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Authors: Seraphina Donavan

Tags: #Romance

Been Loving You Too Long (9 page)

BOOK: Been Loving You Too Long
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It was as if she knew what was going on inside his mind, poking around in his head the same way that damned fortune teller had.
 

At his sharp look, she sighed.
 
“Isn’t that what this is really all about?”

Vincent didn’t respond for the longest time.
  
When he did speak, his voice was pitched low. “I’m just like him. That’s what everyone says.
 
All of his old friends, the people who worked for him.
 
Claude even said it last week, just as I had my fist drawn back to hit him.”

“Everyone wants to hit Claude!
 
He’s an asshole!
 
Thomas never said you were like him—and he never believed it.
 
Neither do I.
 
You may look like him, Vincent, but that’s where the similarity ends.”

He shook his head and continued to stare out the window into the darkness.
 
“Go to bed, Kaitlyn. It doesn’t matter now, anyway.”

Kaitlyn looked like she wanted to shake him, to make him see things her way.
 
But he’d always been able to out stubborn her.
 
Some things weren’t worth the risk and, to his mind, hurting Ophelia any more than he already had definitely fell into that category.
 

“Fine.
 
Promise me you won’t sit here and drink yourself sick. We’ve still got to get through the reading of the will tomorrow and from what I hear, it’s going to be a doozy.” With that final parting shot she flounced off, leaving him alone in the dark again.
 

 

~~****~~

 
 

Ophelia brushed at the tears that continued to fall in spite of her determination not to let them, as the taxi stopped in front of her building.
 
She’d managed to hang onto her anger long enough to get home, but the tears started as the taxi turned down the narrow street to her apartment.
 

It had been humiliating enough to have Vincent throw her out of his bed in the middle of the night, but to walk out of the house and run directly into Kaitlyn had been too much to take.
 

“Baby girl, ain’t no man worth it,” the cabby urged.
 

Ophelia let out a watery chuckle.
 
“You have no idea how right you are.”

“If I was twenty years younger and less afraid of my wife, I’d be puttin’ a smile on your face.”

Passing the driver a bill that was larger than necessary, she tried to smile.
 
“Thank you.
 
I needed the pep talk.”

“You go on home, cher.
 
Get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow morning, you go down to a little voodoo shop on St. Anne.
 
You tell the priestess there that Curtis sent you and she’ll get you something to fix him right up.”

“I think I’ll just let karma take care of him, but I’ll keep it in mind.”Stepping out of the taxi, Ophelia crossed the sidewalk and hurried up the steps to her apartment.
 
She could hear the television inside and knew that Brenna had made it home from work.
 

Unlocking the door, she eased inside, thankful that the lights were off.
 
Explaining her red, puffy eyes and the beard burn that she could feel on her skin would not go over well.
 

Brenna tended to be overprotective at best and a real mama grizzly at worst.
 
“I know you don’t think you’re sneaking in at almost four in the morning without telling me who kept you out all night.”

“I’m really tired, Bren.
 
I’ll tell you everything in the morning—well, later today.”

The lights came on and Ophelia winced.
 

“I knew it!” Brenna snapped.
 
“You’ve been crying!”

“It’s been a difficult day.”

“Yes.
 
I know.
 
Thomas’ funeral.
 
But that doesn’t explain why you’ve got bed head and a bite mark on your neck.”

Ophelia blushed, recalling the moment that Vincent had bitten her.
 
His teeth had scraped sharply over her skin and he’d then soothed that small bruise with his tongue, and all the while he’d been inside her, driving her closer and closer to heaven.
 
“I slept with Vincent,” she blurted out.
 
“And then in the middle of the night, he told me it was getting late and offered to drive me home.”

“Bastard!”

“Exactly.
 
Good enough for a quick roll in the hay, but spending the night—well, apparently not.”

Brenna sighed heavily as she trudged to the kitchen.
 
Her fiery red hair was still piled high in an elaborate bouffant, but her stage makeup had been washed away.
 
She pulled a tub of ice cream from the freezer and then returned to the living room with two spoons.
 
“He’s an asshole. He’s running scared like most men do.
 
It’s complicated to have a one night stand with someone who’s involved in your day to day life.”

“It doesn’t matter.
 
How can something go from being that perfect to falling apart?
 
It was incredible, Bren, and then he just went cold...distant.
 
When he basically showed me to the door, he called it ‘mitigating the fallout of a bad decision’!”

Brenna patted the couch beside her.
 
“He can just go to hell.
 
Tonight, we’re going to eat this entire tub of salted caramel fudge ice cream and we’re going to watch Pretty in Pink, and we’re going to lament the fact that we don’t have a Ducky of our very own.”

Ophelia’s laugh turned into a sob as she laid her head on Brenna’s shoulder.
 
“I could use a Ducky right now.
 
My ego needs a boost.”

“I’ll put on a hideous hat and sing you Otis Redding songs if it’ll help,” Brenna offered with a cheeky grin.
 

