Was he actually nervous—nervous to see Julia?
Running a hand over his chest, he headed down the hall. When was the last time he’d actually been nervous to see a woman? He could not remember.
Unsure of what to think about that, he rounded the hall and saw that his sister’s bedroom door was open.
Maddie was at the easel. God. He still couldn’t believe that his sister was sitting up and painting. All thanks to Julia’s idea. Which meant she was also probably right about Daniel. As much as he didn’t want Daniel around, if it would help his sister, he would convince his brothers to allow it.
His gaze shifted to where Julia sat in a nearby chair. She was watching his sister while nibbling on her lower lip. Her expression was pinched, like she was lost in a world of thoughts.
Lucian wondered if he she was stressing over last night. Cocky to assume that there was nothing else going on in her life, but he was willing to bet it was on her mind. Probably was coming up with a grocery list of reasons why it shouldn’t have happened.
Leaning against the doorframe, he cleared his throat.
Julia jumped as her head shot up and over. Pink splashed over her cheeks, and his heart slammed itself against his ribs the moment their gazes locked.
Neither of them said anything for a long moment. Lucian found himself oddly . . . voiceless.
It was Julia who broke the silence.
Folding her arms, she scooted forward in the chair. “Good morning.”
One eyebrow rose. “So prim and proper, Ms. Hughes.”
The pink deepened as her lips pursed. “What can I do for you, Lucian?”
The sound of his name coming from that mouth punched lust right through him. If his sister wasn’t in the room, he would make it so that he wouldn’t have needed his imagination for some of what he’d drawn.
“Nothing at the moment.” Pushing away from the door, he strode across the room, fully aware of her watching him doubtfully. Reaching his sister side, he knelt down. “Good morning, Maddie.”
His sister didn’t respond as she drew the paintbrush across the canvas. His brows knitted together as he studied the canvas. Out of the pale paint, he thought he saw facial features. He looked over at Julia. “How many sheets has she done?”
“Three. This is her fourth one,” she answered. “I’ve been keeping them in the closet, out of the way.”
He nodded and then refocused on Maddie. “So, I was thinking,” he said while his sister moved to dab more paint on the brush. “How would you feel if I invited Daniel over this weekend?”
Maddie’s hand stilled.
He held his breath as his sister sat there, unmoving. Was that a good sign? Bad? “Possibly on Sunday, for lunch? Would you like that?”
Her gaze lowered. A moment passed and then she started painting again.
Lucian remained crouched for several moments in silence. “There was a response.” He looked over to Julia. “You saw that, right?”
Surprise filled her gaze as she nodded. “It was definitely something.”
He exhaled roughly as he rose. “I have no idea if it’s good or bad.”
Julia unfolded her arms. “I think it’s good. I mean, they were close friends. I don’t see how it could be bad—bad for her.”
Lucian had to agree with that. Scrunching his fingers through his damp hair, he dropped his hand. “I’m going to talk to Dev. He’s usually out most of Sunday, so he won’t be here. If he was, the whole thing will go downhill fast.”
“Then that would probably be the best time for it,” she agreed. “We don’t need her to be stressed.”
But how could they tell? Even though he agreed with Julia, what if bringing Daniel into the picture did stress her out? He had no reason to believe that would happen other than the fact that he didn’t like the little prick. He was going to have to let that go.
Turning to Julia, he studied her profile as she watched Maddie. She was back to nibbling on her lower lip, urging him to do something about that. He wanted to taste that mouth again, but he was smart enough to realize he needed to give her time.
What he’d said to her last night was true. She was in his world now, but he had to ease her into the little factoid.
“Can you step out into the hallway for a moment?”
A look of suspicion crept into her face. “Why?”
“I promise to keep my hands and . . . other parts to myself.”
Her gaze shot to Maddie as her lips pressed into a thin, hard line. She rose and stalked past him, grabbing the sleeve of his shirt. She pulled him toward the door, and he couldn’t even hide his grin.
“Ms. Hughes, are you manhandling me?”
“Shut up,” she hissed.
He chuckled. “I kind of like this.”
“That’s because there’s something wrong with you.” Out in the hall, she dragged him several feel front the doorway. She dropped his sleeve and faced him. “In case you haven’t figure it out, your sister obviously has two working ears and may be able to understand what people are saying.”
“Yeah. I think I understand that.” He grinned when her eyes darkened. “I have no desire to hide that I’m interested in you.”
She took a step back, shaking her head. “Maybe you should.”
“Well, then that would make me a liar, and I’m not a fake or a liar, Ms. Hughes.”
“Oh my God,” she muttered, rubbing her brow.
“I don’t think he has anything to do with it.”
She slowly lifted her gaze and shot him a deadpan stare. “What do you want?”
He grinned. “I’d like you to be present on Sunday when Daniel is here just in case anything happens.”
She looked like that was the last thing she’d expected. “Um, my schedule isn’t really set. Dev mentioned the weekends were really up to me, but I didn’t have any plans for the weekend. I definitely will be available when Daniel is here.”
“Perfect. And you know what else is perfect?” he asked.
“You’re about to leave?”
He laughed. “No. That means you can join Gabe and me for dinner tomorrow night.”
Eyeing the little clip that kept her bun in place, he wondered how mad she’d get if he pulled it out. “Gabe and I have a standing reservation at one of the best restaurants in the city every Saturday night. I was thinking that since you wanted to see the city, you’d be interested in joining us.”
She opened her mouth.
“It’s not a big deal. Gabe will be there, and you like him,” he reasoned. “Maybe not as much as you like me, but that’s a good thing.”
Julia’s shoulders squared. A moment passed. “Who will be watching Madeline?”
“We will have staff who will. We just have to be back before it gets too late,” he said, grinning when she rolled her eyes. “Come on, say yes.”
“And if I don’t say yes, then you’ll manipulate me into saying yes?”
Lucian tilted his head to the side. “If that’s what you need to believe to say yes, then yes.”
She snorted. “You know, you’re . . . There really aren’t words.” She shook her head. “So, it’s not going to be just you and me?”
Fighting a triumphant smile, he nodded. “Gabe will be with us.”
“Safety in numbers.”
Oh, if she only knew how wrong that belief was, but he nodded once more.
Blowing out a ragged breath, she crossed her arms once more. “Okay. I will go with you and Gabe, but that’s it. Just dinner and then I come home.”
He got a little unsteady, thinking he liked the way she referred to this house as home. He kept that to himself. “How does seven sound, then?”
“Good to me.” She stepped to the side and then stopped. Mashing her lips together, she looked up at him. “I don’t know if I said this yesterday or not, but I was thinking about it, and . . . and I know you weren’t close to your father, but I hope the memorial service brought you and your brothers some sort of closure.”