“Hmph,” she replies and glances around the table. “Why do I feel like I’m out of the loop here?”
“You’re not,” I reply with a smile. “Work as usual.”
“You work too much.”
“Not you too,” I reply, and rub my forehead with the tips of my fingers. “I get this lecture from Savannah at least once a week.”
“Well, you’ll be gettin’ it from me too. You’re my baby boy.”
Kate smirks next to me and hides her smile behind a tall glass of lemonade.
“I’m fine, I promise.”
“He even took the day off yesterday,” Kate adds nonchalantly. Mama’s eyes widen as she looks between Kate and me.
“How do you know?”
Don’t say it. I lay my hand on Kate’s thigh, but she ignores me and says it anyway.
“Because he was with me. He showed me around the French Quarter all day. It’s his fault that I’m now addicted to beignets from Café du Monde.”
The table is silent for a few beats, then Mama clears her throat.
“You went to Café du Monde on Saturday mornin’?”
I meet her bright eyes with my own and nod. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I’ve always wanted to see the French Quarter. It was amazing,” Kate continues, oblivious to the tension between us siblings. They’re all staring at me like I’ve grown a second head.
Finally, in the innocent way that only a seven-year-old can, Sam speaks up.
“Pawpaw used to take us there on Saturdays,” he says, and takes a bite of the corn on the cob, missing some pieces, thanks to the gap in his front teeth. “It was fun.”
“That’s right,” Gabby says and runs her hand over her son’s hair.
Suddenly, Kate lays her hand on my thigh and I glance down into understanding eyes, and it’s all I can take.
“I’m sorry, Mama, but I just remembered that I have some work to catch up on.” I stand quickly and take care of my own dishes, then kiss her cheek. “Thank you for dinner. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
But I don’t stop to hear what she has to say. I walk quickly to my car and peel out of the driveway. My heart is beating quickly, and for the first time in more than two years, I’m consumed with emotion.
What in the hell is wrong with me?
And who the fuck is Rhys?
This is all Kate’s fault. Before she showed up with her gorgeous green eyes and touchable red hair, I was fine, consumed by work. I had a routine that worked well for me, with no interruptions.
Certainly no Saturdays spent in the Quarter and evenings listening to Dec’s gigs.
I just need to get laid. That’s all there is to it. It’s been more than a minute since I last enjoyed the company of a warm, willing woman.
Yes, that’s it.
Before long, I’m back at my house, pacing through the silent, empty rooms, my phone in my hand, paging through my contacts list. I’m going to scratch this itch and get over it. Erase Kate from my mind completely.
I pour myself three fingers of brandy, sit behind my desk, and thumb through my electronic black book.
Ah, yes, I could call Amanda. She’s always fun. Tall, leggy. But she has strawberry blonde hair, and that’ll just remind me too much of Kate.
I skip to the next name.
Collette! I met Collette three years ago at a charity function. She’s smart as a whip and likes to be blindfolded. I grin, but then I remember that Collette has freckles on her shoulders, and that won’t do.
Fredericka. I haven’t seen her in a while. She’s curvy in all the right places with the best tits I’ve ever seen.
Scratch that. Kate has the best tits I’ve ever seen.
And I’ve never actually seen them.
I sigh loudly and swallow the rest of the brandy, then smile when I see Stephanie’s name.
Steph and I have had a mutually satisfying arrangement for the better part of five years. She’s long and lean with a runner’s body and an enthusiasm in bed that can’t be matched. She has jet-black hair and chocolate brown eyes with the whitest, smoothest skin I’ve ever seen. She’s not afraid to make noise, and she can suck a cock like no one else.
Yes, I do believe I’ll call Steph.
My thumb hovers over her name, but suddenly I see laughing green eyes smiling up at me as she gets her palm read, her face set in rapture when she first tasted the beignets. God, my dick throbs at the thought of what those eyes will look like when I’m buried so deep inside her I can’t tell where she ends and I begin.
I throw my phone across the room, aiming for the couch, so it doesn’t break, then pick up my glass and consider throwing that too, needing to hear the shatter of glass, when Charly’s voice comes from the doorway.
“Sam would be impressed with that arm.”
I whirl and glare at my sister. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Well, I’m not here for your sparkling personality,” she replies, and plants her hands on her hips.
“Look, I’m not really fit for company tonight, Char.”
“Clearly.” She smiles, her hazel eyes softening, and I feel my chest loosen too. “You’re handsome when you’re pissed.”
“Don’t try to charm me.”
She tosses her head back and laughs, then plops down on my couch and rescues my phone from the cushions. “What did your phone do to you?”
“Wanna talk about Kate?”
“Wanna talk about anything?”
I glare at her and cross my arms over my chest.
“That may work in the boardroom, but it doesn’t work with me.”
“You’re a pain in my ass.” I sigh and stare at Charly. She’s the second to the youngest, and I’ve been wrapped around her little finger since the day Mama and Dad brought her home from the hospital.
“You love me.”
I simply grunt and then cave under her hard stare and scrub my hands over my face.
“You took her for beignets.”
“Shut up, Char.”
“I’m just saying, you haven’t had beignets since Daddy—”
“I’ve had beignets since Dad died.”
“Yeah, the ones you make your assistant go get for you. But you never go there.”
I raise a brow and smirk at her. “I’m a bit too busy to just run out for beignets when the mood strikes.”