."

"One moment, Mr. Powell."

Nathan sipped tea as he waited. A man could become addicted to having it made fresh instead of digging crystallized chemicals out of a jar. Absently he drew a cigarette out of his pocket and tapped the filter on the counter.

"Nathan, dear, how are you?"

"Adele. I'm very well, and you?"

"Couldn't be better, though March insists on going out like a lion here. What can I do for you, dear? Are you in Chicago?"

"No, actually I've just arrived home. Your nephew Fred was, ah… house-sitting for me."

"Of course, I remember." There was a long, and to Nathan pregnant, pause. "Fred hasn't done something naughty, has he?"

Naughty? Nathan passed a hand over his face. After a moment, he decided not to blast Adele with the sad facts of the situation, but to tone it down. "We do have a bit of a mix-up. Your niece is here."

"Niece? Well, I have several of those. Jacqueline? Of course it's Jacqueline. I remember now that Honoria-that's Fred's mother-told me that little Jack was going south. Poor Nathan, you've a houseful of MacNamaras."

"Actually, Fred's in San Diego."

"San Diego? What are you all doing in San Diego?"

Nathan tried to remember if Adele Lindstrom had been quite this scattered in Chicago. "Fred's in San Diego-at least I think he is. I'm in Florida, with your niece."

"Oh… Oh!" The second oh had enough delight in it to put Nathan on guard. "Well, isn't that lovely? I've always said that all our Jacqueline needed was a nice, stable man. She's a bit of a butterfly, of course, but very bright and wonderfully good-hearted."

"I'm sure she is." Nathan found it necessary to put the record straight, and to put it straight quickly. "She's only here because of a misunderstanding. It seems Fred… didn't understand that I was coming back, and he… offered the house to Jackie."

"I see." And she did, perfectly. Fortunately for Nathan, he couldn't see her eyes light with amusement. "How awkward for you. I hope you and Jacqueline have worked things out."

"More or less. You're her mother's sister?"

"That's right. Jackie favors Patricia physically. Such a piquant look. I was always jealous as a child. Otherwise, none of us have ever been quite sure who little Jackie takes after."

Nathan blew out a stream of smoke. "That doesn't surprise me."

"What is it now…painting? No, it's writing. Jackie's a novelist these days."

"So she says."

"I'm sure she'll tell a delightful story. She*s always been full of them."

"I'll just bet."

"Well, dear, I know the two of you will get along fine. Our little Jack manages to get along with just about anyone. A talent of hers. Not to say that Patricia and I hadn't hoped she'd be settled down and married by now-put some of that energy into raising a nice family. She's a sweet girl-a bit flighty, but sweet. You're still single, aren't you, Nathan?"

With his eyes cast up to the ceiling, he shook his head. "Yes, I am. It's been nice talking to you, Adele. I'll suggest to your niece that she get in touch when she relocates."

"That would be nice. It's always a pleasure to hear from Jack. And you, too, Nathan. Be sure to let me know if you get to Chicago again."

"I will. Take care of yourself, Adele."

He hung up, still frowning at the phone. There was little doubt that his unwanted tenant was exactly who she said she was. But that didn't really accomplish anything. He could talk to her again, but when he'd tried to do that over lunch, he'd gotten a small, and very nagging, headache. It might be the coward's way, but for the rest of the day he was going to pretend that Jacqueline MacNamara, with her long legs and her brilliant smile, didn't exist.

Upstairs, in front of her typewriter, Jackie wasn't giving Nathan a thought. Or if she was she'd twined him so completely with the hard-bitten and heroic Jake that she wasn't able to see the difference.

It was working. Sometimes, when her fingers slowed just a bit and her mind whipped back to the present, she was struck by the wonderful and delightful thought that she was really writing. Not playing at it, as she had played at so many other things.

She knew her family tut-tutted about her. All those brains and all that breeding, and Jackie could never seem to make up her mind what to do with them. She was happy to announce that this time she had found something, and that it had found her.

Sitting back, her tongue caught between her teeth, she read the last scene over. It was good, she was sure of that. She knew that back in Newport there were those who would shake their heads and smile indulgently. So what if the scene was good, or even if several chapters were good? Dear little Jack never finished anything.

In her stint at remodeling, she'd bought a huge rat-trap of a house and had scraped, planed, painted and papered. She'd learned about plumbing and rewiring, had haunted lumberyards and hardware stores. The first floor-she'd always believed in starting from the bottom up-had been fabulous. She was creative and competent. The problem had been, as it always had been, that once the first rush of excitement was over something else had caught her interest. The house had lost its charm for her. True, she'd sold it at a nice profit, but she'd never touched the two upper stories.

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