“Just start the damned movie, already.” Ophelia settled onto the couch.
 
“Right now, Andy’s happy ending will have to do.”

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 
 

Ophelia opened the door to her grandmother’s house and was immediately greeted by the familiar scents.
 
For some reason, the house always smelled like fabric softener.
 
She bypassed the living room and headed to the kitchen, knowing that Ruby would be cooking.

The kitchen was as tiny as ever and as spotless as always.
 
Ruby was standing at the stove, stirring a pot of something that smelled heavenly and her famous chocolate cake had been set out on the counter to cool.

 
“Good morning, child!” Ruby said in her all knowing way.
 

Ophelia laughed.
 
“I swear that you must have eyes in the back of your head.”

“I don’t need eyes to know that someone is letting themselves into my house...and the only person who has a key is you,” Ruby replied with her usual amount of sass.
 
“You’re too early for cake, but I’ve got some biscuits and fried apples left over from breakfast.”

Ruby was forever trying to feed her.
 
The woman could simply open her refrigerator and cater a feast for a dozen with leftovers that would taste divine.
 
But Ophelia had no appetite.
 
“I’m not all that hungry—I just wanted to come over and check on you.”

Ruby nodded.
 
“I’m fine.
 
I do miss Thomas, though.
 
I loved that foolish man...I was his housekeeper but he was my friend.”

“I know.
 
I miss him, too.”

“But that’s not why you’ve been crying,” Ruby speculated.
 
“And don’t try to bullshit me, child.
 
I know you.
 
I raised you, didn’t I?”

“It’s man trouble,” Ophelia answered evasively.
 

“Child, there’s no other kind.
 
You tell your Nana all about it, and then I’ll get my wooden spoon and give him a
come to Jesus
.”

That would be a sight to behold, Ophelia thought, grinning in spite of herself. Impulsively, she hugged her grandmother and placed a quick peck on her cheek. “I appreciate the offer, but I can handle this on my own.
 
Thank you, though. I thought I’d come over and help you get your bills together for this month.”

Ruby’s eyesight had been fading for a while.
 
She was too stubborn to have the cataract surgery she needed.
 
“No need for that.
 
We’ll do it later.
 
Sit and rest.
 
You’ve been working too hard.
 
Go on in the living room and watch some television.
 
Relax!”

“Let me help you in here,” Ophelia protested.

“When I need help in a kitchen, you just put me in a home.
 
I can fix a meal and bake a cake.
 
I’m not that old and frail!”

“Fine,” Ophelia said, knowing that Ruby wouldn’t accept the assistance even if she did need it.
 
“I’ll find us a movie to watch for later...Cary Grant?”

Ruby cackled, “Lord, yes.
 
He might be a little blurry, but he’s still nice to look at.”

Settling onto the couch, Ophelia reached for the remote just as the doorbell rang.
 
Curious, she rose and went to the door but when she looked out, her heart sank.

Kaitlyn stood on the porch, looking sleek and fashionable.
 
The dark pixie cut accentuated her cheekbones and the slightly gamine features of a face that the tabloids loved.
 

Opening the door, Ophelia met the cool assessing stare with an equally aloof one.
 
“Can I help you?”

Kaitlyn lowered her dark sunglasses to the tip of her nose.
 
“Apparently, your presence is required for the reading of the will. I assumed you’d rather hear that from me than my asshole brother at the moment.”

“Kaitlyn, baby!” Ruby exclaimed.
 

Ophelia watched as an expression of genuine happiness crossed Kaitlyn’s face.
 
It didn’t happen often, but in that moment, she saw a glimpse of the girl she’d known as a child.
 
The hard, brittle Kaitlyn would always be a stranger.
 

“Oh, Ruby!
 
I don’t know what you’re cooking, but it smells wonderful!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, hugging the older woman gently.
 

“You give me a real hug, girl!
 
I won’t break!”

Kaitlyn laughed and hugged Ruby tighter.
 

Ophelia felt awkward in that moment, as if she were the outsider.
 
Watching them together, it reminded her that Ruby had always had a soft spot for Kaitlyn.
 
She wasn’t jealous.
 
Her grandmother had always had more than enough love to go around, but it did make her very conscious of just how complicated her entanglement in the lives of the DuChamps family was.
 

“I had to come fetch Ophelia, but it was just a ploy to see you, you mean old thing,” Kaitlyn said with a smile.
 

“I should have come to the funeral yesterday, but Thomas and I talked about it and he said not to,” Ruby explained.
 
“He said there would be too many dirty old men there that I’d had to fight off in the past, and he didn’t want there to be a riot.”

“That sounds about right,” Kaitlyn replied, though she sounded more subdued.
 
“Thomas’ attorney called the house this morning and informed Vincent that Ophelia’s presence is required for the reading of the will, but I told him that I would come get her.
 
I feel like I’ve had to chase her all over the city.
 
