“Wow,” she said. “Just wow.”
Lucian shrugged a shoulder. “Hey, it is a surprise to me, but doesn’t change what I want.”
The centers of her cheeks flushed pink as she sat back in her seat. Those lush lips were parted. He could tell she had no idea how to respond. And he hadn’t been messing with her. He was a hundred percent honest.
“I . . . I don’t even know what to say to you,” she said, and there was a stark truthfulness to her words. “Like at all.”
The sudden tapping of heels on stone snapped his mouth shut. Lucian drew back and lifted his gaze just as Dev’s fiancée appeared on the back patio.
If there was one surefire way to kill the mood, it was her making an appearance.
The heiress to the Harrington Shipping empire strode across the stone, her knee-length black dress a stark contrast against her icy blond hair and pale skin.
Julia twisted in her seat, following his gaze. “Oh my . . .”
“That’s Dev’s fiancée.” He sighed.
“I’ve seen her before.” Julia immediately twisted toward him. Excitement glimmered in her eyes. “In magazines.”
Lucian didn’t like her eagerness. Sabrina was . . . well, what was inside that woman wasn’t as pretty or well packaged as her outside.
“Really?” Sabrina stopped at the edge of the patio, her blood red lips thinning. Dark glasses shielded her eyes and a purse that probably weighed half her weight dangled from a slim wrist. “Are you having lunch with the help now, Lucian?”
“Careful,” he warned while Julia stiffened in her chair. “I don’t have to play nice with you.”
“Last I checked I don’t have to place nice with you either.” Her head cocked to the side, and not a single strand of hair slipped out of whatever she had going on with the updo. “And who are you?”
“My name’s Julia.” She glanced at Lucian.
“She knows about Maddie,” he assured her.
“You’re the nurse?” Sabrina said and then gave a short laugh. “Okay, then.”
“Wow,” Julia muttered under her breath.
“I’m looking for Devlin.” Sabrina angled her body in his direction. “Do you know where he is?”
Like she really thought Dev would be outside in the rose garden of all places. Knowing Sabrina, she’d caught sight of Julia from inside and had come to investigate. “Does it look like I know where he’d be?”
Those garish red lips pursed. “Well, I was hoping you’d be useful for once.”
“Damn,” Julia murmured.
“Honey, I’m just not useful in the way you want.” He smirked when her nostrils flared. “But as I’m sure you can see, you’re interrupting and—”
Gabe appeared on the garden’s pathway, having come from the other entrance. His brother drew up short.
Well, Lucian was wrong.
More like Sabrina had seen Gabe try to duck outside and had followed, looking for him.
“Gabe, what a pleasant surprise.” Sabrina’s tone changed as her hand floated to the diamond necklace around her throat, fingers tangling in the chain.
His brother winced. “Hello, Sabrina.” Then he nodded at Julia and smiled. “How are you, Julia?”
“Fine. I was just finishing up lunch.” She plucked the napkin out of her lap. “We had Livie’s beignets. They were amazing. I ate so many of them.”
“We can tell,” Sabrina cut in, her tone settling on Lucian like being sprayed with battery acid. “Since half of the beignets appear to be on the front of what I guess is a shirt.”
Lucian slowly turned to Sabrina, but before he could respond, Julia did.
“Well . . .” Glancing down, she wiped a finger over the dusting of powdered sugar that had gathered on her chest. Bringing her finger to her mouth, she smiled at Sabrina. “I was saving it for later.” Then she popped that finger in her mouth, sucking the sugar right off.
Lucian just got so hard he was sure he was going to burst the zipper on his jeans.
Standing, Julia brushed off her pants. “But I do need to get back to work.” Glancing in his direction, she smiled faintly. “Thank you for lunch.” Then she turned to Gabe. “See you later.”
Gabe was staring at her just like Lucian was, which did not make him or Sabrina, based on the pinched expression she was rocking, all that thrilled.
Walking up to the patio, she nodded in Sabrina’s direction. “Nice to meet you,” she said, and kept walking, not giving the other woman a chance to respond or to ignore her.
Lucian watched her, a small smile playing over his lips. “I really like her.”
“So do I,” commented Gabe.
He glanced over at him.
“What would you like about her?” Sabrina asked, stepping down into the garden on heels sharp enough to murder someone. “She looks like she could break either one of you.”
His gaze shot to her. “You sound like a jealous, hungry little—”
“You know I like it when you call me names, Lucian.” She smirked as she trailed a hand over the back of the seat Julia had sat in. “It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
“As if there was anything inside you that is warm,” he retorted.
Gabe’s expression turned pleading as Lucian rose.
“You two have fun.” He winked at his brother, who looked like he wanted to punch him.
Quickly leaving the garden behind, he entered through the back mudroom. There was no sign of Julia. Though she’d held her own against Sabrina, he still wanted to check in on her, especially since he actually felt kind of responsible for how people interacted with Julia. Which was weird as hell, because he had no idea why.
Heading down the hall, he slowed down when he spotted Dev coming out of their father’s office. Interesting. “Your fiancée is currently outside harassing Gabe. You may want to retrieve her. And you may also want to warn her to never speak to Julia or look in her general direction again.”
One eyebrow rose. “That’s not important right now.”
“It’s really important to me.”
Dev continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “I just heard from the parish chief. They’ve ruled our father’s death as inconclusive. They’re opening up a homicide investigation.”
The de Vincents had private rooms on the third floor of the Red Stallion, where only elite members had access, but Lucian found Gabe where he always did, at the bar on the main level.
Lucian dragged in the earthy scent of liquor and rich tobacco as he cut across the polished hardwood floors. The low hum of conversation mixed with the sound of glasses clinking together.
“Am I that predictable?” Gabe asked when Lucian dropped into the leather cushioned stool beside him.
“Yes.” Lucian glanced around. A few men in business suits sat several stools away and only a handful of the tables were full. Pulling his cell out of his pocket, he placed it on the bar top. “You left pretty quickly.”
Gabe picked up his glass as he eyed the TV above the bar. Numbers tracked along the bottom of the screen. “You know why I left.”
Yeah, he did. “Still after you?”
Gabe’s lips twisted into a bitter sneer. “What do you think?”
“I think one of these days you’re going to have to talk to Dev.” Lucian nodded as the bartender arrived with a glass and a bottle of Bowmore.
His brother snorted. “I’ll make sure you have front row seats for that conversation.”
Hell, Lucian would make sure he was in a different zip code if that day ever came. “Did you happen to talk to Dev before you bounced?”
He shook his head.
The bite of the whiskey peeled Lucian’s lips back. “I’m kind of surprised you’re here and not at your warehouse.”
“Yeah,” he repeated. “And you’re being uncharacteristically vague.”
“That’s a big word for you.”
“I got a big brain.”