Careful not to squash his sleeping son, Zack kissed his wife's mouth and then her cheek. "I'm exactly where I wanted to be at this moment," he whispered tenderly as he nuzzled her neck. "The only place I wanted to be."
She brushed her fingertips against his cheek. "Nicky and I are awfully proud of you," she said softly, and Zack felt the unaccustomed sting of tears behind his eyes as he looked at her shining face and his son cuddled at her breast, his tiny fist resting on a satin fold of her dressing gown. "He's falling asleep," he said, his voice husky with emotion. "Shall I put him in his crib?"
"You can try," Julie said, carefully handing the sleeping baby over to him.
After putting his son down, Zack kicked off his shiny tuxedo shoes and stretched out beside her on the bed, pulling her tightly to his side. "Thank you for my son," he whispered, and because his emotions seemed perilously close to the surface tonight, he looked around for something to distract him. His gaze fell on the book lying face down on the table beside the bed, and he seized on that. "What book are you reading?"
Not once during the writing of Julie's book or its steps through production had she been willing to discuss it with him. Zack was an exacting professional, and she'd been afraid that any criticism from him would either crush or panic her. The time of reckoning was here, however, and she drew a nervous breath. "It's my book—an early copy, fresh off the press. Sally sent it over to me this morning,"
"Why on earth didn't you tell me!" he said, reaching for it. "This is very exciting."
"Because this was Academy Awards day and I didn't want the book or anything else to detract from it, even for a minute."
Touched by her needless concern, Zack picked the book up, turning it over, and Julie watched with a mixture of anxiety and eagerness for his first reaction to the cover. "It's beautiful," he said decisively, holding it out and studying the colorful roses in full bloom that were heavily embossed on a dusty pink marbled background.
"What do you think of the title?"
He smiled and said it aloud: "You named it Perfect."
"I like it," he said with a grin. "How did you happen to come up with the title?"
"That was the easiest part," she whispered, lifting her eyes to his. "It's our story, but the book is really all about you."
Zack's smile faded and tenderness burst inside him. He yanked her into his arms, burying his face in her hair and holding her. She had stood by him when the world branded him evil, wanted him when he had nothing to offer her, and taught him about forgiveness. She cheered for his triumphs, supported him when he was right, and stubbornly opposed him when he was wrong. She reinvented his life for him and filled it with purpose and meaning and laughter and love. And then she gave him his son.
He remembered the words of the poem Debby Sue Cassidy had written for her:
I used to be ashamed
And now I am proud
The world once was dark
And now it is bright.
I used to have dreams
But now I have hope.
Thanks to Julie.
"Don't cry, darling," Julie whispered, amazed by the dampness on the hard cheek that was pressed to hers. Curving her hand around his nape to hold him closer she teased shakily, "You haven't read my book yet. I may be a better writer than you think."
In the midst of one of the most achingly poignant moments of his life, Zack burst out laughing.