Blue Autumn in the Bayou (Gumbo Love) (10 page)

“Yeah, it might be our way, but tell that to my outfits.”

“Like I said, you look great.”

Autumn paused and glanced at his handsome features. His strong jaw and chin, drop
-dead gorgeous eyes with mile-long lashes made him unforgettably handsome. “We’d better get that meal.” She broke the spell with a shaky voice.

Travis licked his bottom lip before responding. “Yeah, let’s
do that. Where did you park?”

“Along Victory Ave.”

“How about I drive and then I’ll bring you back for your car?”

“Okay.”

* * * *

Autumn and Travis sat across from each other in a cozy booth as they looked over their menus. “Decided?” Travis looked up from his menu.

“Yes. I think I’m going to do the skillet mustard greens with leeks salad and grilled chicken.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes, silly. I’m serious.”

He shook his head. “Okay, what are you drinking?”

“Water.”

Travis sighed heavily. “Well, I guess I’ll have to eat for the both of us.”

“You do that,” she chuckled.

When the waiter came
, Travis ordered for them both. During the meal, they talked about the upcoming nuptials.

Travis ordered desert and Autumn ordered herbal tea with no sugar or lemon. However, she did accept a small bite of his pecan pie. “That’s delicious
,” she admitted.

“Not as good as my mom’s
, but it is good.” He polished off the pie.

The afternoon drew into evening in no time. “I hate to be a party pooper, but I have a
5:00 a.m. session tomorrow.” Autumn looked at Travis.

He
didn’t argue with her. He’d enjoyed the afternoon and even though he would have liked to have been with her a while longer, he didn’t want to push his luck. “I’ll get you back to your car.” He paid the check and walked around to pull her chair out. At the car, he waited until she was seated behind the wheel of her rented sedan before he closed her driver’s side door. He followed her to Reggie’s apartment and walked her to the door.

“Thank you. I had a wonderful time
,” he said.

“I did too. Thank you.” She smiled up at him.

Travis leaned down and kissed her cheek, so close to her lips, he was mere inches from the succulent swell of her mouth. He saw her eyes flutter and almost rewarded her for the response, but managed to stay the gentlemen he’d intended to be. “Good night, sweetheart,” he whispered.

“Good night, Travis.”

* * * *

Travis whistled as he moved about his office the next morning. He whizzed through his messages and email
, and added a scheduled meeting with Trae, Michael and Rykard for lunch at their usual spot, Praline Connection at noon to his phone calendar. His hand grazed the large manila envelope addressed to him from Clem’s lawyer before he tossed it in the in-basket on his desk. He picked it up again, opened the right desk drawer and dropped it inside, before closing and locking contents away.

When he showed up to Praline Connection, Trae and Rykard were already seated. “Morning, Mr. Brooks.” A waiter greeted him. He knew the brothers
; they were regulars there.

“Hi
, Mark. I have to take lunch specials to my staff. It’s the standing order.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll have it
together by the time you’re ready to leave.”

“Thanks.” He walked up to the table where Trae and Rykard stood and greeted them both. No sooner
had he sat down, Michael entered, and they performed the ritual once more for the middle brother.

“Did you get a package from Clem’s lawyer?” Michael asked.

“Yes. I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet,” Trae answered.

Travis said nothing. He already knew what was in his package, and he had no intentions of responding, at least not right away. Both brothers looked at him. He tried to ignore their stares. “What? I got a package. I haven’t looked through it either
,” he snapped.

“Dang, man. Take it easy. I just asked
,” Michael replied.

“Let’s eat. That’s what I come here for.”

“What happened to having lunch with your favorite brothers?” Trae asked.

“Yeah, whatever. You’re my only brothers. Let’s eat.” Travis raised his hand to get the waiter’s attention. He was anxious to receive a call back from Autumn. Her session would not be done until early afternoon
, and he wanted to be available when she called. Being with his nosy brothers wasn’t the ideal place to accept her call.

As fate would have it, she called in the middle of their lunch. He looked at his
BlackBerry before answering. “Hi. Can you hold for one second?” He stood. “I have to take this. I’ll be right back.”

Everyone at the table looked at one another. “Since when did he stop taking calls around us?” Michael asked.

Trae sat back in his chair and smiled. He shook his head several times. “The call is obviously not for our ears. Think about it.”

“I don’t have to think about it at all. It’s obvious
ly a woman.” Rykard looked over at Trae.

“It never mattered before. He’s taken his women calls in front of us.” Michael injected.

“Not just any woman, my brother. Think about it,” Trae said once more.

“Oh, snap! Don’t tell me our big brother bit the dust?”

Before Trae could answer, Travis walked back to the table. He looked from one to the other. They all threw him a knowing glance. “Something you want to tell us, big brother?”

“No!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 12

 

 

Autumn jogged from her car to Reggie’s apartment to shower and change. She had to meet Reggie at the studio for a couple of hours, and then Travis at his house. She was a little apprehensive at first about meeting him at home, simply because she hoped to take things slow. Real slow. They still had to get through the wedding without awkwardness. Granted, he’d been nothing but a gentleman.

“I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise
,” he’d assured her.

She walked past Reggie’s room and asked,
“Well, how did it go yesterday?” Reggie came out and hugged Autumn’s neck.

“We had a really nice time. It was great.”

“Good. So I don’t have to worry about you two killing each other as you march down the aisle on Saturday.”

