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“So you’re saying, that if the woman you loved wanted you to use floggers on her, you wouldn’t do it?” Gabe Trahan looked at James Reynaud and shook his head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Dude, I’m not saying no to blindfolds and nipple clamps. Maybe some light spanking,” James said. “But floggers are next level.” He looked around the table. “No judgements here, right?”
Owen Landry scoffed. “Who said there were no judgements? You don’t want to do something dirty with your girl? I’m totally judging you.”
“He doesn’t have a girl,” Caleb Moreau, one of James’ closest friends and a fellow firefighter said. “That’s the problem. He doesn’t understand the things a guy will do for the woman he loves.”
“Smacking her on the ass with a paddle?” James asked. “That’s love?”
“It is if that’s what she wants,” Logan Trahan said with absolute confidence.
“Maybe even more so if you’re not comfortable with it,” Caleb added. “You’re going outside your comfort zone to give her something that gives her pleasure.”
Caleb knew what he was talking about. This entire erotic romance book club had been started when he’d needed to research some things his girlfriend, Lexi, wanted. Things he hadn’t known much about and that had pushed him outside of his comfort zone.
Though going by the look of total happiness and the completely-satisfied glow on Lexi whenever Josh saw her now, it seemed that Caleb was a hard-working, dedicated student who’d caught on relatively quickly.
“There aren’t any floggers in this book,” Josh said, attempting to wrangle the book club conversation back around to the book they’d read this month. “That one was last month.”
Honestly, he wanted to keep going down this path of what extents guys would go to for the women they fell in love with. He needed to know that it was perfectly normal to be considering packing up his life and moving it to Iowa—of all places—for a woman after only knowing her for a few hours and doing nothing but talking, laughing, and kissing her.
It had been a hell of a kiss. But, yeah, already wanting to kiss her and only her for the rest of his life wasn’t normal. He knew that. Of course, he was a Landry. They didn’t really do “conventional” when it came to love.
These men—his bosses and friends, Gabe Trahan and his brother Logan, along with Caleb, a friend and regular at the bar—were the only men Josh knew who were around his age and were in love and making it work with amazing women who kept them on their toes.
He wanted their input on his situation. Because he was going to go home to Autre, the little town by the bayou where he’d spent all his life and knew every single person inside the city limits, and they were all going to know something was up with him.
And he didn’t really want their opinions.
Josh came from a long line of people who loved big and hard. But none of them would dream of being held back by things like “ordinary” or “typical.” So them telling him that turning his life upside down for a woman he’d just met was an amazing idea and he should do it tomorrow wasn’t really going to give him any insight as to if it was a good idea.
Gabe, Logan, and Caleb might.
“That one was two months ago, wasn’t it?” Logan asked as he popped the caps off of two bottles of beer and poured a glass of red wine.
Even though they were having book club tonight, Gabe, Logan and Josh were still working. Trahan’s Tavern was one of the most popular bars in the French Quarter and tonight was the Thursday after Mardi Gras. Sure, the crowds had been insane on Tuesday—just as they were supposed to be on Mardi Gras—but people who came from out of town for the big celebration tended to stick around and business didn’t die down much for days.
Actually the bar business in the Quarter never really died down.
Plus, three of these guys were always wanting to get right home after work. They had wives, fiancées, and kids waiting for them.
So they had their monthly book club at Trahan’s with everyone gathered on one end of the bar while some of the guys worked.
“Nope that was the second book in that series,” Josh said, passing a glass of bourbon and a white wine to a couple who had just come up to the bar.
“The first was the one where the guy shares his woman with his best friend,” Caleb said with a tone that said how he hadn’t been a fan of that one.
“Just that one time,” Logan said with a chuckle. “That’s a huge fantasy for some women though.”
“Yeah?” Owen asked with a grin. “If Dana’s looking for—”
“No,” Logan cut him off before he even finished the sentence. “And I said for some women.”
“But if she wanted to, you’d do it?” James asked dryly. “You’d share her because you love her so much?”
Logan looked pained. “Well…”
Caleb just scowled.
But Gabe said, “Yep.”
Everyone looked at him in surprise.
“Yep?” Owen asked. “You’d share Addison with another man?”
“I would.” Gabe shrugged. “Not saying I’d like it, but if that’s what she needed, I’d do it. I’d do anything for her.”
“But…another guy?” James asked.