You need to have a talk with her about that roommate of hers.
 
That girl is no good.”

Ruby cackled in response.
 
“She’s good at something, child. You all go on then,” Ruby said, shooing them both to the door.
 
“But you know where I live now, child.
 
It should not take you this long to come back and see me...Either one of you!”

“Yes, ma’am,” they replied, Kaitlyn and Ophelia’s voices blending, just as they had when she’d scolded them as children.
 

“Let’s go,” Kaitlyn said, her voice deceptively casual.
 

Uneasy, but feeling that she had no choice but to cooperate unless she wanted the whole sordid tale laid out for her grandmother, Ophelia followed her out the door.
 
“I wasn’t aware that Thomas had included me in his will in any capacity.”

Kaitlyn shrugged, “I don’t know why it would surprise you. He adored you.
 
Of course, it’s going to be a little awkward now since you’ve slept with my brother and he’s apparently a first class dickhead.”

Ophelia stopped in her tracks, “You’re mad at Vincent?”

“Look…falling into bed with Vincent was a stupid move on your part, but I get it. You’ve been hung up on him for years, and even though he’s my brother, I’m not blind.
 
I know how women fall all over him!
 
But yes, to answer your question, I am mad at him. You and I have our own issues.
 
I’m a bitch, and I know it.
 
Meanwhile, you’re so damned sweet, half the time sugar won’t even melt in your mouth.
 
But what he did was wrong.
 
He shouldn’t have treated you that way.”

Kaitlyn hadn’t said that many words to her at one time in years.
 
That they were, if not complimentary, at least not laced in venom was a complete shock.
 
“He was an asshole,” she agreed.
 

“Get in the car,” Kaitlyn ordered.
 
“We’re running late already.”

Climbing into the passenger seat, Ophelia fastened her seat belt.
 
“Is Vincent all right?
 
I know I shouldn’t even care, but yesterday was very hard for him.”

Kaitlyn shifted the gears, grinding them as she peeled out into the street.
 
Horns blasted behind them.
 
“He’s cool as a cucumber today, but that doesn’t mean he’s all right.
 
Vincent tends to play his cards close to his chest.
 
He doesn’t like for people to know what he’s feeling, but you know all about that. I’m going to let you in on a little secret about my brother, Ophelia.
 
Vincent is afraid to love anyone. Family, okay, he’s fine with that.
 
God knows, he gets family obligation.
  
But romantic love, that’s something he told himself was not for him, a very long time ago.
 
He sees that kind of love as something dark and dangerous, obsessive—he’s got his reasons.”

“I don’t understand that at all.
 
Vincent is normally the most grounded, rational person I’ve ever known,” Ophelia countered.
 

“But not when it comes to you.
 
He was so irrational that he avoided you because he didn’t trust himself to not to do something rash—something like he did in the kitchen last week, or last night.”

Blushing, Ophelia asked, “Why are you being so nice to me about this?
 
This bitch queen to sisters in arms bit is confusing!”

Kaitlyn shrugged. “Join the club, honey.
 
No one gets me. I’m being nice to you because I don’t believe in kicking anyone when they’re down.
 
Also, because I know that no matter how I feel about you, that if he gave you half the chance, you’d make him happy—and he deserves that even if is he an asshole at times.”

Ophelia remained silent as they drove through the city.
 
In actual distance, it was less than three miles from her grandmother’s house to the DuChamps mansion on Prytannia Street, but it was worlds away.

When Kaitlyn turned the low slung sports car into the driveway, Ophelia could feel her nerves building.
 
How could she possibly face him?

As if reading her thoughts, Kaitlyn said, “Put your head up, your shoulders back and your tits front and center.
 
Don’t even look at him.”

Ophelia took the advice and walked into the house proudly.

Kaitlyn walked in behind her and led the way to the library.
 

Entering the quiet room, Ophelia was acutely aware of the stares she was receiving.
 
Everyone there had been waiting for her to arrive.

She could feel Vincent’s gaze on her, but she steadfastly refused to meet it, and instead walked to the one remaining empty chair in the room.
 
Gracefully, and with the impeccable manners that Ruby had insisted she learn, she seated herself.
 
The skirt of her dress covered her knees, and she crossed her legs at the ankle, keeping her back straight and her gaze focused on the attorney.
 

“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Miss Broulliard.
 
Typically, we would have notified you earlier but the contact list for the estate had not been updated as recently as the will itself had,” he apologized.
 

“We’ve kept everyone waiting for long enough.
 
Please proceed,” she said, keeping her voice calm.
 

 

~~****~~

 
 

Vincent watched her from across the room.
 
Guilt clawed at him, regret too, but even with those feelings twisting his insides, the lust was there as well.
 
He still wanted her as intensely as before.
 

After a well placed elbow from Kaitlyn, he forced himself to look away and focused on the legalese that the attorney was reciting.

BOOK: Been Loving You Too Long
13.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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