“It’s this door.” I pull the hem of my shirt down and try to gain my balance. “I think you have an aversion to this door. Should I buy a new one? Is it the color you don’t like?”
He laughs and cages me between his hands. “I don’t want to fuck this up before we really get started, Kate.”
“And then you say things like that that make me swoon and my panties all wet.”
“Are your panties wet, Kate?”
“My panties have been wet for a week, Eli.”
“Good.” He kisses me softly, ending it on a growl. “Please tell me you can get yourself to bed.”
“I can’t get myself to bed.” I grin and bat my eyelashes. “You might have to help me.”
“Why do I think you’re not as impaired as I originally thought?”
“I’m fine.” I clear my throat and rest my hand on his rock-hard chest. “I’ll get myself to bed.”
He nods and steps away. “I’ll see you Friday.”
It’s early and I’m dragging, getting ready for work, when there’s a loud knock on my door. I check the clock and frown, wondering who in the world would be here at six in the morning.
Did Eli come home early?
My heart starts to beat frantically as I dash to the door.
He flashes a smile, and then laughs. “Gee, don’t look so excited to see me, superstar.”
“Of course I’m happy to see you.” I step back and invite him in. “But why am I seeing you at this time of day? You’re typically going to bed right about now.”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t been to bed yet.” He smiles again, making me roll my eyes.
“You’re a man-whore.”
“The ladies like a man who knows his way around a musical instrument.” He shrugs as though it’s no big deal and yawns widely. “I’ve come to take you to breakfast.”
“I have to be at work in two hours,” I remind him.
“Plenty of time for breakfast,” he insists.
“Let me finish my hair.” I wave for him to follow me to the bathroom, where he leans his broad shoulder against the doorjamb and watches me with humor-filled hazel eyes.
Eyes just like his older brother’s. I haven’t heard one word from Eli in four days. No flirty texts or phone calls. I know he’s away for work, and he’s probably busy, but I can’t help but be a little disappointed.
I miss the sexy charmer.
“Did you have a gig last night?” I ask and pull my flat iron through my hair.
“Yeah, at a new place. The owner is trying to get me to commit full time, but I like bouncing around.”
“Bouncing being the operative word,” I reply, and smile brightly at him in the mirror.
“There wasn’t a lot of bouncing happening last night, actually.”
“I don’t want to know.” I put the finishing touches on my hair, smooth gloss over my lips, and turn to Declan. “I’m ready.”
“Good, I’m starving.” He takes my hand in his and leads me out of the loft and down the street.
“So, who was the lucky lady this time?” I ask, as we stroll hand in hand into the heart of the Quarter.
“Clarice,” he replies, and a slow grin spreads over his lips. “She’s a dancer.”
“Oh, God. Clarice? Seriously?” I giggle and lean my forehead on his strong bicep, then glance up into his handsome, frowning face. “Does she hear the lambs screaming?”
“Stop it right now. You know that movie scared the hell out of me.”
I laugh loudly and shake my head. This is too good to pass up.
“Did you drink chianti?”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” I try to school my features, but it’s no use. I dissolve into laughter again.
“I’m never going to be able to see her again after this,” he complains. “Do you know how flexible dancers are?”
“Does she also have a moth collection?”
He glares at me as he holds the door to the restaurant open for me, making me laugh all the louder. We’re seated quickly, not many people are out at this time of day, and I chuckle all the way to the table.
“Damn it. She was fun.”
“Oh, come on. You had to know it was doomed from the beginning with a name like Clarice. You had nightmares about that movie for months. The only thing that would have made it worse is if you swung for the other team and went for someone named Hannibal.”
“You got mean,” he replies, glaring at me over his menu.
“You know I love you,” I reply, and blow him a kiss. “I forgot how much fun it is to rile you up.”
The waitress arrives and takes our order. When she leaves, I lean back in my chair and study my friend. “You look tired.”
“I am tired.”
“So, why are we out to breakfast?”
“Because I miss you.”
I narrow my eyes and feel my heart catch. I love this man with my whole heart. He and Savannah are like siblings to me. But I can also tell when he’s not telling me the whole truth.
“You just saw me on Tuesday when you and Van took me out for drinks after work.”
He shrugs a shoulder and sips his coffee. “Eli’s due home tomorrow.”
Ah, there it is.
“Yes, that’s what I heard.” I sip my orange juice and study the little placard on the table, announcing the daily lunch specials.
“Okay, I’m not Van.” He leans forward, getting right to the point, which is his usual M.O. “You’re a grown woman, and my brother is a good man, so if y’all want to bounce on each other, who am I to say you shouldn’t?”
I roll my eyes at the bounce word, but he keeps going.
“But I want you to be careful, and if he hurts you, I’ll kill him. Brother or not.”
“That’s so sweet,” I reply sarcastically, and fake a tear rolling down my cheek.
“I’m fucking serious, Kate.”
“I love you, too,” I reply, serious now. “Eli and me, well, it’s been confusing and exhilarating at the same time. But I haven’t even spoken to him since Sunday night.”
I shrug, but I can’t help the stab of pain in my chest. I miss his voice.
“He’s working. He rarely calls home when he’s working.”
I nod and sip my juice, just as Dec’s phone rings.