Midnight Bayou Page 74

He'd looked so damn cute, she thought as she hunted up the coffee beans. All pale and male and cross. And with that silly pasty plastered on his cheek.

Men just lost half their IQ when they had a look at a naked woman. Put a pack of them together with women willing to strip to music, and they had the common sense of a clump of broccoli.

She ground the beans, set coffee to brew. She was mixing eggs in a bowl when it occurred to her that it was the first time in her life she'd made breakfast for a man she hadn't slept with the night before.

Wasn't that an odd thing?

Odder still that she was humming in the kitchen of an annoyed, smelly, hungover man who'd snapped at her. Out of character, Lena. Just what's going on here?

She'd been so intrigued by Effie's cheerful amusement over Remy's condition. And here she was, feeling the same thing over Declan's.

She peered out the window at the garden that had been wild and abandoned only months before. It bloomed now, beautifully, with new sprigs, fresh green spearing out.

She'd gone and done it after all. Gone and let him sneak into her, right through the locks and bolts.

She was in love with him. And oh God, she didn't want to be-as much for his sake as for her own.

He'd blown the dust off those young dreams she'd so rigidly put away. The ones colored with love and hope and trust. They were so shiny now that they were staring her in the face. So shiny they blinded her.

And terrified her.

Marriage. The man wanted marriage, and she didn't believe in making promises unless you'd shed blood to keep them.

Would she? Could she?

"I think I'd want to," she said quietly. "I think I'd want to, for him.”

As she spoke, a cupboard door flew open. A thick blue mug shot out and smashed at her feet.

She leaped back, heart hammering as shards rained over her ankles. Grimly, she stared down at the blood seeping out of tiny nicks.

"Seems I already have. You don't want that, do you?" Bowl still clutched in her hand, she spun a circle. "You want anything but our being together. We'll see who wins in the end, won't we? We'll just see.”

Deliberately she reached down for one of the shards, then ran it over her thumb. As the blood welled, she held her hand up, let it drip. "I'm not weak, as he was. If I take love, if I promise love, I'll keep it.”

The sound of chimes had her bolting straight up. It was Declan's tune. The first ringing notes of it. Fear and wonder closed her throat, had her bobbling the bowl.

"Goddamn it, answer the door, will you?" His voice blasted downstairs, full of bitter annoyance. "Then murder whoever rang that idiot doorbell.”

Doorbell? She pushed her free hand through her hair. He'd installed a doorbell that played "After the Ball." Wasn't that just like him?

"You keep shouting at me," she called as she marched down the hall, "you're going to have worse than a hangover to deal with.”

"If you'd go away and let me die in peace, I wouldn't have to shout.”

"In about two shakes, I'm coming up there and wringing your neck. And after I wring your neck, I'm going to kick your ass.”

She wrenched open the door on the final threat, and found herself glaring at a very handsome couple. It took only one blink to clear the temper for her to see Declan's eyes looking curiously back at her out of the woman's face.

"I'm Colleen Fitzgerald." The woman, tidy, blond and lovely, held out an elegant hand. "And who are you? If that's my son's ass you're intending to kick, I'd like to know your name.”

"Mom?" Dripping from the shower, wearing nothing but ripped sweatpants, Declan rushed to the top of the stairs. "Hey! Mom, Dad." Despite the ravages of the hangover, he bolted down, threw one arm around each of them and squeezed. "I thought you were flying down tomorrow.”

"Change of plans. Are you just getting up?" Colleen demanded. "It's after one in the afternoon.”

"Bachelor party last night. Hard liquor, loose women.”

"Really?" Colleen said and eyed Lena.

"Oh, not this one. She came over to play Florence Nightingale. Colleen and Patrick Fitzgerald, Angelina Simone.”

"Good to meet you." Patrick, long, lanky, with his dark hair gorgeously silvered at the temples, sent Lena a generous smile. His blue eyes were bright and bold as he held out a hand.

Then they narrowed in concern as he saw her thumb. "You've hurt yourself.”

"It's nothing.”

"What'd you do? You're bleeding. Jesus, Lena." Panicked, Declan grabbed her wrist, all but plucked her off her feet and rushed her toward the kitchen.

"It's just a scratch. Stop it, Declan. Your parents. You're embarrassing me," she hissed.

"Shut up. Let me see how deep it is.”

Still in the doorway, Patrick turned to his wife. "She's the one?”

"He certainly thinks so." Colleen pursed her lips, stepped into the house. "Let's just see about all this.”

"Hell of a looker.”

"I've got eyes, Patrick." And she used them to take in the house as they followed Declan's hurried path.

It was more, a great deal more than she'd expected. Not that she doubted her son's taste. But she'd been led to believe the house was in serious, perhaps fatal, disrepair. And what she saw now were gracious rooms, charming details, glinting glass and wood.

And in the kitchen she saw her son, hovering over the hand of a very annoyed, very beautiful woman who looked perfectly capable of carrying out her earlier threat.

"I beg your pardon." Lena elbowed Declan aside and smiled coolly at his parents. "I dropped a cup, that's all. It's nice to meet both of you.”

Declan turned to root through cupboards. "You need some antiseptic and a bandage.”

"Oh, stop fussing. You'd think I cut my hand off. And if you don't watch yourself you'll step on the shards and be worse off than I am. I'm sorry your welcome's so disrupted," she said to his parents. "I'm just going to sweep up this mess, then I'll be on my way.”

"Where are you going?" Declan demanded. "You promised food.”

She wondered if he could hear her teeth grinding together. "Pour what's in that bowl into a skillet, turn on the burner and you'll have food." She yanked open the broom closet. "Why aren't you getting your parents coffee or a cold drink after their long trip? They raised you better than that.”

Prev Next