Gabe leaned onto the bar. “If that was a thing for Addison, I have a feeling I’d think differently about it. If that gave her the most pleasure, then I think I could come around to it.”
“Same thing happened in the book,” Caleb said. “He didn’t want to do it either, but he did it for her.”
“He kind of hated it the whole time,” James pointed out.
“And he still did it. For her,” Caleb insisted. “It’s complicated for sure, but so is being in love, having another person matter so much to you that you’d do anything to make them happy.”
Josh sloshed beer over the edge of the mug he’d just filled.
That’s all he could think about as they were talking. Victoria Kramer. The woman he’d met two nights ago for the first time. The one who was on her way back to freaking Iowa right now.
It wasn’t the kinky sex stuff that had her on his mind though. Not exactly. He and Tori hadn’t even gotten naked together. They certainly hadn’t discussed any fantasies or fetishes.
He actually wasn’t even wondering—too much—what Tori was into. Did he think she’d looked fucking amazing in some tiny, barely-there lingerie? Sure. Did he wonder if she had a vibrator or a dildo or both or more than one of each? Yeah. He was a guy. Was he curious if she’d be into sexting or Skype sex calls? Definitely. But if he had her number, he’d want to call to just talk too. To get to know her better. To ask about her day.
That was the thought that wasn’t leaving him alone. That was what he was really focusing on here. He understood what Caleb had just said about wanting to make someone else happy before thinking about his own feelings. Like how he didn’t really want to move to Iowa. But he was still considering it.
It was the damnedest thing. He’d never been in love before. Not the kind of do-anything love that he’d seen modeled all his life. Not the kind of love these guys had found. But he wanted to be the one making Tori happy. A woman he barely knew. Her smile, the sparkle in her eye, the way she was kind of awkward and adorable and fucking sexy as hell because she had no idea just how adorable she really was…he wanted all of that. He wanted it to be his. He wanted to be the one that showed her that she was all of those things.
And he didn’t even have her phone number.
He shoved a hand through his hair and focused back on the conversation.
He met beautiful women every single night. He met at least one—usually more—that was happy to invite him back to her hotel room. Every. Single Night.
Why was Tori special? Why was she lingering in his mind? They hadn’t even slept together. This made no sense.
It—she—had been under his skin for almost twenty-four-hours now. He couldn’t stop thinking about her.
And, an even bigger question was…why in the hell had he sent the woman, who stood out from the hundreds he met in the bars in the French quarter, back to her hotel room alone? Two nights in a row?
Did he have a brain tumor?
Was this a dream and he just hadn’t awakened yet?
Was he slowly losing his mind?
“Same with those floggers in book two,” Logan said.
Josh forced himself to focus. He just needed an opening to ask them all what they thought about his feelings for Tori. Maybe they’d tell him it was amazing and that he should point his car north immediately.
If not, maybe they’d take him to the doctor.
“That dude was totally into that,” James said of the book. “He wasn’t doing that just for her. That was not out of his comfort zone. He had that dirty playroom before he met her.”
“True,” Logan agreed. “But every time it was as much about her and what she wanted as what he needed and wanted. He made sure she was all in and with him every step of the way. And giving her exactly what she needed made it even hotter for him.”
James nodded. “Yeah.” He paused. “That was pretty hot.”
They all nodded in agreement.
“Harper says that erotic romance in first person is a lot more intimate than third person,” he added. “She likes it better. Thinks it’s hotter to be really in the characters heads.”
“You’ve been talking to Harper about this more then?” Caleb asked, grinning as he lifted his beer.
“She asks me what you all say after every meeting,” James said, looking smug.
It was no secret that James had a little thing for his bookworm neighbor who read romance novels and had given Caleb that first reading list to learn more. She loved that they were doing a book club. Clearly her interest was giving James a great reason to talk to her. About her turn-ons even.
“You’re welcome,” Logan said with a grin.
James toasted them with his beer bottle.
Josh knew that Gabe and Logan’s wives were as intrigued by this book club as Caleb’s fiancé Lexi, and Harper were. There were several women who were regulars in the bar who had started making it a point to show up on the third Thursday of the month when they were meeting too. They didn’t participate. But boy did they eavesdrop.
None of the guys were shy, that was for sure. Most of them had said incredibly dirty things directly to women—including some of the ones who came to Trahan’s regularly—so the guys didn’t mind the little audience. It was good for business anyway. The number of ladies in the crowd on those Thursday nights outnumbered the men and the size of that crowd had slowly grown. In the corner of the special’s menu for the evening, Logan had started adding the title and author of the book they’d read.
