“I thought Chris was coming,” Savannah said, addressing Matthew and Lisa.
But Brady answered. “He’s still in New York. Couldn’t get away from work for the weekend.”
Click. Chris was Brady’s best friend. He was the only other person who knew that Liz and Brady had been together last summer. She had gone with him to one of Brady’s galas and he had engineered for her and Brady to be alone together afterward. These were Chris’s parents, his brother and sister. It made sense why they were best friends—the two men had grown up together.
“That sucks,” Savannah said sullenly. She really looked like the baby of the family in that moment. As if with her family she could ease into the person she always had been instead of the person she pretended to be in public. She clearly did trust Liz to see the real her if she had half as many of the precautions built up around herself that Brady had.
Personally, Liz was glad that Chris wasn’t there. She didn’t want to deal with his knowing looks any more than Clay’s.
The waitress appeared shortly after introductions. Liz ordered a glass of water. There was no way she was going to drink in front of Brady’s parents. She was sitting directly across from him and she couldn’t even look at him. She didn’t trust herself to drink.
Brady’s father ordered red wine for the table anyway. Liz almost groaned, but instead she just smiled like a gracious guest. One glass. No more than one glass.
“So, Liz,” Brady’s father addressed her, “Savannah says you work with her on the paper. How did you get into that?”
Now she wished that she had the wine in front of her so that she had something for her hands to do. Instead she put on an easy smile and tried to remain casual. “Well, I decided a long time ago I wanted to be a reporter. My mom works for the state of Florida and my father is a professor at South Florida, and they always had an interest in politics. So I guess I got that from them,” she said. She knew she was rambling about a simple question, but she didn’t know where to stop. “I joined the paper when I got to school.”
“Are you a senior?” Brady’s mother asked.
“Junior. I graduate next year,” she said softly. Her eyes drifted up to Brady’s for the first time since she started talking. Separated by another year of school.
“Don’t let Liz fool you into thinking she’s just someone at the paper. She ran the campaign division and is going to be editor next year,” Savannah explained. “She organized the colloquium y’all were at this afternoon.”
“Really?” Brady asked. Neither of them had pulled their eyes from each other, and Liz knew it was dangerous to address him directly.
“Yeah . . . I did.”
“That’s a major accomplishment,” Erin said cheerfully. Liz glanced over at her to see if there was any malice on her face, but of course there wasn’t. Erin didn’t know who she was.
“How did you get a job like that?” Erin asked.
Liz cleared her throat. “Last summer when I was following the campaign, I worked with my major professor to improve my writing. She liked the transformation I made over the summer so much that she offered me the job.”
A muscle in Brady’s jaw tensed at the mention of last summer. She didn’t blame him. She hadn’t even meant to bring it up, but it had just slipped out.
“What do you do, Erin?” Liz asked quickly as the rest of the table broke into their own side conversations. She would do anything not to directly address Brady again.
“I’m a morning anchor for Baltimore Mornings on channel 11,” Erin said with a smile that showed exactly why she was an anchor at such a young age.
Broadcast news. Not something Liz had ever been interested in. Of course, Baltimore Mornings sounded more like a morning talk show than a news program.
“That’s how we met, actually,” Erin said, placing her hand on top of Brady’s and lacing their fingers together.
Liz sat ramrod straight as she watched Brady turn to look at Erin and smile. Liz didn’t know how to deal with all of this. She was just ready to leave. Her wine couldn’t have come at a better time. She took a long gulp to avoid speaking further.
Erin seemed to want to tell the story anyway. “Brady worked with my father in the North Carolina state legislature, which is how I got the contact to interview him over Christmas on my morning talk show.” Erin’s smile brightened as she talked. Liz’s diminished.
“Didn’t I tell you it wasn’t a newsworthy story?” Savannah said, nudging Liz. Liz hadn’t even realized that Savannah had been paying attention. She had been talking to Lucas nonstop.
Brady arched an eyebrow, and Liz just opened and closed her mouth like a fish flopping around out of the water.
“Definitely a story we don’t want in the news!” Erin said with a giggle. “It seems everything is in the news. I feel like relationships should kind of be off-limits. I don’t see why it matters that Brady and I are together. But I don’t think it’s been too bad. Do you?”
“No,” Brady said. His voice came out easy and confident. Another mask. “I don’t think it’s been too bad being out in the open like this. I’d never want to hide a relationship anyway.”
Liz’s blood boiled at the blatant lie. She wanted to stab him with her fork. He was the one who had wanted to hide their f**king relationship in the first place.
He could probably see her seething at the comment, because he sent her the first f**king gorgeous smirk since they had seen each other this afternoon. It only made her want to lunge across the table more. She would throttle him before the end of the night. She was sure of it.
“Erin handles the spotlight like a pro. Don’t you, baby?”
Oh, f**k, no! Was he using the name that he used for Liz on purpose? Two could play at this game.
“I love the spotlight,” Erin said again with a smile. “I think I always wanted to be an anchor, just like you always wanted to be a reporter, Liz.”
“That’s wonderful,” Liz said, finishing off her first glass of wine. “Did you two fly here?”
“Oh, yeah. Into Raleigh,” Erin confirmed.
“How was the flight? I know there’s been some nasty weather lately. I sometimes get freaked out flying into that,” Liz said boldly.