The only sound in the room was the hum of Carter’s computer. Carter glanced at the door Jack had closed behind them. His eyes flickered from side to side.
Ally again felt Jack’s startled inquiring gaze on her and turned to him.
“He slept with his boss’s wife?” Jack demanded, his eyes flashing.
She gave a short nod, lips pressed together.
“Is that who you found him with?” Jack’s voice rose with incredulity.
“Yes. That’s who I found him with. Jillian Chipman.” She turned her gaze back to Carter, who tugged at the tie knotted at his throat.
“You’re such an asshole, Carter,” Jack muttered, shaking his head.
“You wouldn’t tell Glenn,” Carter said again.
“Try me,” Ally said. “There’s an innocent little girl’s life at stake here, Carter. She hasn’t done a damn thing to deserve this. You, on the other hand, deserve every bit of karma that’s coming your way. And if I can push that karma along a little...even though I know eventually you’ll get what you deserve, anyway…I have no problem with that.” She paused. “No problem at all.”
He stared at her, then dropped his eyes.
He stared down at his desk, his face tight.
Ally turned back to Jack. “Do you have the number of the clinic?”
Jack pulled out his cell phone. “Right here.”
Ally reached for the phone on Carter’s desk, and entered the number Jack read out. She handed the receiver to Carter.
He snatched it from her with a glare, then spoke to the nurse in terse tones and made an appointment for that afternoon once he’d explained about whom he was calling.
* * *
Ally and Jack emerged from the office building onto the sunny sidewalk. She burst out laughing and flung her arms around him.
He caught her around the waist and couldn’t resist swinging her around in an exuberant circle, attracting amused glances from business people striding up and down the sidewalk.
Her hair swung around her. Her cheeks flushed pink, her eyes glowed and her smile was so bright he needed to put his shades back on.
“You were incredible in there,” he said. ”I can’t believe he did that.”
“Slept with his boss’s wife?” She gave a crooked little smile. “That’s who I found him in bed with. In our home. Grrr.” She gave a little growl then smiled again. It obviously didn’t bother her too much. “The pig. Jillian is Glenn’s second wife. I thought she was a trophy wife – much younger than him, blonde, gorgeous - but Glenn is really nuts about her. Really. And they have a new baby now. It would kill him to know she’d cheated on him with Carter.”
“And you would have told him? Would you do that to Glenn and Jillian?” He eyed her skeptically.
“I’m not sure.” She grimaced. “I’d hate to do it, of course. But Carter didn’t know that.”
Jack grinned again, adoration for this woman swelling up inside him, making his chest tight and painful. God. How could he live without her? What she’d done for him, for Brittany, for Sarah… He almost choked on his love for her. He grabbed her again, pulled her tight against him and tucked her head under his chin, his eyes stinging.
“I love you, Ally.”
“I love you, too, Jack.”
He lifted his head and cupped her face, then kissed her on the mouth, a deep, soul-touching, mind-melting kiss, right there on the sidewalk in downtown L.A., loving the taste of her, the feel of her against him and he knew he never wanted to let her go.
Three months later
Sarah hugged the big Winnie the Pooh bear and smiled at Jack and Ally.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “I love him.”
They smiled back at her. She wore no cap over her wispy blonde hair, and she still looked tiny and thin, but healthier and stronger than the last time they’d seen her. She’d had her bone marrow transplant about six weeks earlier. The match with Carter’s bone marrow had been reasonably good. She’d developed a mild case of GVHD about a week ago, but the drugs seemed to be preventing it from becoming serious or life threatening. She’d also had some infections, and she wasn’t totally out of the woods yet, but she was doing much better.
Brittany, too, smiled at them, standing beside her daughter’s bedside. “I still can’t thank you enough,” she said, her appreciation shining in her eyes.
“We should go,” Jack said. “Our flight leaves in a few hours.”
“I’ll walk out with you,” Brittany said. They left Sarah’s bedroom and walked down the hall of Brittany’s small home, out onto her front doorstep.
“I still don’t know what you did to Carter to make him agree,” she told them. “But I really appreciate your help.”
Ally smiled back at her. “I think Jack was actually disappointed he wouldn’t be able to help by donating bone marrow,” she told their old friend wryly. “But we’ve both registered now with the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. Who knows, there may be someone else somewhere we can help that way.”
Brittany nodded, eyes glossy. “That’s so awesome.”
“How is Carter doing?” Ally asked. “Have you talked to him since?”
Brittany nodded. “Yes.” She bit her lip. “He’s doing fine. He was sore for a few days, but he really had no problems at all. He actually mentioned meeting Sarah when I talked to him the other day.”
Jack and Ally traded glances. “That’s good,” Jack said cautiously. “Did you...have you got a lawyer?”
Brittany shook her head. “No. I never did. After he agreed to donate, that’s all I cared about. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I want Sarah to meet him.”
“Oh.” Sadness swept over Ally. “He’s her father...”
“I know, but he’s been such a jerk about this whole thing. Carter has betrayed so many people...and...” Her eyes fell with shame. “I have too. I feel terrible about that. What kind of parents does the poor kid have? Anyway, I don’t want her to be one of Carter’s victims.”
Ally nodded slowly, and looked at Jack. She could tell they were thinking the same thing. “I wish I could say he wouldn’t do that to a helpless little girl, but who knows? We misjudged him so much in the past.”
“The fact that he wants to meet her is a good sign,” Jack said. “Maybe this experience is opening his eyes. Making him realize what’s important.”
“I don’t know if what’s important to Carter will ever be the same as what’s important to you,” Brittany said with a sad smile. “Um...I wanted to say how happy I am that you two are finally together. You two always had some kind of special bond - even in high school.”
Ally and Jack’s eyes met and they smiled.
“Thanks,” Ally said softly.
“And the book you’ve written...” Brittany referred to the children’s book Jack and Ally had collaborated on, inspired by Sarah’s battle. “To donate the profits to the children’s oncology unit - that is so amazing.”
Ally shrugged and made a face. “Who knows. If the book doesn’t sell, it won’t be much of a gesture.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Brittany said. “Just the idea is amazing. I’m glad Sarah had a chance to meet you, as friends.”
“We’ll be back in a couple of months,” Jack said. They were off to Europe that evening, first to Paris, then on to Baghdad. “But you have our e-mail address. Be sure to keep us posted on how Sarah is doing.”
“I will,” Brittany promised.
Jack slid into the driver’s seat of Ally’s car. He’d long since turned in the rental car and settled in at Ally’s home. His home, now, too. Ally climbed in beside him.
“Thanks,” she said.
“For coming here again. I know it was weird at first, but I think we both needed to know she was okay.”
“Yeah. At least I know I’ve done whatever I can for her.” He glanced at her. “What are you smiling about?”
“I love you.” Her heart swelled with love for him so much she almost burst with it.
“I love you too.” He reached for her hand. “Wanna get married in Paris?”
She gaped at him and he smiled back at her.
“What the hell kind of proposal is that?” Her heart danced a wild hip hop rhythm in her chest and her lungs constricted as she stared at him.
His grin broadened and he squeezed her fingers. “You’re right. I should have waited. I had it all planned. The ring is at home, and I know the perfect place in Paris where I planned to go down on one knee. But damn, it just slipped out.”
The corners of her eyes stung and she blinked at him. “You have a ring?”
She sniffed and waved a hand. “Okay, I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that. I can wait. Go ahead and do the romantic thing in Paris.”
And he did.