But this wasn’t just a way of impressing women. The guys all agreed that these books had been enlightening. These were books that were mostly written by and read by women. Getting into a woman’s head, even if she was fictitious, in these stories was incredible.
Why more men didn’t read romance, Josh had no idea.
“So on this book,” Caleb said, bringing it back around. “I loved this heroine. She was feisty and sexy as hell.”
“Agreed,” Owen said. “I never knew if she was going to bend over for him or cut his dick off.”
“I think she wanted to do both equally,” Gabe said.
“Were you shocked when she submitted to him?” Owen Landry asked. “I gotta admit, the butt plug thing surprised me.”
The guy two stools down choked on his swallow of beer. He wasn’t a part of the book club but he’d heard just about everything. Josh kept an eye on him as James answered.
“I’ll admit I was surprised she let him do that, but I wasn’t surprised she liked it.”
“Oh, she totally wanted that,” Logan replied, filling a beer mug and sliding it to Owen.
The guy seemed fine but he pulled out his phone, eyed the special’s board, then typed something in. Josh grinned.
“He had a lot hanging over her head. She needed him to keep her business,” Gabe pointed out. “Did she really let him or did she go along so she could get what she wanted from him?”
“That woman was strong and stubborn and pretty pissed off at him most of the time, but yeah, I think she let him,” Owen said.
“I agree,” Josh said. The woman in the book had been all of those things, plus smart. She could have figured a way out. “She didn’t want out. She hated how much she wanted him, but she definitely wanted him.”
“And he knew he could push her,” Logan said. He hit the button on the blender, keeping everyone from replying for nearly minute as he mixed a daiquiri. When the blender shut off, Logan went on, “It was because she was strong that she needed someone to come in and boss her around a little. She was taking everything on, trying to take care of everything herself. He needed to take care of her and he needed her to know he would, in every way. He needed her to be vulnerable for him in a way she wasn’t with anyone else. That’s the ultimate intimacy.”
“He wasn’t just a dominating asshole who had to control everyone and everything?” Owen asked.
“He was a little bit of that too,” Logan agreed. “But he wanted her to let him close.”
“She didn’t let him. He fucking kidnapped her and kept her locked in that room,” James pointed out.
“And he totally realized she was the right woman for him—and he was right for her—because of the way she handled that,” Gabe said. “She never cried. She never begged. She met him head on, even when he was her captor. He knew that she needed man who was equally strong and stubborn and proud and who could appreciate all of that about her.”
“Her strength and sass was hot as hell,” Josh commented.
“It was. Completely. Having a woman like that let you close is amazing. She doesn’t need you, but she wants you. She chooses to submit and trust you. Yeah…amazing,” Logan said.
“You sound like you know what you’re talking about,” James commented with a smirk.
“Dana is incredibly strong, and stubborn. I waltzed into her life and complicated everything by knocking her up. But she let me in and now…” Logan tossed an olive into the air and caught it in his mouth. “Let’s just say, all I have to do is pull out those hot pink silk ties and her cheeks get flushed and she completely loses her train of thought.”
“You pull those out when she’s chewing you out for something?” Owen guessed.
Logan grinned. “Seems like a good idea, I know. But I actually pull those out when she’s had a really hard day.”
Owen lifted an eyebrow. “She appreciates you wanting to get kinky when she’s had a bad day?”
“She does.” Logan lifted a shoulder. “Having someone else just take over, totally take care of her, completely focus on making her feel good is the best thing for her on those days.”
Owen seemed to be thinking about that. With interest.
“Makes sense you’d want to rub her feet or pour her a glass of wine or run her a bath, right?” Gabe asked.
Owen nodded. “Sure.”
“Orgasms trump foot rubs, wine, and baths.”
Josh, Owen, Caleb, and Logan all nodded. That made sense.
“Not every woman is going to want to be tied up or spanked,” Caleb said. “You gotta do what you both need. I think this guy—” He wiggled his phone where he’d read their book for the month. “—picked stuff that he knew would work for her based on what he knew and had observed about her.”
“And you test it out a little,” Gabe agreed. “Her reactions to the way he talked to her and touched her even in the beginning told him a lot. You just have to tune in and pay attention. Not every woman is going to respond to everything the same way.”
“You tested things out with Addison?” Owen asked.
