“Hello, Clarice,” I whisper in a creepy voice. Dec flips me off as he answers his phone.
“Hello, big brother.”
I still as my eyes whip up to find his. He simply nods.
“Yes, I spoke with her. Beau is taking care of it today.” He pauses. “I’m having breakfast right now with Kate.”
I raise a brow and inwardly cringe as Eli’s words from the other night fill my head. It seems I’m jealous of my own fucking brother when it comes to you.
“I’ll tell her. Safe travels.” He clicks off and sends me an apologetic smile. “He’s heading into a meeting.”
The waitress arrives with our food and I simply nod.
“If it helps, he didn’t sound pleased that I’m here with you.”
I laugh and wave him off. “I’m sure he doesn’t care.”
“Oh, I’m sure he does. He’s been glaring at me since you came to town. I’m just too easygoing to call him out on it.”
“I don’t want to cause any issues in your family, Dec.”
“Now, that’s funny.” He laughs and covers my hand with his. “Trust me, you haven’t caused any issues. You’re helping us fix some issues, and well, Eli just has issues. Mostly asshole issues.” He smiles fondly, then looks at me and sobers. “I mean that in the best brotherly way possible. He’s not really an asshole.”
“I know.” I chuckle and decide that we’ve talked about this long enough. “So, tell me more about the lovely and flexible Clarice.”
“Damn it. I liked her.”
I am sick of my own company. I check my phone for the hundredth time since I got home from work three hours ago and blow out a disgusted breath.
Nothing from Eli.
What in the world is wrong with me? I’m not this needy woman. So what if I haven’t heard from him in three days? He gets home tomorrow.
It’s not like we’re sleeping together. We’ve only been out together a few times and shared some kisses.
Some amazing, mind-blowing, ruin me for all other kisses kisses, but just kisses all the same.
But I’ve missed seeing him on his balcony in the evenings.
Maybe he hasn’t missed me.
I glare at my phone, then bring Eli’s number up in my text box and send him a quick message: How is your trip going?
I bite my lip and hit send. It’s a friendly message, but doesn’t sound too needy.
Good Lord, I’m such a girl.
I flop onto the couch and turn the TV on, flipping through the channels and stopping on a show that I’ve heard good things about, but have never watched before, and try to get lost in the handsome actors and suspenseful story line.
Two hours later, after no response from Eli, and staring at the TV without following any of the shows that have played, I snap it off and scrub my hands over my face.
I want something sweet. That’ll make me feel better. Now, ice cream or beignets? Café du Monde is open 24/7, thank goodness, because when I glance at the clock, I realize it’s almost midnight.
Eli warned me not to wander around at night by myself, but the café is only a few blocks away. It’ll take me less than five minutes each way to walk it. I can almost taste them now, and my mouth waters at the thought of the sugary goodness.
I’ll stock my freezer with ice cream later for future emergencies such as this.
With a decisive nod, I slip my feet into my sneakers, grab my keys and some cash, and dash out the front door, walking briskly. There aren’t many people out at this time of night. Some homeless people with their dogs curl up in doorways, sleeping. Someone is playing a saxophone on a balcony nearby, filling the night air with beautiful notes, making me think of Declan.
When I come upon Jackson Square, I decide to walk around the park rather than walk through it. That would just be asking for trouble.
Before long, I’m at the café and standing at the take out counter where I order a bag of the doughnuts and wait for just a few minutes while my order is filled. I glance around at the mostly empty café. There are a few people out, but it’s mostly deserted, making me regret the walk out by myself.
I just have an uneasy feeling.
I check my phone, frowning when there still isn’t a response from Eli. I understand that he’s working, but he could have at least returned the message. Now, it’s after one in the morning in New York, and he’s most likely asleep.
Or with someone.
I shake my head in disgust, pay for my pastries, and set off back to my place. My stomach is in knots; this time, it’s not because I miss Eli, but because it’s actually kind of spooky in the Quarter at night.
“Really shouldn’t have done this, Mary Katherine,” I murmur to myself, as I clutch my warm bag of beignets to my chest and walk quickly, head up, constantly watching my surroundings. I pass Jackson Square and turn the corner near my loft when I see a taxi pass me and slow down, and then I’m suddenly jerked from behind.
“Scream and I’ll kill you,” a mean, hoarse voice snarls in my ear, as I feel something sharp pressed to my ribs. “Give me your money.”
“I don’t—” I begin, but lean forward, stomp on his foot, and smash the back of my head into the man’s face, making him wail.
I turn and jab my elbow into the man’s stomach, but suddenly, I’m pulled away and Eli is there, landing a hard blow to the man’s nose, knocking him cold.
“I almost had him,” I say, panting and beginning to shiver as Eli dials 911 and reports the attempted mugging.
“What in the hell are you doing out here?” Eli spins, plants his hands on my shoulders and glares down at me.
“What were you doing?” I ask again when she only stares at me, her green eyes dilated in shock as she begins to shake. I pull her against me, wrap my arms around her shoulders and hold on tight, as sirens can be heard in the distance.
“Sir, the cab fare?” The cabbie approaches us, and I swear under my breath, wrap one arm around Kate and fish my wallet out of my pocket. I pay the cabbie and keep an eye on the man beginning to moan on the sidewalk.
“Leave it on the fucking sidewalk.”
I want to fucking kill him.
“I’m sorry,” Kate whispers in my arms. She’s clinging to me now, her eyes pinned on the asshole waking up and dabbing at his nose.
“If you fucking move, I’ll knock you back out.”