She seemed to draw in a deep breath, come to some decision while his heart weirdly kicked around in his chest, and then, almost so slowly that it was painful, she placed her hand in his.
Crawfish was delicious.
She didn’t care if it was seafood or not. It was amazing. So was the burrata appetizer and then the main dish of filet and scallops. Julia was going to need to be carried out of the restaurant between all the food and wine she’d consumed, and of course, the guys ordered dessert.
Julia glanced over at Gabe. He smiled at her as he raised his glass of wine in her direction. She then peeked at Lucian. He just . . . he just stared at her in a way that made her shiver as she sipped the wine, barely tasting its dryness. She quickly looked away, her gaze flickering over the restaurant.
They sat at a small round table tucked near the wall where privacy was afforded by the alcoves they sat in. The restaurant was lovely, all handcrafted woodwork and trim, tables dressed in cream-and-red linens, lit by tall, tapered candles.
Several times throughout the dinner their table was approached by people, usually older men who looked upon her curiously. No one had been rude, nothing like meeting Dev’s fiancée. Lucian introduced her each time, simply calling her Ms. Hughes with no further explanation.
The dinner so far had been great. Just like the ride into the city and what she’d gotten to see of New Orleans. She couldn’t wait to see those flower and fern-covered balconies once more. Julia wanted to walk those streets and touch those buildings—touch history.
But not tonight.
She doubted she could walk a block now.
Lucian shifted, drawing her attention. There didn’t seem to be a lot of room at the table, because Lucian’s leg rested against hers, and every so often Gabe’s leg brushed her calf. “Doing okay?” he asked.
He’d kept checking in with her throughout the dinner. His concern was . . . was sweet, because she sensed it was genuine, or at least that was what the wine was telling her.
So Julia nodded. She was doing just fine. The guys kept the conversation flowing, telling her about their days in college and all the trouble they got into as they ate a dinner that had to have cost the same as a luxury car payment.
But she still felt like a guest—a guest in their home, in their limo, and now at the table where she imagined only the extremely wealthy could afford to eat. The brothers did nothing to make her feel this way. Actually, they behaved just the opposite, but she was so out of her element that she felt like an imposter in a fancy dress, surrounded by even fancier people.
Julia kept waiting for someone like Sabrina to appear and reveal her as a fraud.
“So . . .” Gabe reached over, tapping his fingers on her hand. “What are your long-term plans, Julia?”
Distracted from her thoughts, she turned to him. “Uh, you mean beyond this job?”
He was leaning back in his chair, body lean and idle as he nodded. “Do you plan to stay here or go home?”
“I don’t know.” For some stupid reason, she glanced at Lucian and then wanted to punch herself. “I’ll most likely go home, but I haven’t really thought beyond that since I don’t have a set term.”
Gabe tilted his head to the side, glancing at his brother. “Have you thought about staying here? I think . . . some of us would really miss you if you left.”
Her brows rose as she took a drink. Considering she’d only shared a handful of conversations with Gabe, she doubted he was one of those people.
“I’d miss you.” Lucian leaned forward, resting his elbows the table. “I’d miss you a lot.”
“Uh-huh,” she murmured, sending him a sideways glance.
“You doubt me?” He leaned his shoulder into hers. “I’m more than willing to prove it.”
She felt her throat and chest flush as their gazes connected. Too much wine, she thought, because she couldn’t look away, and their faces were close. Inches separated their mouths.
“I don’t think you should doubt him,” Gabe mused.
Julia blinked and drew back abruptly, her gaze swinging toward Gabe.
He grinned at her. “I think if you left, he would be bereft.”
Taking a long drink of her wine, she collected her scattered thoughts. “I think that’s an exaggeration.”
Lucian’s warm breath coasted over the side of her neck, sending a shiver over her skin. “I think you’ve challenged me.”
Her heart jumped in her chest as Lucian leaned away, signaling the waiter with a raised hand.
Gabe’s grin kicked up a notch.
She suddenly felt like something was going down as the waiter hurried over with the check. Out came one of those black American Express cards Julia had never seen in real life.
“Be right back,” the waiter said, and then dashed off.
“So there’s something you need to see before we leave.” Lucian leaned back, stretching his arm along her chair.
Understanding flickered along Gabe’s face. “Hell, I almost forgot about that.” His gaze met hers. “You’re going to love this.”
“Love what?” She demanded.
Lucian tapped his fingers off her back. “It’s a surprise.”
Before she could pester him, Gabe nodded to a table catty-corner to theirs.
“Hey, you see who’s here?”
Keeping his arm along the back of her chair, Lucian looked over his shoulder. “Hell, I haven’t seen them in forever.”
Curious, she craned her neck to see who they were talking about. She spotted two men who roughly appeared to be around their age, one light-skinned and the other dark. They were with a very pretty woman who sat between them. “Who are they?”
“Old friends,” Gabe said, raising his hand in greeting as the darker-skinned one looked over and waved. “They’re on a couple of charity boards with us.”
Julia couldn’t help but wonder what kind of charities these brothers could be on. “They’re not going to come over and say hi?”
Lucian sat back, the smile on his face secretive. “I don’t think they’re willing to interrupt their date.”
“Which is understandable.” Gabe took a drink, thick lashes lowering.
She glanced over at the table again. The woman was leaning toward the darker man, a beautiful smile lighting up her face as he leaned in, kissing her cheek. Julia’s gaze dropped to the table. The other man was holding . . . the woman’s hand?
Julia froze with her glass of wine halfway to her mouth as what they said and what she was seeing really sank in. That woman was their date. Not having dinner with two guys kind of date, but a date, date with two guys.
Oh my Goodness.
Her lips parted.
Lucian chuckled. “I think she just figured out what’s going on at that table.”
“I have to agree,” Gabe commented.
“Is she an escort?” she blurted out.
“What?” Lucian coughed, choking on his drink. “No. She’s not an escort.”
“There is no money exchanging hands over there.” Gabe looked like he was about to burst into laughter. “Trust us.”
Her gaze bounced between the brothers. Then it struck her. She was out with Gabe and Lucian. Both of them had been solely focused on her like . . . like the men at the table across from them. Both Gabe and Lucian had almost vied for her attention throughout dinner. Both were touchy and teasing, but they . . . they were brothers and—and she was Julia.
She opened her mouth but no words came out as she dragged her gaze from Gabe’s to Lucian’s. His eyes were heavy-hooded, shielding a wealth of secrets.
Lucian had warned her that she was in his world now. Maybe this . . . this kind of stuff was common in his world. Definitely not hers, though. At least as far as she knew. Her gaze flew to the table again. The woman was speaking and both men were focused on her in a way that caused the muscles low in her stomach to tighten.
She didn’t even hear the waiter return.
The next thing she knew Gabe had plucked up her hand and was tugging her to feet. She looked back, but saw that Lucian had her purse tucked under his arm. They walked through the dining area, but instead of heading for the front door, Gabe led them down a narrow hall, passing the restrooms.