Gabe grinned. “I’ll just say that we ate beignets that first night together and…yeah, I learned a lot watching her do that.”
Logan shook his head. “You better watch it big brother. Dana warned me I shouldn’t give too much away. Guessing Addison feels the same.”
“I’m talking about the book,” Gabe said. “Mostly.”
“Sure,” Logan laughed.
“I just think that strong women who kick ass and take care of shit all the time are sometimes the ones that most need someone to take over and get a little bossy and insist on being all about them once in a while. They want and need to just let go sometimes and I think it’s even more pleasurable for them because they don’t really do that for themselves,” Gabe said.
Logan and Caleb both nodded their agreement.
“Or more than just once in awhile,” Caleb added.
“Ugh.” Josh scrubbed a hand over his face. “You bastards are rubbing it in.” This was all making him miss Tori horribly. That was crazy. How could he miss someone he barely knew? How could all of this make him ache for her when they hadn’t even been naked together?
Sending her back to Iowa was the stupidest thing he’d ever done.
Make that second stupidest. Letting her walk even fifty feet away from him without getting her phone number was the stupidest.
We’ll give it a year. And then, if we’re still thinking about each other and want to see each other again, we’ll both show up at Bourbon O on Mardi Gras. If we’re both there, we’ll know.
That’s what he’d said to Tori last night.
Why had he said that? What the fuck had he been thinking? He should have said goodbye. Or stay. Or even just take your clothes off. But no…
She’d been talking about how they lived so far apart and had such different lives. And he’d…panicked. He’d known, on one level that she was right. But he’d wanted to hang on to her. Somehow. And that meet-me-next-year stuff had come out when he’d opened his mouth.
He knew this was the premise of a movie. It involved the Empire State Building, not Mardi Gras, but the general idea was the same. Mardi Gras was a much better time and reason to get back together than Valentine’s Day in New York City. In his small-town, backroads-are-best opinion. Okay, yeah, he’d seen the movie. An Affair to Remember. What could he say? His grandma’s best friend was a Cary Grant fan.
“Oh I’m definitely bragging,” Logan told him.
“Me too,” Gabe said.
“Absolutely,” Caleb agreed.
Josh flipped them off.
“Why do you care? You’re suddenly jealous of us monogamous guys?” Logan asked, reaching past him for a lemon wedge.
“Yeah. Maybe I am,” Josh said. There was his opening. “Do you think—”
“I still say she wanted to kill him,” James said, looking down at the book he held.
“Yep. And to fuck his brains out at the same time,” Owen added.
“Exactly.” Logan grinned.
Josh snapped his mouth shut. His opening to ask about falling in love in just a few hours and then waiting a year to see her again had officially closed again.
Fuck. He wasn’t going to see her for a year. And that was if she came back. But he had no choice but to wait. He didn’t have her number. He knew nothing more about where she lived than that it was a small town in Iowa. He guessed there were a lot of those there. He supposed he could try to look up all the Victoria Kramer’s in the state. Yeah, he could do that.
He pulled out his phone.
“Josh! Two shots and a whiskey and coke at the end of the bar!” Gabe called.
Right. He couldn’t look her up right now.
Man, he was a mess. He never worried about women this much.
Then again, he’d never felt what he had for Tori before.
“He was a dark guy. He needed a woman who wouldn’t break,” Logan said, again about the hero. “And she was strong as hell. She needed a guy who wouldn’t treat her with kid gloves. Who could push her a little. She would have been bored and unsatisfied with anyone else.”
“Where I come from, you push a woman, she’s gonna push back and you’re gonna end up on your ass with swamp grass stuck in uncomfortable places,” Owen said.
Josh couldn’t help but grin as he poured drinks. Owen wasn’t wrong. Talk about strong women—they were plentiful down on the bayou. Tough southern girls who could take care of themselves. If you ended up in one of their beds, it was because that girl had decided to let you be there.
And there he was thinking about girls and beds again.
Why the hell hadn’t he gone back to Tori’s hotel with her?
Because she’d been so fucking sweet. So…genuine. He’d wanted…what? To be different than she expected him to be, he supposed. Because she’d been different. She’d been as out of place in that bar on Bourbon Street in the midst of Mardi Gras as he would be…on the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. She’d seemed so wholesome. Or something. He hadn’t wanted to sully her in the way Bourbon Street and New Orleans had sullied so many sweet, Iowa girls. He’d wanted to send her home with a different impression of her trip to Louisiana than most girls on vacation got. He wanted her to get a soft smile on her face and maybe even give a happy sigh when she remembered their fun flirtation, their hot kiss, and their romantic promise.