Autumn chuckled. “No. I’ll say not. What are we doing here, girl? We’re less tha
n a week away from your wedding day. Shouldn’t you be doing something to prepare this gorgeous body?”

“We still have a couple of days before our pamper sessions begin. We have to wait on Mona and Erica.”

“This is your day, so you should be taking care of you. And a part of my job, the reason I’m here, is to make sure that you do. Now tell me what we’re doing here because after today, you’re hanging with me. No work is authorized. Got it?”

“Got it. Here’s the plan
: My dance class wants to do their recital at my wedding reception. It’s a surprise for Trae.”

“Wow! That’s a great idea. I think
a recital is going to be a wonderful surprise for everyone. What do you want me to do?”

The two looked over Reggie’s recital plans
, and when the thirty or so young girls and teens showed up, they were excited to have two dancers from a New York dance company in their classroom. They rolled through several routines before both Autumn and Reggie put their seal of approval on the performance.


So what’s the plan for the evening? Do you want to hang out?”

“Sorry sweetie, I already have plans. I’ll take a rain check. In fact
, I was going to invite you to breakfast tomorrow morning, especially since you’re not working tomorrow. Hint, hint!” Autumn winked.

“So you’re warming up to my brother-in-law, are you? I’m liking this.”

“Hold your horses, little lady. I’m not certain anything is going on with me and Travis. We’re just talking at this point.”

“Has he kissed you yet?”

“I’m not telling!”

“That must mean no, not yet. He’s not as fast as I thought. I’m sure you’ll let me know if he’s a good kisser.”

“Will not! I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Girl, please, everybody talks about the kiss. I remember the first time Trae kiss
ed me. I couldn’t remember my own name. It was pathetic.”

“Well, there will be no kissing here. I reserve kissing for
a serious relationship.”

“Loosen your goose, woman. Travis is a fine specimen, if I can say so myself. Even though I got the best looking of the
bunch, he’s still not half bad.” Reggie snickered. “All of the Brooks boys look good, just like their good-looking father, who seem to age like fine wine.” 

“What I’m going to
loosen
right now, my friend, is this joint. I’m out. I’ll see you in the morning. That is, unless you’re planning on coming home tonight, which you should consider. You have to give Trae something to anticipate between now and Saturday. Girlfriend, you need to rein in the goods. The boy needs to know you’re off limits until after the reception.”

“Actually
, I had planned to come home. And quit reading my mind. I thought the same thing. So when you get your narrow tail back to my house tonight, don’t expect to be frolicking all over my apartment.”

“Easy! Get your mind out of the gutter. There won’t be no kissing or frolicking going on here. Trust.”

“I hear you. See you later tonight. Have a good time.” She hugged Autumn.

* * * *

Autumn followed the directions to Travis’s house. A shady canopy of trees with sagging limbs heavily draped with Spanish moss lined the streets. Old houses, bejeweled with dramatic approaches and column-lined porches, nestled behind wrought-iron fences, lined the street like an ornamental necklace. Some of the houses were still garnished by green, purple, red, and gold wreaths and garlands. Bronze statues and sculptures dotted the landscape. She’d nearly forgotten how serene and breathtaking the place was. Unlike New York, New Orleans possessed a sensual, mysterious personality, with a culture blended out of ceremony.

She slowed as she entered a curve
, and focused on the descending numbers on each gate. Once at her destination, she turned into a paved driveway and like Trae’s house, waited until the gate opened before pulling forward and entering the circular driveway. Travis walked out of the front door when she pulled up. He sauntered to her car door and opened it; once she turned off the ignition and released the door locks.

“Hi. Did you have trouble finding the place?” He pulled her
into a loose embrace. And before releasing her, he kissed her forehead.

“No, the directions were easy to follow.” She tried to regain her composure. Every time Travis touched her, her body sung with uncontrollable need. She paced her breathing. “This place is wonderful.”

“Come on in. I have dinner ready, and you’ll be very proud of me.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will be. You’re a g
reat cook. The food you prepared at your mother’s house was fabulous.”

“My mother taught us to be self-sufficient. Look at us. We’re all big boys. If we wanted to eat, we had to learn to cook for ourselves
. She wanted us to know how to do these things, and with cooking came everything else, cleaning up behind yourself, and being a good host to your guests.”

“Well, I definitely see all of those qualities in you and your brothers.”

“Thank you. Flattery will get you everywhere with me.” He smiled down at her. “Can I get you something to drink?”

Autumn stopped in her tracks. The last time he asked her that question
, he hadn’t added the word ‘drink’. This time he did. “Whatever you have would be fine.”

“Red wine?”

“Yes, wine would be great.”

“I’m glad. It’ll go well with our meal tonight.” He led her into the house. “Please make yourself at home. I’ll get the wine.”

Autumn inwardly gasped when she walked slowly into a sitting room, almost completely enclosed by windows. The tinted glass allowed the muted lights to kiss the sparkly crystal vases. Perfectly polished chairs, mantel, and tables pre-arranged in the spacious room looked like a picture in a
Town and Country
Magazine. She strolled through the room and stopped in front of the black shiny grand piano and ran her fingers along the top.

Lifting the cover, she slipped onto the cool bench
, and with flawless ease and eyes closed, she ran a sequence of scales before rolling into Mozart Piano Concerto no. 21, in C. Autumn leaned forward, the perfect pitch of the keys vibrated against the glass panes, and filtered down the halls and into the kitchen. She closed down everything around her. She and the music blended as one unit.

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