“I like that.” She replaces the coin in my pocket and keeps searching. “I can’t find my surprise.”
“Well, we have to go to it. I don’t have it on me.”
“Oh.” She pouts, but then stands and launches herself into my arms. “Thank you.”
“You don’t even know what it is.”
“It doesn’t matter. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Let’s go.”
She locks her desk and gathers her things, and then frowns as I escort her down the hall.
“You know, you shouldn’t come down to my office.”
“Everyone is gone, Kate. We’re the only ones here.”
“Still.” She sniffs as she steps into the elevator, then does a little happy dance. “What’s the surprise?”
“I’m not telling,” I reply with a laugh and tug on a piece of her hair.
“Can I guess? Is it…?” She bites her lip as she thinks. “Is it a show?”
“No.” I pull her in for a hug and kiss her head. “Stop trying. You’ll never guess.”
“Give me a hint.”
“You must be impossible to live with at Christmas.”
She simply grins and climbs into the car, a bundle of nerves the entire drive through town.
“We’re leaving town?”
“We’re not going far.”
“You’re a good surprise giver.”
I laugh and glance over at her where she’s watching me with happy eyes. “Is that such a thing?”
I pull into the parking garage at the airport, and Kate watches me with shocked curiosity. “Where are we going?”
“But, I didn’t pack a bag! I don’t even have a toothbrush, since I took my spare out of my purse—”
I yank her to me and kiss the fuck out of her, just to shut her up, then lead her into the baggage claim area. I watch as her eyes skim over the people waiting for their bags, and when they land on a familiar face, she smiles and runs to her friend.
“Oh, my God! What are you doing here?”
The tall, dark man who was speaking with Kate’s friend steps away, gathers his own bag, and waves at Lila as he walks away.
“Eli! This is Lila,” Kate announces, as she and the dark-haired, beautiful woman turn to me.
“I know,” I reply with a grin and shake Lila’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you in person.”
“Wait. Why didn’t I know that you were coming?” Kate asks Lila, as they lead me back into the parking garage. I’m happy to bring up the rear with Lila’s small suitcase in tow.
“Well, I was going to come down in a few weeks for a job interview anyway, and then Eli called and asked if I’d like to come see you, and hello! Of course I did! So, I called and had my interview moved to Monday, and here I am.”
Suddenly, Kate launches herself into my arms and hugs me tight. “Thank you,” she whispers into my ear.
“My pleasure, cher.”
“First things first,” Kate says, after we all get settled in the car. She and Lila are sharing the back, so they can talk without one of them craning their neck to see the other. “Who was that tall drink of water you were chatting with at the baggage claim?”
“Noticed that, did you?” Lila asks with a laugh.
“Um, hello, he was hot.”
I growl as I catch Kate’s eye in the rear-view.
“Did he just growl?” Lila asks with a laugh.
“He does that,” Kate says. “Spill it.”
“All I know is, his name is Asher, and he’s in town for some work thing.” She shrugs. “That’s it.”
“You didn’t get his number?”
“Did he get yours?”
“What is wrong with you?”
Lila laughs and kisses Kate’s cheek. “Let’s talk about you. How are you?”
There’s a moment of quiet. “I believe you,” Lila finally replies.
“You really didn’t get his number?” The girls bust up laughing, and it makes me smile to hear Kate so happy. So carefree.
I plan to keep her that way.
“I think this calls for girls’ night out tomorrow night,” Kate says suddenly. “I’ll call Van, Gabby, and Charly, and we’ll hit the town.”
“Excellent idea! I haven’t seen them in forever.”
“Do you know my sisters?” I ask.
“Yep, I met them a few times when we were all visiting Kate at college. This is gonna be epic.”
“So fun,” Kate agrees. “We’ll start at Café Amalie and flirt with Joe.”
“Who’s Joe?” Lila asks as I growl again.
“My favorite waiter.”
“Is he hot?” Lila asks.
“So hot,” Kate answers, and I grip the steering wheel tighter.
“I’m so in,” Lila replies.
“Can I borrow these earrings?” Lila asks, holding my silver chandelier earrings up to her lobes and looking in the mirror to my right. “They go with my shoes.”
“Your shoes?” I chuckle and look down, and sure enough, she’s right. “You’re going to have a hard time walking in the Quarter in those heels. Trust me.”
“It’s GNO,” she says with a shrug. “I’ll be fine. I’ll kick them off and dance barefoot at the bar.”
“Ew. You won’t want to do that on Bourbon.”
“Are you saying the French Quarter is unsanitary?”
“At night it is¸” I confirm, and smooth lip gloss on my lips. I step back and take stock. My hair is down, and thanks to the products Charly recommended, it hangs in pretty waves past my shoulders. Makeup is done, bolder than usual, because hello, girls’ night. “Is this dress okay?”
Lila examines me thoughtfully, then nods. “The color matches your eyes, which I kind of hate you for, because I can’t wear green, and it shows off your boobs. Excellent choice.”
“Right on.” Lila is gorgeous, as usual, in a one-shoulder little black dress and strappy silver heels. Her black hair is also down, straight and sleek. Makeup put together.
She’s always put together.