Jesus. He was such a dumbass.
“You know what your problem is?” Gabe asked Owen as he poured a Pimm’s cup and a beer. “You’re too cocky.”
“Meaning?” Owen asked, lifting his mug, seeming more interested than offended.
“You’re still coming at this from how you would feel and what you would want,” Gabe said. “If you’ve never been in love, you don’t really get how giving her what she wants and needs is way more satisfying than your own fantasies.”
Owen didn’t reply for a moment, but then he asked, “Who said I’ve never been in love?”
They all looked at him.
“Have you?” Gabe asked after a surprised second.
“Maddie?” Josh asked him.
“Maddie is Tommy’s sister, right?” Logan asked.
Tommy was the fourth partner of the Boys of the Bayou tour company that Josh and Owen owned with Josh’s brother Sawyer.
“Yep,” Owen said. “And I get what you’re saying. Things were hotter with her than they’ve ever been with anyone else in a way. We were dumb kids and it’s not like we were that good at it, but it was hot just because I was fucking crazy about her and doing stuff that made her feel good was awesome.”
Gabe nodded. “Exactly.”
“So you’d spank Maddie with a flogger if she wanted you to?” Caleb asked.
Owen cleared his throat and shifted on his seat, but he nodded. “Yeah.”
“Now you’re getting it,” Gabe said with a grin.
Josh leaned back against the counter behind the bar. The little rush of orders was over for a minute. “You guys in these awesome relationships are annoying as hell, you know that?”
“Yeah, how do we keep getting’ off of the hot sex in this book and this sassy woman who lets this guy do amazingly dirty stuff to her and start talking about love?” James asked.
“When you’re in an awesome relationship, you can’t separate the hot sex from the love part,” Logan said, with a cocky, I’m-stupidly-happy-in-love-and-having-hot-sex-regularly grin.
“It’s gonna be a long year,” Josh muttered.
“What are you talking about?” Caleb asked.
Another opening. Josh straightened. Holy crap he had their attention. Lord only knew how long that would last.
“I…met a girl.”
Owen gave him a frown. But he looked suspicious. “You meet girls all the time.”
Josh sighed. “I met a girl…who makes me not want to meet any other girls.”
Now Owen looked very interested. As did the rest of them. Caleb leaned in.
“Where’d you meet her?”
“Bourbon O,” Josh said, referring to the other bar where he bartended part-time. “Met her on Tuesday. Saw her again last night.”
“What’s with the long year comment?” Gabe asked.
“She went home today. To Iowa.”
“Iowa?” Logan repeated. “That’s kinda far away.”
“No shit,” Josh told him. Really fucking far away. “And I did something stupid before she left.”
“What?” Owen asked, almost eagerly. “Holy shit, did you propose or something?”
It was common knowledge that the Landry family was big on Grand Romantic Gestures. Yes, with capital letters. The grander and more romantic the better. It was almost like a competition among the members of the family to make each falling-in-love story bigger and better than the one before. Many of them were local legends in their tiny town.
“I told her that we should meet up again on Mardi Gras at Bourbon O if we’re both still single and interested next year.”
There was a pause. Then James asked, “That’s it?”
Owen sat back on his stool, almost disappointed. “Well, that’s…okay, I guess. I mean, if you still remember her name next year I’ll be shocked. But that was a great romantic way to send her off with a Big Easy smile on her face.”
Josh shot him a glare. “Fuck off. I’ll remember her name.”
His tone was sharp and total overreaction. But the idea he might forget Tori was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? A tight ball formed in his gut.
“After a year?” Owen asked. He laughed. “Sure. You meet, what, a dozen beautiful, eligible girls a night when you work at one of the bars. You meet that many on the boat tours when you’re working at home. Figure conservatively five a night, six nights a week, fifty two weeks a year. That’s…” He looked around, then squinted. “a lot of girls between now and then.”
“I—” Josh broke off. That was a lot of girls. But this was Tori. There was something about her. It made no sense that he’d be this enamored so quickly. He knew that. But typically, he would have heard “Iowa” and written her off as nothing than a one-night fling. He not only hadn’t written her off—at all—he hadn’t done the fling part at all. “I’ll remember her,” he said simply.
