“You might want to choose a different outfit,” he says, as he gestures to my clothes. “I would hate to have to beat every man we walk past into the sidewalk for looking at you.”
I wave him off and turn to walk into my bedroom, but hear him mutter, “Although, you look amazing in anything you wear.”
This is not helping my nipples calm down. I close the door to the bedroom, lean back on it, and take a deep breath. This man is pure walking temptation. But he didn’t touch me. He smiled and invited me on a tour of the neighborhood. Sure, he checked out my chest, but I am braless, and my damn body reacts to him on a purely visceral level.
I can control myself for the day. No problem.
I nod and mentally pat myself on the back, then quickly tame my hair, brush my teeth, and pull on some denim capris and a blue sleeveless blouse. On my way out of the bedroom, I grab the green hat Eli bought me the other day, and slip my feet into a comfortable pair of Toms.
“Okay, I’m ready.”
Eli is standing at my window, his hands in the front pockets of jeans that mold to his bottom and thighs just perfectly. His black T-shirt is stretched over his broad shoulders, and his dark hair is still wet around the collar from his shower.
He turns and smiles when he sees me holding the hat.
“Good plan. It’s going to get hot today.”
“It’s hot every day,” I reply with a wry grin. He hands me my handbag and escorts me down to the sidewalk.
“This way.” He leads me to the right, his hand in its spot on the small of my back, and within two blocks, we’re at Jackson Square, in front of the St. Louis Cathedral where jazz musicians play enthusiastically on a variety of instruments, palm readers are just setting up their tables, and artists have set up their canvases on the iron fence surrounding the beautiful park that holds the large statue of President Jackson on his horse, giving the square it’s name.
“It’s beautiful down here,” I murmur, and smile at a man as he plays his saxophone.
“That it is,” Eli agrees, and leads me around the park toward a green building with a green and white awning and dozens of round tables with chairs under it. “We’ll start with breakfast.”
“There’s a long line,” I reply, and eye the line of people waiting patiently for a table.
“It moves fast,” he assures me, and leads me to the end of the line. “And it’s worth it.”
“Okay, tell me about Café du Monde,” I request, reading the sign on the awning.
“Best beignets in New Orleans,” he assures me. “This place has been here forever and hasn’t changed much.”
Before I know it, we move up the line and find a table near the sidewalk.
“The menu is on the napkin dispenser,” Eli informs me, and tilts it toward me. “But do you mind if I order for you?”
“I don’t mind.” I sit back and listen as Eli informs our server that we’ll each have an order of beignets and a frozen café au lait. I watch in fascination as horse-drawn carriages glide down the street before us, the drivers giving their passengers all kinds of information about Jackson Square, which is directly across the street from us. “Thank you for bringing me out today.”
Eli quirks a brow. “It’s you escorting me, remember?”
I grin and nod. “Right. Except you’re showing me around.”
“You’re new to town.” He shrugs as if it’s no big thing, but somehow I think it is a big deal. “And I haven’t wandered around in a long while.”
“Does it change much?”
“Not much,” he says with a smile, as the beignets and coffees are delivered. “My father used to bring all six of us here every Saturday morning for as long as I can remember. We came until he passed away.”
He stops talking and frowns, his eyes trained with determination on his beignets.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I say softly. I know his dad passed away two years ago, and I remember the heartbreak of the entire family with the loss of the larger than life patriarch of the family. “Oh, my gosh,” I whisper, eyeing the square doughnuts covered in a heaping pile of powdered sugar. “This is just…”
“The best,” Eli finishes on a groan and eats one of the treats in two bites. He licks his lips, and my ninety-dollar black lace panties are soaking wet.
This man should come with a warning label.
“Are you going to eat them or continue to stare at me?” he asks with a laugh.
I shake my head, pulling myself out of the trance of watching Eli, and take a bite. “Oh, wow.”
“I need these every day.”
“I can arrange that.” His eyes are perfectly sober as he watches me.
“I’m kidding. I’d weigh four hundred pounds within a month.”
“No, you wouldn’t, and I’m not kidding. Say the word, and I’ll get them for you.”
I sit back in my seat and watch him as I chew the doughy goodness. What can I say to that? Instead of responding, I finish my beignets, then drink the delicious frozen coffee and wipe my mouth and brush the fallen powdered sugar off my shirt and pants.
“Ready for what comes next?” he asks and stands, holding his hand out for mine.
“Sure.” He leads me to the sidewalk, settles my hat on my head, and leads me up and down the streets, wandering through gift shops and antique stores, jewelry stores, and even novelty voodoo shops. I soak it all in, looking in every nook and cranny of every store, and Eli patiently waits for me, not saying much, letting me lead him where I want to go.
He’s protective while we’re walking from store to store, sure to keep his hand on the small of my back, but when I’m poking around, he gives me space to explore.
In an antique jewelry store, I find a silver and ivory cameo locket that I must have for my mother for Mother’s Day. When I pull my wallet out to pay, Eli beats me to it, handing the clerk his card.
“Eli, I’m buying this for my mom.”
“She’ll love it.”
“Yes, but you just bought it.”
He raises a brow and watches me with an amused tilt to his lips, as the clerk bags it up and hands it to me. “You’re not paying for anything when you’re with me, cher.”
Before I can respond, he turns and leads me out of the store, and we’re back to the palm readers and musicians before Jackson Square. A woman with deep mocha skin and a bight white smile waves at me, and I immediately sit at her table and pay her before Eli can blink, making him glare at me.