If she didn’t show, it would definitely put a hitch in his arrangements. He’d have to scrap the plan to propose on a carriage ride through downtown. It didn’t matter where he proposed. All he knew was he had to do it tonight. He couldn’t wait another moment.
As if he’d sent some kind of vibration across town to Tender Hearts Memorial Hospital, his phone rang, Tressa’s name flashing across the screen. Actually, the words My Queen scrolled across the screen, because that was what she was to him, his queen. “Hey, beautiful.”
“Hey, handsome. I only have a second.”
Alarmed, Roth said, “I hope you’re not calling to stand me up, because that would really suck.” Really suck, he repeated to himself.
“No, but I may be late. Thirty minutes, an hour tops. I’m sorry.” Her words dripped with regret.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes, just a madhouse here. Full moon. I gotta go. Love you to pieces and I’ll make my tardiness up to you in countless sinful ways.”
“I’m definitely going to hold you to that. Love you, too.” And tonight she’d know just how much.
* * *
Tressa had some hell of apologizing to do. Her one hour, tops, had stretched into two. And of course she’d missed Roth’s performance. Inside, she squinted and scanned the room for him, but he was nowhere in sight. He was there because his SUV was still parked out back. Plus, he wouldn’t have left without calling to tell her. If there was one thing her man was, it was considerate.
A swamped Gayle, the hostess she’d met her last visit there, pointed her toward the back of the building. “Try the back. I saw him walk that way earlier,” she said, then bustled away. “Oh,” she called back, “tell him I said I’m really going to miss our old-school R & B chats.”
“Going to miss—” Gayle was off before Tressa could finish her thought. Was Gayle leaving The Underground? Probably so. She’d got the impression the woman didn’t care very much for India.
Just the thought of her name grated Tressa’s nerves. Pushing the raw feeling aside, she headed in the direction she’d been pointed.
The sconces affixed to the beige walls provided minimal lighting along the hallway. Fortunately, Tressa didn’t need any illumination to locate Roth; she simply followed the boom of his elevated tone. And he sounded pissed.
Approaching the partially opened door, she reached for the handle, but froze when she heard a woman’s voice.
“You are full of shit, Roth.”
Her tone was just as heated as Roth’s had been.
“I don’t owe you shit, India.”
India? Tressa’s eyes narrowed as if she was trying to see through the door. What in the hell were they arguing about? A lover’s quarrel came to mind, but she debunked the term.
“But why, Roth? Why now? Was it the kiss?”
The air vacated from Tressa’s lungs. Had they kissed? Her heartbeat kicked up a notch or two and her breathing grew ragged. She wanted to burst through the door right then, but her need to hear more was greater.
“When I was in jeopardy of losing this place, it was your performances that saved it. We built this place together, Roth. We’re a team. Now what? You’re going to walk out on me? Just like that? No notice, no explanation, no nothing? Just some tonight-will-be-my-last-performance bullshit announcement you made to the entire club without having the decency to let me know first.”
Tressa rested a hand on her trembling stomach. Roth was leaving The Underground? India’s tone softened to a pitch that could be considered seductive, and rage shot through Tressa. Still, she held a level head.
“We’re good together, Roth. You know we are.”
For whatever they’d shared to be in the past, Roth and India sounded mighty cozy. Tressa’s cheek burned with outrage with the possibility that she’d been played for a fool. Again. Now she really wanted to explode into the room, but her heavy feet were rooted to the tile floor, making her unable to crash their party or flee the building. The urge to do both overwhelmed her.
“I’m sorry, India.”
Roth’s tone sounded sympathetic, as if in some way he regretted what he was doing.