James gave a low whistle. “Damn, that must have been some hot sex. Did she ask you to tie her up or use a flogger? Is that how we got off the main topic?”
“No,” Josh gave the other man a frown. “She…didn’t ask for anything like that.”
“Come on, there had to be something,” James said. “These guys aren’t supposed to talk about their wives and stuff, but you just met this one. And she’s a tourist. You can tell all.”
He wasn’t going to confess that they hadn’t slept together. They’d give him shit and ask him what was wrong and…he wasn’t sure.
“Two pieces of brown butter pecan pie and I wanna watch you flex those biceps when you cut ‘em,” a voice called from the doorway.
Everyone looked over and Logan’s face broke into a huge grin as he spotted Ellie Landry coming into his bar.
Owen and Josh, on the other hand, groaned.
“Eleanor Landry, get your ass on one of these stools,” Logan called back. “I want to see your face as you take that first bite. I love that mix of bliss and pain when you, once again, discover it’s better than anything you’ll ever make.”
James pivoted on his stool. “Who is that?”
“Our grandma,” Josh said with an affectionate, but exasperated, sigh.
Ellie and Logan were a lot alike. Not just because they both owned bars, but because they both loved people and loved to talk. About anything. To anyone. Ellie had been to Logan’s a few times and Logan and his family regularly headed to Autre for crawfish boils, swamp boat tours, and fishing. They pretended to be in competition over whose bar, food, and drink was better, but the truth was, they loved each other. And each other’s bars. They had a mutual love for showing people a good time and providing a place where people could go and kick back and be themselves. Logan served tourists in the French Quarter, while Ellie served tourists who went to the bayou for airboat and swamp boat tours.
But Josh knew why Ellie was here tonight. And he knew the chances were good that his little sister, Kennedy, was right behind her. It wasn’t to talk business or even just give Logan shit.
They wanted in on the book club.
They’d been asking for two months, ever since Kennedy had picked up his copy of the second book the club had read. She’d read it out loud at Ellie’s over lunch every day for a week. It should maybe bother him that his little sister had no trouble reading that stuff out loud to a lunch crowd that was older than her by forty plus years, but Kennedy had been raised in a family of boys. It was nearly impossible to fluster or embarrass her.
Ellie cackled as she crossed the room. “I mix the drinks and make the gumbo, boy. Cora does the pies.” She climbed up on the stool next to James and pointed at Logan. “And I’ll kill you and put you in my gumbo if you ever tell her that I like your pie better.”
“It’s our secret,” Logan said with a nod. “Well, ours and everyone else in here tonight.”
Ellie gave James a look. “Can I trust you, pretty boy?”
James nodded slowly. “Logan’s pie sucks. Got it.”
“Good,” Ellie said approvingly. “I like you.”
“He’s a musician,” Logan told her. “Jazz piano.”
Ellie looked interested. “No way. You any good?” she asked James.
“I am,” he said easily.
He was. It wasn’t ego, it was fact. He played on Frenchman’s Street nearly every weekend.
Ellie looked him up and down. “You got any tattoos?”
James really seemed not to know what to think of Ellie Landry.
That was a common reaction. Josh folded his arms and just watched.
“A few,” James admitted after a beat.
“Yeah?” James asked, seemingly amused now.
“Yeah,” Ellie told him. “The musician thing can go either way, but tattoos will tip you more toward hot.”
James turned to face her more fully. “The musician thing can go either way?”
Ellie shrugged. “Some women think musicians are instantly hot, but not all women like the tortured creative soul thing. It’s not like firefighters or something, you know?”
“Firefighters are instantly hot?” James asked, definitely amused.
“Oh, yeah,” Ellie said. “Every time.”
“He’s a firefighter too,” Logan told her, his grin huge and bright.
Ellie’s eyes widened. “No shit.” She nodded. “Yeah, you’ll be okay then.”
“Even without tattoos?” James asked.
“Yep. But a firefighter with tattoos who also plays jazz?” She shook her head. “You’re probably getting laid every night.”
James choked at that and started to reply, but just then Kennedy joined them.
The ball buster.
Her black hair was streaked with hot pink tonight and pulled into pigtails. She wore a matching tank with her black skirt and combat books and her tattoos—arms and legs—were on full display. Well, there might have been others under her clothes, Josh thought, but he didn’t need to know about those. She also wore bold, dark eye makeup, bright pink lipstick, and black nail polish.
James turned as she came up between him and Ellie.
He promptly started choking again.
Another common reaction that Josh was used to by now.
He leaned over and thunked the firefighter on the back.
“I thought the vibrating Ben Wa balls with the remote control were hot,” Kennedy said to James.
Josh rolled his eyes. Of course she read the book and of course she was going to talk about it.
James coughed. “Um, yeah. That was.”
“But him locking her up was fucked up.”
James nodded at that too. Then he said, “But it showed them both that they were a match. He was such a dominant personality, he needed a woman like her. One he could be who he needed to be with without fear of breaking her spirit.”
Josh and Logan exchanged an amused glance while Caleb actually chuckled. Apparently James had been listening.
Kennedy gave him a bright smile. “You’re exactly right. She was so strong that she needed a man like him. She would have walked all over a typical guy.”
“Exactly what I’ve been saying all night,” James agreed.
Josh rolled his eyes but he wasn’t going to correct any of that. If James wanted to talk to Kennedy about the book, that would save Josh from having to listen to her thoughts. He was used to her being inappropriate and most of what she said and did didn’t bother him. She was more or less one of the guys. But he really didn’t need to hear her opinions on Ben Wa balls.
“So this pie,” Ellie said to Logan.
“Right. On it.” He turned and bent to reach into the bottom cooler.
Ellie leaned onto the bar, watching him. Ogling him, actually. “Take your time there,” she said. “I like this view.”
“I knew turning my back on you would be dangerous,” Logan said, straightening. “I just didn’t realize why.”
“You feeling objectified?” Ellie asked.
She snorted. “Don’t be silly. Just making sure I wasn’t too subtle. I can turn it up a notch.”
Logan laughed and shook his head, cutting into the pie. He served her and Kennedy each a piece and then needed to move down the bar to a new group of customers.
Josh mixed a few drinks off of the written list Gabe had just set in front of him.
“What’s with you?” Ellie asked him after taking a few bites while she watched him.
“What?” he asked. “Nothing.”
She shook her head. “Nah. Something’s going on with you.”
Josh avoided eye contact with her and turned away to grab the orange juice from the cooler. He hadn’t been home to Autre since meeting—and saying goodbye—to Tori. He’d crashed, as he often did, in the apartment over the bar after the hectic pace of Mardi Gras and then last night. So he hadn’t seen his grandmother since falling in love.
Okay, falling in love was an exaggeration. Surely.
But Ellie was actually creepily good at reading the people in her family.
“Joshua,” she said firmly. “Look at me.”
Josh sighed and turned back to face his grandmother.
“Are you sick?”
He was full of regret. And feeling like a dumbass. Did that count? “No.”
“Then you met someone.”
Josh blew out a breath. Fuck. “Yeah, okay? I did. But nothing happened. Nothing is going to happen.”
“Until next year on Mardi Gras,” Owen said, leaning in.
“What happens next year on Mardi Gras?” Ellie asked, directing the question to Owen rather than Josh.
“If she’s still interested, she’s going to come back and they’ll meet up,” Owen said.
Ellie looked at Josh with round eyes. “Really? Like that Cary Grant movie?”
Josh sighed. There was no point in fighting his family’s interest or involvement in this. “Yeah.”
Ellie gave him what could only be described as an impressed look. “That’s very romantic.”
That was the highest praise in the Landry family. Josh felt a little better.
“Thanks. She’s special.”
Ellie gave him a big smile. “Finally,” she said, cutting off another bite of pie. “Maybe we can all Facetime with her.”
Josh snorted. Yeah, he’d never see Tori again if they did that. Not that it was even an option. He sighed. “I don’t have her number.”
Ellie looked up. “Why not?”
“I guess I thought it would be more romantic and would mean more if we both showed up next year without any contact in between.” That sounded even worse out loud than it had in his head.
Ellie blew out a breath. “Well, that was stupid.”
Yeah, Ellie wasn’t really the cookies and hugs type of grandmother. “I know,” Josh sighed.
“Wow, a year?” Ellie asked with a shake of her head. “What were you thinking?”
Josh had a feeling he was going to be asking himself that a lot over the next twelve months.
It was definitely going to be a long year.
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Find out if Tori shows up next Mardi Gras in My Best Friend’s Mardi Gras Wedding! 😉
And if you want to know more about the book club, you can check out how it gets started in Nice and Easy, Boys of the Big Easy book three! (but you can totally read it first 😉 )